Top Strategies for Teaching Grammar to English Language Learners - BridgeUniverse - TEFL Blog, News, Tips & Resources (2023)

By Shelynn Riel
June 24, 2022

Top Strategies for Teaching Grammar to English Language Learners - BridgeUniverse - TEFL Blog, News, Tips & Resources (1)

Teaching grammar is an essential aspect of your role as a language teacher. Your students rely on you to provide them with the tools necessary to engage in conversations with others, and grammatical structures take up much of the linguistic toolbox. But teaching English grammar can seem like a daunting task, perhaps even a little dry, especially when you’ve been doing it for years. Maybe it’s time to breathe a bit of new life into your lessons with these strategies for teaching grammar to English language learners!

If you’re new to teaching, you’ll want to get initial training and qualification with a TEFL certificate. You can explore our online TEFL courses to get started!

Table of Contents

Strategies for teaching grammar to young learners

If there’s anything that can be said with certainty, it’s that young learners need constant stimulation to sustain engagement. Here are some ideas to fulfill this need when teaching English grammar.

Incorporate songs

Have you ever gotten a song stuck in your head that you couldn’t seem to shake for hours, perhaps even days? Take advantage of your students’ innate musical memory and use songs for teaching English grammar. If you’re teaching the simple tenses, you might use “The Tenses Song (Past, Present, and Future)” to lay a foundation for when to use these tenses.

Alternatively, you could be bold and create your own jingles that reinforce the grammatical structures you’re examining.

The following might be performed by splitting the class into two groups, having one group begin and the other respond:

A: Peter maked his bed?
B: Peter made his bed.
A: Peter goed to the market?
B: Peter went to the market.
A: Peter eated pizza for dinner?
B: Peter ate pizza for dinner.
All: What a great day Peter had!

After one round, students can switch roles. You can create a catchy melody or pair it with that of a well-known song.

Check out more strategies for incorporating ESL songs into your grammar lessons!

Integrate opportunities for play

Incorporating games into grammar instruction can be incredibly effective and engaging. You can use games to introduce new structures or reinforce what you’ve just examined, or both! Consider games, like Board Race, that utilize TPR (Total Physical Response) to aid in retention and burn a bit of extra energy.

To play Board Race with a grammar twist:

  • Divide your students into small groups and have them congregate in different corners of the room.
  • Place index cards with clearly-written past tense irregular verbs in a common space, with equidistance from each of the groups.
  • Say a word out loud in the present tense, and have students chat with their peers to figure out what past tense verb they need to locate on the board.
  • Have students send one representative to the board to grab the word before the other teams do.

Make this silly (and slow down the pace) by having students move in different ways, such as bear-crawling, skipping, or swimming through the air.

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Check out these effective ESL games and activities!

Pair visuals with communicative opportunities

Visuals can serve as wonderful aids to teach English grammar, spelling out rules for students explicitly (deductive teaching) or demonstrating the use of a particular structure in context and asking students to notice structures and draw their own conclusions about the rules (inductive teaching).

If you’re using a deductive approach, you might show your students a simple chart with two columns for the simple present and the simple past tenses. You’d explicitly tell students that when a verb is regular in the present tense, you simply add an -ed (or just the -d, if the base form ends in ‘e’) to make it past tense.

On the other hand, an inductive approach might be that you showcase sets of images with short sentences underneath narrating what’s happening in the images. For example, the first picture in a set might show little Sara sitting contentedly with a scoop of ice cream, with the subtitle “Sara likes ice cream.” The second picture in the set might show little Sara again, this time with ice cream all over her face and an empty bowl. She has a satisfied grin on her face and the subtitle reads “Sara liked her ice cream a lot.” Students would see that the past tense is indicated by the -ed ending (and the empty bowl).

But why stop there? Give students an opportunity to explore the language and solidify their understanding with communicative activities.

