Motivating students to learn grammar can be tricky, but teaching it in context helps. As I teach grammar, there are five steps that I find helpful. One method that has worked well in my classroom is to integrate the five steps and God’s two books: the Bible and nature.
First is the lead-in. Students enter the class with many distractions from the outside world. We need to catch their attention and hook them on the topic. The lead-in is a good place to present a Bible story. The lead-in could involve showing a short film, performing a role play, or sharing stories, anecdotes, analogies, questions, or songs.
Second is elicitation. Eliciting means gathering as much information as possible from the students. We can gauge how much our students already know about the topic and how much time and effort we will need to put in. One of the most common approaches to elicit information is to ask questions. These can be direct questions or indirect questions, and time should be given for reflection before we select a student to respond.
The third is the presentation. This phase will focus on the grammar concepts being covered. The Bible provides many examples of figures of speech and parts of speech that can be useful for this. The examples can be sentences extracted from the parables of Jesus, the Beatitudes, the Ten Commandments or other biblical verses, depending on the target lesson.
It is not necessary for the teacher to give the presentation independently; a student volunteer can provide input or interaction. The teacher may put picture prompts on the board or show a Power Point presentation. Drawing timelines, arrows, and even using our fingers can be very useful to illustrate how to form the grammatical structure. Ideally, the presentation should guide students to relate the new structures to their prior knowledge and life experiences. The teacher can also use controlled practice to model examples of what to expect in the next stage.
The fourth step is connecting the grammar concepts to God’s book of nature. Students can do an activity like a scavenger hunt for adjectives, writing their impressions of what they see, or doing a walk filling in prepositions to describe their movements. They should follow the teacher’s instruction or models carefully. These activities can combine repetitive drills with the creativity and freedom that comes with being in nature.
The fifth step, communicative practice, allows students to smoothly transition from what they learned in class, to the actual application in real life situations. The students can answer questions about their reactions to the topic and the activity, using the things they have learned to compose their responses.
Getting students interested in grammar can be a challenge, but if we teach each stage focusing on creativity and variety, coupled with nature and Bible teachings as examples, we can increase the likelihood of engaging our students and encourage their understanding of God and of biblical truths as well.