Teaching Grammar

Inklusive Unterrichtsplan "The American Way of Life as Reflected on TV"

Lesson Plan, 2010

17 Pages



I. Teaching Grammar
1. Grammar education through time
2. Defintions of the term 'grammar'
3. Status of grammar in school teaching
4. Reasons for teaching grammar
6. How to teach grammar
7. Grammar in context
8. Self-regulated learning of grammar in secondary education
9. Dealing with grammatical mistakes
10. Ways and modells of teaching grammar
11. Testing Grammar

II. Lesson plan: The American way oflife as reflected on TV
1. Remarks about the class
2. Contents and aims of the lesson
3. Didactic notes, methodical considerations and lesson plan
4. Critical view on the lesson


I. Teaching Grammar

1. Grammar education through time

Grammar was an always important part of the teaching of foreign languages, but the emphasis changed through time. In the beginning, grammar was taught through translations. At the onset of the 20th century grammar lost its leading position to the benefit of verbal skills. This development was severely enforced by the “communicative turn”, which took place in the 70ies and called for “communicative competence” above all: after that, grammar was subordinate to the aim of communication[1] and is it till today as the following excerpt from the current curriculum for modern foreign language teaching shows: “Die Schuler sollen differenzierte kommunikative Fertigkeiten in der mundlichen und schriftlichen Sprachanwendung erwerben. Dies erfordert kontinuierlichen und systematischen Wortschatzerwerb, grundliche Ausspracheschulung und solide Grammatikarbeit. Die sprachlichen Mittel sind dabei kein Selbstzweck , sondern Grundlage fur den selbststandigen und korrekten Gebrauch der Fremdsprache.”[2] Grammar is thus still seen as necessary but has a serving purpose to the communicative goal.

2. Defintions of the term 'grammar'

Grammar, in very simple words, can be understood as the “the way words are put together to make correct sentences”.[3] However, Penny Ur thinks this is an “over- simplification”:The term 'grammatical' does not only apply for sentences but also smaller units and single words, the combination of words, plus the combination of word fragments, and the formulation of irregular forms.[4] Grammar also concerns the meaning of units of language; an aspect that is, according to Ur, neglected in the EFL classroom where the focus is put on the accuracy of form.[5]

Essen is quite similar in saying that 'grammar' is on the one hand a general theory about how to describe all languages, on the other hand a description about a particular language in its ideal state but also of its actual usage. Futhermore, in regard to teaching languages the term 'grammar' concerns the competence in usage, the knowledge of the rules of the language and its sociocultural rules.[6]

In contrast, Kahl[7] understands grammar as a construct that is made up of different interacting layers, and thus differentiates between the ‘‘inherent grammar,” the “scientific grammar”,the “didactic grammar “ and a “learner's grammar”. The last two mentioned types are important for teaching grammar. The term “didactic grammar” signifies the morphological and syntactic structures of a language which are taught in school. The “learner's grammar” is different from the “didactic” one insofar as it contains all the grammatical structures of a language which the learner has learned and understood, and thus are different in each pupil. Hence there is normally a divergence between these two types of grammar.

Zimmermann by comparison understands grammar as texts (books, grammar supplements etc.) about the phonological, morphological, syntactic, textual and semantic-pragmatic characteristics of a language - but not every grammar covers every of these aspects. He categorizes grammars according to various features, for example their purpose and the prototypical function for the language, which bring about the differentiation between “linguistic” and “didactic” grammar. The first one is predominantly descriptive, carries out an “informative Textfunktion”, and is more important for teaching whereas the second one is prescriptive and has an “appellative [...] Steuerungsfunktion”.[8]

3. Status of grammar in school teaching

Zimmermann conducted an empirical study to find out the attitude of teachers' towards teaching of grammar and how much time grammar was granted in lessons: According to his research, grammar consumed 40-60% of the total lesson time and 80% of the teachers regard this as appropriate. Again 80% of the teachers were in favour of teaching grammar systematically.[9]

4. Reasons for teaching grammar

The place of grammar in the EFL classroom is controversial.[10] Thus it is important to consider the fact that the teachers - how they understand language and grammar, and if or how important they think grammar is to master a language - decide and influence how and to what extent they teach grammar in school. However, most people think that knowing a language's grammar is important to learn and understand the language. But it is not agreed on, how it should be taught: either the formal rules should be learned or the students could have and use their intuitive knowledge.[11] So Newmark says that “the study of grammar as such is neither necessary nor sufficient for learning to use a language”.[12] Ur says that Newmark might be right, but also says that it is not important if learning grammar is necessary but if it helps learning the language or not.[13]

