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Councourse 2

Strand 3: Learning about grammar


In the age of information, ignorance is a choice
Donny Miller

You arrived here because you agreed partially or fully with

I avoid teaching grammar because I don't know enough about it.

The chances are good that you are a native English speaker of some sort because non-native speakers who have learned enough English to be able to teach it have also learned grammar (probably rather too much of it).

The chances are even better that your initial training in English Language Teaching happened on a course which insisted on a communicative approach to language teaching which focused on functional use rather than structure and saw the effort to communicate authentically as the way to learn a language.
Nothing said here is intended to disparage a communicative approach because it is very arguably A Very Good Thing in language teaching (for any language) and certainly an improvement on courses in which people learnt grammar rather than English.
The unfortunate spin-off from the approach, however, is that many teachers (and some teacher trainers) know embarrassingly little about the grammar of their own or anyone else's language.
You can speak the language, of course, and you can immediately spot when an utterance is malformed or grammatically flawed so you actually 'know' all the grammar in that sense.  What you don't have is what is called declarative knowledge and that is what prevents you from being able clearly to explain grammar to learners or to plan and teach the grammar input they need.


Just how embarrassing is your lack of knowledge?

To see how embarrassing your lack of knowledge of grammar is, try a 20-item test.  There are no prizes and you don't need to advertise your score but you should make a note of it after the last question, before you hit the 'Back' button.

Click here to do the test.

Now click here to go on.

The right answers

If you are intrigued about the right answers to the questions, here they are with links to the relevant guides on this site.

No. Question and right answer Link
1 In this sentence: "I'd like two coffees, please.", the word coffees is
a mass noun made countable
Go here
2 In this sentence: "They'll have been driving all night.", the tense is
future perfect progressive
Go here
3 In this sentence: "I think it's dead easy.", the word dead is
an intensifying adverbial
Go here
4 In this sentence, "I seldom enjoy his company.", the word seldom is
an adverb of time
Go here
5 In this sentence, "Technically, it's called a grommet.", the word technically is
a viewpoint adjunct
Go here
6 In this sentence, "He looks exhausted.", the word looks is
a copular verb
Go here
7 This sentence, "The hotel was what she enjoyed most." is
a reversed wh- cleft
Go here
8 This sentence, "Mary didn't believe him although he seemed very sure." is
a complex sentence
Go here
9 In this sentence, "Mary didn't believe him although he seemed very sure.", the word although is
a subordinating conjunction
Go here
10 In this sentence, "It was important that he be there.", the word be is
Go here
11 This phrase, "the government's policy" is an example of
a descriptive genitive
Go here
12 In this sentence, "She daren't phone her mother.", the word dare is
a semi-modal
Go here
13 In this sentence, "She needs to phone her mother.", the word need is
a lexical verb
14 Prepositions can be described as
a closed-system class of function words
Go here
15 In this sentence, "I am loving this.", the word love is
a perception verb used dynamically
Go here
16 This sentence, "At the first meeting, which was held yesterday, the chair invited comments from everyone." contains
a non-defining relative clause
Go here
17 This sentence, "She liked the car he arrived in." contains
a relative clause with omitted relative pronoun because it stands for the object
18 In this sentence, "I thought long and hard about not telling you.", the word telling is
a gerund
Go here
19 In "I gave it to him." we have
three types of pronoun: nominative, accusative and dative
Go here
20 In "The old house with a thatched roof", the words old and thatched are, respectively
one relative and one invariable adjective
Go here

Gauging progress

There's a separate guide in this section of the site to gauging and measuring progress in your development.  Go there for more ideas.  This area, however, is a rather special case.

One easy way to gauge your progress in this area is to come back here and re-take the test.  When you score 100%, you have made some progress.

Another suggestion is that you keep a teaching diary specifically relevant to teaching grammar.  In that you can record what you taught, what the problems were and how you felt the lessons went.  Over time, you should be able to perceive real progress.