Here’s a second book review while studying for my DELTA course; only
three months away now. After reading 'Uncovering Grammar' my students are really using their brains.
Uncovering Grammar by Scott Thornbury; Published by MacMillan (March 2005)
Book Description from MacMillan
“As teachers we often talk about ‘covering’ grammar points. Scott
Thornbury explains why is it more useful to think about how we ‘uncover’ to
reveal the workings of the system to our students and encourage them to notice
what is going on.”
What’s the book about?
As MacMillan’s definition above explains, the book is all about getting
the students to discover the grammar or uncover parts of it so that they
notice how it works. Scott’s new and inspiring classroom techniques go against the
traditional methods of present and practise. He explains how learning grammar
is a process; much like first language acquisition, and that grammar is the
‘glue that binds the language.’ The book is full of classroom activities and at the back there are a lot
of printable worksheets.
How has my teaching changed?
I’ve found Scott's conscious raising activities really
useful. Before I was very much a present and practise teacher; I engage
students in a text, highlight the grammar points, and the students nod, copy, and do some exercises while I hope that they retain some information. This is all good and well, but there are other techniques.
I still use texts to engage their interest in the topic, but now I get them
underline what grammar they have noticed and write their
own rules depending on the contexts.
The first time I tried this was with a group of adults doing future with
will, going to, and present continuous. The text was a questionnaire about
holidays and provided questions with answers in the various future tenses.
Instead of presenting the grammar to the class I asked them to notice the
different ways the text mentioned the future and explain in their own words the
different uses. By the end of the class they seemed to have a better
understanding because they’d been forced to notice the difference.
I’ve repeated this with different levels and grammar points and the students appear to take more in (mainly because they are forced to).
The teenagers hate it though because they have to use their brains. I’ve caught
a lot sneaking a peek in the book to find out the grammar rules instead of
working it out by themselves. Make sure they do it individually and check each students definitions before you do feedback.
Best Classroom activities
There are many activities, but here are a few of my favourites:
· Put students
in pairs and give them each five new words from a text you're about to read. They have to describe
the words to their partner. Creating an information gap between students
forces them to use more grammar to make better explanations.
This can also be done
with photos (great for PET and FCE). Again put students in pairs and ask them
to describe the photos to each other. Without looking at each other’s photos
they have to explain the differences. This pushes them to use more
detailed descriptions and ‘grammar up.’ Making them present the differences to the class also
forces them to use better grammar because of the added pressure.
· Put a subject,
verb, and object on the board and get the students to create as many sentences
as possible. Great for revision of tenses.
· Tell students that you're going to tell a story, but that you've added a lie. This can be a story about your weekend or whatever grammar point you want to practise. Students are more engaged as they have to
work out the lie. Then get them to explain the lie and their reasons. Students
then make up their own stories and repeat in pairs or groups. The trick is getting them to explain their
reasons because they have to produce better structured sentences.
· Maximise small
talk sessions to get the students to speak more. Turn the conversations to them
so they talk about themselves and produce better sentences. Recently I’ve been
really chatting with my students and keeping the conversations flowing and I
find the amount of English increases a lot.
Would I recommend Uncovering Grammar?
Definitely; it’s a great book with some fresh new ideas that really
challenge your students. I’m still waiting to see if the affects of the
conscious raising activities pay off; exams are round the corner, but I feel as
though my students are thinking more about the grammar, even if they are too
cool to admit they are.
There's load more information in the book so get a copy, or even ask your DOS to get one for your language school. You can buy a copy of Uncovering Grammar here.
For Further reading about Conscious Raising activities
try this article.
Labels: DELTA, DELTA Book Reviews, good tefl books, grammar books, macmillan, scott thornbury, tefl books, Uncovering grammar