A Sample Course Design On Teaching Grammar in a Meaningful Context

A Sample Course Design for Secondary Level Students (6-10)


Teaching Grammar in a Meaningful Context


Course Objectives: This course is designed to meet the basic needs of our students (secondary school level) in learning grammar. It is a modern grammar learning course which is different from traditional learning courses. The purpose of learning grammar is to communicate exercising countless uses of language not mastering the Latinate content of traditional grammar instruction which has little to do with achieving the goal. The course will make students learn grammar in real contexts not in the existing stereotypical way.

Our students are used to learning grammar in a very strictly linear approach. In this system they learn one grammatical item at a time till they gain mastery over the item before stepping to learn another item. For example, students are taught present simple tense for many days till they achieve expertise over it before stepping to present continuous tense or past simple! But all the tenses are interrelated and different tenses can form a sentence together.  This method is like “constructing a wall”. By learning one after another grammatical items students lay bricks for proper construction. But when a single brick i.e. item is misplaced the whole grammatical structure gets collapsed. This course looks into this matter and comes with effective solutions. Through this course students will learn grammar in an alternative non linear way. Learning languages is not a linear model to follow step-by-step placing bricks in a view to completing the wall from 30% to 50% to 100%. The truth is that various elements of language interact with and are affected by other elements to which they are closely related in a functional sense. This course is modeled thinking all these important issues and tries to present grammar learning more practical approach. The course will help students learn grammar in an “organic” way that sees learning English is “more like growing a garden than building a wall”. The course offers learners the opportunity to learn grammar in their own context making them apply their knowledge in real life situations. They will develop a reflective and reflexive approach to their own learning. The course will enable learners to gain a level of perfection covering the basic four skills of learning-speaking, reading, writing and listening. After completing this course student will be able to communicate in English spontaneously using correct English, grammar, pronunciation to interpret real life happenings.


Importance of the course: Our present system of teaching grammar is too impractical to make students globally competent. English is a compulsory subject in our education system. A student learns English from class 1 to 12 that means s/he spends 12 years to learn English. The matter of regret is that students cannot gain communicative competency even after spending such a long span of years to learn English. It is high time we did not think of alternative, modern and appropriate method of teaching grammar to our children. The fault lies in the traditional system. Because students are taught through GTM (Grammar Translation Method) approach following product based syllabus. GTM focuses on sentence structure, grammar, vocabulary and direct translations of the native language into English. The method requires a few resources to teach. Uses of text books or translated passages are enough in the method. Again the product based syllabus brings surface level change only. The syllabus is the end itself. It makes students nothing more than parrots. Students memorize and forget as they cannot relate their learning to their contexts. They can achieve good grades i.e. gpa 5 in English but cannot achieve quality skill over the language. They are taught in such a wrong way that they cannot show their creativity. But language is a living thing. It has numerous ways to explore, learn, modify and acquire excellence. As Rabindranath Tagore says, “That education is a living, not a mechanical process, it is a truth as freely admitted as it is persistently ignored”. This course is a solution for all these limitations. This course comes off a process based syllabus design. It follows a progressive method of teaching grammar. Students will learn through a series of activities-draft, redraft and more. This process will help students learn in a continuous process. They themselves will learn with the help of teacher. In teaching teacher will play the role of a ‘guide’ not of a ‘guard’? The teacher will act as a ‘colleague learner’. While teaching through this process, teacher will follow Herbert Spencer’s words, ‘Children should be led to make their own investigations, own inferences. They should be told as little as possible and induced to discover as much as possible.’ This course will be taught through inductive method. Students will learn and practice grammar in their own contexts. Teacher will use examples from real life contexts and make connections practically. So this course is highly appropriate to meet the students demand. To gain natural command over English language this course is enormously important for our students.

Course Policy: The success of the course will depend on students’ regular attendance, full concentration on class lecture, active class participation, doing assigned works and oral presentations.

How the Course will be conducted: As has already been mentioned that the course is different from traditional courses, the course will be conducted in different and more fruitful way. Students will learn grammar using 1) language in context, 2) practical implications, 3) authentic language, 4) transparent forms and functions, 5) interlink between grammar and discourse, 6) music, 7) comic strips, 8) drama, and 9) technology.

