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grammar teaching (was: A grammar question from authentic email)

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  • eveinbeijing
    ... Most of us aren t teaching courses called English Grammar, and our suggestions for improving teaching methods are rarely listened to, and (almost?) never
    Message 1 of 5 , Mar 10, 2002
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      --- In teflchina@y..., xavier wang <xaviervwang@y...> wrote:
      > But an ability to use appropriate grammar in real-life
      > contexts seems not completely achieved.
      > Can we improve grammar teaching in Chinese institutions?

      Most of us aren't teaching courses called English Grammar, and our
      suggestions for improving teaching methods are rarely listened to,
      and (almost?) never put into practice by Chinese school
      administrations. So these obvious options for improving grammar
      teaching in China aren't really open to us foreign teachers.

      However, I do think that even in an Oral English or other English-
      teaching context, we can help students apply the grammar rules they
      learn in their other classes. Grammar doesn't necessarily need to be
      a major focus in conversation classes, as I'm happy if students can
      get their point across. But when I notice a pattern of error, such
      as two or more students making the same mistake, especially when the
      error changes the meaning of what they're saying, I explain and
      correct the error and try to follow up with some off-the-cuff
      exercises for the students to do.

      Here is an example that just happened last week. When my students
      were reporting on their opinions of who is responsible for classroom
      learning, one student, Amanda, quoted a Chinese saying, something
      like "The teacher can only lead you to the door of the classroom; you
      must study on your own." After she said this, I noticed more than
      one person defending their position by saying, "I have the same
      reason with Amanda." This statement is understandable, but contains
      such a common error that I went to the board and wrote:

      "I have the same reason ____ Amanda."

      I had the students try to fill in the blank. They
      suggested "with", "to", and "as". They voted, and "with" was the
      hands-down favorite. (My husband tells me it is a direct translation
      from Mandarin.) I told them the answer was "as." It occurred to me
      that I could cement this point in the students' minds if everyone had
      to say whether the reason for their opinion was the same or different
      from Amanda's, but did they know how to express different? So, I
      wrote:

      "I have a different reason ____ Amanda."

      They suggested "as", "with", and "against". They were shocked when I
      told them the answer was "from". So for the rest of the discussion,
      I told every student to preface their remarks with one of two
      sentences, either: "I have the SAME reason AS Amanda" or "I have a
      DIFFERENT reason FROM Amanda". Poor Amanda didn't like all this
      attention, so when another student made a good point, I changed the
      name in the required sentence to his name.

      This method of grammar teaching through error correction is a bit
      haphazard, not like a well-organized, sequential grammar course. But
      I think it may be the best we can do within the constraints of an
      Oral English class during which we are supposed to let the students
      spend most of the class time practicing their English.

      Eve Ross
      Beijing Institute of Machinery
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