The new requirement in the 21st century TEFL classroom: entertaining grammar
by Jerry Istvan Thekes
This article presents six grammar games that can be executed in the TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) classroom. The main argument of the paper is that entertaining, involving the students and providing stimulus to the students are a very efficient way of teaching grammar. Thus, the main target will be the teaching of grammar in this article. Throughout this article, I will use the terminology 'grammar McNugget', which will stand for the particular grammar points. This denomination comes from Thornbury (2010), who says that:
"an enthusiasm for compartmentalization, inherited from grammars of classical languages, has given rise to the elaborate architecture of the so-called tense system – including such grammar McNuggets as the future-in-the-past, and the past perfect continuous, not to mention the conditionals, first, second and third – features of the language that have little or no linguistic, let alone psychological, reality."
As I give a description of games, I will indicate the grammar McNugget that the teacher is supposed to teach with that particular game. Thornbury's notion of grammar McNugget is also supported by Swan (1985, 76) who posits that
"the role of 'grammar' in language courses is often discussed as if 'grammar' were one homogeneous kind of thing. In fact, 'grammar' is an umbrella term for a large number of separate or loosely related language systems, which are so varied in nature that it is pointless to talk as if they should all be approached in the same way. How we integrate the teaching of structure and meaning will depend to a great extent on the particular language items involved."
Swan's (2002, pp. 148-152) assertion concerning grammar teaching must also be examined. He further elaborates on the seven bad reasons for teaching grammar. According to him these reasons are the following: grammar is taught because it is there; it is tidy as opposed to vocabulary; it is testable; it is a security blanket for students; it is character forming; teachers have to teach the whole system; it means power as it involves rules. In the same paper Swan also argues for the moderate teaching of grammar for the sake of comprehensibility and acceptability.
In order to motivate students to learn grammar, teachers need to fend off the tension the learners usually are under. If it is proved to them that the acquisition of grammar structures is an enjoyable activity, they will be more willing to proceed in their EFL studies. When I use the term 'motivate', Dörnyei and Csizér's (1999) research has inevitably to be cited. They have asserted that it is important to create a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere and to make the language classes interesting. I believe grammar games such as the ones described here assure that the learners are entertained. All of the games described below, namely Dynamic places, Abstract pictures, Nylon bag, Bermuda game, Galapagos islands, Wishes game provide enough stimulus for the students to be motivated and involved. Games not only engage students' interest in the TEFL classroom but they also keep them involved. Richard-Amato (1988) also supports the view of a relaxed classroom atmosphere by stating that
"it appears that a lowered anxiety level is related to proficiency in the target language."
Making language teaching and the teaching of grammar game-like is of crucial importance so as to keep students interested and to create a relaxed atmosphere. This is also asserted by Rinvolucri (1995) who posits that
"grammar is perhaps so serious and central in learning another language that all ways should be searched for which will focus student energy on the task of mastering and internalizing it. One way of focusing this energy is through the release offered by games."
Games not only engage students' interest in the TEFL classroom but they also keep them involved. As Rosenberg (2009: 10) asserts we should pay much attention to keeping the students involved and to having them produce rather than passively receive information. By involving the students in grammar games, the teacher can achieve their goal of having the learners acquire the grammar McNugget taught in the particular lesson.
To page 2 of 5
To the article index