  • Instead of giving the students the descriptive subtitles for the images, have them create their own. What’s happening in the picture? What kind of ice cream did Sara eat? Where did she eat it, and with whom?
  • Have students create questions for each other that use the target language. Have them move around the room and learn more about their peers, and then report their findings in a culminating discussion.
  • Engage the students in group storytelling. Have them sit in a circle and remind them of the language you want them to use, and let their imaginations run wild! Have one student start the story (“Once upon a time…”) and have another student add on to that idea, continuing until everyone has contributed. If your students are able to work autonomously, break them into smaller groups instead.
Top Strategies for Teaching Grammar to English Language Learners - BridgeUniverse - TEFL Blog, News, Tips & Resources (2)

Not only do these extension activities afford more practice for the students, but they give you a chance to notice output trends, offer corrective feedback in the moment, and keep the students engaged.

Earn Specialized Certification in Teaching English Grammar to master these and other teaching methods and strategies.

Strategies for teaching grammar to teens and adults

Teaching grammar to teens and adults comes with its own set of challenges that we have to be aware of, like attitudes about grammar in general and interference from other languages they already speak, but teaching grammar to older students also presents the opportunity to capitalize on higher-order thinking skills and cognition.

Meet them where they are

Spend time getting to know where your students are. What previous knowledge do they have when it comes to the grammatical structure you’re introducing? How effective are they in using it already? Knowing that your students’ experience is likely varied, create opportunities for you to conduct informal needs assessments and gather qualitative data, and then build from there.

  • Take a few minutes to sit with each student and ask them questions that require the use of particular structures (e.g., what they did over the weekend to gauge their familiarity with the past tense structure).
  • Create a question set and have them interview each other as you circulate, listening for specific lexical chunks.
  • Have students complete a survey that asks them to use a structure in context, and use that information to establish your next steps.

Whatever you do, ensure you have a baseline for their exposure to and comfort level with the language before you go too far.

Make use of pop culture

Most likely, your enthusiasm about a grammar point has been met with grumbles from your students, perhaps even an “It’s boring, teacher!” so it’s necessary for you to figure out how to get your students to see that grammar is all around them.

Think about how you can tap into popular culture – contemporary music, viral YouTube videos, memes, interviews with celebrities, conversations on social media – which provides fertile ground for authentic language use. Pull cultural artifacts to engage your students, and examine the language that is being used. Show an image of Ariana Grande and ask students to use the present tense to describe her daily routine, or use a picture of Grumpy Cat and have them tell you what happened that made Grumpy Cat, well, grumpy.

Top Strategies for Teaching Grammar to English Language Learners - BridgeUniverse - TEFL Blog, News, Tips & Resources (3)

Create context through role-playing

While it can be helpful to isolate grammatical chunks to understand how they work, examining those chunks in isolation doesn’t guarantee transference to output – students need to see how grammatical structures operate in context. Ask yourself how you can get students to use this language in authentic exchanges.

Create opportunities for your students to engage with language in scenarios that mimic real life, or better yet, have them create and perform those scenarios themselves through role-play! Debrief on language use after their performances.

Check out these ESL grammar lesson plans.

Adults like games, too!

Kids shouldn’t be the only ones who get to have fun in the language classroom! It’s always so gratifying to see older students light up when you share that they’ll be playing a game. Getting students to tap into their inner child not only lessens the stress sometimes associated with learning something new, but this heightened engagement will increase retention.

Have your students share some of their favorite games from childhood and see how you might be able to use (even if loosely) those games for teaching English grammar. Your students will appreciate your commitment to connecting with them, and they’ll have a chance to share unique pieces of their cultural identity with their peers.

Here’s an example, from the Bridge Specialized Certification in Teaching English Grammar course, of an adult class using Tic-Tac-Toe to practice the present continuous tense:

Teaching grammar to English language learners can be incredibly engaging and rewarding, for both you and your learners. Your students will benefit if you diversify your strategies for teaching grammar, and you’ll freshen up your teacher toolbox as well.

