In this course, you'll come to see English grammar as a three-dimensional process that's useful in bringing coherence, cohesion, and texture to writing and speech. We'll begin by considering seven definitions of grammar that we'll draw on throughout the course. We'll also discuss the differences between patterns and rules, and why second-language learners benefit from our instruction on both.
You'll learn why students need to understand the three dimensions of grammar—form, meaning, and use—and how seeing grammar as a dynamic and changing system helps students overcome many of their grammar challenges. You'll also see why teaching grammar in a way that makes it personally meaningful to your students brings the best results.
And since teaching isn't just about presenting lessons, we'll also go over the importance of "reading" your students—observing them to try to figure out what learning process they're using. We'll contrast rote or mechanical practice with meaningful practice, and we'll go over guidelines for creating activities and adapting your textbook exercises to get students working on the unique learning challenge presented by each different grammatical structure.
Toward the end of the course, we'll talk about what specific errors students make can indicate, and how they can help us pinpoint the unique challenges our students face so we can develop meaningful practice activities to help them meet those challenges. And we'll finish up the course by discussing ways that you can give valuable feedback to your students. Get ready to discover how to teach grammar in a way that's both effective and enjoyable for your students!
Course materials are developed by Heinle I Cengage Learning, a global leader in ESL/EFL materials. Course content is approved by the TESOL Professional Development Committee so students who successfully complete this course receive a TESOL Certificate of Completion.
A new section of each course starts monthly. If enrolling in a series of two or
more courses, please be sure to space the start date for each course at least two
All courses run for six weeks, with a two-week grace period at the end. Two lessons
are released each week for the six-week duration of the course. You do not have
to be present when lessons are released. You will have access to all lessons until
the course ends. However, the interactive discussion area that accompanies each
lesson will automatically close two weeks after the lesson is released. As such,
we strongly recommend that you complete each lesson within two weeks of its release.
The final exam will be released on the same day as the last lesson. Once the final
exam has been released, you will have two weeks to complete all of your course work,
including the final exam.
Grammar is an incredibly rich system for making meaning in a language. It's a subject that many people misunderstand, though, and that's something we should all be concerned about because if we don't see fully how grammar contributes to communication, then our students won't either. When students misunderstand grammar, they'll often develop a negative attitude toward studying grammar. We'll begin this first lesson by considering seven definitions of grammar, and we'll draw on all seven of these definitions later in this course. We'll also discuss the differences between patterns and rules, and why second-language learners benefit from our instruction on both patterns and the rules in the classroom.
Many people think of grammar structures as forms in a language. For instance, one form instructs us to place an s at the end of a noun if we want to make that noun plural. While there are indeed grammatical forms such as the plural s, there's more to grammar than form! In this lesson, you'll learn that grammar structures have meanings, and they have uses as well. This is very important to understand because grammar doesn't relate only to accuracy. It also relates to meaningfulness and appropriateness. We often teach grammar as forms that have meaning, but students don't often understand when or why to use particular structures. They wind up overusing them, under using them, or using them inappropriately. Students need to understand that there are three dimensions of grammar—form, meaning, and use—and that's what we'll discuss in today's lesson.
The title of this lesson is Grammaring. Grammar + -ing. If you haven't heard the term before, don't be surprised. I coined it myself because I think adding the ing helps people understand that grammar isn't a fixed system of unchanging rules. On the contrary, grammatical rules and patterns change all the time! In this lesson, we'll talk about three ways that grammar is dynamic and changing. We'll also consider a long-time problem in language learning—the inert knowledge problem, where students appear to have learned something in class but can't use it outside of class for their own purposes. Finally, we'll talk about helping students overcome the inert knowledge problem by viewing grammar as a dynamic system and teaching it in a psychologically authentic way.
When you think about grammar, you might think about rules that apply to sentences. Such rules might tell us the order of words in a phrase or in a sentence. But grammar goes beyond the sentence, too. Think about the sentences in a paragraph. There's an order they must follow to make sense, and grammar is what helps you to organize them! Today you'll learn the ways that people can use grammar to bring cohesion, coherence, and texture to what they're saying and writing. In the process, grammar helps to create organized wholes from written sentences and spoken utterances. Knowing how to create an organized whole out of sentences and utterances is very important for ESL and EFL students so they can learn to write and speak in a comprehensible way.
Often people make a clear division between grammar structures and words. Grammar structures are patterns or formulas with open slots where the words go—it's up to you to add words to that structure. In this lesson, however, you'll see that grammar structures and words are actually interconnected. For one thing, the slots in certain grammatical patterns aren't really open, waiting for just any old word to fill them in. They can only be filled by particular words. Plus, certain grammar structures have characteristics that put them into the category of words, and some words have characteristics that would equally qualify them as grammar structures. So they can go either way as words or grammar structures. We'll talk about all of it in this lesson about lexicogrammar!
