Current Issues in Teaching Grammar

This article by Rod Ellis is the first research intensive piece of writing, over 20 pages long, that I’ve read in less than two hours. “Current Issues in the Teaching of Grammar: An SLA Perspective” was really interesting, because it laid out the debate over teaching grammar in a clear, concise way, listing the evidence and the research that has been done to study all sides of the issue.

He discusses the issue of teaching grammar (which he defines as “any instructional technique that draws learners’ attention to some specific grammatical form in such a way that it helps them either to understand it metalinguistically and/or process it in comprehension and/or production so that they can internalize it” (p. 84)) in 8 separate questions: 1. Should grammar be taught? 2. What grammar should be taught? 3. Should grammar be taught at the beginning of instruction or after some level of competence is achieved? 4. Should grammar be taught in a mass or distributed over a longer period of time? 5. Should grammar be taught intensively (one structure at a time), or extensively (multiple structures at once, repeatedly)? 6. Is there any value in teaching explicit grammar knowledge? 7. Is there a best way to teach implicit grammar knowledge? 8. Should grammar be taught in separate lessons or integrated in with communicative activities?

In the article’s conclusion, Ellis delineates his own personal preferences to the questions he explores, but emphasizes the need for additional research done in all areas of teaching grammar, and that there are no clear-cut answers.

Ellis, Rod. “Current Issues in the Teaching of Grammar: An SLA Perspective.” TESOL Quarterly,
40.1 (2006): 83-107.

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