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welcome to the webinar
Welcome to the Webinar!

We’ll start promptly at 35 minutes past the hour.

Reminder: Everyone’s phone lines are muted. If you’d like to ask a question, please use the chat box to the right. Choose Cambridge in the “Send to” field, type your question, then click send. Lynn will answer any questions she doesn’t get to in a follow-up email.

Are you having technical problems? Please use the chat box to the right to send a description of your problem to the WebEx Producer. The chat box is highlighted in blue in the example to the right.

which comes first grammar or the outcome

Which comes first --grammar or the outcome?

Presented by:

K. Lynn Savage

Ventures Series Editor

  • Grammar within the four skills

• Learners’ needs

  • Context and language
  • Criteria for selecting grammar
  • Implications for teachers
how is grammar reflected in listening
How is grammar reflected in listening?

Teacher: “Please bring me the books.”

Student brings one book.

Why did the student bring only one book?

The student didn’t hear the ‘s’.

how is grammar reflected in speaking
How is grammar reflectedin speaking?

Job interviewer: “How long have

you been working at your current job?”

Applicant: “I worked there for two years.”

What is the difference between the

applicant’s answer and the

interviewer’s question?

Present perfect vs. past tense

how is grammar reflected in reading
How is grammar reflectedin reading?

Student reads: “He has lived there for two years.”

Student focuses on lived, not have lived.

What incorrect assumption does the reader make?

The reader assumes that the person no longer lives there.

how is grammar reflected in writing
How is grammar reflectedin writing?

Automotive tech student writing what he did to a customer's car: I check the brakes.

The supervisor wonders . . .

• Is the student checking the brakes now?

• Has the student already checked the brakes?

• Is the student going to check the brakes?

• Is the student writing about his everyday tasks: I check the brakes everyday.

determining learners needs
Determining learners’ needs

Four areas to consider:

  • The home: parent / family member
  • The community: citizen / community member
  • The workplace: worker
  • Social situations





+ form!

  • Adult learners need immediate application.
  • Grammar needs to be meaningful,


  • Lessons need to address language form (grammar).

and practical.

the importance of context the adult education perspective
The importance of context: the adult education perspective

“Skills and knowledge are best acquired in context.”

Pelavin study

“Adults . . . . are said to place particular importance as learners on realistic rapid application of new knowledge to practical contexts and problems in their real lives.”

Malcolm Knowles

the importance of context the language researchers perspective
The importance of context: the language researchers’ perspective

Researchers believe that teaching grammar (focusing

on form) is effective, but they advocate that it should

be done in meaningful, relevant contexts where

students are given plenty of opportunities to practice it.

Rodriguez 2009

“Teaching grammar to adult English language learners: focus on form.”

CAELA Network Brief


matching context with language
Matching context with language

Key considerations:

  • Distinguish between grammar and outcome
  • Select grammar for its function
language functions
Language functions

Function = the purpose for communicating

relationship between function and structure
Relationship between function and structure

One function: several structures

Function: giving advice

  • You should study harder.
  • You had better study harder.
  • You ought to study harder
  • How about studying harder?
  • If I were you, I would study harder.
relationship between structure and function
Relationship betweenstructure and function

One structure: several functions

frequency of use
Frequency of use

One function, several structures

Example: future intention

  • be going to + verb
  • will + verb
  • present continuous (be +verb + -ing)

Ask: Which is more frequent?

be going to + verb

other criteria for selecting grammar
Other criteria for selecting grammar

• Necessity for conveying meaning

  • Actual use
  • Occurrence in both spoken and written language
necessity for conveying meaning
Necessity for conveying meaning

Example: -s on third person singular

  • John lives
  • She studies
  • It costs

The -s is redundant because the subject tells us

we are talking about only one person.

actual use
Actual use

With whom do your students need to speak English?

Who do your students need to speak English with?

actual use26
Actual use

Distinction between subject case who and object case whom.

We rarely hear whom in conversation any more.

actual use27
Actual use

But look at the following:

We are coming to a school zone. Drive slow.

actual use28
Actual use

Distinction between adjectives and adverbs.

