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to ask what grammar teaching happens in your country?

(46 Posts)
DorothyL Sat 13-Feb-16 19:37:10

I have a theory that it's just the English who have this strong negative reaction to explicit grammar teaching. I know it takes place in Germany. Would like to build up a wider picture.

spanieleyes Sat 13-Feb-16 19:39:08

I don't think the English have a strong negative reaction to explicit grammar teaching, we just expect it to be age appropriate and used as part of a wider literacy programme, not as an end in itself.

allegretto Sat 13-Feb-16 19:49:25

In Italy there is a lot of grammar taught - a bit to the detriment of creativity imo. However, reading and writing doesn't begin until the year children turn 6. My children will be 6 1/2 by the time they start to learn to read.

Mistigri Sat 13-Feb-16 19:51:30

Explicit grammar teaching is essential to be able to write (and even speak) some european languages correctly. You can't spell accurately in French unless you are able to identify parts of speech (tell an adjective from an adverb, distinguish the direct from the indirect object), recognise when the conditional tense is being used, know your different verb endings. This is why formal grammar is taught from age 6 and continues until the school leaving diploma at 15. Nevertheless many French kids leave junior high school unable to spell.

I don't think teaching grammar is wrong - in fact it can be helpful when leadning foreign languages. But - it's time consuming. By spending many hours teaching formal grammar, you necessarily neglect other areas of learning. Now it may be that it's "better" for children to learn formal grammar, but I'd like to see at least some evidence that what's now being taught in English primaries is producing better results. Because English is by and large a language that can be written correctly without much in the way of formal grammar, I'm not sure whether for the average student you are going to get better results - and if basic skills are neglected in favour of learning what is by all accounts some fairly arcane grammatical vocabulary then it may well damage outcomes for students in the lower half of the ability distribution.

StepAwayFromTheThesaurus Sat 13-Feb-16 19:52:35

YY spaniel.

And there's also the fact that it's driven by being easy to test for rather than being about the ability to use and understand language.

StepAwayFromTheThesaurus Sat 13-Feb-16 19:54:52

And also, yes, mistigri, there are big differences between English and other languages, so it makes no sense to simply say, 'well they do it in <insert European country>' and imply that the UK is simply backwards in comparison.

Dreamgirls234 Sat 13-Feb-16 19:57:47

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

riverboat1 Sat 13-Feb-16 19:58:13

DSS here in France learns quite a lot of French grammar, at age 10. At the momebt its prefixes and suffixes, it was the imparfait before that.

I have mixed feelings about it. I think it's more necessary to learn French grammar though, as the conjugations and their spellings are more complicated and rule-governed than in English.

I'm not convinced that it is necessary for English native-speaking children to learn so much grammar in English, except that it helps when you come to learn a second language.

Mistigri Sat 13-Feb-16 20:13:28

I do think that we should expect the more able students to reach GCSE with a decent understanding of the grammatical structure of European languages, as they will struggle if they do A level MFL without this.

But I don't think that your average English 10 year old needs anything like as much grammar as a French child in Y6. Just to give a simple example, in English it's simple to spell the future and conditional tenses - I will eat, I would eat, he would eat, they would eat etc. In French "will eat" and "would eat" can sound the same but have multiple different spellings depending on which person and which tense you are using (mangerai, mangerais, mangerait, mangeraient). You can't spell correctly unless you been drilled extensively on identifying the verb subject and have learnt the verb endings - until you can do this automatically you can't really write properly in French.

English has very different challenges, notably in spelling and punctuation, although overall I would say it's an easier language to write. The question isn't "teach grammar or not?" but "how much grammar?" and "could we be teaching children something more useful?"

riverboat1 Sat 13-Feb-16 20:24:33

I agree, Mistigri.

I teach English as a foreign language, and the challenges of the language are not the conjugations and the spelling, but the vocabulary (particularly the vast number of phrasal verbs), collocations eg make vs do vs have vs get, and knowing which tense to use when, eg present perfect vs past simple. All things which native-speaking children learn naturally with no need for teaching.