Looking to dive deeper into teaching grammar? Review key grammatical concepts and learn strategies to teach grammar effectively with Specialized Certification in Teaching English Grammar.


What is the most effective teaching method in teaching grammar? ›

Conclusion. Research supports teaching grammar by integrating it into the actual writing process. Grammar drills and worksheets are ineffective in improving the understanding and use of grammar. The most effective ways to teach grammar is to encourage and promote reading and writing.

What is the best way to teach grammar to ESL students? ›

Teaching Grammar to ESL Students
  1. Assess the Students' Prior Knowledge. Ask yourself a few questions and determine your plan of attack. ...
  2. Teach Grammar in Context. Start a lesson by using sentence starters and have the students finish: ...
  3. Less is More. ...
  4. Teach Grammar Throughout the Day in Other Subject Areas.

Which method of teaching grammar is more effective for today's learning? ›

Teaching grammar through writing is so effective because students have to make their own choices and apply grammar concepts in a way that demonstrates they understand them in context.

What instructional strategies are used to increase the English language skills of ELLs? ›

Strategies for increasing comprehensible input include:
  • Read out loud or play audio versions of texts.
  • Front load vocabulary and key concepts before reading.
  • Provide a similar text in the student's first language.
  • Go beyond the textbook and include artwork, videos, guest speakers, stories.
  • Slow down your speech.

What are the five methods in teaching grammar? ›

Methods of Teaching English Grammar
  • Deductive Method.
  • Inductive method.
  • Inductive Deductive Method.
  • Incidental Method.
May 12, 2023

What are the 6 rules of teaching grammar? ›

An internationally recognized linguist and teacher trainer in the area of English Language Teaching, Scott Thornbury, has proposed six (6) Rules of Teaching Grammar (context, use, economy, relevance, nurture, appropriacy).

What are the strategies for improving grammar? ›

5 Tips to Improve Your Grammar
  • Read: Reading is one of the secret weapons to improve your grammar skills. ...
  • Use a grammar manual: It is a very useful idea to have a grammar manual nearby that you can consult when writing. ...
  • Write more and quiz yourself: ...
  • Re-reading aloud: ...
  • 5 Consult others and learn from feedback:
Dec 4, 2020

What is the best order to teach grammar? ›

Teach in order:
  1. Complete sentences vs. ...
  2. Independent vs. ...
  3. Complete sentences vs. ...
  4. Subject and predicate and direct and indirect objects before active and passive voice.
  5. Parts of speech before misplaced and dangling modifiers.
  6. Subject/verb agreement OR subject and predicate before verbals.
Sep 3, 2019

How do you teach grammar in TEFL? ›

How to Teach Grammar Lessons: A Guide for TEFL Teachers
  1. Introduce the Lesson.
  2. Use Pop Culture Examples.
  3. Deconstruct the Grammar Samples.
  4. Reconstruct the Samples for Varied Meanings.
  5. Reaffirm the Grammar Rule.
  6. Practice Grammar Activities.

Which method of teaching English is grammar heavy and relies a lot on translation? ›

Today popular forms of the Direct Method are Callan and Berlitz. Just like its name suggests, this method of teaching English is grammar heavy and relies a lot on translation.

How effective is grammar translation method in teaching method? ›

A grammar-translation is one of the most effective methods that focuses on reading and translating the sentences which demonstrates grammatical rules to acquire English as second language.

What are the 3 key ESOL strategies? ›

Therefore, it is critical that teachers create nurturing learning environments by employing strategies such as circumlocution (offering multiple ways to define a word or phrase), paraphrasing, and repetition. As students continue to develop their target language skills, they enter into the speech emergence stage.

Which program model is most effective for ELLs? ›

Transitional Bilingualism/Dual Immersion

This design is the most inclusive ELL program design.

