Presenting Grammar to Teenagers

By Neil Root
Neil Root is a writer and London based English Language teacher with 10 years experience.

Presenting grammar

Grammar is essential for teenagers, as they are still formulating the language, and if they get their structures solid early they will become fluent later. Each student of course has a different level of ability, depending on their learning background, natural aptitude and personality. Your job is to take all your students with you on a learning experience which enriches them, stimulates them and strengthens their English.

Presentation is half the battle

With grammar delivery to teenagers, presentation is half the battle. Use timelines, diagrams and easy to understand processes on the board and supplement this with hand-outs and supplementary activities. Invite questions from the class, inviting each student in turn to answer a question if they have no queries of their own. Build this interaction, and every student will learn from another student’s query, and learning feeds itself. Take a step back, always be there to guide and give the lesson direction, but make sure that you speak less than them – you are fluent in the language, they need the practice. I once observed a very experienced Delta/MA Linguistics EFL teacher when I first started teaching. A Japanese teenage student was using his electronic dictionary, and she pounced on him, shouting ‘I am your dictionary!’ At the time I thought wow, that’s control! But in hindsight, this wasn’t effective. The boy was humiliated – the other students didn’t even laugh – there was just a deathly silence. There was control, but no rapport. Teaching grammar effectively is interactive, especially with teenagers.

Don’t overload your students

Don’t overload teenagers with too much grammar in one class, unless the class is uniformly exceptional. Bite size is best, less is more. Learn a little every day, and learn it well. Check and reinforce, set homework related to the grammar point (no more than twenty minutes a night of homework for a summer school as students usually have evening activities too). Get the students to give their grammar homework answers to the class by eliciting it from them, and then discuss it together. Then you can move on to the next grammar point. Also, utilise your grammar in speaking activities – if you are doing comparatives and superlatives, use the: ‘Is Lady Gaga the most talented singer ever, or is Madonna more talented?’ etc. Make your grammar point culturally relevant to teens. They will respond and appreciate it.

Learning grammar is like building a house. With teenagers you have the chance to give them very strong foundations or at least strengthen them. You are setting them up for a lifetime of English. Go to it!

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