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John Brezinsky
Students Improve What They Practice
(4 Rules for Teaching Grammar)
John Brezinsky, Higher Education Marketing Manager

Research and classroom experience show that learners make the best gains in the skills they practice the most. If you want your students to be better readers, they need to read more. Students who speak more will become more fluent speakers. The same is true for grammar and can be summarized by four rules.

1. Make time for meaning

Meaning is primary in all communication, and grammar instruction should focus on meaning. When students are first learning grammar points, successful instructors always set aside time for exercises that specifically address meaning. For example, sentences containing the target grammar can be matched to pictures which illustrate the meaning.

2. Make time for accuracy

Once they have begun to internalize the meaning, learners need time to get used to the form of the target grammar. Especially if it is the first time they have worked with a particular structure, just learning to recognize and create it takes time. Never forget to give students plenty of opportunities to manipulate the grammar and develop some automaticity with it. This level of comfort will serve them well when they move on to more creative activities.

3. Make time for practice in all 4 skills

Just as your students need to be able to recognize the target grammar and describe it, they also need to be able to understand it in discourse and produce it in a variety of contexts. This means that students need time in class to read, write, listen, and speak in situations that require the target grammar. Remember that your students will improve those skills that they have time to practice, so give them opportunities to improve their understanding and use of the grammar in all four skills.

4. Allow more time for mastery

No one expects an athlete to master a skill after one training session. On the contrary, we expect that mastery will take place over a long period of time. We also expect that skills will need to be reviewed, recycled, and re-practiced numerous times. Grammar is no different. Learning a language is a complicated process that takes time and repetition. Allow your students that time and give them opportunities for repeated practice.

The Focus on Grammar series of textbooks and interactive software was designed with these four rules in mind. For more information about the textbooks, visit the companion website. For more information about the software and a 30-day trial, visit its home page.

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