Category: Teach Grammar

How to Teach Grammar Using PPP Model

We need to have some grammatical knowledge to be able to speak a language to some degree of proficiency and to be able to say what we really want to say. Without grammar, words hang together without any real meaning or sense. By teaching grammar, we enable students to express themselves correctly. Thanks to using deductive and inductive approaches to dealing with grammatical rules nowadays, teaching grammar no longer means endless conjugation of verbs or grammar translation.

How to Use These Two Approaches to Teaching Grammar

  1. A deductive approach is when the rule is presented, and the language is produced based on the rule. (The teacher gives the rule)
  2. An inductive approach is when the rule is inferred through some form of guided discovery. (The teacher gives the students a means to discover the rule for themselves)

In other words, the former is more teacher centered and the latter more learner centered. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages.

In my own experience, the deductive approach is undoubtedly time saving and allows more time for practicing the language items thus making it an effective approach with lower level students. The inductive approach, on the other hand, is often more beneficial to students who already have a base in the language as it encourages them to work things out for themselves based on their existing knowledge.

In general, when teaching grammar, there are several factors we need to take into consideration and the following are some of the questions we should ask ourselves before deciding on the approach to use:

  • How useful and relevant is the language?
  • What other language do my students need to know in order to learn the new structure effectively?
  • What problems might my students face when learning the new language?
  • How can I make the lesson fun, meaningful and memorable?

Although I try to only use English when teaching a grammar lesson, it is sometimes beneficial to the students to make a comparison to L1 in the presentation stage. This is particularly true in the case of more problematic grammatical structures which students are not able to transfer to their own language.

The Lesson Structure Based on Deductive Approach

A deductive approach often fits into a lesson structure known as PPP (Presentation, Practice, Production). The teacher presents the target language and then gives students the opportunity to practice it through very controlled activities. The final stage of the lesson gives the students the opportunity to practice the target language in freer activities which bring in other language elements.

In a 60-minute lesson each stage would last approximately 20 minutes. This model works well as it can be used for most isolated grammatical items. It also allows the teacher to time each stage of the lesson fairly accurately and to anticipate and be prepared for the problems’ students may encounter. It is less workable at higher levels when students need to compare and contrast several grammatical items at the same time.

1. Presentation

In this stage the teacher presents the new language in a meaningful context. I find that building up stories on the board, using realia or flashcards and miming are fun ways to present the language.

2. Practice

There are numerous activities which can be used for this stage including gap fill exercises, substitution drills, sentence transformations, split sentences, picture dictations, class questionnaires, reordering sentences and matching sentences to pictures.

It is important that the activities are fairly controlled at this stage as students have only just met the new language. Many student’s books and workbooks have exercises and activities which can be used at this stage.

3. Production

Again there are numerous activities for this stage and what you choose will depend on the language you are teaching and on the level of your students. However, information gaps, role plays, interviews, simulations, find someone who, spot the differences between two pictures, picture cues, problem solving, personalization activities and board games are all meaningful activities which give students the opportunity to practice the language more freely.

It is important to note here that using the PPP model does not necessarily exclude using a more inductive approach since some form of learner centered guided discovery could be built into the presentation stage.

PPP is one model for planning a lesson. Other models include TTT (Test, Teach, Test), ARC (Authentic use, Restricted use, Clarification and focus) and ESA (Engage, Study, Activate). All models have their advantages and disadvantages and I, like many other teachers I know, use different models depending on the lesson, class, level and learner styles.

Which Model do You Prefer Using to Plan a Lesson? Why? Share your Ideas with the Community.


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9 Techniques for Presenting Grammar

There is a variety of techniques for presenting new grammar items. Below is an overview of nine of those most commonly-used. Note that no one technique will necessarily prove better than another, so the general rule when it comes to presenting grammatical rules is to combine a variety of techniques.

1. Direct Explaining (Explicit Approach).

You can explain a grammar rule directly using the students’ mother tongue. This has the advantage of allowing students to contrast an item of grammar in English with an item of grammar in the students’ own language. For example, the two languages might use past tenses in different ways. On the other hand, some teachers believe that it’s more effective to present and explain the grammar directly by using English at all times. Certainly, in classes where the students already have learnt some English, it’s usually possible to build on what they already know to introduce a new grammar point.

2. Discovering the Grammar (Implicit Approach).

Often, it’s helpful to have students discover the grammar rather than telling them what it is. Do this by choosing a text which contains lots of examples of the target grammar. For example, if the text includes regular verbs in the past simple form (e.g. lived, travelled, moved, etc), ask the students to underline all the verbs in the text. Then ask them to say what they notice about the verbs – which will be that they all end in -ed.

3. Using Pictures or Drawings (Illustrating Grammar Points).

A quick sketch on the board can illustrate a grammar point very quickly. For example, a picture of a person dreaming of a future ambition can be used to introduce “be going to” to talk about future intentions.

4. Drawing Timelines (Teaching Tenses).

Timelines are useful for teaching grammar structures that refer to aspects of time. Timelines are a simple and visual way to clarify the actions and events described in a sentence. They are often used by teachers for presenting the meaning of verb tenses in English.

The basic form of a timeline shows a horizontal line with a point in the middle indicating NOW or the moment of speaking. Before that point is the past and after it is the future. Some teachers also write the words PAST and FUTURE along the line. You can indicate single actions with an X and periods of time with an arrow. Continuous actions are often indicated with a wavy line.

