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The Necessity of Grammar

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Debates in class can help English learners practice a wide range of functions including agreeing and disagreeing, negotiating, collaboration with other students, and so on. Often students need help with ideas and that's where this lesson plan can help. Below you will find cues to the discussion concerning whether a keen grasp of English grammar is necessary to speak the language well.

This lesson plan is based on the idea that having students support opinions that are not necessarily their own during debates can help improve students fluency. In this manner, students pragmatically focus on correct production skills in conversation rather than striving to "win" the argument. For more information on this approach please see the following feature: Teaching Conversational Skills: Tips and Strategies

Of course, once students have become confident in their production skills, the can obviously argue the point they truly believe in.

Aim: Improve conversational skills when supporting a point of view

Activity: Debate concerning the necessity of concentrating on grammar - and not games, conversation, etc. - when learning English

Level: Intermediate

Outline:

  • Review language used when expressing opinions, disagreeing, making comments on other person's point of view, etc. (See work sheet).
  • Lead a short discussion asking the student's opinion on what they consider to be the most important aspects of learning English well.
  • Ask students to consider the following statement: The most important ingredient of learning English is Grammar. Playing games, discussing problems, and having a good time is important. However, if we don't focus on grammar it is all a waste of time.
  • Based on students' responses, divide groups up into two groups. One group arguing for the prime importance of learning grammar, one group for the idea that learning just grammar doesn't mean that you are able to use English effectively. Important: Make sure that groups are put into the group with the opposite opinion of what they seemed to believe in the warm-up conversation.
  • Give students worksheets including ideas pro and con. Have students develop arguments using the ideas on the worksheet as a springboard for further ideas and discussion.
  • Once students have prepared their opening arguments, begin with the debate. Each team has 5 minutes to present their principal ideas.
  • Have students prepare notes and make rebuttal to the expressed opinions.
  • While the debate is in progress, take notes on common errors made by the students.
  • At the end of debate, take time for a short focus on common mistakes. This is important, as students should not be too involved emotionally and therefore will be quite capable of recognizing language problems - as opposed to problems in beliefs!
First World Obligation

You are going to debate the correctness of the following statement:

The most important ingredient of learning English is Grammar. Playing games, discussing problems, and having a good time is important. However, if we don't focus on grammar it is all a waste of time.

It is important to remember that you have been placed in your group based on what seems to be the opposite of what you really think. Use the clues and ideas below to help you create an argument for your appointed point of view with your team members. Below you will find phrases and language helpful in expressing opinions, offering explanations and disagreeing.

Opinions, Preferences:

I think..., In my opinion..., I'd like to..., I'd rather..., I'd prefer..., The way I see it..., As far as I'm concerned..., If it were up to me..., I suppose..., I suspect that..., I'm pretty sure that..., It is fairly certain that..., I'm convinced that..., I honestly feel that, I strongly believe that..., Without a doubt,...,

Disagreeing:

I don't think that..., Don't you think it would be better..., I don't agree, I'd prefer..., Shouldn't we consider..., But what about..., I'm afraid I don't agree..., Frankly, I doubt if..., Let's face it, The truth of the matter is..., The problem with your point of view is that...

Giving Reasons and offering explanations: To start with, The reason why..., That's why..., For this reason..., That's the reason why..., Many people think...., Considering..., Allowing for the fact that..., When you consider that...

For the Importance of Focusing on Grammar

  • Without grammar, language doesn't exist.
  • How can I feel confident about using grammar if I don't understand the rules?
  • A solid knowledge of all the rules is necessary to speak a language well.
  • The best way to learn a language is practice, practice, practice the correct usage.
  • Good English means correct English.
  • Games do not promote learning, they promote having fun and nothing else.
  • Making mistakes reflect poor learning.
  • If we don't learn the rules we will not be able to improve our English when we are not attending English classes.

Communication Means More than Understanding Rules

  • Communication is possible even when we make mistakes
  • Understanding rules in my head doesn't mean that I can communicate.
  • There are many different styles of learning, some of which do not include "grammar banging".
  • The only thing that is important is that people can understand me and I can understand them.
  • Many native speakers make mistakes in grammar usage.
  • Doing grammar exercises all the time is boring and therefore leads to lack of attention.
  • Playing games is a great way to actually use the language - not just study it.
  • It is difficult to become fluent if the teacher interrupts me every 30 seconds to correct a grammar mistake.
  • Grammar is boring!

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