Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS): 3 Tips to Make Your Grammar Lesson More Fun(ctional)
Thank you for your question but, I have bad news, there is no secret formula for a fun class, yet, with a few tips, we can work on mitigating the risk of a boring lesson. With that in mind, Grammar is best served simply. And, when I say simply, I mean, if you are aware of the “And”, commas used or not in this sentence, wording or anything else I am writing while briefly segueing away from what we are presently talking about, you are likely at risk of making grammar too complex, more so if you have to read this sentence more than once. Take all those smarts, put them into that “super amazing not important now question corner” of your mental chalkboard, and praise yourself for being so darn smart! Now, to help you through the wonderful world of making grammar fun-ish, let’s look over a few basic tips.
Firstly, ignore the fluff and stick to your goal. Notice, goal, not goals. Grammar is something best taken in palatable chunks of information so that your students are more amazed with how accessible grammar is than how much there is to learn. So, take all that presently unimportant knowledge you have, shove it to the side, and think what do your class sponges actually need to absorb during the lesson of the day before they are full and tired, leave the rest for another lesson. This will aid student understanding while also working on that super fun Affective Filter. Bonus teacher points for negotiating fluff by scaffolding your lessons and having a question “parking lot” for those questions best left for another time.
This brings us to our second tip, make it short and sweet, desirable and undesirable. The grammar you teach should be short enough that your students can quickly make connections and sweet enough so that they can relate to its importance. Then, give appropriately short and sweet examples that show desirable and undesirable usages of the grammar being taught with a chance for the students to notice differences. But wait, you might be asking yourself at this point how much fluff to cut, how long is short, or even where is all that damn fun that had been asked about. Well, this leads us to our final suggestion.
Our last and most important tip is The 70/30 Rule. students should be applying what they are learning for 70% of the class lesson and you should be instructing the other 30%. Yes, hyperbole like statistics are amazing! So, focus on what is at the heart of the rule: make the most of your class time by you doing less so your students can do more. Your instruction should be simple and thoughtful of the class time and student attention span. While this does not guarantee a fun class, it does assure more time is available for engaging and purposeful activities that give you the chance to address student successes and failures appropriately while mitigating your own. Hey, this might even give you the time to integrate those 4 fancy language skills for some real fun!
What it comes down to is simple, you have to face the fact that you will never be the right type of fun for every student. So, keep yourself sane, focus on best practices, and spend all that extra class time you have saved by “Keeping It Simple” in order to learn what your students need before trying to give them what you want.
Regarding lesson plans:
Keep it simple. Clearly and briefly introduce your targeted idea. Next, make it purposeful by relating the grammar to real life uses. Then, encourage students to practice the new concept in a low risk way (complete a sentence, fill a gap, etc…). If the students are doing well, continue on to a riskier activity with more freedom to create. With that in mind, work towards finding a balance between preparing activities with too many and too few details to find the appropriate amount of input for your students, think of these as creative constraints. Last, remember there are four skills (speaking, listening, reading, writing) that your students need and the more you make conscious decisions to use them, the better your lessons will be.