IonaNE Sat 13-Feb-16 21:07:01

I'm originally from an Eastern European country. Formal (descriptive) grammar was taught from about age 7 or 8. It was huge help when we started learning foreign languages at age 11 (instead of endless drills, you learn the rule of how it works in another language).

allegretto Sat 13-Feb-16 21:32:14

One of the most frustrating things I found at German GCSE was that we didn't have enough grammatical knowledge in English to learn German grammar so we were told to learn set phrases off by heart.

tanukiton Sat 13-Feb-16 21:45:16

In Japan. Formal teaching starts at 6. They do learn formal grammar but there is a lot of rote learning across the board. I think that there should be a balance somewhere between rote and other types of exploratory learning. I think the UK has gone too far down the exploratory style and Japan does WAY too much rote. The rules/exceptions need to there as the scaffold for later study.
I think a good idea in the uk would be to get everyone one to do the tefl certification.

Mistigri Sat 13-Feb-16 21:52:05

Most of the grammar necessary to learn a MFL can be taught quite successfully to teenagers, though, especially if they have some grasp of basic concepts like verb, subject and object. I don't think anyone is suggesting kids should do no grammar at all at primary school.

Knowing some English grammar isn't enough for many European languages anyway; English doesn't have cases like German or Russian for example. So grammar needs to be taught explicitly in MFL classes - if it's not, that's a shortcoming in MFL teaching, and not down to a lack of primary school grammar.

987flowers Sat 13-Feb-16 21:57:54

At the moment nearly all English teaching is based on grammar here in England, it's the big push and new SATs tests are heavily biased in grammar. IMO some of what children need to know is ridiculous and unnecessary.

Feenie Sat 13-Feb-16 22:10:37

Agreed. I posted this on a similar thread before - it's the required progression in teaching verbs:
Understanding verbs
Progression – as set out in Primary English Curriculum Appendix 2

Year 1 Present tense verbs are used to talk about the present and about the future

Simple past tense – uses the ed ending.
Past tense verbs are used to talk about the past, She walks... she will walk
I paint.. I will paint
She walked
I painted

Year 2

Progressive present tense
Also known as continuous

Progressive past tense
Also known as continuous

A function of verbs is to help us understand when an action takes place, if it is complete or is it still going on? By changing the form of the verb it can give us more information about time.
Using the ing form of the verb with an auxiliary verb be shows an action over a period of time.She is walking.
I am painting.

She was walking.
I was painting.

A dog barks.
A dog is barking

Year 3

The perfect form of the verb is used instead of the simple past.

This is used to stress an action started in the past and continues to the present. It tells you the event is still going on.
The auxiliary verb have is used with the main verb in the past tense.She has walked.
I have painted ...

I lived in a flat for years

I have lived in a flat for years

Year 4

Standard English forms of verb inflections

Ensuring in writing we use the correct form of the past tense which may vary from local spoken forms of the verb.

Was /were
Is /are
Is/amWe were walking
Not :We was walking

It was sunny yesterday
Not: It were sunny yesterday

I did my homework
Not: I done my homework

I am going to help out
Not: I is going to help out.

Year 5

Modal verbs - indicate degrees of possibility. They are used to change the meaning of other verbs.
They can express meanings such as certainty, ability or obligation.
A modal verb has no suffixes – it does not change .may, might, shall, should,
will, would, can, could
must, ought
He might persuade you to..
You should paint...
It might rain today.

Year 6

Passive verbs change the way information is given in a sentence. It helps writers to change the view point of the action.

The cat chased the mouse. The subject the mouse is the active element – therefore the clause is in the active voice.

The mouse was chased by the cat. The subject The mouse receives the action – therefore the clause is in the passive voice.

The main job of the passive is to take attention away from the subject of the active clause. It gives the choice of an impersonal voice as you can omit the agent (cat) if you want to.
The mouse was chased.
I painted my front door.

The front door was painted.
I broke the window in the green house.

The window in the greenhouse was broken.

