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What grammar should I teach in an ESL class? Why prioritiation is important.

Don’t insist they learn every single grammar unit relevant to their unit. There are dozens of grammar units that seem terribly important but in fact their not – all they do is cause an information overload and enter students into the half-baked cycle above.

Who are you to say what’s important or not? How can you discount essential grammar?
First of all, you have to bear in mind that much of grammar is entirely arbitrary. In other words there are many coubtries around the globe where they have a different grammar. Watch the Wire and you’ll see in Baltimore expressions like “True that” “I don’t got nothing” in Jamaica ‘I is’ and the use of will in _ireland instead of would is technically incorrect.

What does this tell us? That some mistakes or mutations don’t matter so much. The goal of language is to communicate and as long as your message is communicated that’s what’s important. So then you have to ask yourself which elements are so fundamental you would lose all meaning. The answer is, the tenses. And we move minor grammar points into the vocabulary books. The tenses are what we ficus on because the ability to place an event in time is fundamental which means we have a motto. Nail the tenses nail the language.

Now, of course this is a slightly crude assessment but we use it to keep teachers and students focused on the important aspects of grammar. We consistently find that it is much more valuable for a student to have totally assimilated five or six of the principle tenses than half baked lots of different grammar units. It forms a coherent body of knowledge that allows them to communicate which is vital because.

1. Make it more likely they stick with the course because they’ve achieved tangible results they can see for themselves.

2. Make the rest of the language easier to learn. If you have a solid base the rest tends to fall into place.

These are the principles therefore behind our standard PQE at I-Ling.

Vocabulary – because language consists of words
The tenses – because language is governed by rules – the most important of which are the tenses.
Speaking – does that actually need articulation
Listening – ditto.

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