For someone like me who grew up learning three languages namely Cebuano, Filipino, and English, learning a language is similar to breathing. This might not be the case for other people though, especially those people who would want to learn English as their second language. It is even more difficult to effectively teach these ESL learners the rules of the English language. For instance, I had this Korean classmate before who asked me why this phenomenon in English language happens. He even added a question, “Why does it only have to be like this? Could it also be like this? If not, why?” I was deeply troubled. I have been learning English for most of my life but I have never really bothered to ask why this rule should be followed or why this word should not be placed after that word. So I answered, “Because…That’s just how English is.”
Embarrassing. From then on, I knew I am not made for teaching. Anyways, I would like to share some suggestions on how to teach certain English language grammar rules – particularly partitives, coordinating conjunctions, and logical connectors. Basically, I wanted to teach English language to ESL learners not in a rigid, old-fashioned way but in a way where they can use these grammar rules communicatively.
In teaching partitives, I suggest that as a warm up or lead-in, the teacher can do an activity which involves frequent use of partitives communicatively. For instance, a baking activity will do. The teacher can do the measuring and the baking activity and at the same time describe what he/she is doing. Or, the teacher can ask his/her students to describe what they are doing while baking. The teacher can even ask the students to narrate their baking experience after cooking. Afterwards, the teacher can start with the lesson officially by teaching his/her students that partitives modify nouns and are often used to denote a part of a whole. It is usually a phrase which follows this format: (det) partitive noun of count/non count noun. After teaching the meaning and form of partitives to the students, the teacher can now let them practice what they learned. Teachers can do this by letting his/her students experiment with the form of partitives:
The teacher should check the answers of his/her students and provide appropriate feedback by correcting mistakes and praising the students for answering items correctly. As a culminating activity, the teacher can engage into a natural conversation with his or her students while eating their snacks or lunch. Partitive phrases such as glass of water, bottle of catsup, teaspoon of sugar, slice of pizza, and many more would surely come out naturally.
In teaching coordinating conjunctions, one could lead the students into the topic by narrating an interesting story. Make sure that the story chosen used a lot of coordinating conjunctions. Afterwards, the teacher can start with the lesson proper. Since coordinating conjunctions is a difficult topic, one could teach it by introducing its form, meaning, and use simultaneously. A teacher can, for instance, give out handouts with a table containing a list of commonly used coordinating conjunctions, their meaning and function, as well as examples of when these should be used. Then, the teacher can check his/her students’ knowledge through a test. The test may check their knowledge on the form of partitives through fill in the blanks and multiple choice test types. On the other hand, their knowledge of the meaning of partitives may be tested by providing them sentences with underlined coordinating conjunctions. The teacher will then let the students identify the function of these coordinating conjunctions and could even allow the students to look at the handout for reference. As culminating activity, the teacher can ask the students to list down their favourite cartoon characters as well as those cartoon character that they don’t like. Then, he/she could let the students exchange papers with their seatmates and make them write about the paper of their seatmates – if they like the same cartoon characters or not.
Finally, a teacher could let the students listen to pop music as a lead-in in teaching logical connectors. Before listening to the music, the teacher could hand out the song lyrics with missing words on sheets of paper. Those missing words are the logical connectors. The teacher will then instruct the students to listen to the music and at the same time fill out the missing lyrics on the papers that the teacher had just handed out. Then, the teacher can proceed to the teaching proper. For me, she should first teach the meaning of logical connectors, that these are words which combine ideas with particular relationships such as sequence, reason and purpose, adversative, and condition. The teacher can introduce the form and use of logical connectors through fill in the blank and/or multiple choice exercises. As a culminating activity, the teacher may let the students listen to the music again. Let us say that the chosen music was a love song. The teacher could let the students write a narrative about the song – the story behind it, why they like or hate the song, etc.
Basically when teaching language concepts, the teacher must first assess what his/her students already know about that certain language. Aside from the students’ knowledge on the language, the teacher must also be familiar of how his/her students learn things and accommodate their teaching methods and approaches to their students’ learning styles. For me, repetition will always be a great method in teaching. Not only does it help students remember language rules but also provides students numerous opportunities to apply these rules communicatively.
Freeman, D. & Murcia, M. (1999). The grammar book, 2nd ed. Heinle & Heinle Publishers: United States of America
Sorensen, M. N. (1997). Logical connectors. http://staff.washington.edu