ESL students and Grammar: Going Back to the Basics

Today is National Grammar Day.

As English teachers, grammar is something that is always on our minds. We think about grammar as we create lesson plans and as we grade our students’ essays. We think about it as we casually surf the Internet, and we think about it as we see typos and errors on billboards and grocery store circulars.

Correct grammar and language usage comes easily for some people. It is something that probably comes easily to most English teachers. IFor us, it’s almost like second nature to use the correct verb form and  make subjects and verbs agree. However, for some, grammar doesn’t come as easily.

This is something I’ve come to see in my own students -especially my ESL students. These are the students who really struggle in my class. They don’t struggle because they aren’t trying or don’t care. They struggle because they lack the necessary language skills and background knowledge. The most important thing to remember about these students is that it is not their fault. Perhaps their parents don’t speak English. Perhaps their parents can’t read or write. Perhaps these students don’t have people to converse with daily in English.

Every year I have many ESL students on my roster. I know that they require more attention and extra support. Most importantly, teaching ESL students requires extra patience! One technique I have found to be especially helpful in teaching ESL students, especially high school students who missed fundamental grammar instruction at an earlier age, is to go back to the basics. 

Yes, it might seem crazy to teach parts of speech to high schoolers. I mean, these sixteen year olds are driving and dating. Shouldn’t they know the difference between a noun and a verb? The answer often times is no. No, these students do not know the difference between a noun and a verb, and many of these students can’t even name all of the parts of speech. So why is it that we seem to think that they can grasp more complicated grammatical subjects?

There are many resources available online to help teachers go back to the basics and teach these fundamental skills to students. However, if you are looking for something a little more tailored to older students, you might want to check out these grammar resources!




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