To Teach, or Not To Teach Grammar?

For a long time, grammar was not taught in secondary schools in Australia. It was believed that grammar instruction was unnecessary as students would acquire the grammar rules automatically. According to the Australian Curriculum, teachers now have to teach several rules during secondary school. However, these teachers often never had a grammar lesson in their lives. Therefore, grammar lessons are still not often done in Australian secondary schools. 

Whenever a student hears ‘grammar’, they are already switched off. Grammar has gotten the reputation of being boring, overdone and useless. I remember that I had to memorise all the English grammar rules or the declension tables of Latin. It was not a very thrilling time in school, but in the end very helpful to understand languages better.

I do understand the importance of grammar. Some linguists say that teaching grammar will not improve students’ writing. However, I strongly believe that students that do not have a talent for acquiring language benefit from grammar instruction to subjectively edit their own texts. Additionally, every student will benefit from knowing the metalanguage of grammar when they want to study any additional languages.

Inductive versus Deductive Approach
When teaching grammar, a teacher has two choices. You can choose an inductive approach in which you will give your students the rules and then the students will practise them in staged circumstances. This approach is time efficient. However, not very engaging for the students. 

The opposite of an inductive approach is the deductive approach. In this approach, you will hand the students several outcomes and the students have to deduce the rule. This approach will be time-consuming, but students will be more engaged. As they are creating their “own” rules, students will also remember the rules better, which will eventually increase their results. 

I do understand that grammar will never become a loved subject in Australian English Classes, but some grammar rules will never be acquired through listening and reading. Some rules have emerged to clarify homonyms such as “their”, “they’re” and “there” or “two”, “to” and “too”. With the students reading more social media and less qualitative texts, I see an increasing dependence on grammar classes to improve our students’ accuracy.

Additionally, I do hope that students will understand that writing accurately is important for achieving certain goals in life. A cover letter with no errors will always be preferred over a letter containing grammatical errors. In order to increase our students’ success in life, we need to teach them the things they do not acquire.

© Kirsten Bos, Miss Bos, 2017


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