Teaching Grammar to ESL & ELL Students

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Teaching grammar to ESL and ELL students has always been and will always be a challenge. ESL grammar lessons may seem boring to some students, but the key task of an ESL teacher is to turn those lessons into exciting experiences. In this article, we are going to find out how to make the students’ eyes light up with joy when they participate in your ESL grammar classes.

First, we’ll give some basic ELL grammar tips.

When teaching grammar to English language learners, pay attention to the following aspects:

Context

No one can teach grammar without context, so your grammar exercises should contain as much context as possible.

Topics

Break down your ESL grammar classes into separate topics that are related to day-to-day life. Such relations will help your students memorize the complex grammar structures.

Incorporation

Incorporate grammar exercises in all learning activities, be it reading, speaking, writing, or listening comprehension. Now let’s find out how you can teach ELL grammar in a fun and engaging way.

Learning Verb Tenses

English verb tenses seem to be hard to understand at first glance. However, a creative approach to learning the tenses can help your students dot the i’s and cross the t’s in their heads quickly and easily. Here are some techniques:

Study Biographies

You can encourage the learners to remember different facts from the biographies of celebrities or historic figures. Prepare exercises that will help your students figure out what has happened recently or some time ago, or which important event occurred before some other events. As a result, your students will have to memorize the past simple, present perfect and past perfect tenses.

Play Ball Games

To practice the tense forms of regular and irregular verbs, you can play a ball game. Gather your students in a circle, name a verb and throw a ball to random students who should then name the past, present and future tenses of this verb.

Play Charades

Charades games are a perfect way to study continuous tenses when teaching grammar to English language learners. You or your students should use gestures and mimics to show specific activities, and other students should guess these activities by using the present continuous tense. For example, “You are driving a car.” To practice past continuous, you can refresh all those activities with your students after the game, for example, “Mary was driving a car.”

Watch Movies or Cartoons

Watch a movie or a cartoon with your class and discuss it afterwards by using only the past tenses.

Learning Definite and Indefinite Articles

esl grammar The native languages of some ESL students may have no articles at all. Therefore, it’s important to explain this new concept to them in a way that is both informative and entertaining. Here are some tips:

Storytelling

If you are teaching grammar ESL to young students, start telling a story or tale. Use indefinite articles in the first sentence, and then encourage the students to continue this story one by one, using both types of articles – “a/an” and “the”. For example, you say, “Once upon a time, there was a little girl.” One of the ELL grammar students says, “The little girl lived with her parents in a house.” The next student says, “The house stood in a forest,” and so on. This way, your students can understand the differences between definite and indefinite articles, i.e. we use “a” the first time we talk about something and “the” the next time.

Describing Pictures

The working principle here is the same as with storytelling, but this time the students need to describe a picture or a set of pictures. This activity is suitable for younger students who haven’t studied the past tenses yet, so they can use present tenses to describe the pictures. For example, “I see a little girl.” “The little girl visits a grandmother.” “The grandmother lives in a forest.”

World Map

You can use a world map game to help your students memorize which country names need “the” and which countries do not need it. For example, you show a country on a map, and the students should name it correctly, such as “the United States of America” or “Germany”. You can also practice this with some city names, such as “The Hague.”

Learning Passive Voice

Voices represent another difficult topic in English grammar for ESL students. However, it’s possible to learn the passive voice in an active way, and here’s how:

Inventions Game

Ask your students to remember inventions that are important for humanity or, even better, show them a movie about such inventions. Afterwards, encourage them to speak about those inventions by using the passive voice. For example, “The light bulb was invented by Thomas Edison.”

Memory Game

Arrange different objects in a specific way and ask your students to remember this arrangement. Then tell them to close their eyes and rearrange the objects. When the students open their eyes, they should tell what has changed by using the passive constructions. For example, “A pen was removed.” We hope that tips and games presented in this article will help you liven up your ESL grammar lessons. Good luck as you teach english online from home by becoming a teacher with VIPKid or teach English to kids in a more traditional classroom setting.

39 COMMENTS

  1. Greetings!

    I think that these ideas are *fantastic* …except that they would work better in B&M classrooms. I would love to have them watch a cartoon or movie, but at 1 minute/slide, there’s hardly time in a 25 minute class to get through the slides let alone squeeze in “read a biography!”

    This is good information, though, even if not very practical for the VIPKID platform. 😉

  2. I also like to have children describe themselves and their partners. It works for the article “a,” body/face parts, and building more complex descriptions, as in : I have a nose. I have a small/pointy/etc.nose. And on.. I have a dainty nose, but I prefer my…

  3. These cannot be used with VIPKiD online teaching. The slides to cover take up so much time is nearly impossible to extend to this extent. Good tips for a traditional classroom setting.

  4. These are great ideas for ESL classroom where you have both time and proximity to your students. I would love to see more ideas about how to help students with these concepts in the 2D platform. Thanks for the ideas!!

  5. Good ideas, However they do not work for a short 25 min class online, I have a hard time waiting on my students to answer few seconds, as between me explaining and him or her reading, and still waiting for them to answer that is more than a 1 min a slide already, difficult to extend with 5 min between classes, I feel guilty a lot of times as I feel my student needs more, and I can give much more, but I have no time for it.

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