CELTA and teaching grammar

Grammar is a skill which, luckily for native speakers, we do not need to consciously study. We know that to talk about the past, the verb 'go' changes to 'went'. We know that we have 'thought' about something and not 'thinked' about it. This comes naturally, until you become a TEFL teacher and have to actually explain the rules, reasons and forms of all aspects of grammar.

I do not remember being taught grammar at school. My only encounters with grammar were in high school French class when Mme. Roland introduced us to participles, infinitives and the like. I assumed that these were some of the things that the French had which we didn't, like decent croissants or frogs legs.

When it came to doing my CELTA course I was in the same state of ignorance. I knew when people made mistakes but I could not explain why. Unlike one member of my course who had compiled his own grammar book, I was completely unequipped. Then I was told that one of my first lessons would be teaching zero conditional; never mind that I had never heard of zero conditional, but I had to prepare a lesson which would teach it to others.

So here is my first piece of advice about grammar; unless you have been secretly compiling your own grammar book over the years, accept that you won't know the form, meaning or correct use of every grammar point at the start of your teaching career. Then accept that you will have to learn.

This leads to my next point, which is that the only way to learn is to read up about it and inform yourself. Research the grammar books, look on the internet, ask your colleagues and do not be afraid to ask that stupid question. The grammar summaries at the back of most course books are useful for this. Until you can gain a good understanding of something, you will not have the confidence to teach it to others. Do not think that you will become a grammarian overnight. Learn each point as and when you have to teach it and gradually build on that knowledge. The fact that you have had to learn something will make it easier to teach, as you will know how you remembered something and also which bits about it confused you and will need extra explanations.

Finally, remember that by the time students reach intermediate level they should have encountered all the major grammar points, so they will at least have a passive knowledge of what you are presenting. And it is guaranteed that there will always be that one student who knows the answers to the questions that you do not.......like what exactly is zero conditional?

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