5. Asking Concept Questions (Checking Understanding).

Write a sentence on the board containing the grammar structure. For example, this sentence uses the past simple: He left university in 2008. Next, ask the students concept questions which check their understanding of when the action happened. So, the teacher/student conversation would sound like this:

  • T: Is he at university now?
  • SS: No.
  • T: Was the action in the past?
  • SS: Yes.

Note that concept questions should usually be designed to elicit the answer Yes or No from the students because the aim is only to check their understanding.

6. Using Tables (Showing the Form).

Tables are very useful for showing the form of the grammar on the board. For example, these tables show the affirmative and negative forms of a verb in the present simple tense. You can refer to the different features of the tense when introducing it, and the students can copy the table for future reference.

  • I/You/We/They live in England
  • He/She/It lives
  • I/You/We/They don’t live in England.
  • He/She/It doesn’t live in England.

7. Using Objects (Presenting the Meaning).

Sometimes using objects can work as quickly as anything to present the meaning. For example, if you want to present the comparative form (… is bigger than …), the simplest way is to find two objects and contrast them. Alternatively, ask two students to stand up and compare their height to produce a sentence like: Hany is taller than Tom. Write the sentence on the board and underline the comparative form so the students notice the construction. Similarly, if you teach prepositions (in, on, next to, etc), using a selection of objects in different positions from each other is a very effective starting point.

8. Contrasting Structures (Showing the Difference in Meaning).

With higher-level grammar, it’s useful to ask students to contrast two grammar structures which are similar in certain ways, but which have an important difference in meaning. For example, these two sentences contrast two different meanings of the present perfect tense.

  1. He has been to London.
  2. He has gone to London.

A teacher could ask the students to compare these sentences and say what the difference in meaning is.

(Answer: A means: He went to London and returned back whereas B means: He went to London and he is still there).

9. Choosing the Correct Sentence (Correcting Common Grammatical Mistakes).

This is similar to the previous technique because you give students two sentences, but one sentence has a mistake related to grammar. You write them on the board and get students to say which they think has the mistake and why. For example:

  1. I’ve lived here since three years.
  2. I’ve lived here for three years.

Students discuss the sentences in pairs. Sentence A. is wrong because we use “since” to refer to a fixed point in time (e.g. March, 1989, etc.) whereas we use “for” to describe duration of time.


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Twelve Steps to Introduce the Present Perfect Tense for the First Time

Most students who have learned English as a foreign language often use only three tenses: present, past and future. They rarely use the present perfect tense as it is one the tenses that is soon forgotten or replaced easily with simple past tense.

Students don’t realize the importance of present perfect tense. If they know this importance, they will try to master it. To ensure that your students will use this tense, you must teach it right. This article provides some clear steps that will help you teach the present perfect tense effectively.

* Introduce the present perfect tense with regular verbs:

1. Give examples in the simple past tense: e.g. yesterday, I received two emails. I visited my grandmother once… etc. then give the examples in the present perfect: e.g. I have received two emails today. I have visited my grandmother once this month.

2. Show students how the present perfect is formed: e.g. have/has + pp (= past participle) telling them that pp of regular verbs ends in “ed” just as in the simple past.

3. Explain when the present perfect is used by contrasting finished and unfinished time. Ask students: Is yesterday finished? (they should say: Yes, it’s finished). Then ask them: Is today finished? (they should say: No, it isn’t)

4. On the board, draw two columns. On the top of the left write: Yesterday, Last .. , 2000, etc. and write examples (only with regular verbs) that go with finished time. On the top of the right write: Today, This day, This week, This month, … etc. and write examples (only with regular verbs) that go with unfinished time.

5. Tell students the difference between the two tenses. E.g. Last month, I received two emails and “Last month is finished”. This month, I have received only two emails. But this month is not finished so I may receive more emails before the month is over.

6. Give more examples with regular verbs, in all persons and ask students to tell the difference.

* introduce the present perfect with irregular verbs:

7. Divide the board into three columns and write some irregular verbs in the first column, their simple past form in the second column, and finally the irregular past participle in the third one.

8. Give examples as you go over each verb: e.g. I’ve had two cups of tea today. I’ve read one book this week. I’ve met Ahmed once this month … etc. Make sure that students have a list of irregular verbs and then they can provide more examples with other irregular verbs from this list.

* introduce the negative form of the present perfect.

9. Say, “I saw my grandmother last week. I haven’t seen her this week.” And give more examples alternating between affirmative in simple past and negative form of present perfect. E.g. I went to Cairo last year, but I haven’t been there this year.

10. Write some affirmative statements in present perfect on the board and ask students to give their negative forms, and you can introduce the use of “yet” here.

* introduce the interrogative form of the present perfect:

11. Model questions with “have” and elicit from students: Yes, I have or No, I haven’t and then change the person using “has” eliciting from students: Yes, she has or No, she hasn’t.

12. continue with questions using question words and model these questions writing them on the board and making sure that you write questions in all persons both singular and plural. Make sure that students understand that if they answer questions with “when, where and why” referring to a specific time in the past, they need to use the simple past tense.

Naturally, students should be taught the other uses of the present perfect with already, just, ever, never, for, since, etc. In this article we covered only the best steps to follow to introduce the present perfect for the first time and contrast it with the simple past, i.e. the distinction between finished and unfinished time. Once students understand this distinction, they will be ready to understand everything else.

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