When we present grammar in context, it can be really helpful to use this context to guide students to notice the grammar versus explaining the grammar in a deductive manner. There are many benefits to this. In my humble opinion (teehee!), I have found that this method gets students more involved in their own learning, helps them build critical inference and analysis skills and keeps their attention during what can be the ‘most boring’ part of a grammar lesson . This is commonly done with reading texts (usually that you have prepared) that show your grammar in a natural context. Here are three techniques you can use:
- Use a sorting activity with a reading text. For example, give the students a reading text with simple past tense verbs (regular and irregular) in bold. This reading text could be a story about your weekend. Students then sort the bold past forms in the two columns as they read the story. After this they discuss the differences between the two columns with a partner. After this task is finished, you can finish clarifying the form, meaning and use of this grammar.
- Use a fill-in the-blank/short answer question activity. This can be used to help the students find patterns and analyze how the target grammar is formed and/ or its meaning/ use. For example, give the students a reading text with modals in bold. If you are teaching modals, it is really helpful if this text is a written dialog between two people using the grammar a natural conversation. Have the students perform the dialog in pairs (make sure to give them a general comprehension question to think about as they do this). Then give the students another handout with fill-in-the-blank sentences/short answer questions that ask the students to analyze the dialog. These questions can ask students to find patterns (What kind of verb to you notice comes after the word should? Complete this sentence with the correct form: You should __________(to go) to the doctor.) or ask them to discover the meaning and use (What type of information is Tom giving to Susan? (advice) So, in this situation, what is the usage of should?). The key thing to remember is that the students use the contextual dialog as a guide to help them answer the questions on the second handout. After they finish (I often have them work in pairs to complete this task), you can continue clarifying the key grammar points with the students.
- Use a text to demonstrate how forms relate to each other (sentence diagramming…kind of). For example, give the students a text with pronouns in bold. For this grammar, it is great to use a news article. Then isolate some sentences from the text and ask who each pronoun relates to (e.g. Who is she? or Who are they?). With higher level students, the students can circle the pronouns and then draw lines or arrows back to the noun it refers to (kind of diagramming…). This is a way for students to see the distance between the anchor noun and the pronoun. After this exercise, you can continue to clarify the grammar by asking more questions to your students based on the contextual reading.
Good luck and let me know if you try any of these ideas out!