I moved to a new city a few months ago and I’ve been on the job hunt since I got here. It’s been 3 months since I’ve taught English and I’ve missed it terribly! I miss the students, the classroom, the buzz…just about everything.
Last week I had a 2nd interview and class demo for a prospective teaching job. I was asked to teach a demo on the Present Perfect Simple tense. Hmm…I thought to myself when I read the prompt. Honestly, I can’t really remember the last time I taught this. Naturally, I was nervous. Of course, they pick a somewhat obscure tense that I totally need a refresher on. Luckily, I had a few days to prepare and once I looked at my teaching materials, it all came back to me pretty quickly.
I prepared a lesson, warm up to evaluation, and I was pretty confident in my preparations. As I sat at a coffee shop and wrote out my lesson plan, I got to thinking: How un-fun is learning grammar? How can I make grammar lessons just a little bit more fun? I went back in my memory to try to think of some successful lessons I’ve done before and I tried brainstorming for some new ideas, too.
Here’s what I came up with…
Start Class with a Fun, Invigorating Warm-up
By beginning class with a warm-up that gets the energy high in the classroom, you’re setting yourself up for a successful class. I have found that when my warm-ups go well, students are more ready to learn. A successful warm-up opens your student up to the possibilities that can happen in class on any given day.
In my opinion, a great warm-up has a slightly competitive aspect, like a game or a race of sorts. It also gets your students thinking outside-the-box. It keeps them on their toes, thinking caps on. A well-done warm-up allows students to think quickly and sharply.
Here are a few of my favorites to use when I know class may be particularly trying…
We’re Going on a Picnic A-Z
For this warm-up (which I used to play as a child at the dinner table), each student chooses an item to bring on a picnic. The first students must say something that starts with the letter A, the second student will pick a word starting with letter B and state the A word, the third student will choose a C word, as well as state the A and B words, and so on…all the way to Z. Seems easy, huh? Well, it gets tricky right around M when you have to remember all of the words that came before you and still think of new ones.
For lower level classes, I allow them to use any vocabulary words they know. If you want to elevate the difficulty, you can give a category of words the students have to choose from, like, fruits/vegetables, animals or all different nationalities.
Due to its competitive nature and sing-songy tune, by the end of this warm-up students are laughing, loud and excited.
Two Truths and a Lie
This classic always leads to lots of chatter and giggles in my classroom.
Each student writes (or says) 3 statements about him or herself. 2 of the statements are true, the other is false. Then, the rest of the class guesses which is not true. You can either pair students up to discuss which one they think is a lie or you can just have a little free for all. This is at your discretion, you know your class best so whichever you think would be optimal, choose.
Students tend to get pretty creative when writing their 3 sentences. I would give students around 5-7 minutes to write the 3 statements. With that time, it allows them to think thoughtfully and write without the feeling of being rushed.
Show Students the Function of the Grammar Point First
It’s important that your students comprehend the importance of grammar. In order to speak any language well, you need to understand the basics of grammar. Without it, you sound funny. Think about a sentence without any grammar in it. It’s just a bunch of words being strung together.
I from Thailand I live United States
I am from Thailand but now I live in the United States.
Once students realize they need to know these points, they become more open to the hard-work of learning them. That being said, when teaching a specific grammar point, I always like to show the students how and when it is used before teaching the formula to create it.
By doing this, you peak their interest. They conceptualize the new point you are using before being told the equation to create it. Of course, we need to teach different formulas in order to correctly use grammar, but to me, that part is kind of like math. It is concrete and unchanging. It is, more or less, boring.
The interesting point is how and when we use it. Let’s take the Present Perfect, for example. I like to start my lesson by telling a story. In the story, I’ll utilize both Past Simple and then lead into using Present Perfect. The students have already learned Past Simple at this point so they are able to recognize it. They’ll probably also be able to recognize that I’m utilizing another tense they haven’t yet learned. After the story, write a few of the sentences on the board. Pont out the situations in which you used it. Then, see if they can figure out the formula on their own using deductive reasoning.
Get students involved! Have them speak, move around, write on the board and so on. Keep their brains stimulated. Remember to limit your TTT. You already know the language perfectly, this lesson isn’t for you! Try your hardest to get your students to do the talking.
Whenever I call on a student, I almost always have them come up to the board after and write their answer on the board. By doing this, they get a little movement in their body which awakens them, they also get to practice some confidence skills.
Poke a Little Fun at the English Language
All of us native English speaking people know that the English language is pretty ridiculous! “Add -ed to make verbs past tense, but not all the time, only for some words” “TEAR and TEAR are the different words?!” “Change nouns that end in -Y to -I when there’s more than 1” The list of rules goes on and on, and, we teachers, know that best. English is a hard language to learn. The varying rules and the humungous amount of vocabulary words that exist make the language learning process long and tedious. However, there’re ways to make this seemingly impossible task better. I think it’s important to joke about how hard the language is. When you’re teaching a particularly hard grammar lesson, make a joke about it. By letting your students know you think it’s hard too, you’re giving them permission to feel comfortable around you. When they feel comfortable, grammar lessons won’t be as terrible for them.
Grammar doesn’t need to be a drag! I know even for teachers it’s not the most fun part of English teaching, but it’s crucial and needs to be taught and taught well. Use these tips to help you the next time you’re planning a grammar lesson for your class!