Monday, May 5, 2014


Grammar, along with vocabulary, is the main tool that allows us to understand and produce a text thus allowing us to communicate effectively. Teaching grammar in class is sometimes seen as boring both on the part of the students, who perceive it as a monotonous activity, and the teachers, who struggle to provide a dynamic lesson that engages students.

When teaching grammar, one would use either a deductive approach or an inductive approach. The deductive approach is very teacher-centred and is seen as more traditional. Grammar rules are presented and explained, relevant examples are introduced, and then students can practise with exercises given. This approach allows for a great control over your classroom and what students actually learn, but it leaves very little autonomy to students. On the contrary, the inductive approach is seen as more student-oriented since students play a more important role in the learning process. This approach, considered a more modern one, allows students to experiment with the language and lets them use previous knowledge. Examples of the piece of grammar we want our students to learn are presented and students must work out the rules by themselves. The role of the teacher is to guide and motivate students in the learning process. 

Whether to use one approach or the other will depend on your preferences and the characteristics of your students but whenever new language is introduced in the classroom students must have the opportunity to practise. All the different kinds of activities we may introduced in class can be categorised in two: autonomous practice and controlled practice. 

Autonomous or freer practice resembles real-life situations; the idea is that students improve their fluency by having to use the skills they have acquired throughout the learning process. Students are usually divided in pairs or small groups while the role of the teacher is to monitor the students, helping when necessary, and providing general feedback once the activity is over. 

Controlled or restricted practice pays more attention to accuracy in the use of the language and involves repetition of the structures that have been previously explained. Teacher-student interaction is the most usual kind of activity, which allows teachers to correct any mistakes made.

Having said all that we can focus now on the main subject of this post which is Teaching Grammar in Context. Providing a context where the piece of language under study is naturally and typically used will result in more meaningful and engaging lessons. Students will be able to see the purpose of what they are learning and will allow teachers to create a situation for practice.

Sample class    
Let's take for example the use of 'in case'. Following an inductive approach we would provide our students with an example like this: I'll take the umbrella in case it rains. 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

We can also ask them to compare this sentence with this other one:

I'll take the umbrella if it's raining.

After discussing about it students should arrive to this conclusion: we use 'in case' to indicate that we are prepared for an unexpected event in the future. I'll have the umbrella with me and I won't get wet either if it rains in the future or not.

Thinking about the context we could ask them in which situations we have the opportunity to say a sentence like this. 
We could offer the following context:
You and a friend are planning a trip together and you have to decide which items to take in your suitcase discussing the necessity of bringing such items.     

This situation is perfect to use such structure because it reflects real-life situations where too many items are usually packed in case something happens.

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