A repost from 2012:
There is a grammar ghost in me and it won’t die. I guess ghosts can’t just die – they have to be released. So I guess I have to release my grammar ghost from flying around inside my head or I won’t be able to be happy in my teaching.
This ghost is horrible. He always whispers stuff in my ear during class. He wants me to explain ideas of his making to the kids. He doesn’t want to lose the battle. But how can he win? There is no reason to use a single grammatical term ever when teaching a language.
Lately, a possibility has come up to take my current level 2 kids at East High School in Denver, some of them, and give them the AP French language exam at the end of next year when they are in level 3. Well, just thinking about doing that brought this grammar ghost back into the front of my mind in class, and he has been there ever since that idea about the AP exam for my current level 2s first surfaced.
I guess the ghost reasoned, using really old thinking, that he would be needed if those kids were to take the AP. He was thinking he might have a job in my classroom. And, sure enough, I even found myself dropping more grammar tidbits into my classes, because I was kind of buying the ghost’s whispered line that he would be needed.
But there is no need for him anymore. The kids will learn to write to communicate, to speak to communicate, to read to understand, and to listen to understand for that exam by doing massive amounts of listening and reading and they will need the grammar ghost like they will need a hole in the head.
If I were to listen to this ghost every time he tries to get me to mention some grammar term in class, I would end up wasting a lot of time between now and next year, and thereby seriously compromise my students’ chance at success on the exam, because the AP exam is no longer a grammar exam.
Younger teachers whose teachers used comprehension based instruction wouldn’t understand how hard it is to deal with this voice, which is the result of so much early training in seeing language teaching modeled in the old way and of doing it myself that way for far too long. We who have grammar ghosts in us know how hard it is to stop thinking that way.
I know so much about French grammar, in a way that a janitor knows every corner of a museum from spending so much time there, that it has become a problem for me. I must change. I must do this right. I cannot even mention parts of speech in my teaching. If I do that, I am a fuddy-duddy and deserve to be called one in public.
(It makes me happy to think of all the new language teachers in our classes right now, just teenagers or younger now, but who will one day become language teachers who use comprehensible input because they like it. Won’t that be a grand day when our students start populating our profession? And they will, because they will see it as a possible fun way of earning a living once they realize that they have to earn a living.)