Teaching Grammar Online with ESL Library
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic came many, many changes for people all over the world. We've all had to adapt to numerous disruptions to our lives—socially, physically, emotionally, and financially, to name a few.
For teachers, the abrupt switch (in many cases) to online teaching has been especially challenging. At ESL Library, we've been helping our overwhelmed ESL/ELT community as best we can with free upgrades, webinars, FAQs, and new materials.
Teaching grammar can be a challenge at the best of times, and having to suddenly manage it digitally was certainly a frightening prospect for some of us. We hope the following blog post on how to teach grammar online will be helpful! Please feel free to leave comments and questions below. We're here for you—you're not alone.
This three-part grammar series will cover:
- How to Teach Grammar Online (this post)
- How to Assign Grammar Tasks Online
- How to Assess Grammar Online
All of our 60 digital Grammar Practice Worksheets lessons have Grammar Notes as the first assignable online task. These notes contain helpful explanations, examples, rules, and exceptions for each grammar target. Read on for four different ways to present these notes to your students!
To present these grammar notes using our online platform, click on the Digital tab for any grammar lesson. You can now click on Assign Tasks to share the grammar notes on your students' own devices, or you can click on the first title to launch the task (if using a screensharing program). See our Help Docs and How-To Videos for step-by-step guidance or attend one of our free webinars.
Note that some grammar lessons contain more comprehensive grammar notes in the PDF (printable) version, including charts, more examples, and extra exceptions to a rule. Remember that you have the option of using a screensharing platform to display the PDF during your live class. You could also download the PDF and email it to your students.
How to Teach Grammar Online
There are different ways to introduce a grammar target to your learners. Choose one of the following methods based on your personal preference. You could also try each method and see which is best for your learners, or you could try different methods for different targets for variety.
1. Read through the grammar notes together
If you like explicit grammar instruction, this method is for you.
Before you begin the grammar practice tasks, walk your students through the grammar presentation notes while screensharing the notes or while they follow along on their own devices. There are plenty of ways to make this more interactive!
- Have students take turns reading the examples out loud so you can also work on their pronunciation (and so they're not only listening to your voice the whole time).
- Elicit as you go. For example, before reading about the form or function of a target, ask "Does anyone know the two ways we can contract 'He is not'?" or "Does anyone know when we use the present perfect tense?"
- Have students come up with their own example sentences. After reading the examples from the grammar notes, have students think of more and share them.
- Follow up with a discussion. Do your students now understand the form and function of a target? Are they clear on the exceptions to the general rules? Do they need more examples from you? Do they have any further questions about the target?
2. Assign the grammar notes for homework
If you like explicit instruction but want your learners to take charge of their own learning, give this method a try.
The day before you start a new grammar lesson, assign the grammar notes task as homework. Have students read through them and write down any questions they have to ask you the next day.
- To make it more interactive, you could tell students to be prepared to answer your questions about the notes the next day.
- You could also ask them comprehension-check questions about the basics of form and function of the target.
- You may want to ask about the exceptions as well since those are trickier to learn and remember.
3. Assign grammar practice tasks before reviewing the grammar notes
If you prefer implicit grammar acquisition, give this method a try.
This method involves skipping the grammar notes at first.
- Assign one or more of the grammar tasks and see if your students can tell you the grammar rules the next day. By doing a bit of practice, can they figure out the rules and patterns of the target you're studying?
- Next, go through the grammar notes together or assign them for homework. If you're doing them together, you can refer to examples from the tasks they've already done.
- After covering the notes, assign the rest of the tasks in the lesson.
4. Assign a non-grammar lesson that uses the grammar target in context
If you like the communicative approach to teaching, try this method.
In the top right-hand corner of ESL Library's website, you'll find the search icon (the magnifying glass). After clicking on it, type in the grammar target in the search field and choose a non-grammar lesson from the list (if applicable). Students will be able to see the target in context.
For example, search for "imperative." You will be able to assign a Functional English lesson on Following Instructions or Following Procedures, a Writing in English lesson on How to Write a Recipe, or a Holiday & Events lesson on Earth Day. Our Grammar Stories section also has plenty of targets in context.
- Have students underline examples of the target that they see in context.
- From there, you can try to elicit the basic form and function of the target.
- Then you can try the rest of the grammar practice tasks.
- Afterward, you can decide to use the grammar notes to review tricky exceptions to a rule, skip the notes entirely, or assign the notes only to students who are struggling with the target.
- As a follow-up, you can have your intermediate to advanced students find other examples online (news articles, blog posts, etc.) that use the target and share them together the next day.
We hope you found this first post in our three-part series about teaching grammar online useful!
Here are the next two posts in the series: