These days all over the world the issue of appropriate methodological aspect of teaching second language is being widely considered. TESOL practice involves two main approaches: structural, basically implying grammatical competence development, and communicative, meaning teaching relevant language within certain situations. Larry Lynch (2006) points out that “the study of grammar reveals how language works, which is an important aspect in both English acquisition and learning. In this essay both methods will be discussed with the emphasis on formal manner of teaching grammar.
First of all, it is essential to clarify the term of “a formal manner”. From my point of view, this way of teaching grammar includes teacher-oriented explanation of grammar structures basically using mother tongue or course book’s schemes followed by drills and tests. In other words students learn rules and do exercises without context or any situational practice. As INTESOL specialists mention, this approach can become repetitive and boring or even surreal when used alone. At present time this method is rarely used devoid of relevant real life cases. Unfortunately, at schools some conservative second language teachers have been actively applying traditional ESL gap-filling and rephrasing exercises in their lessons, which causes great barriers in speaking competence development. As a result, students may know the rules and drill them correctly in tests and special tasks. However, they are not able to implement this knowledge in different situations or contextual aspects.
Contrary to this point of view, some experts underline that such formal exercises can be highly effective providing that “they are properly incorporated into a lesson” (Donovan: 2011). I am absolutely convinced that these boring drills may be advantageous on condition their flexible and creative integration into a lesson by being transformed into a game or competition. Teaching grammar to primary school students seems to be considerably complicated due to the large amount of grammar structures required within the curriculum. In this case it is fairly reasonable to use drills and gap-filling tasks enlivening them with group competitions or game activities. In other words, teachers may teach grammar in a formal manner to correspond and meet all requirements of the curriculum.
Nevertheless, communicative approaches seem to be more effective and adequate to current global trends. INTESOL experts underline that English may necessarily be the language of communication between different nationalities. Jeremy Harmer (2007) mentions that “in the nineteenth century moves were made to bring foreign-language learning into school curriculums, and so something more was needed” meaning the creation of new methods of teaching grammar. In Harmer’s work (2007) the development and transformation of these challenging approaches are described in details. Apparantly, all these methods imply highly active students’ participation and interaction, while teachers are considered as facilitators of learning process getting students to think about what they are learning and to rely on themselves. Boas (2010) supported the opinion that grammar should be learnt by examining living speech rather than by testing written tasks.
Michael Lewis popularized Lexical approach which is based on the assertion that “language consists not of traditional grammar and vocabulary but often of multi-word prefabricated chunks” (Lewis: 1997). Such mehods typically involve students in realistic communication, where the successful achievement of the communicative task they are performing is at least as important as the accuracy of their language use. In addition, as specialists who work with various nationalities and cultures, ESL teachers have to be aware with number of differences between them and choose an appropiate approach according to their learning styles. Harmer belives that it is crucially essential “to decide what is appropriate, and how to apply the methodological beliefs that guide our teaching practice” (Harmer: 2007).
To draw the conclusion, one can say that from a plenty of methodological approaches in teaching grammar presented nowadays communicative approach seems to be the most effective. At the same time formal manner of teaching grammar may be useful in case of integration in context and real life situations. In addition, ESL teachers should be highly attentive to cultural differences and implement appropriate methods into a certain group of learners.
Boas H.C. (2010). Contrastive Studies in Construction Grammar. University of Texas, Austin
Donovan, L. (2011). Teaching grammar to ESL students - should it be formal? https://suite.io/liz-cornwell
Harmer, J. (2007). The Practice of English Language Teaching. Longman
Lewis, M. (1997). Implementing the Lexical Approach. Language Teaching Publications, Hove, England.
Lynch, L. (2006). Grammar Teaching: Implicit or Explicit? ESL Base Teach English
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