When you first start teaching, EFL grammar is often intimidating. It seems opaque and difficult to understand. If it’s difficult for you, how much more difficult must it be for your students? Fear not! With the right ESL grammar lesson plans, you can make any topic manageable — and even fun!
How do you teach grammar classes in ESL?
Use these five tips to make your class go as smoothly as it can. Once you’ve got these basic ideas in mind, you’ll be ready to move toward creating well-organized ESL grammar lesson plans in the future.
How do I start teaching English grammar to beginners?
Nervous about teaching basic grammar concepts to beginners? Consider these tips:
What are the components of an ESL lesson plan for teaching grammar?
Below, you’ll find the key components that your ESL grammar lesson plans should all have. Let’s do a quick breakdown here, and if you want more information you can take a Specialized TEFL/TESOL Certificate Course in Teaching English Grammar.
Great grammar lesson plans are…
Take into account the age, culture, skill, and background of your students. Don’t choose to make a lesson plan that uses children’s songs for a Business English course, for example. You need to make sure that you don’t offend students or put them off the grammar lesson by providing materials that they won’t connect with. Take the time to address this by making your ESL lesson objectives strong and appropriate.
Make sure that you know what the students will need to use the grammar for. The point of most ESL/EFL teaching is to make sure that the students are able to communicate effectively in English, but a business student and middle schooler will have different reasons for learning. Spend time asking students why they are learning English and what they plan to use their knowledge for in the future so that the grammar you teach will be relevant to their needs.
Use a generalized structure to guide your lesson planning for grammar in ESL. You’ll probably develop your own effective ways to structure your lesson plans, but in general, experts recommend the following flow:
presentation of the new grammar → guided or structured practice → student-led activities with the new grammar
You’ll be able to produce solid ESL grammar lessons more consistently once you establish your progressive template. It will also make your planning process more automatic, saving you time!
So, you want students to “understand” the present perfect, right? How exactly will you know when they’ve mastered it? Will you commit the common EFL newbie error of asking aloud, “Do you understand?” (Chances are, true or not, learners will say “yes” because of social pressure, even when they don’t understand.)
Instead, use your lesson plans to set yourself up for success by writing clear, quantifiable lesson objectives. Use this formula:
“By the end of the lesson/unit/week, learners will be able to…”
End the sentence with a clear goal, such as “identify at least five past participles in English.” Use this as a way to show yourself (and the learners) that they can master each step and move forward, building their grammar knowledge as they go.
DON’T: Say to the learners, “Memorize this list of verbs over the next ten minutes.”
DO: Tell the learners that they have five minutes to look at a list of verbs, but then you’ll be taking the list away while you use those verbs in a game.
The slight shift from rote learning to competitive memory game is subtle, but it’s important. You want the students to enjoy the grammar lesson, and you need to sometimes “trick” them into learning.
Example grammar lesson plan
Let’s get down to a sample grammar lesson plan now. This plan uses teaching regular verbs in the past tense as an example, but it could be adapted for almost any grammar point. Keep an eye out for the five components of a successful ESL grammar lesson plan that we talked about above. Can you spot them all?
Regular Past Tense Verbs
40-minute lesson, A1 CEFR level, primary school-aged students
Lesson Objective: By the end of this lesson, students will be able to use three regular past tense verbs in a sentence of their own creation. Students will also be able to explain how to form the past tense with -ed and -d in English.
Investigation (5 minutes): Display a PowerPoint slide with various verbs in the present tense, or write several verbs on the board. Use only verbs that are regular in the past tense (avoid irregular verbs like go, be, etc.). Students should work in pairs to figure out what is the same about all of the words. They can write their ideas down. Set a timer for two minutes, then share ideas as a class. (This is what is known as think-pair-share, or TPS, sequencing.)
Presentation (10 minutes): Once it’s established that all of these words are verbs, talk about what verbs do (i.e., verbs are actions). Switch students’ partners, and put a few examples of sentences with the verbs on the board. Then, have students create their own sentences in pairs. The teacher monitors and notes several good or incorrect sentences to share with the class later.
Student pairs can share their sentences with other pairs, and then the teacher can put a few sentences the students came up with on the board. Review any issues with verb agreement or present tense. Using the sentences on the board, demonstrate how to transform the verbs into the past tense. Can the students change the remaining 2-3 sentences on the board on their own? Guide them.
Identify the formula for making the regular past tense in English:
Verb+ed = past tense
Verb with e + d = past tense
Verb with y – y + ied = past tense
Drill the above formula with the students, and ask comprehension checking questions. Talk about situations in which the past tense is used, letting students lead the discussion as much as possible.
Guided Practice (10 minutes): Use a simple song with a lyric gap-fill exercise. Remember that you must only use verbs that are in the past tense and that are regular! Play the song, and have the students read along in small groups. Set up a competition to see who can listen to the song and fill in the blanks correctly the fastest. Ask instruction checking questions, then play the song twice. Set a timer, and encourage the student groups to guess the missing words if they didn’t hear them. Mistakes are okay!
If time allows, have the groups switch papers to correct their answers.
Review and Error Correction (5 minutes): Using the verbs from the song as examples, give a few incorrect past tense sentences. Say these out loud and have the learners correct you. If necessary, provide written sentences on the whiteboard or virtual board with the incorrect verbs crossed out (i.e., I
walk to the store. → I walked to the store.). Ask comprehension checking questions.
Student-Led Production (10 minutes): Display pictures that tell a story, and go over the story with the students. Now, the students will write their own stories using pictures. It will be a little bit tricky to keep things in the realm of regular past tense verbs, so elicit a list of 5-10 verbs to use with the learners. Write these on the board, and briefly review the formula for the past tense in English that you discussed previously. In small groups or pairs, students should create a story with complete, past tense sentences and pictures. Set a timer. If you want to make it competitive, announce that the funniest story wins.
Swap stories and have the learners read their peers’ stories out loud. Vote on the funniest one!
Where can I find more grammar lesson plans?
For more ideas and strategies when it comes to creating ESL lesson plans, consider taking a Specialized Teaching English Grammar course that will provide you with the necessary skills, as well as inspiration for the classroom. After taking a grammar course, you’ll be well prepared to create a lesson plan for English grammar.
There are also a ton of great free ESL lesson plans on the Internet. If you’re not sure where to look, start by checking out the following websites:
It’s easy to teach grammar in ESL if you have a good lesson plan structure. Remember to include all of the five components we discussed, and your students will be learning grammar and having fun in no time!