What are examples of interventions for ELL students? ›

Providing direct vocabulary instruction is imperative with ELL students. You could begin by using concrete examples, breaking down words into prefixes, root words, and suffixes, and using lots of visuals helps to create connections. Pre-teaching vocabulary is also effective when introducing new content material.

What are the 4 approaches to teaching grammar? ›

The approaches include deductive or traditional, inductive or conversational, and eclectic. The advantage of the inductive approach is that students can focus on the language because they set the rules for themselves even before practicing.

What are 3 important grammar rules for learning English? ›

What are the basic rules of grammar? Some basic rules of grammar include ensuring all sentences have a subject and a verb; placing adjectives directly before the noun they describe, or after it if separated by a verb; and using a comma to connect two ideas.

What are the 12 basic rules of English grammar? ›

The 12 Rules of Grammar are:
  • Every sentence should start with a Capital letter in the first word.
  • Every sentence should either end with a full stop (or) a question mark (or) an exclamation mark.
  • Every sentence should have SVO (Subject – Verb – Object).
  • The Subject and Verb forms are interrelated in the sentence.
Jan 25, 2021

What are the golden rules of teaching grammar in context? ›

Teaching grammar in context involves making connections between grammatical patterns and the meaning of texts; wider contextual aspects such as genre, audience, subject and purpose; a reader's feelings and responses to a text; potential authorial motivations for making decisions about language choices.

How to teach English grammar step by step? ›

So, let's look at some basic grammar rules to get you started on your language-learning journey:
  1. Step 1: Learn the Parts of Speech. The parts of speech are the different categories of English words. ...
  2. Step 2: Learn New Vocabulary. ...
  3. Step 3: Learn Sentence Structures. ...
  4. Step 4: Learn Clauses. ...
  5. Step 5: Learn English Grammar Tenses.
May 18, 2021

What are grammar translation methods of teaching? ›

Grammar–translation classes are usually conducted in the students' native language. Grammatical rules are learned deductively; students learn grammar rules by rote, and then practice the rules by doing grammar drills and translating sentences to and from the target language.

Which language dominates in grammar translation method? ›

Features of Grammar-translation method:

The mother tongue dominates the teaching of English. Individual words and phrases are the units of language teaching. It emphasizes that foreign languages can be easily learned through translation.

What are the primary language skills for grammar translation method? ›

It is one of the most traditional methods in foreign language teaching that was originally used to teach languages and literatures such as Latin and Greek. This method involves very little spoken communication and listening comprehension. The primary skills to be improved are reading and writing skills.

What is the Desuggestopedia method? ›

Desuggestopedia is an application of the study of suggestion to pedagogy. Desuggest is the opposite of suggest. It is used to eliminate the negative feeling and Suggestopedia is used to reinforce the positive feeling and to release the full mental power.

What is L1 in grammar translation method? ›

L1 is used to clarify and explain the target language grammar patterns. L1 is also used to teach the meanings of unknown words in the target language.  Since oral communication in the target language is not important, classroom instructions are given in L1.

What is the 7 step strategy for ELL? ›

The seven steps are: (1) Reading and/or listening to a story; (2) Defining and visualizing words; (3) Identifying parts of speech; (4) Categorizing words; (5) Completing cloze activities; (6) Producing a skit or creating a visual; and (7) Playing a word game with new words.

How can I be a good ESOL teacher? ›

The role of a good ESL teacher should be to essentially facilitate lessons, without getting too heavily involved. Once you've introduced any new language and concepts, the focus should be on your students. In group lessons, students should practice with one another at all times.

What is the most common teaching method in ESL? ›

Communicative language teaching is perhaps the most popular approach among the methods of teaching ESL today. CLT emphasizes the students' ability to communicate in real-life contexts, and students learn to make requests, accept offers, explain things, and express their feelings and preferences.

What are Tier 2 strategies for ELLs? ›

Tier 2 intervention strategies include building comprehension, developing vocabulary, developing fluency, and advancing language development. However, some may also need support to develop phonological awareness, phonics skills, and fluency.

