4 Tips for Improving Grammar Learning

4 Tips for Improving Grammar Learning: What the research says


In a recent Journal of Neuroscience article, scientists tested people’s ability to learn and to notice differences in a stream of input (much like learning to distinguish Past Simple and Present Perfect). Some participants practiced extensively and improved. Others alternated shorter practice sessions with receptive tasks and improved just as much.

The conclusion?
Repeated practice is effective, but it can be tedious and is difficult to maintain over a period of years. It is better to mix up productive and receptive practice as much as possible. …

How you can use this in your classroom
To put it simply: give students as many chances as possible to notice the target grammar
in as many contexts as possible. Some specific tips:


  1. Make the most of introductory texts. Create reading comprehension
    questions that require students to analyze the target grammar even
    before the main part of the lesson.
  2. More opportunities to read shorter texts. One great example is an
    editing exercise in which students have to find common errors with the
    day’s grammar. Alternatively, students can review each
    other’s (anonymous) writing for grammar mistakes.
  3. Listening for every grammar point. If you just do reading texts, that’s
    going to get boring too. Put the grammar into a listening text as well,
    and give your students an opportunity to notice it in what they hear.
  4. Lots of communicative tasks. One great thing about communicative
    activities is that they require learners to understand what someone
    else says before they can take part. Don’t limit your students to a
    single larger communicative exercise at the end of the lesson, but mix
    speaking in at every step.

You don’t have to design all this yourself
Focus on Grammar, the most popular contextualized
grammar series in the world, already includes all of the exercises
described above for every single grammar point. Read
about this series and check out sample units online.

Wright, B. A., Sabin, A. T., Zhang, Y., Marrone, N., & Fitzgerald,
M. B. (2010) “Enhancing perceptual learning by combining practice with
additional sensory stimulation.” Journal
of Neuroscience,
30(38) pp. 12868-12877.




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