Use great books to teach TEFL students grammar

Arts Entertainments

You start to speak, “Today’s grammar lesson will be about…” Your EFL students groan loudly, interrupting you. “Oh no, grammar again?” they sing, almost in unison. You’re not exactly that excited, but what can you do? It’s on the show.

Grammar teaching is almost always in demand and often difficult to tackle. In the article, “Three Fun Ideas for Teaching Grammar to TEFL Learners,” we discuss using aids such as games, movie clips, radio, and CD/DVDs to generate fun and engaging grammar teaching activities. But let’s not stop there. Another useful source for creating grammar reinforcement activities that students will love comes from the warmth of the language itself: literature. “All the world’s a stage” if you have access to all contemporary novels or classic literature. Here are some ideas for using literature to get out of a depression. We will start with contemporary novels.

Contemporary Novels

From Harry Potter to Kinsey Millhone to Jack Ryan, there is a treasure trove of characters waiting to teach English grammar to your language learners. Since these and many other characters are so willing, why should you? If you’re like me, let Harry, Kinsey, or Jack do the work for you. They don’t even ask for part of your salary. Now isn’t that nice of them?

This is what you do. Choose a page or a passage. Work the grammar on it. Turn it into dialogues, scenes and plays. Practice it out loud. Change it. Re-write it. Have fun with it. By the way, use props, real objects, costumes, sound effects, and sets if you can. They do not need to be elaborate to be effective. A cape, a hat, a cane, a telephone, a doll, a flashlight, a bag, or a bottle can do wonders for a simple dialogue. By all means make a “production” of this. Your students will not only not object, they will probably ask, “Can we do this again, teacher?” Your answer, of course, will be…

Classic literature

Everybody loves Shakespeare. “Romeo and Juliet” has been repeated in theme countless times. The question, “Can I have more, sir?” begins a series of events that has given rise to movies, documentaries, children’s versions, plays and idealism that has intrigued millions for centuries. The list of great books is more than enough to generate dozens of ideas and opportunities for productive grammar work with your students. Let Alice and her friends, Shakespearean characters and fairy tales give her the hand she needs to convey grammar in context to her students. You or your students can create a dialogue between Hansel and Gretel, the three little pigs and the wolf, Cinderella and her stepmother, or the Prince. The list could go on and on. You’ll see? “It is elementary, my dear Watson.”

By the way, if you don’t know who Harry Potter is, what planet have you been living on? Kinsey Milone? She is the fiercely independent detective created by Sue Grafton. Author Tom Clancy produced CIA agent Jack Ryan, who rambles, sometimes quite recklessly, through several of his novels. Let these and many other characters provide the fodder for dialogue your students will enjoy. Leave that textbook stuff dry for the blades.

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