Core practice #4 is teach grammar as a concept and in context. Grammar is learned in language-rich and literacy-rich environments. For a language-rich environment, I find that teaching with comprehensible input and TPRS storytelling works best. Comprehensible input is listening and reading that is understood by the learner. Students should be able to understand the essence of what is being said or presented to them, usually achieved by using context, visual cues, or translation. TPR Storytelling is a method for teaching foreign languages that was invented by Blaine Ray. This method involves telling and asking stories, a long term memory technique. Students act out parts of the story, preserving the physical element of classical Total Physical Response. These methods embed grammar and vocabulary into the story.
Key techniques from the TPRS community are circling and gesturing. Key structures are repeated through circling. Here are the steps to circling from teachforjune.com Here is a circling template from Susan Gross. Check out Ben Slavic’s website Circling with Balls with ideas for getting to know students at the beginning of the year. When I am inputting new grammar structures or vocabulary into the brains of my students I require them to do gestures. There are only five ways to get information into the brain, through the five senses. So in addition to seeing and hearing the word, having students gesture stores the information in another part of the brain. It also engages students and is a great formative assessment technique.
For a literacy-rich environment, I collect children’s books, teen magazines, class sets of novels, and plenty of authentic resources from the internet. Every year, I add more books to my classroom library on a variety of themes. Silent reading, free voluntary reading, sustained silent reading, whatever you want to call it, reading is the way to learn grammar in context. I give time for students to select books and read in class, and encourage it when they are finished with the task at hand. I do have students keep a reading log which is basically a list of the books they have read and words they have acquired through reading.
I also love to read to them. I read every thing from children’s books like The Hungry Caterpillar to novels. I use class set of novels from Carol Gaab and Kristi Placido at TPRS Publishing Inc. They have samples of novels for all levels in French and Spanish on their website. I also like to use the well researched historical fiction novels from Mira Canion.
Common Core State Standard L4 states: Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple meaning words and phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting general and specialized reference materials as appropriate. World Language teachers can support Common Core State Standards by providing opportunities for students to practice predicting meaning from context and word parts, then consulting digital or print references, verifying or refining prediction. Also incorporating authentic informational text and having students back up their responses with text evidence supports CCSS.
How do you teach grammar as a concept and in context? Share your ideas here!