If I asked you what you associate with the term "grammar," what would you say? I bet you'd say "rules." It's probably the most common association with grammar. Grammar rules are important in both language learning and teaching. I've taught grammar rules, and perhaps you have, too. I wouldn't want to do anything to discourage you from teaching rules. But in today's lesson, I hope to convince you that grammar has underlying reasons as well as rules. Reasons help you understand why rules are the way they are. Grammar isn't as arbitrary as you may have thought. You don't always have to tell your students, "That's just the way it is." Reasons will also help you understand the so-called "exceptions" to rules. Besides, reasons are broader than rules. If you understand a single reason, you'll understand a number of rules. Now, that sounds like a bargain, doesn't it?
One of the problems that all teachers face is lack of time. There's never enough time to teach all you want your students to learn. You have to be selective. Now, you may be thinking selection becomes more difficult with a grammaring approach. After all, you've learned by now in this course that grammar is more complex than you may have thought. But in today's lesson, you'll learn an important principle as well. It's called the challenge principle. It's a principle for selecting what it is that you need to spend time on with your students. The challenge principle says that you should spend time focusing on the dimension of grammar that students find most challenging—it could be form, or meaning, or use. In this lesson, you'll learn how to apply the challenge principle to determine an instructional focus.
Teaching isn't only about presenting lessons. A large part of being a good teacher is "reading" your students. By "reading" your students, I mean observing them while they're learning—trying to figure out what learning process they're using. You'll also see that students have their own goals for what they want to learn and their own strategies for how they'll meet these goals. In this lesson, you'll learn about some of the learning processes that students use to grasp grammar. You'll also see that different students approach learning grammar in different ways. By the end of this lesson, you'll have acquired the knowledge what you need to be a better observer and manager of your students' learning. And, believe me; watching your students learn is one of the very special rewards of teaching!
In this lesson, we'll examine three different approaches to teaching grammar. We'll start with the traditional 3-P approach: present, practice, and produce—present a grammar structure, practice it, and then have your students produce it. We'll then contrast this traditional approach with a more recent proposal to focus on form within a communicative approach. I'll also talk about my grammaring approach. As you know by now, I believe that we need to teach grammar in a more dynamic fashion in order to overcome the inert knowledge problem. And my goal in this lesson is to convince you of that, too!
We can make a number of contrasts between learning grammar in your native language and learning grammar in another language. One of the important differences is that in learning your native language, you learn from experience—you learn implicitly. Second language learners, on the other hand, often learn grammar explicitly—by following explicit rules and explanations. In this lesson, I'll contrast the two—implicit learning and teaching, and explicit learning and teaching. We'll also discuss the important question about using grammatical terminology while you're teaching grammar. Using grammar terms can be useful to students, but let's not to lose sight of the fact that what we're trying to do is to help them achieve an ability to use grammar—not necessarily turn them into grammarians.
By now, you know that I believe that learning grammar should be an active process. The capacity to use grammar structures actively requires practice. In this lesson, we'll start off by contrasting rote or mechanical practice with meaningful practice. When people think of grammatical practice, they often think of drills. But today, you'll find out how to create meaningful practice activities that address the form, meaning, and use challenges in learning grammar. With these guidelines, you'll be able to create activities and adapt your textbook exercises so that your students are working on the unique learning challenge presented by each different grammatical structure. You can make your teaching process much more effective this way.
With this lesson, we'll conclude our course. But we can't do that without taking up the important issue of giving feedback to our students, and that's the focus of this lesson. We'll start off by talking about what an error is. Recognizing what is and what isn't an error might not always be easy. Then, once we're satisfied that we've defined and detected an error, we'll need to go over what to do about it. This is actually a controversial area! I'll try to help by suggesting what sort of feedback students find most useful. Errors are also important windows into learners' minds—we can actually learn quite a lot from our learners' errors! You may find it amusing that one of the final questions we'll consider in this course has to do with learning. As you've no doubt seen throughout this course, I consider learning—learning about grammar, learning from our students, learning from each other—to be at the heart of good grammar teaching. So we'll conclude with a wish for the joy of learning.
Internet access, e-mail, the Microsoft Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox Web browser, and the Adobe Flash and PDF plug-ins (two free and simple downloads you obtain at http://www.adobe.com/downloads by clicking Get Adobe Flash Player and Get Adobe Reader).
This course includes a knowledgeable and caring instructor who will guide you through
your lessons, facilitate discussions, and answer your questions. The instructor
for this course will be
Diane Larsen-Freeman is a Professor of Education, Professor of Linguistics, and Research Scientist at the English Language Institute at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She is also Distinguished Senior Faculty Fellow at the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont. She has spoken and published widely on the topics of teacher education, second language acquisition, English grammar, and language teaching methodology. Her books include: An Introduction to Second Language Acquisition Research (with Michael Long, Longman, 1991), The Grammar Book (with Marianne Celce-Murcia, Heinle/Thomson, 1999, second edition), Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching (Oxford University Press, 2000, second edition), Grammar Dimensions (Series Director, Heinle, 2007, 4th edition), Teaching Language: From Grammar to Grammaring (Heinle, 2003) and Complex Systems and Applied Linguistics (with Lynne Cameron, Oxford University Press, 2008). In 1997, Dr. Larsen-Freeman was inducted into the Vermont Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1999, she was named one of the ESL pioneers by ESL Magazine. In 2000, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Heinle Publishers.
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