Most of the primary school students we teach have already been learning English for many years. By this age they should have a large vocabulary and be able to read well, but they also have a lot of trouble expressing themselves using proper grammar. In the four years I’ve worked at Happy Marian, I’ve developed a simple and effective way to teach the students to use the new lessons as part of their living language.
For this demonstration I will use a lesson on verb tenses. The teacher begins by reviewing the basic sentence structure: subject – verb – object. Then give a basic introduction showing the students how and when to use the new grammar pattern by writing the seven subject pronouns on the whiteboard and having the students give you seven verbs. Show them how to ask questions with each subject and how to make positive and negative statements. When the seven subject-verb pairs are finished, have the students make some sentences of their own, encouraging them to add appropriate objects and adverbs of time. As a side note, I’ve found it useful to use different color whiteboard markers to highlight key words and show how they change when using different subjects. For the more advanced grammar in P3 and higher classes the teacher may also need to go over different situations when these grammar rules are used.
In the next stage the students work in their text books. The teacher should make sure that the students do some exercises on their own that will cover verb use in different uses and in different situations. At the end of the day I like to make a little time to play a game I’ve found to be very useful in helping the students use what they have learned.
While the strategy described above teaches the students how to use grammar in different situations, it is not enough to break them from their familiar writing habits that mix English with Chinese grammar. The teacher must remind and encourage them to use the new grammar in all other subjects. The weekly book report is a good place to do so. Students can also be assigned to write a short story using the new grammar rules as homework. In Reading class, if we come to a sentence using a certain grammar tense, I might stop and ask why the sentence was written that way or why was the word ‘gone’ used instead of ‘went.’
Though this article has focused on grammar tenses it can be applied to many different categories of grammar use. Using a strategy that extends past the grammar book will give them the ability to express themselves in a meaningful way. With a little effort, the teacher can present the lessons in a way that will be relevant, memorable, and fun.