At one time, slow was used only as an adjective. Now it often occurs in daily speech as an adverb.

actual use30
Actual use

The “Unreal” Conditional:

• Used for unreal or improbable situations

• Formed by the simple past in the if clause and would + base form of verb in the result clause.


If I were rich, I would . . .

If I had the money, I would . . .

actual use31
Actual use
  • Weatherman on TV: “What if this was snow?”
  • Grammar for unreal conditional

(If this were snow . . . )

  • Question: Is grammar for expressing unreal conditional in the process of changing?
some implications of actual use
Some implications of actual use
  • Observe how language is changing.
  • Confirm that the grammar in the

textbook reflects actual use.

3. Avoid “correcting” grammar “errors” that don’t reflect common use today.

is the structure common in spoken and written language
Is the structure common in spoken and written language?

Past perfect verb tense

Example: I had eaten before I went to the movie.

Do you hear this tense in common daily speech?

Rule: Use the past perfect to show that an event

happened before another event in the past.

The past perfect shows the earlier event.

is the structure common in spoken and written language34
Is the structure common in spoken and written language?

Spoken Language:

I ate before I went to the movie.

The past perfect tense is seldom used in spoken English.

Lane and Lange, Writing Clearly

common in spoken and written language implications for teachers
Common in spoken and written language:implications for teachers
  • Adult ESL courses typically emphasize conversational situations.
  • Grammatical structures that are not common in spoken English do not lend themselves to adult ESL courses.
is the structure common in spoken and written language36
Is the structure common in spoken and written language?

Grammar structures that appear mainly in

written English are better taught in higher-level

classes that prepare students for higher


Grammar Matters, p. 15

implications for teachers
Implications for teachers

Present grammar in the sequence in which we “acquire” our first language.

• Listening before speaking

• Speaking before reading

• Reading before writing

which comes first grammar or the outcome38
Which comes first – grammar or the outcome?

Start by . . . . clearly defining what one wants learners to

be able to do (the end) before the beginning, teaching

them how to accomplish that end, and then assessing

and documenting the end they were to achieve in the

first place.

Education (the means) is based on the outcome (the

end), not the other way around.

Answers.com entry on Outcomes-based education

which comes first grammar or the outcome39
Which comes first – grammar or the outcome?

In teaching, which comes first?

The grammar

In curriculum development, which comes first?

The outcome

  • Context
  • Grammar
  • Learning Activities
considerations in selecting contexts
Considerations in selecting contexts
  • In which contexts does the grammar naturally occur?
  • Does the grammar communicate a purpose (the language function) that our learners need?
  • Does the grammar occur in environments in which our students use English?
considerations in selecting grammar
Considerations in selecting grammar
  • Is the grammar appropriate for the environment in which learners will be using English?
  • Is the grammar critical to conveying meaning?
considerations in selecting grammar43
Considerations in selecting grammar
  • Does the grammar convey a language function that learners will use in their daily lives?

4. Is there a clear relationship between structure and function?

considerations in selecting grammar44
Considerations in selecting grammar

5. Does the grammar reflect actual use?

6. Does the grammar commonly occur in both spoken and written language?

considerations in sequencing learning activities
Considerations in sequencing learning activities

Do the exercises – the teaching sequence –

mirror the language acquisition process?

Hear it before you say it.

Say it before you read it.

Read it before you write it.

due to his grammar mistake wilbur found a position it just wasn t the one he wanted
Due to his grammar mistake, Wilbur found a position. It just wasn’t the one he wanted.

Image source:


  • To ask a question, go to the “chat” section on the right-hand side of your screen.
  • Next to the “Send To” pick list, select “Cambridge”
  • Type your question in the box below “Send To”
  • Hit send (to the right)


Scroll down and select “Research & Methodology on the bottom left.”


Grammar Matters: 6 Chapters

The Role of Grammar in Adult ESL

An Eclectic Approach to Teaching Grammar

Choosing Grammar to Teach

The Grammar Lesson: Presentation

The Grammar Lesson: Guided Practice

The Grammar Lesson: Communicative Practice

professional development dvd
Professional Development DVD


Teacher training DVD including a module on teaching grammar communicatively.

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