One more post about the Cambridge Day 2013 in São Paulo, and once more reporting about a talk given by Michael McCarthy.
After lunch break, professor McCarthy returned for one more talk, now about grammar in the upper levels, discussing what kind of content should be taught to advanced students and what the focus should be.
The whole question of what grammar to teach stems from the problem that it is hard to choose what grammar to teach in advanced levels – post B2 – a problem that is shown by the fact that most books choose different points to teach as grammar at those levels.
A common sollution is to choose difficult – and normally rare – constructions to teach students. Something that is not normally taken into account is how relevant it is for students to learn this grammar – how useful it will be for learners in real life.
A solution he proposed was a shift from this point of view from teaching rare and difficult grammar to other kind of grammar structures, such as:
Common constructions not often taught
Things people normally say in conversations but which might be frowned upon by the traditional grammar, such as ellipsis, which we can see in sentences like: “Ever been to Brazil?” or “Finished?”
Known items but with new meanings
The example given to illustrate this was the future perfect, normally taught in the context “By the end of the year I’ll have …“.
It could be taught in advanced levels in the context of making assumptions, whether present or past. As in: “You will have been given a handout as you entered the room.” or “You will have heard about the story…”
Known meanings but different structures
Sometimes we just teach a specific structure for a meaning, and there are several other structures that could convey the same idea. For example with the conditionals. Below are some of the structures that can be used to express a condition but are normally not taught in this context:
Imperatives: “Ask anyone and they will tell you…”, “Go to any supermarket and you’ll see.”
were+subject+infinitive: “Were I to do that…”
had: “Had I known…”
should: “Should you have any problem, please call me.”
Revisiting fossilized errors
There are issues that even after years and years remain as a problem for some students. As a part of polishing students’ language, solving these problems should be a priority.
Ok, we have just one more post about the Cambridge Day to go. Hope you guys are enjoying and finding them helpful. You can find the other posts of this series in the links below: