Teaching Grammar in Context

by Melike Çalışkan

THERE IS NOTHING EITHER GOOD OR BAD; THEY FIND THEIR FORMS IN CONTEXTi-am-silently-correcting-your-grammar.american-apparel-unisex-v-neck-tee.athletic-grey.w760h760[1]

Isolation. All the feeling that this word give to me is fear and blues. You can think any kind of isolation in any situation. I admit that it may be peaceful to be alone and feel the silence on your own; nonetheless, when you get too isolated from your loved ones, it will get harder to keep up with the necessities of life. You get more like yourself as you share something with somebody. A human being turns into a real character when he is in a context; he may be a father in a family context, he may be a student in a school context, he may be a husband in a marriage context, he may be a lawyer in a career context. Hence, only one man can turn into different kind of characteristic in different context; and without any context, it will be hard to understand who this man is.

If we turn this example above into a language learning concept, we can easily say that, teaching and learning a language in a context will make more sense and will be more effective, I believe. Just like we do not encounter a man without any characteristic like husband, child or doctor, we do not encounter the grammatical structures in an isolated area. For instance, I have never seen two men chatting like ‘’Have you ever seen a crocodile’’ ‘’No, I haven’t’’ and then suddenly changing the topic and saying ‘’Have you ever been to Paris’’ ‘’Yes, I have’’. What I’m trying to say here is that there is no connection between these two sentences or topics; one is related to seeing a wild animal and the other one is related to visiting somewhere. In real life, can you ever encounter to such a conversation in which two or three unrelated sentences are being talked just because they have the same grammatical structure? There may be some exception, but most of your answers will be NO. Nevertheless, this is how we tried to learn English in high school.

As a result of my ideas that I mentioned above, I’m planning to teach grammar in context to my students in the future. Of course, while deciding how I teach grammar to my students, I have to take my students’ needs, levels and ages into consideration. I mean, I cannot apply task based teaching, discovery teaching, or I do not think that I can teach grammar in context if my students are preparing to the university entrance exams and if they have a limited time. Nonetheless, I really like to teach grammar in context if the necessary conditions are provided. I had already been supporting the idea of contextualism before I read the article by Ludhescher, but I gained more knowledge about it.

It will necessitate a great effort to apply this technique successfully in Turkey, because sometimes there are more than 40 students in a classroom; it is so hard to control them. Sometimes, there are some students waiting for spoonfeeding or some quick and ready knowledge. They will not want to deal with some complex works. However, I really believe that I can manage it. In addition, there is a table in Ludhescher’s book, showing points of grammar and the situations and context in which we can use them. I couldn’t imagine or create a context for each and every grammar structure, for example, he says that you can fill out a medical history form and then role play a medical interview on a visit with a new doctor to teach Present perfect tense and Present perfect progressive. For another example, he says follow a recipe or instructions from a boxed cake mix to bake a cake to teach imperative verb form and present continuous tense. There are more activities and situation proper for different grammar topics, I find it very beneficial.

When it comes to exploiting text, it is like what we did last week about the ‘’bang bang’’ song. We examine the lyrics and underline the structures that the teacher asked for. It was quite beneficial on the ground that we can easily see the past tense form in a context like how it is used and when it is used. When we encounter something in real life, if we do not the structure we cannot speak and feel the need of learning it. When the teacher shows the structures in a context, we feel like we are in need of learning it in that particular situation.

As for the songs, who does not like listening to songs? Even when we were counting the courses that we liked most in elementary school or high school, we used to say ‘’resim, müzik, beden’’ on the ground that we felt more relaxed, like we were out of the classroom atmosphere, doing some fun things rather than learning something in school. In addition, when we watch movies and listening to songs, we see some grammatical structures in them, which make our newly learned knowledge more permanent and when we see them in movies or in songs, those structures make more sense. I believe that it will work well, but I do not know how to apply it effectively. As the years pass, I believe I will get more experience and my creativity will develop. Nevertheless, I would like to state one point about these applying songs issue; as we all know there are different kinds of intelligences, while the students with auditory intelligence may love it and learn effectively with songs, the others may not love it. Hence, as I stated before, the teacher should take the students’ needs and levels or intelligences into consideration.

When I think about the strategies or techniques with which we learn grammar in high school, I stated before that PPP was the most creative technique that we had ever seen then :)) Now, I can say know the whole grammar with no hesitation, PPP worked well because there were no chances; it had to work well 😀

For the conclusion, I would like to add that there is no the idealist way to teach grammar or to teach anything related to language. A teacher can feel like this is the greatest way of teaching something, however, the students may not like it, it may not be appropriate for their likes, ages, needs. Therefore, the first and best things for teachers to do are entering to the classroom and try to know his students as much as he can. Then, the most idealistic and the most proper method will come unintentionally.


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