What is the most common ESL model? ›

Sheltered English instruction.

They may also be referred to by the names of specific model types—Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English (SDAIE) and Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) are two of the most common.

How can principals support ELL students? ›

Make the Families of English Learners Feel Welcome

Principals can help in a variety of ways. For example, they can ensure outgoing communication—such as notices sent home to parents—are translated into home languages and provide interpreters at school events.

How do you support ELL students in phonics? ›

Include pictures. This helps to build ELLs vocabulary as they are learning phonics. Sometimes this might mean showing pictures before students read new words, matching pictures and words, or finding texts with photographs that include words in the text.

What are some modifications for ELL students? ›

ESL Modifications Checklist
  • Speak slowly, clearly, and use gestures.
  • Simplify language; avoid idioms, slang, and sarcasm.
  • Pair student with a buddy.
  • Give preferential seating.
  • Maintain routines with consistent signals.
  • Write clearly and legibly (most ELL's cannot read cursive)
  • Give both oral AND written directions.

What is the most effective way to learn grammar? ›

5 Tips to Improve Your Grammar
  1. Read: Reading is one of the secret weapons to improve your grammar skills. ...
  2. Use a grammar manual: It is a very useful idea to have a grammar manual nearby that you can consult when writing. ...
  3. Write more and quiz yourself: ...
  4. Re-reading aloud: ...
  5. 5 Consult others and learn from feedback:
Dec 4, 2020

Which method should be used first in a grammar class? ›

In the grammar class, the teacher should first present the grammar in natural form. It is always effective to present the grammar in the natural discourse and then tell the learner how this form is created or used. This method is called the inductive approach.

What is more effective in teaching grammar is it deductive or inductive? ›

Inductive tends to be more efficient in the long run, but deductive is less time consuming. Much depends on the teacher and the students. You might try and compare both of these approaches at certain points in your teaching to see which is more effective for your students.

Which are the four methods of teaching grammar? ›

There are many methods of teaching grammar to young learners. The principal methods of teaching grammar are as follows: Grammar-Translation, Direct, Audio-lingual, and Communicative Language Teaching. The methodology used was eclectic, because it used combined several approaches.

What are the 4 stages of grammar lesson? ›

Stages in Teaching a Grammar Lesson
  • Presentation. This stage means introducing the grammar structure, inductively or deductively. ...
  • Focused practice. In this stage the learner manipulates the structure in question while all other variables are held constant. ...
  • Communicative practice. ...
  • Teacher feedback and correction.
Mar 22, 2021

What are the disadvantages of inductive approach in teaching grammar? ›

The disadvantages of an inductive approach:

-Much time and energy are spent while working out rules with students. -The time taken to work out a rule may be at the expense of time spent in putting the rule to some sort of productive practice. -It can demand teachers to work on planning a lesson.

What are inductive approaches to teaching grammar? ›

In a language classroom, teaching by an inductive instruction means that students are provided with texts and examples first. The role of the teacher is to provide the language in order to help students find the rules, to guide them in discovery and then provide more opportunities to practice.

What is the heuristic method of teaching? ›

A heuristic method of teaching is an instructional approach that emphasizes the use of problem-solving and discovery-based learning as well as experience-based learning to facilitate student learning. Heuristic basically means any method or process that helps in problem-solving, self learning, and discovery.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rev. Porsche Oberbrunner

Last Updated: 21/09/2023

Views: 6211

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (53 voted)

Reviews: 92% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rev. Porsche Oberbrunner

Birthday: 1994-06-25

Address: Suite 153 582 Lubowitz Walks, Port Alfredoborough, IN 72879-2838

Phone: +128413562823324

Job: IT Strategist

Hobby: Video gaming, Basketball, Web surfing, Book restoration, Jogging, Shooting, Fishing

Introduction: My name is Rev. Porsche Oberbrunner, I am a zany, graceful, talented, witty, determined, shiny, enchanting person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.