Tuesday, April 21, 2015
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FPEL Approcahes to Teaching Grammar
It is difficult to make any generalization about the way/s of teaching grammar in the FPEL since the approaches that teachers use in their teaching vary greatly. However, there is a grammar and linguistic syllabus that lists the items covered throughout the FPEL. Teachers are expected to use a general approach to teach the items based on the following guidelines:
  • Grammar items may be covered using an inductive or deductive approach, but teachers should avoid lengthy grammar lessons.
  • Grammar is best learned through practice in meaningful contexts.
  • Students do not go from ‘not knowing’ to ‘knowing’ grammatical structures – learning is a long and gradual process from ignorance to mastery.
  • After ‘teaching’ a grammar point, teachers should not expect all their students to have mastered that point; students are expected to learn the indicated grammar items to a degree suitable to their proficiency level.
  • Grammar should be addressed frequently, on an ad hoc/as needed basis whenever a problem or new point arises in a reading text or in the course of students’ writing.
  • Teachers should carry out quick checks/drills/mini dialogues on aspects of grammar as frequently as possible, rather than spending whole lessons on one point.
  • Teachers should help the students compile their own grammar reference material – handouts from grammar books can help in this, but students need to be more personally involved.
  • CALL (computer-assisted language learning) materials can be used in all levels to reinforce grammar.
  • On exiting the GFP, students should be familiar with basic metalanguage, e.g., ‘noun’, 'adjective', etc. They should also be able to use appropriately the grammatical items listed in the grammar syllabus and be able to apply their grammatical knowledge for both written and oral tasks.
Grammar still has to be learned and developed explicitly and implicitly, but the driving force for grammar practice is a text – either the texts the students are reading or those they are attempting to produce. Unfortunately, there are few grammar materials and it is left to the teacher to decide when and how to teach a particular grammar point and also to design the materials which may not explicitly focus on grammar rules. Teachers need to be aware of the need to refer to grammar whenever problems arise and to give further practice as needed.  Beginner and elementary level students focus on the language structures they have learned at schools and to use them to accomplish specific writing tasks.  Pre-intermediate and intermediate students aim at acquiring ‘new’ and more advanced grammar structures together with two key rhetorical functions. The main areas of difficulty tend to be the use of tenses, (correct choice of form and appropriate usage), verb/subject agreement, word order, (both single words and phrases in the wrong place), and articles. Difficulties increase when students attempt to write complex sentences with subordination.
The Language Centre is in constant search for new approaches and materials that will both better meet the students’ needs and become better aligned with the curricular guidelines. Hence, in the fall of 2010, the CU initiated a large-scale project Studying the Approaches to Grammar in the FPEL which aimed at investigating the approaches teachers use in their classrooms, identifying which approaches would be more useful within the context of the FPEL, and exploring the students’ needs and expectations in terms of grammar teaching.
A 3-member team was formed in February 2011 who conducted the study that was concluded in spring of 2011. The study yielded significant findings which led to implications for both teaching and materials development in the new academic year of 2011-2012.

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