The new requirement in the 21st century TEFL classroom: entertaining grammar
by Jerry Istvan Thekes
Teaching grammar McNuggets through games has a necessary implication of avoiding students' consciousness raising. A no consciousness raising strategy stands for implicit grammar teaching. The idea of teaching grammar implicitly through comprehensible inputs comes from Krashen and is well known in the TEFL profession. Krashen and Terrell (1983) further elaborated on this idea by saying that
"we should not expect our students to be concerned with fine points of grammar while they are speaking in free conversation."
Constant explanation of grammar rules and decontextualizing grammar are a quick way for the teacher to demotivate their students and unfortunately a lot of non-native EFL teachers still fall into the comfortable trap of presenting grammar through rules as they saw it done to them when they studied a foreign language. This fact is supported by Xiao-Yun (2010) who asserts that traditional, explicuit grammar teaching is associated with the rote learning of rules and the boring prospect of using these rules in gap-fill, pattern practice, substitution transformation, and translation, which cause negative feelings. Further support of this opinion comes from Krashen (1987), according to whom
"language acquisition does not require extensive use of conscious grammatical rules, and does not require tedious drill."
As it will be seen, pictures also 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."
Although there is a debate regarding the effect of visuals on acquiring grammar some researchers claim that the presentation and explanation of grammar accompanied by visuals will be more comprehensible. Scarcella and Oxford (1992) pointed out that teachers need to illustrate key vocabulary effectively by showing pictures and diagrams so as to improve the ESL students' reading comprehension (p. 107). Linguistic elements and pictures presented together help learners understand the grammar point. It is an effective way of teaching to provide interesting pictures to foster grammar development. Thus, visuals must be stimulating and motivating to students' comprehension of grammar.
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 assert 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. Hadfield (1992) says that
"affective activities aim to create a positive and supportive group atmosphere in a non-explicit way"
By involving the students in grammar games, the teacher can achieve his/her goal of having the learners acquire the grammar McNugget taught in the particular lesson. Grammar games 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."
Teaching grammar McNuggets through games necessarily has an implication of avoiding students' consciousness raising. A no consciousness raising strategy stands for implicit grammar teaching. The idea of teaching grammar implicitly through comprehensible inputs comes from Krashen and is well known in the TEFL profession. Krashen and Terrell(1983) further elaborated on this idea by saying that "we should not expect our students to be concerned with fine points of grammar while they are speaking in free conversation."
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