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March 16, 2007

Q and A- Grammar Insecurities

Hello Readers,

This month's question is from the ESL Employment's forum over on www.eslemployment.com. The question is:

...I have been teaching for 4 months and loving it, but I find that I am having some trouble with a few students as I sometimes do not have all the answers or cannot clarify all grammar questions on the spot. I actually have a student who seems to have made it his mission to point out all my mistakes by ...

...rolling his eyes, sighing and elbowing the other students around him when I fumble. In all my other classes I have been able to laugh at myself and use my mistakes to show students that even teachers are human and move on, but this particular student is making me insecure. I have been trying to stick to my lesson plans religiously and preparing for grammar issues. Can anyone relate or give me some advice? I would appreciate any feedback!
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Answer:

I had the same kinds of problems when I first started teaching. It's one thing to know how to use grammar correctly, and another to explain why you use it in the way that you do.

If laughing off your mistakes to show your students that even teachers make mistakes doesn't work (it didn't in China), then here are some other things that you can do:

1. Prepare fully for each lesson by looking up the grammar points you're going to go over so that you can teach the students "the rules". A good book for this is Michael Swan's "Practical English Usage".

2. If a student asks you a question that you don't know how to answer, ask the other students if they can answer the question (but don't tell them that you don't know)

3. ...or... bring your grammar bible to school and have the student look it up for him/herself

4. ...or... ask the students to answer the question for homework (so that you can look it up later and so that they can hypothesize about the question themselves)

5. ...or... make it into a game- split the students into groups and have them answer the question, make a sample sentence using the grammar point, etc. Meanwhile, look it up in your grammar book (you may even want to excuse yourself for a moment so that they don't see you looking up the answer!)

If it's important that students feel that you know everything in order for them to respect you and listen to you as a teacher, then you might have to try to feed them that image. That doesn't mean you suddenly need to become an expert on English grammar, but getting a few good resources and studying up on the matter will only make you more confident in the classroom... so why not?

Good luck!

Carol Rueckert
Writer, ESL Lesson Plan
E-mail: crueckert@eslemployment.com
Blog: www.esl-lesson-plan.com

"I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand." - Chinese Proverb

*To read more ESL Questions and Answers, please click HERE!

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About the author of this entry:
Carol, a native English-speaker who hails from the small town of St. Joseph in Minnesota, USA, and lived and worked in China for more than 7 years. During that time, she worked with students that range in age from three to more than sixty years old. She worked in universities, private language schools, grade schools, international schools, as well as private tutoring. Besides teaching, she also worked as a head teacher, an education manager, and a material development manager. In addition to working on this newsletter, she currently writes a monthly column for Time Out Beijing. Carol is also currently working on her MA in TESOL at the Oxford Brookes University in England. Look for her posts on the ESL-Jobs-Forum discussion boards!

Posted by crueckert at March 16, 2007 06:00 AM

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