Four Tips for Dancing through the Constant Shifts in Grammar

Dance and Shift over the Cracks or Fall Through

Shifting on Grammar

Have you ever tried to walk on logs that are floating down a river? Each universal skill in English is like one of these logs and we are constantly shifting from one log to another. If you cannot instantly dance from one to another you will fall through or lose your balance. Why not tie some of the logs together like a raft! Perhaps it would be easier dancing from raft to raft than from log to log. 

A raft of concepts

Anything you can say or write in English is part of a core skill equivalent to one floating log. Each log maintains its integrity and rules. But the logs are all somewhat different from each other as well. They are related in some ways and different in others. Our students must constantly shift from one to another, while correctly implementing these differences. Tying concepts together in bunches is like creating some small and some large rafts. 

Some universal skills which must be mastered are used in all languages so these can be tied together and given extra practice. Place logs in groups. The mind forms logical connections and associates these with each other. It will no longer see them as one floating sea of pieces impossible to sort out.  

Grammar–a sea of logs

ALL LANGUAGES SHARE THESE UNIVERSAL NEEDS THAT FORM A BUNDLE                                                           

  • 1. Affirmative statements
  • 2. Negative statements
  • 3. Questions
  • 4. Commands
  • 5. Exclamations

Each one of these functions in its own way but students may need to use one function right after another. When you are dancing from one to the other, each move will be different from the last so don’t lose your balance since these universal skills will always be needed.

They’re the ones your students must master; shift among them as they’ll never go away!  

TIP ONE–The Objector
This is in the category of a debate or a conflictive situation or a situation where there are very different opinions. Your students will be prompted to disagree over certain topics or opinions. It can also be one student 

Yes it is! No it isn’t!

giving a presentation and the class can be divided into teams. One team will support and agree with the presenter and the other team will disagree. This kind of practice will take the affirmative and the negative and create a grammatical bond between them. It’s a different take on a debate. 

TIP TWO–the Interrogator
In this category you can create an interview with a witness to a certain event or happening. This can be done in groups with a minimum of two per group because the main purpose is to use your question and answer skills. 

Where were you going?

Most material in text books includes descriptive narrations so creating situations for question and answer is very important because asking questions accurately in English is a core skill which students around the world are failing to do correctly. It requires a lot of monitored practice until students become experts at asking and answering questions accurately. Negatives and affirmatives will be practiced with the questions and answers.

TIP THREE: The Dictatorship

      Do as I say

This category allows for lots of fun situations. With one dictator and his/her helpers. Commands can be practiced as well as consent (and objections) to these commands. For beginners it offers TPR (total physical response) where students can prove their comprehension before they have to perform in the language. The objections to the commands offer more negative and affirmative constructions. 

TIP FOUR: The awe Inspired
This category is for creating incredible events that are awe inspiring. With this category a lot of exclamations can be uttered. it is a time for being surprised or overwhelmed with things which create exclamations, wonder, pride and disbelief. One event can be practiced or described. And the students can participate by creating statements of surprise. These can also be negative and positive. 

This was amazing

For native speakers this shift is always happening naturally and automatically. But for speakers of other languages it is unpredictable. Practice is the only option. So by creating these situations there is a chance of overlapping the skills. The class can be divided into four groups and each group can create one of the four situations. 

This is beginning to form rafts with your individual logs so it is a life saving approach that helps students organize their ideas into small groups where the basic universal language skills are all included.

Note the negative/affirmative tying the logs together as is a safety raft.

When students are overwhelmed by too much acquisition at the same time the task seems hopeless. As a teacher, you don’t want that to happen.  This problem is particularly bad when it happens with advanced students. Teachers feel the students have been through it all, have seen it all, have mastered it all. So why can’t they shift from one thing to another correctly?

I believe however that it is possible to make corrections and adjustments to enable students to shift without tumbling or falling through the cracks. Ideally shifting should start from the very beginning of L2 learning since you can be sure it will continue to happen throughout the language journey.

In our eagerness to give the students all the material we want them to acquire, could we be throwing an indiscriminate number of logs at them at the same time? Though each log is simple, it has its own learning curve. They may be able to handle one simple thing but with too many happening at the same time, things will become chaotic. So even if you are building small rafts one log at a time, mastery of each log can be the first step in tying them together into groups. If one log or a group of logs hasn’t been acquired to the point of mastery, how can we expect students to shift among them? 

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