Regular verb forms can be predicted by the rules of grammar when changed into a plural, or the tense is changed,
jump , jumps, jumped, jumping
look, looks, looked, looking
remember, remembers , remembered remembering
cry, cries, cried, crying
Irregular verbs forms are often unpredictable, there are about 300 of these.
Most irregular verbs change the vowel:
Meet - met , take - took , speak – spoken , see - saw
Some change the consonant as well:
Keep – kept , teach – taught, sell – sold
The ed ending is never used in a regular way:
take, taken, see, seen, have, had, send, sent, drive, drove, driven, bend, bent
The most irregular verbs
go, went, gone
be , was, wereswim, swam, swumbegin, began, begun

Werksallhourz Sat 13-Feb-16 23:43:45

I taught in Europe and the Middle East, and grammar was an integral part of their language lessons, largely because their languages depended heavily on understanding grammatical structures.

The upshot of this was the pupils found learning other languages, such as English, to be relatively easy, even though, in some cases, they were not necessarily academically minded. However, the English pupils from a British educational background, found learning the national language to be beyond difficult. We had to teach very basic grammatical concepts before we could even begin to attempt to teach basic verbs and nouns.

I, personally, believe it is the lack of grammar education in Britain that is responsible for our poor foreign language skills as a nation. Our lack of understanding about grammar just makes it too hard to learn foreign languages.

I now work in HE, and see the results of the failure to teach grammar. I had to explain the difference between the active and passive voice to an English PhD student a few months ago, and many of our undergraduates simply cannot construct clear complex sentences.

My feeling is that there is a cultural resistance in the UK over teaching, what I would refer to as, "structural knowledge" that is vital for many tasks within specialised disciplines, but isn't used in general everyday life.

Lily Allen's recent comment about teaching Pythagoras's theorem is an example of this mentality. Grammar also falls into this realm of resistance, as does the Periodic Table and historical timelines.

Bambalina Sun 14-Feb-16 01:55:15

My memory is very sketchy of school days, but I cannot remember learning very much grammar, or certainly this participle business. Active and passive voice is only something I have heard about in the last 10 years. I loved English, got AA at gcse and a B for a level English language, spelling is good (except when typing from a phone) so I think it just must not have been part of our curriculum. I can't speak for other countries, but I feel our English classes certainly at secondary school were very literature-focused. And I could never quite understand beyond the basic verb rules for French although I wonder if I had learnt grammar more extensively if that would have made more sense too. Apparently I had an aptitude for foreign language (although I have a strong pull towards words and language In general)

MangosteenSoda Sun 14-Feb-16 02:52:45

I didn't have much of a clue about English grammar apart from the very basics until I learnt Spanish. I could finally understand how and why my own language works as it does.

I think it's better to have an understanding of why things work as they do, rather than just a feeling that something should be done a certain way.

I'm not in the UK any more and I really notice the difference when I go back. The past continuous seems to be disappearing entirely (out of my mum's vocab at least!). I know this is a trend, but I find it strange that someone who used to speak correctly, now doesn't and hasn't even noticed that she's changed. I guess if people understood the rules, they would be less likely to totally unlearn them!

Toadinthehole Sun 14-Feb-16 03:17:51

My children attend a state school in NZ. No formal teaching of grammar that I am aware of. Neither can identify the parts of speech, although they know how to use them.

Formal teaching of foreign languages is not a priority in schools here.

Feenie Sun 14-Feb-16 03:21:22

At 5 and 6 years old though - and at the level I have posted?

With a test at 7? On the terminology, not the usage?

MangosteenSoda Sun 14-Feb-16 03:30:17

I think students should be tested on usage. They have got to call it something, so no harm learning the name of the tense, but imo, not useful to focus on terminology.

Also learning that 'be' is the auxiliary is not necessary. Subject + be (appropriately conjugated) + ing = past progressive / continuous seems sufficient.

Ericaequites Sun 14-Feb-16 03:49:37

In the United States, grammar isn't taught nearly enough. Most college students can't punctuate their way out of a paper bag. I went to a private school, graduating thirty years ago. I learned a lot of grammar by studying Latin. We also had a grammar day each week in English class. The new system of grammar based on computer languages is nonsense. What was wrong the old way?

DorothyL Sun 14-Feb-16 05:42:42

I don't understand what's so awful about that list?

DorothyL Sun 14-Feb-16 05:43:58

So year 1 - learn about the present and past tense. Is there anything else?

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