ESL Grammar Activities For Teachers

Grammar is the Cornerstone of Language.

I’m going to kick things off by addressing why grammar is the cornerstone of language acquisition for ESL learners. Without a solid grasp of grammar, students may struggle to communicate effectively or be misunderstood, which can lead to a lack of confidence. That’s why it’s imperative for you, as an ESL teacher, to have a strong command of essential grammar rules.

You’re going to find out about the common hurdles you might encounter when teaching grammar. It’s not unusual to face a classroom with diverse language backgrounds or students with varying levels of proficiency. Each student might have unique challenges with different grammatical concepts, and your job is to navigate these waters skillfully.

This isn’t just about memorizing rules; it’s also about understanding how these rules apply to real-world communication. Approaching grammar teaching with a student-first mindset means tailoring examples and exercises to be relevant to students’ lives and interests. It’s about fostering an environment where grammar isn’t daunting but rather a tool for unlocking the full potential of the English language.

Choose techniques that resonate with your teaching style and your students’ learning preferences. Introduce grammar in a way that’s engaging and thought-provoking, ensuring that your lessons stick. That’s the strategy I like to leverage to transform grammar from a feared subject into an approachable one.

In the upcoming section, ‘Fundamental Grammar Building Blocks,’ we’re going to cover the indispensable parts of speech, sentence structure, verb tenses, and subject-verb agreement. Just remember, your first attempt at introducing these concepts doesn’t need to be flawless. It’s a learning curve for both you and your students. Let’s prepare to lay down the foundation for building strong grammar skills.

Fundamental Grammar Building Blocks

You’re going to find out about the core elements of English grammar in this section. Think of grammar as the scaffold that supports language construction; without a firm grasp of these basics, students’ language abilities may remain shaky.

Parts of Speech.

I’m going to start by discussing parts of speech because they’re the foundation of every sentence. Nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections each play a critical role, and they need to be taught early on in ESL education for optimal understanding.

Sentence Structure.

Next up is sentence structure. Crafting sentences that are both clear and grammatically correct is a cornerstone of language learning. I’ll talk about the importance of subject-predicate construction, the use of objects, and how phrases and clauses fit together to convey precise meanings.

Tense Consistency.

I’ll also dive into tense consistency, teaching you how to guide students in using the past, present, and future tenses effectively. ESL learners often struggle with the concept of time in English, so I recommend adopting a consistent approach, using timelines and real-world examples to elucidate this topic.

Verb Agreement.

Finally, I’ll cover subject-verb agreement, because it’s crucial. Whether a subject is singular or plural, the verb must agree. This isn’t just about memorizing rules; it’s about understanding the logic behind them, which can be a sticking point for many learners. I’m here to help you with strategies and tools to explain this concept with clarity.

Contextual Grammar: Beyond the Basics

Contextual grammar takes the rules and principles of English and applies them to real-life situations. This isn’t just about memorizing rules; it’s also about understanding how language works in various contexts. As an ESL teacher, you’re going to find out about some nuanced aspects of grammar essential for your students to communicate effectively.

First up, modal verbs. These helpers (can, could, may, might, shall, should, will, would, must) are crucial in conveying possibility, ability, permission, and obligation. Your students might struggle with their subtleties, but I’m here to help you guide them through the maze.

Conditionals are your go-to for teaching probability and possibility. They can be tricky because they’re not just about the form—’ if this, then that’—it’s also about the meaning behind each conditional. From zero to third conditionals, it’s vital to show how each one fits into everyday conversation.

Direct and indirect speech is where things can get tangled. You’ll be helping your students learn how to shift from reporting speech (‘She said, “I am tired”‘) to conveying the message without quoting word for word (‘She said she was tired’).

Lastly, let’s talk about relative clauses. These are the bits that connect ideas within a sentence (‘The book that you gave me is on the table’). They’re excellent for adding information without starting a new sentence and they help in keeping stories flowing. But, you’ll need to explain the difference between essential and non-essential clauses to prevent confusion.

So, now you’ve got a handle on these advanced topics, let’s move on to something even more exciting—bringing grammar to life in the ESL classroom. You can always adjust your approach down the road, but with these advanced grammar foundations, your students will be better equipped to express themselves with clarity and confidence.

Click here for over 15,000 downloadable Grammar sheets at “Grammarism”

Grammar and Engagement: Interactive Teaching Techniques

Now, harnessing the power of play in the classroom isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s a must for helping students internalize grammar rules. That’s where games and collaborative activities step in to transform rote learning into an interactive experience.

Feedback and correction are like the guardrails on the road to language mastery. Done right, they provide direction without discouraging learners. Remember, it’s about building confidence as much as competence.

Grammar teaching isn’t just about the ‘what’; it’s also about the ‘where’ and ‘how’. Folding cultural nuances into your grammar lessons can provide rich, real-world context that gives rules relevance.

Assessment shouldn’t be a source of dread for your students. When you use methods that emphasize understanding over memorization, you promote long-term retention and more meaningful learning. It’s true, that change can be slow, but even small shifts towards engaging, practical assessment can yield big improvements in how students grasp grammar.

How to Make Grammar Fun.

Making grammar fun for ESL students can greatly enhance their learning experience and engagement. Here are some ideas to make grammar lessons more enjoyable:

Interactive Games:

Incorporate grammar games into your lessons, such as grammar bingo, board games, or online quizzes. This adds an element of competition and fun while reinforcing grammar rules and concepts.

Use Multimedia:

Utilize videos, songs, and interactive online resources that focus on grammar. Engage students with visually appealing and entertaining content that demonstrates grammar rules in a relatable context.

Hands-on Activities:

Include hands-on activities that promote kinesthetic learning. For example, create grammar flashcards for students to match, or have them physically rearrange sentence cards to practice sentence structure.

Role-plays and Skits:

Incorporate role-plays and skits where students can use grammar rules in context. This enables them to practice grammar more dynamically and creatively, fostering communication skills alongside grammar acquisition.

Storytelling and Creative Writing:

Encourage students to write stories or engage in creative writing exercises where they can showcase their grammar knowledge. This allows them to apply grammar in a creative and personalized manner.

Gamify Learning:

Implement a points or rewards system where students can earn badges or prizes for mastering grammar concepts. This gamification approach adds an element of excitement and motivation to the learning process.

Incorporate Technology:

Integrate educational apps, online grammar games, or interactive websites into your lessons. These tools can make grammar learning more visually appealing and provide instant feedback to students.

Group Projects:

Assign group projects that require students to collaborate and apply grammar rules. For example, create a grammar poster or a grammar-themed skit to encourage teamwork and application of grammar concepts.

Real-life Context:

Teach grammar within real-life contexts and situations that students can relate to. Incorporate examples from everyday conversations, news articles, or popular culture to help students see the relevance of grammar in their daily lives.

Celebrate Progress:

Recognize and celebrate student progress and achievements in learning grammar. Praise their efforts, offer positive reinforcement, and showcase their work to the class or school community.

Click here to find my “Favorite 10 ESL Websites” to help with resources.

Remember, creating a positive and supportive learning environment is crucial when making grammar fun for ESL students. Adapt your teaching methods to cater to different learning styles, provide ample practice opportunities, and foster a sense of enjoyment and curiosity in your students.

Final Thoughts.

I’m here to help you with these strategies, so you can take your teaching to the next level. I hope that you’ll find this advice not just theoretical but actionable in your next lesson.

Have you got other effective grammar-teaching tactics? Share them with us—we’re all on this journey together! And if you’re looking for even more insights, stay tuned for my upcoming articles on teaching English as a Second Language.

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How to Teach Grammar to ESL Students.

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.

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