No math teacher would try to teach math without using math terminology, right? So why don’t grammar teachers teach grammar vocabulary by using it right from the start? You’re not teaching little kids. Your students already have quite a few tools in their kit and can use what they already know about their own language when learning English. The thing is, they also need the words to TALK about learning English, especially grammar vocabulary words. And here’s a secret–if you aren’t teaching them because you don’t know them, learning them will make your life easier!
I never needed grammar vocabulary to speak English, so why do my students?
This is such a common belief. Just because we never learned grammar terminology or don’t use it in our day-to-day lives doesn’t mean it wouldn’t benefit our students. They might not know the corresponding terms in their language, but having words in common to discuss rules makes sense. Here’s the thing: your students aren’t learning English as babies. They’re full-grown adults, and adults have questions. Adults are going to ask you why. Just like you would struggle to adequately explain to them why we have seasons without using specialized vocabulary, you’re going to find explaining the passive voice, the imperative mood, or the past perfect tense a challenge without grammar vocabulary. Don’t worry; it’s a relatively easy fix.
Imagine quickly and concisely explaining a high-level grammar concept.
It’s not always going to be explaining that a noun is a person, place, or thing. Even if you only teach beginners, please–teach them the terms. When students know the terms for the easier grammar concepts, they will learn the higher-level concepts with greater ease than if they never learned them. Ever tried to explain why a past participle is necessary for a passive voice sentence to a student who didn’t know what a noun, verb, object, subject, or preposition was? I still remember the frustration–the student’s and mine. If his previous teachers had been teaching him grammar vocabulary from the beginning, he’d have a structure in place to easily understand an explanation to answer his question of “Why is this sentence wrong?” Avoiding this type of situation is EASY when we take the time to lay a solid foundation before building the framework for a second floor.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, but that’s why it lasted.
I don’t have a quick solution for you. It IS going to take time and work for both you and your students. Where do you start? Start with finding out what they do already know. Fill in any gaps they have from the absolute basics to the grammar level they are currently learning. While doing so, you’ll likely also identify many misconceptions and pave the way for some major Aha! moments. And yes, this will take time, but it’s going to set up the framework for faster and more accurate learning from now on.
What if you don’t understand all the terms? Well, this is your chance to get a step ahead of your students and STAY THERE. Start with a list of common grammar vocabulary terms and rate them from having confidence in explaining them to not having a clue what they are. This will show you where YOU are and give you an idea of what you need to learn so you can teach your students. Then, have your students rate the same list of words. Now you’ll know where they stand and where you need to take them.
So what now?
Grammar class doesn’t have to be that thing you dread when you wake up in the morning. By teaching your students the words they need to use when talking about grammar, teaching it will be so much easier! Need something lighter in the meantime? Read Three Vocabulary Games Your Students Will Love, but don’t forget to grab that free list of grammar vocabulary words before you go!