Teaching Grammar to English Students

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Nowadays, the modern world is developing under the sign of economic globalization. Thus, the knowledge of languages is supposed to be a mandatory attribute of highly competitive and professional specialists. The low level of its training is one of the key factors hindering the competitiveness of experts on the world market. It means that the learning of languages should be seen not as a secondary discipline, but as a necessary tool of any professional activity. It involves the basis for the uniform educational standards, the academic and professional mobility, as well as integration of international research activities. In fact, the internationalization and integration of scientific research and educational technologies as well as their successful implementation is objectively impossible without an adequate language training based on the lexical and grammar material.

Conscious Communicative Language Teaching

The overview of teaching practice for grammar learning provided by the scientific methodological literature proves the existence of the two fundamentally different approaches commonly preferred for language teaching, i.e. imitative and conscious (Hattum, 2006). The imitative perspective avoids a clear explanation of grammatical phenomena with the specific rules. Contrary, the conscious approach is based on the interpretation of the grammatical concept with the particular principles of implementation of relevant grammatical constructions. The conscious approach to grammar teaching is supposed to be more reliable, and the received skills are stronger and more flexible for the usage. Thus, this perspective is a proposed method of teaching grammar to English students. The special organization of linguistic material in the form of grammatical structures such as sentence types, i.e. the phrases that generate models, cover the basic grammatical phenomena of English. They are necessary and sufficient for organizing grammar teaching within the school curriculum (Simmons, 2010).

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In fact, the efficient learning of grammar is inextricably linked to the use of grammatical models. Thus, the following functions can be achieved (Harmer, 2003):

  • Generalization of the learnt material, i.e. a rather large number of phrases and sentences have the same structure, but with a different lexical content;
  • Planning, i.e. the ability of students to design their own phrases and even whole expressions, involving the application of phrases with different grammar structures;
  • Control, i.e. in case of errors, students can independently rely on the model to find an error and correct it.

The introduction of the new grammatical material is based on the two key stages:

  1. The stage presentation of grammatical phenomena and creating a rough basis for the subsequent formation of practical skills.
  2. The formation of speech grammar skills and the subsequent inclusion of various grammar constructions in the oral communication.

The organization of the grammatical material is an essential element of a teaching process. It determines, to a large extent, the success of work on the grammatical side of various types of communication activities. Therefore, communicative exercises should be divided into the preparation tests and the monitoring testing. The initial ones are aimed at the formation of grammatical skills and the monitoring tests are determined to evaluate the efficiency of the education process.

However, to define the most effective method of formation of grammatical skills among students, it is necessary to take into account some factors. They include their age and psychological characteristics as well as the previously received educational background. For example, the characteristic feature of the attention of the students at the age of 13-15 implies the particular selectivity, i.e. interesting lessons or an exciting case are rather useful for the learning process of teenagers. However, much time may be needed to focus on some material or phenomenon. The easy excitability and interest in an unusual form often cause involuntary attention switching. In addition, the students of the younger age can easily perceive the information provided within the form of game. Meanwhile older pupils can faster apprehend the more complex constructions due to the large experience as well as the previously received knowledge (Richards & Rodgers, 2001).

The fundamental importance lies in the selection and organization of the material based on situations and communication issues interesting for the students of the various age. There can be the description of the situations such as at the shop or at the concert applied. The situational approach can be manifested in different components of the lesson. In this case, students do not receive any direct instructions to remember the specific grammar constructions. However, they unconsciously use the involuntary memorizing technique.

Thus, the grammar exercises should meet the following basic requirements (Whong, 2011):

  • To apply a situational approach to the learning process;
  • To reflect physiological and linguistic patterns of developing some types of speech activities;
  • To have communicative orientation;
  • To be arranged in an order from easy to more complex and difficult;
  • To intensify a mental activity of students;
  • To contain the variety of tasks.

The language exercises should be aimed at developing the student's primary skills as well as use individual elements of specific language aspects.

The proposed learning algorithm of communicative grammar can be divided into four stages:

  • The statement of the problem and proposition of solution variants based on the identification of grammatical structures and possible content components;
  • The discussion of substantive components and definitions as well as the subsequent selection of some algorithm appropriate for the specific grammatical structures;
  • The formation of skills through the performance of the well-known and widely-used training exercises;
  • The application of skills in the spoken or written language (Bax, 2003).

For example, the introduction of the new material can be performed by reading or listening to a small piece of text (for 2-3 minutes). The students' task implies the identification of the main idea of text and its semantic parts (the answers to specific questions basing on the content of an abstract) as well as identification of new grammatical structures (for example, emphasizing the structure of text or by filling some gaps in the individual proposals being pre-selected by a teacher in the material). In addition, the instructor can ask to search for the specific grammar issue within the material. For example, there can be proposed to look for the modal verb, which expresses a physical ability in the process of learning modal verbs, uttering a possibility or probability of an action. The development of such algorithm will contribute to the realization of the common context of the situation and facilitate the perception of information and skills formation. In addition, there can be reading and writing of brief summaries to text containing the grammatical phenomena used. They should have been studied as well as the answers to the questions that also contain the grammatical structure and the intended use of the construction for the complete sentence (Meddings, 2004).

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Efficiency Assessment

One of the methods of formative assessment of effectiveness of the learning process implies the usage of the criteria self-evaluation technique. In fact, this approach allows evaluating the process of cognitive activity not only basing on the achieved result, but defining the gaps in the educational process that leads to the specific outcome. Moreover, this assessment lets motivate all students, without an exception. It restores the link between assessment and individual students' progress, taking into account the level of the current state. Pupils are explained the evaluation criteria in advance. These ones are set out in a writing form and are clearly explained by the teacher. In the process of education, students can assess the rate of its implementation and choose a path to the improvement of the existing knowledge. The criteria self-assessment technique enables each pupil to answer the following questions:

  • Where am I now?
  • What do I know and which areas should be improved?
  • What can be done to better master the subject? (Savignon, 2000).

The usage of such evaluation approach allows the instructor to see the way students understand and evaluate their personal progress as well as the further steps to their enhancement.

Thus, the criteria-based assessment solves the following problems:

  • It makes the evaluation more transparent and objective both for students and for the instructor;
  • It provides a feedback;
  • It allows students to accurately assess the boundaries of their knowledge.

The criteria for evaluating the work should be introduced at the initial lesson and discussed among pupils. The teacher should show that the degree of achieving each criterion may be different. Therefore, the instructor introduces the specific indicators on which it is defined. Students should be precisely explained with the point scale with the help of which the evaluation is conducted. In addition, it is useful to discuss the results of pupils' personal evaluation and compare them with the evaluation made by the teacher.

Conclusions

The process of grammar teaching is supposed to be a complex task. It requires the usage of specific techniques and methods to assure the efficiency of the education process. The paper has proposed the application of the conscious approach of the communication method to improve the students' knowledge of grammar constructions. In addition, the self-evaluation approach as an efficient tool of efficiency assessment of the learning process has been offered.

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