Like math, grammar causes anxiety to English language learners (and some native speakers). There is an intuitiveness to it that happens with every language. The problem arises when you try to learn a different language and the grammar that comes with it.
Grammar rules aren’t enough. There are so many exceptions to the rules, that causes even more confusion and frustration for the learner. When I teach grammar, specifically basic parts of speech—verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections—I try to find ways to present it in a way that doesn’t cause anxiety. I try not to get too caught up in the rules, deciding to focus on modeling simple sentences that are relatable and reproducible.
As technology changes and more and more people are communicating via email or text, having a good repertoire of phrases at your disposal can be essential. This is especially true for language learners who often fear written communication, choosing to use as much verbal communication as possible. It works well for only so long. Pronunciation and English proficiency level are two considerations, however, with the shift towards paperless and faceless communication, they may not be enough.
Incorporating something hands-on is one of the best ways to approach the study of grammar. You can’t always find opportunities to do this, but when they come around, definitely snatch them up! I found a handy worksheet using cupcakes and boxes to illustrate prepositions of place. Though I don’t remember where I found it, I love it because it is simple and can easily be translated into an interactive activity.
I’ve done this with cupcakes before with success. This time around, I used my mango mousse mini-desserts with a small box. As an introduction to prepositions, I pass out the treats and boxes and give directions. For example, put the dessert on the box. Students complete the task and I do a quick check-in to make sure there’s agreement. If there isn’t, we talk about which way is correct and why, etc. Once students have a feel for it, I give the worksheet out to reinforce what they did. Finally, we define and discuss what prepositions are. By approaching grammar in this way, I find that my students struggle less and it sticks with them.