Teaching Grammar for ESL
When I started teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) I was told to incorporate grammar into my lessons, rather than teach it separately. However, after teaching for a while, I realized that adult ESL students come from school systems that tend to teach grammar separately. Having always learned this way, ESL students expect to study grammar in isolation from other aspects of the language. They are used to such an approach, and it gives them a feeling of accomplishment.
Now, in my lesson plans, I teach grammar as a separate topic. I begin by presenting a specific grammar topic – for example, irregular past tense verbs – and then use these verbs in context, in games, in conversational activities and so on. Teaching this way is important, because grammar lessons tend to be very dry otherwise.
These introductions last no more than 30 minutes. Any more than that, and people begin to lose interest. Then, I embed this grammar lesson into a broader class lesson.
After finishing with my grammar lesson (in this case, irregular past tense verbs), I move on to cover the four general skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening. While teaching these, I integrate the grammar lesson that the class has just learned.
So, for a reading passage, I will choose a story told in the past tense – or a story told in the present tense, which I will then ask the students to change to past tense. I will assign a writing exercise like: ‘What did you do last weekend’? For speaking, I will ask students what they did in their home country. And for a listening exercise, I will ask them to interview another student, and then report it to the class.
Another way to do this is to choose a single topic for the entire lesson, both grammar and the four skills. For example, a topic could be something like jobs or job interviews. If the grammar lesson of the day is irregular past tense verbs, we can discuss the students’ past job experience, their past job responsibilities and so on. They can conduct mock job interviews with each other (exercising their speaking and listening skills), fill out a job application (writing) and go over wanted ads in the newspaper (reading).
In this way, they will practice the grammar point, learn the relevant and get plenty of practice in the grammar and related vocabulary to the topic. If I were to teach English online, the steps would be very similar.