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Concourse 2

Strand 3: Learning about grammar


In the age of information, ignorance is a choice
Donny Miller

You arrived here because you agreed partially or fully with

I avoid teaching grammar because I don't know enough about it.

The chances are good that you are a native English speaker of some sort because non-native speakers who have learned enough English to be able to teach it have also learned grammar (probably rather too much of it).

The chances are even better that your initial training in English Language Teaching happened on a course which insisted on a communicative approach to language teaching which focused on functional use rather than structure and saw the effort to communicate authentically as the way to learn a language.
Nothing said here is intended to disparage a communicative approach because it is very arguably A Very Good Thing in language teaching (for any language) and certainly an improvement on courses in which people learnt grammar rather than English.
The unfortunate spin-off from the approach, however, is that many teachers (and some teacher trainers) know embarrassingly little about the grammar of their own or anyone else's language.
You can speak the language, of course, and you can immediately spot when an utterance is malformed or grammatically flawed so you actually 'know' all the grammar in that sense.  What you don't have is what is called declarative knowledge and that is what prevents you from being able clearly to explain grammar to learners or to plan and teach the grammar input they need.


Just how embarrassing is your lack of knowledge?

To see how embarrassing your lack of knowledge of grammar is, try a 20-item test.  There are no prizes and you don't need to advertise your score but you should make a note of it after the last question, before you hit the 'Back' button.

Click here to do the test.

Now click here to go on.


Researching grammar online

You need to be careful and sceptical when you are tempted to use online resources to find out about structure and grammar.

  1. Look beyond websites designed for learners of English.
  2. Be aware that many websites are written by well-meaning people who don't know very much about grammar.
  3. Look for sites which are:
    1. not hooks to get people to sign up for courses
    2. not blogs where anyone, however ignorant, can supply answers to questions
    3. written by people in further or higher education who actually know what they are talking about

On this site, there is a short guide to whom to trust when you are researching language online.
Open it in a new tab by clicking here.


Gauging progress

There's a separate guide in this section of the site to gauging and measuring progress in your development.  Go there for more ideas.  This area, however, is a rather special case.

One easy way to gauge your progress in this area is to come back here and re-take the test.  When you score 100%, you have made some progress.

Another suggestion is that you keep a teaching diary specifically relevant to teaching grammar.  In that you can record what you taught, what the problems were and how you felt the lessons went.  Over time, you should be able to perceive real progress.