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How much grammar?

by Donna Hutchinson
London based TEFL Teacher, @donnatamara

It is inevitable that when teaching, you are going to get some complaints from the students; “a test?!”, “this text is too long!”, “I’m tired!” But there’s one which takes the biscuit and that is, “grammar is boring!” …Yes. Yes it is. It’s not something I try to hide because grammar can’t be exciting, I honestly don’t know on what spiritual plane this would be possible. We don’t have to lie, grammar doesn’t want us to lie. It is what it is. No nonsense.

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by Donna Hutchinson
London based TEFL Teacher, @donnatamara

If you asked my class whether they did any work on phrasal verbs, I worry that they might let out a groan of frustration. Although, I like to believe this is just projection. Once you’re aware of phrasal verbs it is quite astounding how much we, as native English speakers, use them. During my CELTA, an awareness of phrasal verbs was something I learnt very early on when in my first solo session, I asked my intermediate students to take down what I was writing on the board. As I turned round to face them after scrawling on the board I was hit when a sea of blank faces. I repeated my request to no avail until someone eventually asked, whist glancing around at the walls, “take what down from where?” Henceforth I was acutely aware of how much phrasal verbs can confuse lower-level learners and moreover, just how often I used them.

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by Donna Hutchinson
Newly-qualified TEFL Teacher, @donnatamara

Class trip to the British museum

One of the best things about being a teacher in London is the plethora of places you can take your students for a class trip. Since qualifying, I have only taken two trips and they have both gone down very well and both were very different.

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by Donna Hutchinson
Newly-qualified TEFL Teacher, @donnatamara

Accuracy and fluency; two pillars of TEFL. A great deal of work can go into honing our students’ skills in both areas from endless closed grammar/vocab tasks to long discussion and I mean, when it boils down to it, language is accuracy and fluency isn’t it? Yet, they are so separate from each other, for the most part. In accuracy, we correct, we make sure everything is bang on but in fluency we tend not to correct right off the bat in order to let the language flow, as it were. What about bringing these two areas of language learning to create one lovely, language learning utopia?

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by Donna Hutchinson
Newly-qualified TEFL Teacher, @donnatamara

Grammar Superpower

By bortescristian (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Before I became an EFL teacher, I was very often referred to as a grammar Nazi, spelling geek or just plain sad. I always remained defiant against these claims because I hated to see the slow destruction of the English language around me; improper use of the glorious institution that is the apostrophe is much like treason in my eyes. However, that was before, when I was dealing with my fellow native speakers but since becoming an EFL teacher, I have entered into a whole different ball game where the stakes are higher and losses are greater. My status as teacher of the English language means that while I do have an elevated knowledge of grammar, as a fairly new member of the group, it is not by any means, honed to perfection. This does not trouble me on a day-to-day basis, I know how to speak English and I know how to speak it correctly. This much is true but the inner workings, the structures, the terminology, the usage, the origins… All this, I am yet to memorise and I have no doubt that the longer I teach, the more it will stick in my memory but for now, I live by the bible of Murphy or I call my dad who is very much like a walking encyclopaedia of grammar.

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by Donna Hutchinson
Newly-qualified TEFL Teacher, @donnatamara

Pronunciation is one of the key skills we teach in EFL and is, I must say, one of my favourite things to teach because it is an area I find fascinating (nerd alert!). I think it is a fundamental area of English but, only for certain reasons. I don’t think it is vital that students speak with a British accent.

An area where pronunciation definitely plays an essential role is when incorrect pronunciation changes the meaning of a word; something which does not happen in many languages. For instance, the difference between long and short vowel sounds can mean the difference between feet and fit; beach and bitch; sheet and sh – well, you get the idea.

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