Teaching grammar can be a formidable task. There is a frightening aura around grammar that makes both students and teachers dread it alike! The dilemma for teachers is how to make their lessons engaging. For the students, grammar can be as intimidating as mathematics or chemistry – an overwhelming set of rules to memorise. The difficult-sounding words and phrases like the subject, predicate, and direct and indirect speech can be unnerving. (In fact, many teachers find this challenging! Check out our teacher’s guide to grammar here.)
In such a scenario, teaching grammar online is a double challenge. Grammar is all about putting across the core concepts of language usage. Direct instruction thus becomes very important. You cannot simply mail them the teaching material and make long, monotonous videos of you talking non-stop and explaining stuff to them. Rather, teaching grammar online requires a more innovative approach.
You must engage with your students and keep the classes as interactive as possible. The lack of an offline classroom shouldn’t become a roadblock. Instead, you should leverage the strengths of the online medium to deliver your students the best grammar lessons possible.
Here are a few tips for teaching grammar online effectively.
1. Throw in some drama
You must start your lesson with a bang. Capture the attention of your students with the creative use of sounds, graphics, songs, and other props.
You could start your online class with a dramatic introduction to the topic you choose to tackle. For example, if you are going to teach the students all about punctuation, start with you reading a paragraph like a speeding train, without any punctuation. Use some background music to add to the effect. By the time the paragraph is finished, the students will automatically understand that something is missing, and you can begin your lesson.
2. Make use of storytelling
Storytelling is a handy tool to teach grammar in a fun way. It can be especially useful if you are giving them pre-recorded video lessons.
Grammatical concepts can seem challenging and abstract if you are teaching them alone. However, if you create a scenario or story with characters and conflict, your students will respond with a greater degree of interest. For example, if you want to teach your class the usage of articles (a, an, and the), you could create an animated video with a character always messing up the article usage and another one fixing their errors. The storytelling element will keep the students interested in the lessons, and they will unconsciously learn the concept without even realising they are learning something.
3. Make use of grammar games
Utilising grammar games is one of the best strategies for teaching grammar online.
You could teach your students using fun grammar games designed by various online education platforms or design one yourself. Here’s a list from Education.com.
Create fun grammar games for students of all levels including assessment instruction narrative stories along with other dramatic elements like escape room challenges to improve their problem-solving and grammar application skills.
Utilising popular video game formats to create fun and exciting grammar games can spark students’ interest, too. A typical video game scenario involves the protagonist/superhero overcoming various obstacles, fighting challenges, and eventually emerging victorious. So think along those lines. Create a storyline with fun questions in each section, increasing the difficulty level gradually.
4. Teach grammar in the context of verbal and written speech
If you restrict yourself to teaching standalone grammar lessons, students will get bored. Grammar is like abstract theory; teaching it through application is more fun and exciting.
This can easily be done during your virtual classroom sessions on Zoom. Make students write on a topic, and then make them read the material to the whole group. Make them share screenshots of their writing, and ask other students to respond and fix the most glaring grammatical errors in their writing. You could also give students sentence formation exercises to help them understand basic concepts like present tense and past tense. They could share their responses via the Zoom group chat feature.
You could also make students read short passages and then ask them specific questions about the grammatical structure of the sentences, etc. The idea is to teach grammar in the context of writing and reading so that the students understand the application part at the outset.
5. Mix it up
Do not rely on merely one method of online teaching. Mix it up by combining pre-recorded video tutorials, live Zoom lessons, online newsletters, grammar podcasts, fun grammar quizzes, games, etc.
The idea is to take the best of each method and give your students a holistic learning experience. Your live teaching sessions via Zoom or Google Meet should be just a part of the whole strategy. There is a limit to one’s online attention span. If you overdo the live teaching lessons, your students will begin to lose interest.
Therefore, you must also give them ample access to pre-recorded grammar lessons so they can conveniently go over these in their spare time. Give them access to notes and everything else through email
The idea is to motivate the students to embark on a self-learning spree. Online teaching can be a great way to encourage students to do their bit of online research and expand their understanding of core grammar concepts.
6. Keep the live lessons short
Classroom interactions are different. You can keep your students engaged even during a long lecture. However, it’s hard for students to sit at a stretch for a long Zoom session.
Try to keep your live grammar lessons between 30 to 40 minutes. It’s best to cover just one topic per lesson and keep it simple. Take one core grammar concept, briefly explain it to them and then involve the students in writing and speaking exercises to further their understanding.
A good strategy is to email them your class notes in advance so that they know what you are talking about. You won’t have to spend a long time explaining them. Rather, you can utilise that time to give them hands-on tasks.
Grammar is a heavy subject. One needs a lot of practice and consistency to master the grammar of any language. If you try cramming in too much in one live session, your students will get confused. So keep it simple and concise.