My name is David King and I am Head of Teacher Training for Language Link London.
I am often asked two questions about grammar by applicants for the CELTA course.
The first question is “Do I need to understand all of grammar before I start the course?” and the answer is definitely, “No”.
The second question is, “so, how can I learn some grammar?”
This short article is my reply.
For the CELTA course, learning grammar can be seen as a three step process:
- How you learn grammar before the course.
- How you learn grammar during the course.
- How you learn grammar after the course.
1. HOW DO TRAINEE-TEACHERS LEARN GRAMMAR BEFORE THE CELTA COURSE?
Before the course, Language Link London provides a Pre-course Task, which is included in the course fees, to help the trainee-teacher. This is a fifty-page booklet with grammar explanations and simple exercises to check your understanding. To understand the questions and find the answers you use a grammar book or books. The grammar books break the grammar into small bite-sized chunks.
It is important to understand that you don’t need to learn everything in these books. They are reference books that are used to look at the small areas of grammar that you need to complete assignments or to teach your students on the CELTA course.
Basic grammar books we recommend are:
- “English Grammar in Use, Intermediate level”. By Raymond Murphy. Published by CUP. This book is usually known as “the blue murphy” and is the best-selling English grammar book in the world. It has a traditional layout with text explanations on one page and exercises on the opposite page.
- “English for Everyone: English Grammar Guide” No author. Published by Dorling Kindersley. This book is a more visual approach to the meaning and form of the grammar structures. Lots of diagrams and drawings.
These are really books designed for learners of English but are a good starting point for native speakers who want to start learning grammar at a basic level. There is also a vast and ever-changing range of grammar learning aids on the internet.
Completing the Pre-course task will give you the basic knowledge of grammar that will enable you to understand and follow the Input lessons given by the tutors on the CELTA course.
2. HOW DO TRAINEE-TEACHERS LEARN GRAMMAR DURING THE CELTA COURSE?
On the course, you will be asked to teach eight or nine lessons. Usually three or four of the lessons will focus on grammar. Many trainee- teachers are surprised to discover that most types of lessons have no grammar teaching involved at all.
Another surprise for trainee-teachers is that you are asked to teach a very small area of grammar in each grammar lesson. A basic mistake is to teach a large chunk of grammar that overwhelms the students. We often tell trainee-teachers “less is more” when teaching language.
So, on the course the tutors will identify an area of grammar for you to teach. You will also be provided with an English language course book that provides the material for you teach and for the students to practise. The course tutors will provide advice on what to teach and how to teach it.
The hard part is preparing your grammar lesson. You research that small area of grammar, using a grammar book or books. You will need to learn the pattern/rules for the small grammar area you will teach. You will need to learn the special terms/jargon that area of grammar uses. You then consider how to teach this grammar to your students.
At the beginning of the course this can be daunting and it definitely takes time and effort. Most trainees report that this becomes easier as the course progresses and their understanding of the principles of grammar develops.
It is important to understand that perfect understanding is rarely achieved the first time you teach an area of grammar.
The CELTA tutors understand this and the published criteria for passing a grammar lesson on a CELTA course is: “can analyse target language adequately and can generally deliver effective language lessons”.
3. HOW DO QUALIFIED TEACHERS LEARN GRAMMAR AFTER THE CELTA COURSE?
When you complete a CELTA course you will not have a complete knowledge of grammar but you will know how to learn grammar.
I usually tell trainees that when they complete the CELTA course and start teaching regularly that after about two years you will know something about most of the areas of grammar, and so it continues for the rest of your life.
Your area of study/expertise, “language”, is around you all the time and you will start noticing the rules/patterns and you will never stop learning!
- Take the CELTA with Language Link London
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- Amazon: Probably the best and cheapest way to buy the grammar books
- Cambridge English: Where to find out more information about the CELTA course
- Cactus: Cactus often have special offers on CELTA courses