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How to teach “advanced grammar”: ideas from the “dogme” list

Julian: My favorite way of teaching to be here or there. After brainstorming


advanced students is reading texts with in their groups, students discuss,
them, explaining everything including compare, complement and make posters
the grammar so students achieve Frank about the subject, with examples and
Smith's "state of zero uncertainty". My the expansions I provide when
colleague remembers "Could he throw a necessary. Or, alternatively, prepare
ball!" from the movie Stand by Me a presentations on the subject to be given
decade after it came up in one of those in class.
classes.
Catherine: I've got quite a few
Fiona: Something I've done and seems "advanced" students (adults) here in Sao
to work, or maybe I'm just lucky, is get Paulo. We don't use books, but just
them doing a sort of grammar surgery kind of deal with whatever comes up in
using taped samples of themselves, or whatever we're doing at the time.
written work they've done - they Sometimes I draw their attention to
diagnose their own problems (and you something and sometimes they notice
concur, if needs be) and then they teach and ask about things themselves. I
you (1-2-1 classes) or each other/the explain, give/get a few examples and
whole group the point in question. You we move on. This includes grammar
give them sources they can use and a along with everything else. What tends
class or two to do it, and they get a five- to happen is that because we use such a
ten minute teaching slot in class. They variety of "authentic" materials (myself
can design an exercise too (or a test!) and students included as materials!)
then there's quite a bit of repetition. I
Julian: One way to teach it might be to speak naturally, we share jokes,
have students write, say, a wedding or sometimes a visiting friend comes with
funeral speech, or a formal letter to me to class, we read all kinds of stuff
someone asking for something. They from party invitations, letters from my
read each other's homework, and the dad to articles from The Economist. I
teacher writes up some typical patterns find that the students
found in that genre of speech/writing. acquire what they need. At this
Then students rewrite their assignment. "advanced" level, they usually have an
awareness of what's missing.
Sandra: Using a text, for example, but
it may be a song, notes on their own The wonderful thing is that in the one
production - whatever they can refer to- year I've been here I've seen the biggest
I divide the group in two and ask one of improvement in students' language
the groups to think about the “why”: abilities than in all my 11 years in
“Why does this grammar exist? What is Barcelona when I was teaching in what
it used for? Why is it easy/difficult for many would consider a more
us?” and the other group thinks of the "structured" way i.e. working our way
“how”: “How do we build the sentence? through books or at least the syllabus of
What are the rules? Are there books.
exceptions we should know?” Usually,
the students would like to be in one or Luke: For my own part, I started from
the other group, according to their own the realisation that the good old-
learning style and preferences, so I fashioned grammar as advertised in eg
allow them to choose, if they would like Headway wasn't really helping the
students I was teaching. When I started
teaching away from the printed text and
more with and to their live words and
concerns, they (people, words, lessons)
came alive and so did I.

But the teaching and learning that rose


up to fill the space of the displaced text
could only happen in a classroom, and
was hugely respectful of the privileged
place - dedicated time, dedicated space,
dedicated expertise - a classroom can
be. And grammar, which is neither old
nor new, was an integral part of that
teaching and learning, it just became
increasingly fluid in terms of the entry
point, based on what was helping them
on the day.