How to Teach Grammar to ESL Students.

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Teaching Grammar to ESL students.

Teachers frequently shy away from grammar lessons because they are not fun to teach and can be immensely boring for the student.

Before they can do anything, the students must sit silently and listen to a lecture on the present perfect, present simple, past participle, or whatever grammatical topic you are addressing.

For a variety of reasons, it can be difficult. Lessons can be tedious. It’s possible that the grammar is too difficult for the students. Or they become bored and lose focus.

As a result, the teacher may become overwhelmed when attempting to present and explain all of the complicated rules.

How do we overcome this and make it a bit more fun and understandable?

Continue reading to learn a few tips about teaching ESL grammar classes.

Some Tips On Teaching ESL Grammar.

Let’s have a look at how to organize and deliver a good and pleasant grammar class.

We’ll walk you through a step-by-step teaching procedure that will fully engage your pupils in the lesson and ensure that they comprehend the rules without the need for lengthy, confusing explanations. And have a bit of fun at the same time.

1. Learn the rules yourself first.

If you grew up in an English-speaking household, you most likely picked up on grammar principles without even realizing it. While this makes you a natural speaker of the language, it might cause some difficulties while teaching it.

It is claimed that it is impossible to properly teach something that you do not understand yourself.

To put it another way, who would you choose as your teacher? Someone who knows what they’re talking about, or someone who is just pretending to know what they’re talking about?

2. Traditional approaches to teaching Grammar.

When it comes to teaching grammar, there are two main approaches that have been traditionally used. The two approaches are the deductive and inductive learning approaches.

Depending on your ESL student’s background, teaching inductively may be far more effective than teaching deductively.

Inductive learning.

The bottom-up method is another name for inductive learning. This strategy is widely used by teachers to help students especially those without recent educational backgrounds, such as adult learners, to learn more quickly.

To apply it, you teach grammar through a discovery process, in which students learn how the rules work through a series of tasks.

Deductive Learning.

The more traditional teaching method is when the teacher first explains the particular rules that govern each aspect of the grammar lesson then the students practice or do exercises.

Or, to put it another way, the teacher first explains the rules, after which he or she gives lessons based on those rules.

Although the deductive method is tried and tested, it is arguably less successful. Take the time to experiment with both and see what happens.

You can learn more at Udemy about teaching grammar.

3. Mix it up.

Create your own way of teaching Grammar by mixing both approaches and then adding your own unique touch.

For younger learners, you could use the inductive method and incorporate it in a TPR ( Total Physical Response ) style of teaching. Think outside the box and be creative in your approach to teaching grammar.

But first and foremost before you walk into the classroom prepare a lesson plan.

4. Do a Lesson Plan.

Far too many first-time ESL instructors enter the classroom without properly planning their lessons. Simply speaking the language does not guarantee that you can teach “off the cuff”.

Proper planning will allow you to avoid a lot of bad situations such as giving an explanation “off the cuff”, only to find out it is wrong.

The English language is complicated, and many rules include more exceptions than we would prefer. You don’t want to be caught off guard by one of those exceptions while speaking in front of the class.

Planning allows you to lay out the direction of your class ahead of time, including any relevant examples, ensuring that you have a flawless path for your students to follow. Let us go to the classroom.

5. Do a Warm-Up Activity.

Start your lesson by getting students engaged by playing a topic-relevant game.

For example, you can read out an article and ask your students how many times did you say the word “the”. ( You can also say pronouns or any point you wish the students to focus on )

You will quickly find them listening intently. You will probably need to read the ( short ) article 2 or 3 times.

Then ask them to give you the answer, you can turn this into a competitive game if you wish.

Most students will be wrong, but watch while they scour the text looking for the word “the”. You can also do it with punctuation. How many full stops, commas, etc. Now you have their attention, make the most of it.

6. Keep it Real.

Present the grammar in a way that has meaning and relevance, the students can start to understand what the structure means and why it’s used if they can relate it to a real-life situation.

Presenting the Grammar.

You could use the same article you used for a warm-up and highlight some examples of the target grammar topic.

Use a sentence containing the grammar items you are teaching and have students put it into their own words. But changing the meaning with their word substitution.

For example, if you’re teaching comparatives and superlatives and the sentence is “He is taller than his brother,” students might practice comparative adjectives by replacing “taller” with “larger,” “shorter,” “fatter,” “smarter,” and so on.

You can also include students’ names to make it more personal, just make sure you do not criticize any students accidentally.

7. Doing the Boring Bits.

Your goal is for students to be able to use the grammar taught after you teach it.

In order to do so, students must be taught the form, meaning, structure, and pronunciation correctly. This is where many teachers begin their lessons.