1)      Language in Context: In the text books followed by our students, grammar is presented out of context. Learners are given isolated sentences, which they are expected to internalize through exercises involving repetition, manipulation, and grammatical transformation. They are taught in a very rigid and formal way that makes them block headed. They cannot think beyond the form and structure which are barriers for communicative purposes. Unfortunately, many courses fail to make clear the relationship between form and function. For example, they are taught how to transform sentences from the active voice into the passive and back into the active through exercises. But they are not shown that passive forms have evolved to certain communicative ends-to enable the speaker or writer to place the communicative focus on the action rather than on the performer of the action, to avoid referring to the performer of the action. So there should have enough tasks which give learners opportunities to explore when it is communicatively appropriate to use the passive rather than the active voice. This course will be taught to make the learners learn how to form structures correctly, and also how to use them to communicate meaning.

2)      Practical Implications: This coursewill provide ample opportunities for the learners to learn grammar as a set of choice. They will not be given to learn hard and fast grammatical rules. For example, reading a conversational extract/dialogue student will find out the differences between sentences and learn how to use appropriate form in their context.

3)      Authentic Language: Authentic language shows how grammatical forms operate in the ‘real world, rather than in the mind of a textbook writer. This will make students learn the relation between grammar and discourse. For example, teacher will make genuine conversation with students using grammar and students will find out the grammatical functions worked in the conversation. This will also help them learn pronunciation correctly as they will be a part of the conversation.

4)      Transparent forms and Functions: This principle will be practiced through tasks in which learners will structure and restructure form/function, relationships through inductive and deductive tasks. For example, learners will be given certain types of prompts to find out exact form/functions.


5)      Interlink between Grammar and Discourse: This will help learners to explore the functioning of grammar in context. They will understand that grammar and discourse are inextricably interlinked as grammatical choices are determined by considerations of purpose and context. For example, whether to combine two pieces of information using co-ordination or subordination.

6)      Music: Music is an engaging context for teaching grammar. Students will be taught grammar using musing in three steps-before listening, while listening and after listening. For example, teacher will ask students to find out the various grammatical items like article, number, tense, voice etc used in particular lines in the songs.

7)      Comic Strips: There are a lot of comic strips for students to learn many grammatical items such as article, number, gender, tense etc. For example, students will write stories according to the comic strips. Comic strips will be given incorporating our context such as Bangladeshi food, culture, nationality etc.

8)      Drama: Learning grammar using drama is a good technique. Drama based grammar activities include performing role plays, writing a script, and participating in improvisational games. There are various role plays that students can perform at different levels and situations, such as making introductions, shopping, chatting at a party and talking about a bank robbery. For example, students will be given different roles to act like how to console a bereaved friend.

9)      Technology: Technology based grammar will be instructed to contextualize the learning process. It includes the activities like watching videos, playing web-based games, and blogging to illustrate or practice particular grammar points. For online videos students will watch movie or TV scenes. For example, students will watch a movie or TV show/clip and have to guess what the characters are saying or enact the scene with a partner or group. Another activity is students will be divided into pairs and from each pair one student has to describe the video to his/her partner who is staying behind the screen. Teacher will point out and discuss target grammar.

Required Texts:

Teaching Grammar in Contextby Constance Weaver

A Communicative Grammar of Englishby Geoffrey N.Leech

Practical English Usageby Michael Swan

Understanding and Using English Grammarby Betty Schrampfer

Grammar in Context Basic by Sandra N. Elbaum; Judi P. Peman

Selected Music, Video, Movie, Clips, Paper Write-up, Comic Strips etc will be provided by the instructor.


Testing and Assessment: Students’ progress will be tested by grading breakdowns. Integrative approach will be followed for language testing so that students’ progress is seen from multiple concerns covering discrete-point grammar knowledge and communicative competence. Their activities, class performance, attendance, exam all will be counted separately. There will be both formative assessment (to provide learners with information about their progress which they can use to guide their continuing learning and to provide teacher with information which s/he can use to guide course development and lesson planning) and summative assessment (to measure final achievement or grades). Teacher will adopt various types of assessments to assess students regarding topic and context such as conference assessment (one-on-one meeting between learner and instructor for general review, discussion, review feedback, on a specific assignment), task based and performance assessment(more elaborate assessment than traditional assessment for problem solving, group discussion tasks ,  complex integrated reading, writing and listening tasks), dynamic assessment( focusing on future progress of the learners as a result of proper meditation/teaching by the teacher) or portfolio assessment(physical and electronic portfolios like audio recording, email, blog etc for collection, reflection and selection) and to give grades. Grading breakdowns will be as following:


Attendance and participation: 5%

Mid Term: 30%

Final: 40%

Oral presentation: 10%

Assigned task submission: 15%