Widdowson by comparison thinks that learning the grammar is not enough for the learner to be able to use a language.[14] If learners know how to form correct grammatical sentences this does in his opinion not ensure that they can communicate in real life. Ur accepts his opinion in regard to grammar being useful for real-life discourse but being a dead end in itself.[15]

As a last example, Hawkins is of the opinion that knowledge of grammar, understood as the “insight into pattern” of a language, is as important as communicative use of the language in what he calls the “dual process of acquisition/learning” and should no longer be disregarded. He sees the learning of grammar as an interesting “voyage of discovery into the patterns of a language rather than the learning of prescriptive rules”.[16] Ur thinks he might be a bit optimistic in his view that students will find grammar as such interesting.[17]

Comparing all these views, Ur says, the most important aspect of teaching
grammar is to enable students to use correct forms and structures notjust in tests but also in production and real- life. To get the student from partial mastering of the structures that is depending on inner controlling to fluent production, the teacher has to give the students the opportunity of much and various practise in different contexts plus in both form and meaning of the structure.[18]

Regarding the importance of teaching and learning grammar in today's world, Estor says that learning the grammar of a foreign language is crucial because English is, within Europe, what she calls a “Eurolanguage”. Europeans need good uworking knowledge^ of English, lexical and grammatical competence, comprehension and communication skills to get respect, above all in work-related situations. Plus, learning the language, especially its grammar, is linked to gaining intercultural competence: not understanding the grammatical peculiarities of a language, in English for example the difference between present perfect and simple past, can lead to misunderstanding, the understanding on the other hand to insight into the cultural specific ways of thinking.[19]

6. How to teach grammar

First of all, it is vital to decide if grammar teaching is really helpful in learning a language or not: it probably is, as long as it is taught not for the sake of grammar in itself but to gain more knowledge and mastery in communication and the lan­guage itself.[20] To teach others in the grammar of a language means that first the teachers themselves have to understand the structure, the written and spoken form, the different forms of meaning involved etc.[21] Since one aspect of grammar are the 'structures' like noun plurals, past tense etc. but not all languages have the same structures, it is important for the teacher to try to predict and prevent difficulties and possible problems for language learners and pay particular attention to the discrepancies between languages.[22]


[1] Grunewald/Kuster 2009, 100-103.

[2] Staatsinstitut fur Schulqualitat und Bildungsforschung Munchen (I): Das Gymnasium in Bayern, 29.

[3] Ur 1998,75.

[4] Ib., 75.

[5] Ib.,76.

[6] Essen 1989,4.

[7] Kahl 1990,235-236.

[8] Zimmermann 2007, 406.

Zimmermann 1984, 7-43.

[10] Ur 1998,76.

[11] Ib., 76.

[12] L. Newmark 'How not to infere with language learning' in: Brumfit, C.J. and Johnson, K.

(eds.) The Communicative Approach ^La^nguage Teaching, Oxford University Press 1979, 165.(citedfromUr 1998, 77).

[13] Ur 1998,77-78.

[14] H. G. Widdowson, 'Directions in the teaching ofdiscourse' in Brunfit, C.J. and Johnson, K. (eds.) The Communicative Approach ^o ^La^nguage Teaching, Oxford University Press 1979, 49­60. (citedfromUr 1998,77).

[15] Ur 1998,78.

[16] Eric Hawkins, Awareness ofLanguage: An Introduction, Cambridge University Press, 1984, 150-151. (citedfromUr 1998,77).

[17] Ur 1998,78.

[18] Ib., 83.

[19] Estor 2000, 168.

[20] Ur 1998,78.

[21] Ib., 81.

[22] Ib., 75.

Excerpt out of 17 pages


Teaching Grammar
Inklusive Unterrichtsplan "The American Way of Life as Reflected on TV"
LMU Munich
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
450 KB
Englisch, English, Grammatik, grammar, lesson, lesson plan, TV, television, Unterricht, teaching, Didaktik
Quote paper
Antonia Schlögel (Author), 2010, Teaching Grammar, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/170000


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