The Truth: Grammar issues will inevitably arise in English conversation class.
And if the teacher cares about the student, then these grammar issues should be addressed. For a purely conversational class, some students might let the teacher get away with saying “Sorry, I’m not a grammar expert.” But the bottom line is that communication problems are often rooted in grammar. These problems need to be fixed so the student can progress.
Grammar questions can be a source of anxiety for teachers, however, regardless of whether you’re TESOL certified or just someone with a good command of the language.
This is how I deal with grammar questions in English class:
1) By Having Adequate Knowledge
- verb tenses
- 1st, 2nd & 3rd conditionals
These items may have been covered (to an extent) in your teacher training. If you are a self-taught teacher, then familiarize yourself with these terms by taking a look at this English grammar reference sheet I created. Identification of the basic elements of the English language is the first step; the second is explanation. A teacher is expected to know the difference between a comparative and a superlative. However, it takes experience (and study) to be able to confidently explain the usage of more complicated structures such as the 3rd conditional. If you don’t have this knowledge, then proceed to the next step.
2) By Letting the Experts Teach It
It contains 145 units on verb tenses, conditionals, reported speech, auxiliary verbs, articles, relative clauses, prepositions, phrasal verbs, et cetera. Grammar-wise, the book has basically everything a student needs to master for B1, B2 and even C1 CEFR levels.
A good grammar book such as this can explain English grammar rules better than I can because it was written by experts. When I recognize a student of mine has a problem with a particular grammar area (e.g. even/even though), I copy that particular unit for him. He goes home, reads the explanations, and completes the accompanying exercises as homework. The next time I see him, generally the problem is solved. This approach saves me a lot of energy and my students a lot of class time.
3) By Doing Research
If my student has an English usage question about something like the difference between according to and in accordance with (and I can’t explain it confidently), then I tell him I’ll look into it and get back to him. A Google Search usually leads me to the answer (I often find the answers on forums such as Englishforums.com). By doing research this way, I learn what I was not previously able to explain and thereby become a better teacher.
And that is how I handle grammar-related issues in English conversation class. I hope you found this useful.
Best of luck in your classes!
– Matthew Barton / Englishcurrent.com