They believe it is their obligation to provide all of this information to the students in one foul sweep.

If you’re not careful, this stage can quickly devolve into a protracted, teacher-led rant that the kids have trouble following.

 Use a guided discovery process to help your students understand that boring grammar stuff.

Grammar Instruction Using Guided Discovery

Guided discovery is a worksheet or activity that guides pupils through the understanding of a grammar structure.

The beauty of guided discovery is that it encourages students to figure out the rules on their own rather than having the knowledge spoon-fed to them by the teacher.

This means that students will be more engaged, empowered, and invested in the learning process as a result. The following is an example of how a guided discovery works.

Example of Guided Discovery in Teaching irregular Verbs.

Despite the fact that there are only about 180 past tense verbs in modern English, they are the most regularly used verbs.

Almost seventy percent of the time, we use an irregular verb. The implication for grammar instruction is that irregular verbs are an extremely important area to cover.

So, how would I go about doing it?

I would pre-teach the words I was going to use and practice the pronunciation at the start, this should only take 15 minutes.

If it is taking longer you are trying to teach too many things or not explaining them properly. Then review quickly by asking questions.

If only one person doesn’t understand then it is probably that person. But if 50% of your class doesn’t understand it is definitely you.

Which means you have not prepared your lesson properly. Sorry, but true.

8. Introduce the activity.

Now, get the students to practice what they have learned. You can get them to do it individually or some people recommend pairing up your students. I have found by pairing up students they have a lot of fun talking to one another but don’t do much work.

My preference is to get them to work independently and concentrate on their own learning. This is also easier for you to check if they understand by asking them to put their name on the sheet and checking it later.

So what activity or study tool, I hear you say?. If we wanted to teach irregular verbs we could use something like this.

Here is an example of a word cloze activity.

Now get them to practice after completing.

9. Practice the Target English Grammar

Now the students need a chance to practice what they’ve learned. Here are a couple of fun, interactive practice ideas for irregular verbs you can use.

Class Survey.

Get the students to write two or three questions they would like to ask all of their classmates, using irregular verbs.

For example: What did you eat for breakfast. And the answer could be, I ate cereal for breakfast. Etc.

Allow pupils to ask any questions they wish.

As students prepare their questions, keep an eye on them to assist them and fix any problems that arise.

Then tell the kids that they must collect information on the questions they wrote from all of the other pupils.

They should all stand up and mingle, asking and recording questions from other students in the class. Getting them walking around also helps break the monotony.

Comic strip writing

This is a fun exercise, as there will be a variety of answers that may turn out to be hilarious.

Show the original comic and write it on the board. Then teach the target grammar item as above.

After verbally guessing the speech and learning the grammar from the original comic, have students fill in the speech bubbles on their own.

But only using the target grammar to make the content different from the original.

This is more suitable for flyers to intermediate-level students. You can tweak the activity for beginners by getting them to fill in the blanks.

For intermediate students, you can give helping words to guide them in their writing.

And there are many online resources you can use, here is a list of some of my favorites. ” My top 10 ESL Websites”


So there you have it: some ways for keeping your grammar pupils engaged and motivated.

By adding a variety of activities and resources, you may make grammar more enjoyable for both yourself and your students.

Spend some time gathering your resources, and you’ll be glad you did when you notice a difference in your students’ motivation levels in the classroom.

Your students and the school with which you work will see you as an excellent teacher.

Who Am I?

My name is Stephen, and I’ve been teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) for over 15 years and own my own school. I also place teachers in both private and public schools throughout Vietnam.

I am also the author and owner of this website.

You can check out TET in HCMC on the YouTube link below.

TET 2022


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6 thoughts on “How to Teach Grammar to ESL Students.”

  1. Am also a teacher I understand how it feels to teach Grammar to ESL students, sometimes I do miss the class because of the stress in it. But when you get to understand your students and how to handle them it becomes easy to do.                                                                                                                                   

  2. I do believe English is one of the hardest languages to learn as we have so many different spellings for the same words so it’s very important that the language is taught well and is enjoyable for the learners. It’s all part of making it fun and when students are enjoying what they are learning, they do learn it much quicker. You cover lots of different ways of teaching grammar too. 

    1. Thank you, Louise, I am a firm believer in “laugh and learn”. When students are enjoying themselves they want to learn. There is nothing that gives me more pleasure than when one of my students come to me after class and wants to speak to me in English.


  3. I love your approach to teaching English especially with the explanation of inductive and deductive learning. I do agree with you that a combination of both methods is important to allow for varied learning styles.

    How do you incorporate the need for oral English? Do you team up volunteers from schools or industry?

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