English is an international language and significantly contributes to modern communication. In essence, proficiency in English greatly relies on how learners manage to understand its essential elements well. Grammar is one of the integral elements of English language as it contains major components, which determine individual’s speech.
It is imperative to understand reading and writing, as they are integral elements of grammar. In this paper, I will base my discussion on the reflections of my first English teacher and compare the grammar approaches outlined by Derewianka and Tompkins et al.
I am a slow leaner and my teacher had difficulties in teaching me the basics of grammar. My teacher made us translate words from our native language to English and we could construct and deconstruct texts.
My teacher insisted on functional grammar, whereby, the use of language means understanding every word in a text, and how the word relates and affects all the other words in the text (Winch, Johnston, March, Ljungdahl, & Holliday, 2010).
For example, when the teacher narrated a story, we had to describe the orientation of the narrative, give a descriptive summary of the narrative, provide a life lesson, and express our feelings and thoughts about the narrative. I noticed that Derewianka’s instructional techniques formed an important part of my grammar learning.
We had to understand the relationship between grammar and genre. Generally, Derewianka’s teachings focused on functional grammar, where, grammar is taught in context at a whole text level. As suggested by both Derewianka and Tompkins, learning grammar is a continuing process, with each experience strengthening and improving consecutive learning process.
By the time I reached my third year of K-12 education, I could utter and write simple words. Thereafter, Tompkins et al. (2012) teachings of grammar started taking effect as my teacher employed them in teaching us grammar in a gradual learning process. After learning a series of words (nouns, verbs, pronouns and adjectives), I constructed a sentense.
I can remember learning the first word, “eating,” and after a series of transitions, I learned a simple sentence containing a process, a circumstance and a participant, “John is eating.”
I can remember my teacher using symbols to describe English words, we could directly translate a sentence from our native languages to English for a start, and with time, English became part of us. I saw myself graduate from mastering a simple sentence to mastering complex sentenses. Tompkins et al. (2012) focused on building the student’s knowledge about the components of language before applying it to whole texts.
In conclusion, it is noteworthy that both teachings insist on a gradual process of learning and the use of meta-language in building a robust foundation of English. Both teachings assert that the use of scaffolding, modeling, and simple progressive instructions enables slow learners to grasp elements of grammar.
Therefore, when teaching grammar, it is important to understand grasping level of students, application of functional grammar, as well as practical illustrations such as scaffolding to bring a clear understanding.
Anderson, J. (2006). Zooming in and zooming out: Putting grammar in context into context. English Journal, 95(5): 28-34.
Annandale, K., Bindon, R., Handley, K., Johnston, A., Lockett, L., & Lynch, P. (2004). First steps writing resource book. Melbourne, Vic: Rigby Heinemann.
Derewianka, B. (2011). A new grammar companion for teachers. Riverwood, NSW: Primary English Teachers Association.
Tompkins, G., Campbell, R., & Green, D. (2012). Literacy for the 21st century. A balanced approach. Frenchs Forest, NSW: Pearson Australia.
Winch, G., Johnston, R.R., March, P., Ljungdahl, L., & Holliday, M. (2010). Literacy: Reading, writing and children’s literature (4th ed.). South Melbourne, Vic: Oxford University Press.