Your students have made it, well, part of the way, anyway.
They are out of the beginning level ESL classes and are now able to express themselves in this once foreign language. They are creative. They can get their meaning across. But even though they have taken great strides in their speaking and writing abilities, they still have a lot to learn. The good news it, you are there to teach them. So where do you start with your intermediate grammar class? What do these students need to know, and how do you make sure they learn it? Here are some tips to help you and your students in intermediate grammar class.
Things to Keep in Mind Dealing with Intermediate
Don’t get ahead of yourself.
One of the biggest struggles for intermediate ESL teacher is expecting more of your students than you should. Your students can speak and write and generally get their meaning across, but their language use may be peppered with mistakes. Expecting perfection from students at this level will only discourage and frustrate them, so take a step back before pouncing on errors and look at the bigger picture. Try to focus on one grammar structure at a time, teaching and correcting it as your students use it, before moving on to an additional structure to instruct and correct.
Keep stress levels low.
When you can, lighten up the mood in class. Include games and fun material in your lesson plans. It is easy for students at this level to get frustrated, so keeping your sense of humor in class can help alleviate stress and get your students to not take themselves quite so seriously. Encourage your students to learn from their mistakes rather than beating themselves up over them, and remind them that learning is a lifelong process. At times, you may have to be more of an encourager and less of a corrector, but become comfortable in that role and help your students as they learn in a low stress environment.
Encourage talking in class.
It’s important that your students use the language they are learning, so encourage them to speak up in class. Outgoing students won’t have a problem with this. You will have to be more intentional about bringing out the quieter students in your class, though. Reward students who use the grammar structures you have been teaching as they speak in class. And allow the students who are excelling to help those who are struggling. Struggling learners will raise their language level more when they are talking with a more proficient student than they will with someone at their same proficiency level.
Point out patterns.
Sentences in English follow predictable patterns. When you are teaching grammatical concepts, point out the patterns that these sentences should follow. If your students become familiar with the patterns, they can change the vocabulary to suit their communication needs without compromising the grammar. Start by pointing out patterns in basic sentences, and then show your students how the patterns become more complex. Start with simple sentences, and then move on to compound and complex sentences. Add clauses to your list, and your students will be improving every day. As you study real life materials in your classroom, highlight sentences that follow the patterns you have been teaching your students.
Change your story.
At the intermediate level, students should be learning all of the verb tenses. Having students take a sentence or a story from one tense and shift it to another tense will help them see the differences in the grammar they are studying. Start by having students write a simple story from their past. Then, have them write that same story as if it were going to happen in the future. Then, have them write it again as if it is happening right now. Whatever tense you are teaching at the moment, you can ask your students to share the same story in that tense. Once students have learned all the tenses, have each person compile their stories into one book with explanations of each tense that they can use as a reference.
Get into, out of and through prepositions.
English is peppered with prepositions, and your intermediate students should have a good foundation in understanding and using them. Take their knowledge of prepositions to the next level by mastering use of all the English prepositions in your intermediate grammar class. You will probably need to devote several sessions to prepositions before your students know them all and can use them appropriately, but once you do don’t forget go back to them periodically. Review prepositions regularly in your class, and then introduce phrasal verbs to your students. Point out that prepositions in phrasal verbs do not have the same meanings as they do in typical contexts.
For intermediate students, don’t shy away from irregular verbs. Foreign language students may feel that the list of irregular verbs is simply endless. Keeping your students aware of these verbs and having them use them regularly won’t shorten the list, but it will help them be more comfortable using the verbs on it. Plus, intermediate students will have to know and use these verbs in everyday conversation, so take a minute to review and explain any irregulars that come up in class or outside of it.
Keep it real.
As much as you can, keep grammar use real for your students. Use realia whenever possible, and give them realistic tasks for speaking and listening activities in class. Make sure all of your classroom activities have concrete goals, both for language learning and for language use. You can use role plays to encourage realistic language use and have students work together to solve problems or accomplish tasks. Your students are beyond the beginning stages of language learning, and it’s time for them to put their English skills to practical use.
Teaching intermediate grammar can be a challenge. Your students know enough English to realize just how much they still don’t know, and keeping their spirits high is just as important as the grammar instruction you give. Don’t expect perfection from your students, and don’t let them expect it from themselves, either. Keep your instruction based in real life materials and tasks, and don’t over correct your students. When you find that perfect line between correcting your students and allowing them to make mistakes, they will make the biggest strides in their language learning. By the time they complete their intermediate grammar studies, your students should have general proficiency in English and just need refinement at the advanced level.