When I first started teaching, one of the things that frustrates me a lot is the students’ inability to make a simple correct sentence. Having said that, I was teaching extremely weak students so this is not something that every teacher would face. Nonetheless, I would like to share with all of u a little something that I came up with to overcome this issue. Now, I am not saying that this is it, the cure-all for every single grammar woe we have had the misfortune to encounter in our teaching career. This is at most, an experiment and an ongoing one at that but I supposed that is what teaching is all about at the end of the day.
With extremely weak students, I like to start things off with a lesson (or several lessons) on Nouns and Verbs. The reason why I chose these two word classes is because the most basic sentence in the English language is essentially just a combination of these two. For example, “Boy runs.” No, this is not the most sophisticated sentence there is out there but it IS a sentence and it is a CORRECT sentence and we are talking about kids with next-to-zero vocabulary.
Now, there are many ways with which we can teach the idea of Nouns and Verbs. Giving students simple everyday examples is a start. Teacher, student, table, chair, write, read, stand, sit; these are all things that a student would know, regardless of how weak their English is. They may not have the word for it but they would certainly be familiar with the concepts. Apart from that, we can have a typical but extremely helpful identify-the-noun/verb activity. Have a list of words and get students to circle or cross out either the nouns or the verbs. This is also great for expanding students’ vocabulary.
At this point, I also make the distinction between singular and plural nouns. This will help u when u start to teach more advance sentence structures that involve subject-verb agreement.
Again, this is not a foolproof strategy and realistically speaking, there is a limited amount of sentences that u can make using this method. However, I strongly believe that this could be a place to start. If u choose to give it a try, do leave a comment and let me know how it goes for u. Similarly, if u have any questions, u can also let me know in the comments or u can send me an email. Over time, I will be sharing more ideas on how I try to improve students’ grasp of grammar. Until then, take care!
***More on why I chose to teach nouns & verbs:
If u look closely, u will find that a lot of grammatical items (the different tenses, prepositions, adjectives etc) are actually just add-ons to the basic Noun+Verb structure. But because we are so used to using them (because we are fully fluent in the language), we expect the same from our students. We don’t realise how difficult it can be for the weaker students. More often that not, we try to teach too much within too short a period of time. Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t teach all the other grammatical items but for a start, I think we should focus on these two. Having students know the difference between nouns and verbs will go a long way in teaching them how to construct a proper sentence. All the rest of it can come later if and when the students are ready.