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Grammar!

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by davi_theuk, Jun 5, 2011.

  1. davi_theuk

    davi_theuk New commenter

    Hello everyone,
    I am new in the UK education system. I have been in two local schools so far and noticed that pupils are not taught grammar. Is it everywhere like that, maybe it is different in private and grammar schools? I asked people who left schools 10-15 years ago, and they all said they used to learn grammar, but things changed since then.I also asked an MFL teacher, and she said "no, they do not learn grammar anymore in the UK". That is so weird!
     
  2. wordclass

    wordclass New commenter

    What do you mean by 'grammar'?
     
  3. davi_theuk

    davi_theuk New commenter

    I mean the set of rules.
    I mean pupils are not taught them. Teachers just gave a list of vocab e.g. "quand j'etais petit -when i was little", and asked to repeat one hundred times "j'etais petit, j'etais petit" but they did not explain that it was Imparfait and how it was formed. I asked why, and they said "no need, they don't learn grammar anymore".
     
  4. henriette

    henriette New commenter

    These observations do not in any way reflect the practise in my (ordinary 11-18 community comprehensive) school!

    Read this thread:
    https://community.tes.co.uk/forums/t/494013.aspx

     
  5. catmother

    catmother Lead commenter

    Never seen this happen. I don't think pupils get grammar in English but they certainly get some/a lot(depending on ability) in their ML classes.
     
  6. davi_theuk

    davi_theuk New commenter

  7. davi_theuk

    davi_theuk New commenter

    I see, I think it depends on school then? Is it up to teacher to choose if he wants to explain grammar or not?
     
  8. I've worked at a grammar school, an independent school, a 'good' comprehensive school and a 'really not so good' comprehensive school, and I've taught grammar in all of them (and so have my colleagues). I think that by and large, most MFL teachers teach grammar. That said, I know of a few teacher-training institutions that still send out the message to PGCE students that grammar isn't taught anymore, so maybe a few of them actually believe it...
     
  9. noemie

    noemie Occasional commenter

    It's a bit of both. You teach set phrases but teach grammar through them. In the sentence you gave "j'étais" is indeed imperfect, but not only is it irregular, it's also difficult to explain what the imperfect is in that context (in English you'd say "when I was little" not "when I used to be little"). So yes, in that particular situation, I might just give my pupils the set phrase rather than explaining the details. But I do teach an awful lot of grammar! [​IMG]
     
  10. davi_theuk

    davi_theuk New commenter

    Well, as for irregural verbs you just have to ask to learn them by heart, and as for "j''etais", it is an ongoing state of being in the past, so in French it requires Imparfait. That is how I explain it, seems to work. :)
     
  11. jubilee

    jubilee Lead commenter

    In my opinion there's not enough grammar input in the Primary sector as they are overloaded with other subjects. In my day, Lieracy and Numeracy were the prime focus in Junior school and certain subjects (Science and MFL, in particular) were not on the timetable until Secondary school.
    I knew all there is to know about apostrophe usage by the time I was 11 years old and was also schooled in correct preposition usage in English and could accurately identify verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs (not make guesses as today's pupils do!).
    There was a long period in MFL teacher training when, based on MFL graduates who had poor grammar knowledge, the Communicative Approach was king. I called it the Holiday Phrase Book Approach.
    There is also the argument that lower sets can't cope with explicit grammar but I've found that even very low-level pupils can make up their own sentences using the structure of verb tables.
    I'd have been bored stiff parrotting ready-made phrases and being unable to fast-track my MFL acquisition with grammar and pronunciation rules.
    I work on supply and whenever I come across an MFL language assistant I ask them what differences they notice between MFL lessons in the UK and the English tuition they had abroad. They all say that they were taught via grammar but it isn't done in the UK as the pupils they've come across don't understand grammar and even their English is full of errors!
    Even where grammar is used in MFL in the UK, pupils tend to get it in bite-sized chunks; they won't get the full verb in the Present tense , for instance, as that's too much information at one time. They get just the 1st person singular or, if they're top set, they might be considered capable of coping with the 1st, 2nd and 3rd persons singular!
    Teaching is alos done with a lot of prepared dialogues for role-play. Pupils don't have to work out how to compose the questions or answers; they simp[ly have to memorise the version supplied. There's no consideration for the fact that they might not get the rehearsed replies when talking to a native speaker and they won't understand the response as they can't deconstruct what they hear to work out the meaning, or even the gist.
     
  12. badra

    badra New commenter

    Well in the last school I was working, I was told to teach the expression "je voudrais etc as vocabulary , my head of department refused that we teach the grammar: conditional etc
     
  13. davi_theuk

    davi_theuk New commenter

    I saw same attitude so far, everything is taught as vocabulary.
     
  14. davi_theuk

    davi_theuk New commenter

    Jubilee, thank you for your answer, now I have an idea about what is going on and why!
     
  15. noemie

    noemie Occasional commenter

    But don't you see you're able to have it both ways? I teach "je voudrais" as an item of vocabulary to Y7 and Y8 (as this is when they go on a Normandy trip) because at that point the level of grammar I'm teaching them is regular present tense endings and feminine endings etc. When they get to Y9 or Y10 and they discover the conditional, that's when they put 2 and 2 together and realise that something they've known for a long time is in fact a different tense, and it sticks in their brains better because they have something to relate it to. It doesn't mean to say they don't do grammar - it's impossible in my view not to do grammar at some level (if you think of feminine and masculine endings, I defy anyone to find a school that doesn't teach it).
    And as for everything abroad being so wonderful, again I'd like to put my own experience across. I learned three foreign languages at secondary school in Switzerland and although it was indeed very grammar heavy, I also distinctly remember learning by heart whole sketches of Liselotte and Hans going in the forest to find mushrooms. So we also did rote-learning of set phrases (somehow I've never needed the "Pilze sammeln" one, but it's stuck in my brain!).
     
  16. jubilee

    jubilee Lead commenter

    There will tend to be more grammar input in schools that have a Sixth Form. They want their more able linguists to have a good grounding in grammar as otherwise they will struggle to cope with AS and A2.
    If the school is just 11-16 it won't be too worried about how the pupils will cope if they choose MFL at their next school or college. Thery're just interested in getting them to Grade C standard and that can be done by drilling phrases and memorising chunks of language for the 'Controlled' (ha!) Assessments. Any grammar input is grammar-lite.
    Things will only change when the exam boards do away with Controlled Assessments and bring back compulsory examinations for the writing element. That paper should have translation texts (both ways) and pupils will have to have learnt vocabulary and be able to manipulate verbs and tenses.
    I once taught in a 16-19 college where they offered Spanish GCSE, ab initio, on a one year course. Intensive grammar had to be used as the option was there for the high-flyers to complete the A level in the following year! The first year thus needed to get them past GCSE level.
    All students had previously studied French or German to GCSE level and had gained an A-C grade. This was in 2000/2001.
    I had covered the Present tense, regular and irregular, and moved on to the Future and Past tenses. Ony one student (out of 15) was at ease with the progression as she had been at a school with a 6th Form and had been taught via explicit grammar. Of the remainder, one student summed up their confusion:
    "Why does Spanish have tenses when no other language does?"

     
  17. noemie

    noemie Occasional commenter

    I'm going to print this of and put it on my office door, just brilliant!
     

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