grammar teaching (was: A grammar question from authentic email)
- --- In teflchina@y..., xavier wang <xaviervwang@y...> wrote:
> But an ability to use appropriate grammar in real-lifeMost of us aren't teaching courses called English Grammar, and our
> contexts seems not completely achieved.
> Can we improve grammar teaching in Chinese institutions?
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
"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.
Beijing Institute of Machinery