Thursday, January 21, 2016

Grammar Experts

One of the myths about Comprehensible Input is that grammar is never taught. The truth of the matter is that grammar is indeed taught in a CI classroom (see my former post called Grammar is Not One of the Five C's), but it does not hold a preeminent position in the teaching of the language.  

For the past few years, I have been incorporating "grammar experts" into my classroom, whose sole purpose, like the title implies, is to serve as the "grammar experts" on particular forms. This is a take on Ben Slavic's student jobs, and for all I know, maybe the "grammar expert" is on his list - quite honestly, I do not know from whom I learned this or if I indeed just thought of the idea myself (so if you are the one who taught me this, please let me know so that i can give you proper credit). Regardless, I have found it incredibly useful.

The idea is quite simple: whenever I cover a new language structure, I assign a student to be the "expert" for that structure. The job is simply to shout a particular set answer to the class and to me whenever I ask for it during a 30-second grammar timeout in English. Here are some examples of my "grammar expert" jobs and their lines:
  • -BA- person - whenever I ask "What does -BA- mean in a verb?", this student yells out "was/were BLANKing"
  • -RE person - whenever I ask, "What does "-RE" mean at the end of this word?", this student yells out "-RE means "to BLANK"
  • VSUX person - whenever I ask, "What does this V (S, U, or X) tell me in this verb?", this student yells out "BLANKed"
  • -UR- person - whenever I ask, "What does this -UR- in the middle of the word translate as?", this student yells out "about to BLANK"
  1. Because these are done during a 30-second grammar timeout, it is done very quickly and does not take up too much time.
  2. It is actually a fun way to do a grammar timeout, because if I ask a question requiring a grammar expert to respond, heaven forbid that this student not respond quickly enough, because the class will immediately let that student know and in many instances will respond for that student!
  3. I am not the one always having to explain the structure but rather the grammar expert does with a quick line.
  4. I used to have grammar experts for the names of verb tenses and of noun cases but not any more, since I do not ask for tense names and noun cases too much. I do ask for word function (subject, verb, direct object) due to the inflected nature of Latin.
  5. It is a great way to foster community and a sense of belonging in the class. I have students BEGGING me to be the grammar expert for the next upcoming language structure, because they want to be able to shout out the grammar line to the class.

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