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Use Great Books for Teaching Grammar to TEFL Learners


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You begin to speak, “Today’s grammar focus lesson will be on …” Your EFL learners groan aloud interrupting you. “Oh no, grammar again?”, they chant, almost in unison. You’re not exactly all that enthused yourself, but what can you do? It’s in the program.

Grammar teaching is almost always in demand and often difficult to tackle. In the article, “Three Fun Ideas for Teaching Grammar to TEFL Learners” we discussed the use of such aids as games, movie clips, radio and CDs / DVDs to generate fun, interesting grammar-teaching activities. But let’s not stop there. Another useful source for creating grammar reinforcement activities learners will love comes from the heat of language itself – Literature. “All the world’s a stage” if you have access at all to contemporary novels or classic literature. Here are some ideas for using literature to break out of a slump. We’ll start with contemporary novels.

Contemporary Novels

From Harry Potter to Kinsey Millhone and Jack Ryan, there is a treasure-trove of characters waiting to teach your language learners English grammar. Since these, and many other characters, are so willing, why should you do it? If you’re like me – you let Harry, Kinsey or Jack do the job for you. They don’t even ask for part of your pay. Now isn’t that nice of them?

Here’s what you do. Pick a page or passage. Work the grammar in it. Make it into dialogues, scenes and skits. Practice it aloud. Change it. Rewrite it. Have fun with it. By the way, use props, realia, costumes, sound effects and sets if you can. They needn’t be elaborate to be effective. A cape, a hat, a cane, a telephone, a doll, a flashlight, bag or bottle can do wonders for a simple dialogue. By all means do make a “production” out it. Not only will your learners not object, they’ll likely ask, “Can we do this again, teacher?” You answer of course, will be …

Classic Literature

Everybody loves Shakespeare. “Romeo and Juliet” has been repeated in theme countless times. The question, “Can I have more, Sir?” starts off a series of events that has spawned movies, documentaries, children’s versions, plays and idealism that has intrigued millions for centuries. The list of great books is more than lengthy enough to generate scores of ideas and opportunities for productive grammar work with your learners. Let Alice and her friends, characters from Shakespeare and fairy tales give you the hand you need in getting grammar in context across to your learners. You or your learners can create a dialogue between Hansel and Gretel, the three little pigs and the wolf, Cinderella and her Stepmother or the Prince. The list could go on and on. You see? “It’s elementary, my dear Watson.”

By the way, if you don’t know who Harry Potter is, well what planet have you been living on? Kinsey Milhone? She’s the fiercely independent lady detective created by Sue Grafton. Author Tom Clancy produced CIA operative Jack Ryan who rambles, sometimes rather recklessly, through several of his novels. Let these and countless other characters provide the fodder for dialogues your learners will relish. Leave that dry course book stuff for the lames.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an ELT Teacher Trainer, English language learning expert author and university professor in Cali, Colombia. He has published more than 350 articles and academic papers and presented at numerous EFL teacher training and TEFL conferences throughout North America, South America and Europe. For comments, questions, requests, to receive more information or to be added to his free TESOL articles and teaching materials mailing list, e-mail: [email protected]

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  • Posted On December 30, 2006
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