Move, act, speak!
by Jerry Thekes
In this article, I will present the teaching of three grammar games. By grammar game, I mean an entertaining activity involving learners in order for them to comfortably acquire the grammar point. I will try to argue for the importance of teaching grammar through fun as well. By grammar game, I mean an entertaining activity involving learners in order for them to comfortably acquire the grammar point. I believe that grammar teaching has a crucial part in the TEFL classroom; however grammar needs to be taught in a way that entertains the learners.
It is vital that the teacher should have the learners move and supply them with plenty of visual stimulus is an effective vehicle to entertain and distress them as they are acquiring certain grammatical skills. Wright and Haleem (1991) emphasize the need that students move in the classroom by stating that the physical manipulation of the lessons can contribute enormously to an understanding of sentence construction. In both the 'Luggage' and the 'Intercity' game learners are physically manipulated. Teaching grammar in TEFL lessons is important but not in spite of trying to be communicative but exactly because of it. I agree with Alexander (1994), who says that "in our eagerness to get our students to communicate, we frequently try to sweep grammar under the carpet… Grammar is being taught again not despite but because of the communicative revolution." This statement is reinforced by Tarone and Yule (1996) who explanatorily say that "developing this grammatical competence, it should be remembered, is in many respects the major goal of large numbers of students who take courses in a second or foreign language. Moreover, it has never really been seriously suggested that any language learner can become proficient in a language without developing a certain level of grammatical competence.
Widdowson (1988) also finds the teaching of grammar inevitable in the TEFL classroom by saying that "grammar is not a constraining imposition but a liberating force; it frees us from the dependency on context and the limitations of a purely lexical categorization of reality." Bruton goes on to point at the how grammar knowledge is acquired in the acquisition process. He says "grammar has to be encountered in context…there is little point in decontextualized grammar….furthermore, the context should be real to the users, so that the grammatical meaning takes on a genuine significance" (Bruton 2009, 384) In the Luggage game below, it will be evident that grammar is absolutely contextualized.
As it will be seen, pictures play a vital role in the described grammar games. A number of TEFL professionals have called for the use of pictures as a powerful source in the elicitation process. By elicitation, I mean that the teacher prompts and motivates the learners to create meaningful acts of speech. Mumford (2008, 40) for example affirms that "all teachers have access to pictures, however, and these can be a quick and easy way to bring other places and other people into the class. With imagination, pictures can be an extremely flexible resource." This statement rhymes well with Ur (1991) who posits that: "it is very much easier to concentrate on thinking about something if you can see that something, or at least see some depicted or symbolic representation of it. Learners…who are asked to discuss or listen to something without any visual focus often find their attention wandering." With lively grammar games, I am trying to avoid students' attention wandering. The grammar games in the article involve a lot of visuals and realia. Mumford's and Ur's arguments are reinforced by Wright, Betteridge and Buckby (2009) who posit that games with pictures involve the learners. They also find visualization important when grammar is presented and taught to TEFL learners. 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. Franciosi (2010, 1) also argues for the need of making TEFL classrooms more game-like. Hadfield says that "affective activities aim to create a positive and supportive group atmosphere in a non-explicit way" (Hadfield 1992). As it will be seen, the below-described grammar games are aimed at creating a positive and supportive atmosphere. The notion of making the lesson game-like is also asserted by Rinvolucri (1995): "Games are often associated with fun. Games can lower anxiety, thus making the acquisition of input more likely. They are highly motivating, relevant, interesting and comprehensible." Games not only engage students' interest in the TEFL classroom but they also keep them involved. Richards (1987) also contemns the explicit way of grammar teaching as he declares that "focus on grammar in itself is not a valid approach to the development of language proficiency…grammatical skills are thus seen as a component of language proficiency rather than as an end in itself."
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