Some Thoughts On Grammar

Let’s admit that the influence of the people in our buildings who feel that grammar really needs to be taught to the kids in the first year is strong in our classrooms. Kids hear that the next year is all grammar and they get a look in their eyes like, “Are you preparing me for next year?” So some of us cave and teach prescriptive grammar (vs. grammar taught via listening and reading, which is the real grammar).
But what does doing this mean to our CI based programs? How much grammar is enough to satisfy the self professed experts at the next level? We all have different perceptions of this, depending on our own situations. I think of Jen’s situation especially.
The only truly free teachers are those in small schools with no district meddling who can rock with stories for a few years, and then, because everybody signs up for the class the next year, and the next year, and the year after that, the discrete grammar can be introduced at the correct pedogogical time, which in my mind is well after the first two years. (I’m not talking about basic stuff here).
A side thought  to the above point is that, when we teach grammar all the time, I know because I did that a lot earlier in my career, and the kids eyes roll back in their heads, we are then faced with a tremendous TEST OF WILLS that breaks many teachers. When the eyes start rolling and the few high achievers take the class over, teaching becomes an exercise in mental warfare with our students, and we spent an enormous percentage of our time in struggle to get the learning accomplished.
This is true in spite of the fact that we all have known for some time in education that force accomplishes almost nothing in terms of true learning, and that the will to learn and especially the will to play must be there.
That is a fundamental difference between teaching CI and teaching a grammar class. The difference in terms of energy output is profound. There is never enough time when a good CI discussion is going on, the end of class advances at the speed of a freight train, as we work in harmony and good will with our students, whereas, when we force feed the grammar, it is like the way in which prisoner geese are force fed with a funnel down their throats to fatten them up as fast as possible. It just doesn’t work, and most kids puke the food back onto tests only to the extend needed to keep their parents off their cases.
Teaching discrete grammar is a sad thing, and teachers of discrete grammar are only telling the truth when they say that their internal will as a teacher is at some level of conscious or unconscious emotional pain as they joust for control of their classroom with bored, intelligent kids, whose academic needs go far, far beyond what they are being offered by a foreign language class that is, alas, not being taught in the foreign language.



1 thought on “Some Thoughts On Grammar”

  1. Interesting topic. In response to things I really want to get back to next year, one is music. With that in mind, I did a song in level two this morning. We had shortened periods. We read the lyrics in French and looked at the translation. I took a minute to ask about some structures inbedded in the song. I ask a lot of questions like if “il a decide de chanter ” means he decided to sing, how would you say we decided to sing. Simple stuff. The payoff is the song. They sang twice and left happy. Lots of vocabulary and good will. It’s like sneaking the medicine into the chocolate pudding – goes down easier.

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