Don’t Teach Grammar — Teach Functions!

I recently read a blog written specifically about what is wrong with PPP methodology.  And, sadly, the author stated:

PPP means that teachers will first present a grammar point

While I would agree that PPP has some limitations, I would never agree that PPP must be about teaching grammar.   And the writer would not think that if he had been in my training classroom!

Now I quite understand that MOST TEFL training programs around the world take that approach, but a thinking teacher never would.   And method should be about thinking your way through a lesson, not just following a cardboard cutout over and over and over.

Why in the world would you make grammar the point of specific lessons?  I sure can’t think of any reasons beyond the banal, Because they need to know grammar.

Well . . . yes, students do need to know and understand grammar but this constant focus on grammar is one (of many) reasons why students come to hate studying English.  Why not teach students how to communicate about something they are interested in?  And then, inside that lesson, teach them how to do that communication in a grammatically correct way?

Teach Functions

Functions are simply language that we use to exchange information.  Language that has a purpose or a function.

Simple examples:

Asking and answering questions about your favorite sport

Dealing with complaints at work

Asking someone for a date

Asking and giving directions around town

Asking for assistance at work

Giving your opinion in a meeting

Making a sales call

Disagreeing

Talking about your product

Introducing yourself

Describing your favorite toy (food, hobby, music, actor, and more more more)

Talking about your favorite video games

and on and on.

What is important and or most relevant to your students?  Talk about that and teach them the language for that.   Do you really think your students talk about present perfect when they are away from school?  Not!

Notice the functions always start with Something-ING.  Asking and answering.  Offering, helping, assisting, complaining, talking about, directing and on and on.  Or you almost can’t go wrong with the simple: Asking and answering questions about ______ .  Just ask your students what they want to talk about and fill in the blank.  Wouldn’t your students be more interested in your class if THEY got to pick what they are going to talk about?  Of course they would!

If you teach them how to talk about things they WANT to talk about – things they are INTERESTED in talking about, you will have a much more motivated student.  One who just might enjoy their class rather than hate it.

Now I did say – Don’t Teach Grammar – but what I meant was don’t make it the point of the lesson.  Just teach your students the proper grammatical structures they need to talk about the topic at hand.  That’s all.  They will get it.  Certainly faster than just memorizing irrelevant grammar points.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Teach Functions!  Not Grammar.

TED’s Tips™ #2: This post is part of a series at: ESL Blog Carnival – the topic is Teaching Grammar Effectively.

2 thoughts on “Don’t Teach Grammar — Teach Functions!”

  1. Hi Ted,
    It’s been great to meet you through the ESL Educators blog carnival. What I like most about this article is the underlying premise: get to know your students!

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