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Grammar Instruction with a Proficiency-Based Spin

My Experience

Like many of us, my language education was more so focused on grammar, writing and accuracy than speaking, proficiency and communication. Grammar-focused language classes were the go-to method at the time, but we have seen a major shift in recent years to prioritize communication over accuracy and conjugation. 

As a new teacher having just completed a Master’s/Teacher Ed program that heavily emphasized comprehensible input, language proficiency and real-world based language tasks, I found myself with a job at my former high school (exciting!) that still utilized the bland, grammar-based textbooks I had as a student (not so exciting!). I felt conflicted. Do I teach my students the way I was just prepared to teach or save myself a whole lot of prep time and utilize the grammar-based curriculum provided to me? 

To "Grammar" or not to "Grammar?"

This will vary greatly from state to state, district to district and, sometimes, school to school or teacher to teacher! We all have different styles and expectations placed upon us, so it’s important to take that into consideration as you find the best fit for you and your students. 

Because I did need to meet the expectations of my department and district, I had to find a way to balance the two methods. Still teach grammar, but make it as communicative as possible. Still follow the provided units, but create an environment that encouraged real-world use of the target words and structures. It wasn’t always perfect, but it made me feel like I was doing justice to both my students’ learning and my employer’s expectations.

My 5-Step Process for Grammar Instruction

While overwhelming at first, I began to develop a process of teaching my students grammar with a communicative spin. It became a routine for me that seemed balanced enough for all the expectations I felt pressured to meet. Below are my steps and some examples of what each one looks like:

1. Input as Intro

To start off my lesson, I provide students written and/or verbal input of the target structure. I sometimes use PQA (personalized questioning and answering) to allow for ample input or have students read sample sentences and discuss/analyze their observations. My goal is for students to see the PURPOSE of the target structure before learning the details.

2. Technical Instruction

Next, I display and discuss through several slides focused on the technicalities of the topic (think, your traditional grammar lesson). While some may avoid the direct instruction of grammar at all costs, I include it because 1) it was part of the curriculum I had to teach and 2) I actually feel it’s helpful to some students to learn this way as well. Why not provide variety to better target more of your learners’ learning styles?!

3. Scaffolded Practice

After the technical instruction, I provide a variety of scaffolded practice activities. These often include whiteboard writing practice for a quick overview of student understanding and/or partner Q/A practice with supporting vocabulary/phrases to guide student conversations.

4. Formative Check-In

I love love love Google Forms for formative checks and practices! These are great because you can set them to auto-grade so that you and students both receive immediate feedback! I love using these as a brief exit-ticket after learning a new concept so students have a space to ask questions they may have hesitated to ask in class.

5. Extra Practice & Support as Needed

Based on the formative check-in and questions submitted, I may review/reteach a topic as needed and will always provide additional practice activities that encourage students to USE the target structure as much as possible (ie. paired interviews or ¡A Charlar! question cards). Digital review slides, like those shown here, are also a great option for independent work or a sub plan!

Try it out with your students!

Curious to try these ideas out with your students? I have some readymade grammar support lessons and activity bundles that incorporate all of the 5 steps mentioned above on a variety of topics! Check the out below!

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Meet Kristen Photo

¡Hola! I’m Kristen, the teacher-author behind La Profe Digital. I design Spanish teaching resources rooted in culture, communication and authentic resources to help save YOU time!

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