Improve the Quality of Grammar Teaching

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The aim of this project is to improve the quality of grammar teaching at lower secondary level through the implementation of action research. The grammar I am going to focus on is the usage of past perfect tense and the target audience of the project is secondary 3 average students in a band 1 school. This paper includes the approaches underpinning the teaching of grammar, the teaching methods and materials suggested in common textbooks, the proposed improvements to teaching methods and materials and the evaluation and recommendations to achieve more competent teaching practice.

Nowadays, communicative language teaching (CLT) and task-based approach are emphasized in the learning of second language learning, so grammar is taught through these approaches by incorporating communicative activities, authentic materials and personalized contexts. When grammar teaching is concerned, CLT focuses on “communicative proficiency rather than mere mastery of structures” (Richards and Rogers, 1986:64). In both CLT and task-based approach, learners’ participation is the focus of learning and teachers only play the role of guide, facilitator and support. Learners are encouraged to experience in the process so as to build up interpersonal and linguistic skills. However, the teaching is sometimes based on oral-structurism because the structural view of language sees grammatical structures as the underlying units which are structurally rule-governed. Therefore, drills are also used in the audiolingual classroom because repetition and memorization are believed to be important to build up a stable base for students’ English.

As stated in a selected textbook, reported questions are taught to ask students to model reporting questions. Firstly, to break the ice, students are invited to ask the teacher some questions and the teacher reports those questions back to the class. Secondly, in order to explain to students that reported questions are used in real situation, we tell students that we usually report questions in an interview and a survey report when we are recounting a conversation. Thirdly, students are given examples of correct usage to reinforce the usage followed by gap filling exercises and also to check students’ understanding during the learning and teaching process. Then learners are reminded the proper usage of reported statement, which was taught in secondary two syllabus. And eventually learners are asked to finish grammar book exercise and supplementary exercise so that students can memorize the patterns of reported questions through practice like filling in the blanks, matching, proofreading, etc. (See appendix 1: Powerpoint of teaching past perfect tense)

The strength of the above methods is that teachers can tell the grammar rules directly to students within a short time. Moreover, students can try to apply what they learn to the gap-filling exercise to fulfill their satisfaction and meanwhile, teachers can check their understanding. And ‘practice makes perfect’ is always true in grammar learning, so loads of drills can help students focus on the correct forms of the grammar items in reported speech.

However, the disadvantages of the above mentioned methods outweigh its advantages to teaching less motivated students. The above methods are only workable on students who are easily to be motivated, that means for those who are willing to learn and ask questions actively. For the students I teach they are always looking for excitement and changes in the mode of teaching because they often say it is boring to sit still, listen to teachers and do the exercise.

The above methods basically follow the methods of oral-structuralism, so it does not do anything to inform learners of the use of the target grammar in real situations and particular types of discourse. The communicative approach should be applied so as to present reported speech in a realistic context rather than in isolation, and that further activities...
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