Working with Grammar: Conclusions

Dec 30, 2012

After applying the Thinking Approach for working with grammar for a year and a half I have made the following conclusions.

  • Even though the TA offers ready-made systems for working with several grammar topics, it does not offer clear procedures on how to work with every task of the system. So the task needs to be subdivided into meaningful, manageable and measurable sub-steps. My experience helped me to identify for myself and try out some of these sub-steps, which worked for me and my students. These sub-steps or procedures are described here. 
  • The teacher will feel confident with the new approach only when s/he clearly knows what is done after what, what is the value of every step, how to control (what students do and what is supposed to be the result of their work). In the very beginning of his/her work the TA-newbie teacher needs a clear model to follow to understand principles and value of the new approach. Only when having this kind of foundation s/he will be able to build upon it, develop it further and be more creative in how s/he works with the development of students inventive thinking skills.
  • When working with the TA the teacher has two challenges: (a) figure out HOW to integrate the TA into his-her work and (b) develop relevant dispositions to ‘defend’ the approach s/he is applying. Taking into account TA is very different from ‘traditional’ approaches, if you start using it with secondary school students you will feel a lot of pressure from students who, in general, will not understand “why they have to build rules if the book has them all”. Thus, if the teacher is struggling with figuring out HOW to work with the TA I am pretty sure s/he will not be successful in ‘defending’ the new approach. One of the challenges has to be minimised if we want the TA to become part of teachers’ everyday practice.
  • It is essentially important to make students feel success when they work with the TA or make them see the additional value of the TA, otherwise, the teacher will lose students motivation and will get demotivated himself/herself. 
  • I am not sure secondary school is the best time to introduce a new approach, since a teacher will have to face strong resistance fighting with students’ well-in-built belief on how teaching-learning is organised. I believe students must be introduced to TA much earlier. The earlier the better. 
  • The additional value of the TA is the possibility to develop students thinking skills. When working with grammar, students are introduced to and are practicing the thinking model, which is called ENV. However, I have noticed, that sometimes I lacked understanding myself of how this model may be useful for students in their everyday life. I do not think I am using this model myself so it was difficult to show its value to students, when they asked about it.

As I have already mentioned, this half a year of working with the TA allowed me to make clear steps for myself for working with the TA Grammar. During my practice I skipped some of these steps since I did not have a bigger picture of where I was going but I believe they all have to be followed if we wish to make students see a clear pattern of how we work with grammar. This year, I saw that I managed to establish a clear pattern for working with the first part of the TA Grammar and when students were offered the same tasks for the second time, it was clear that they knew what we are doing and where we are going. That’s why I concluded that these procedures work for me. The next post sums them up.


Go to the next part

Go to the beginning


# Alexander Sokol 2013-01-03 12:51
Renata, two questions.

1. Can you share your opinion re what is to be changed / amended in the current description of the Creative Grammar Technology ( to make it clear for the newbie TA teachers what is what?

2. Re 'dispositions to defend the approach', can you probably list the questions / comments / arguments of your students you've come up across? If you succeeded in giving them a successful answer, in your opinion, please share it as well. Then we can try to produce answers to the questions you come up with and have another useful tool for new TA teachers.
# Renata Jonina 2013-01-03 18:34
1. I think the next post with the procedures is trying to reply the question about the amendments. These must be added. It's not about changing the description of the system, it's about making it usable.

2. Hm, I need to think here. Since I was not focusing on their questions/comments/arguments it's difficult to remember them now. I'll think what can be done.
# Alexander Sokol 2013-01-04 23:51
1. Must they? :)
Where exactly would you add them?

Another aspect is leaving the room for the teacher's freedom. As you know, I always underline that the TA is an approach, it's not a method. Teachers can use different methods when working with the TA. And often it doesn't really matter if a certain part is done individually or as a group. It's definitely useful when different teachers who have worked with grammar in a TA way share the procedures they've used, therefore I am really grateful for what you've done. Another question, however, if we need the procedures to be presented for everyone to follow.

2. Good, looking forward then.
# Renata Jonina 2013-01-12 16:51
1. No, they don't have to:) Looking back at my first year, I'd probably find them useful for myself to start my TA-teaching.
Since they are not presented in a very elaborated way, maybe you can add a link in the beginning/end of the system inviting people to read the steps here to read about the experience of applying the system.

I agree that the room for freedom is indispensable. If a teacher can use the approach without any supplementary example I see no problem. I just found out for myself that I can't do it. But again, my example is not a universal, I am just a novice teacher with poor teaching skills, so what is useful for me might be trivial for a real professional.
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