In an effort to bring more engagement and interest into my classroom, I’m always looking to find ways to liven up the more boring and tedious parts of learning a second language. Grammar is almost always thrown under the bus first. While I’ve met people who love the rules of grammar and have a passion for using a language in the most grammatically correct way, I’ve never met anyone who enjoyed learning grammar in a classroom.
So, in my journey to find a way to make grammar more interesting and engaging for my students, I began thinking about how grammar is usually taught in a classroom. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I can’t remember learning grammar in a way that didn’t involve a lecture, textbook, or worksheet (and sometimes all three!).
As I did more reading about how grammar is learned, I stumbled upon the idea of guided discovery. I’ve used guided discovery before to encourage my students to hypothesize based on a picture, or to define new vocabulary words, but I’ve never explicitly used it to teach grammar.
This week I want to talk more about what guided discovery is and how it can help you to create a productive, effective, and engaging learning environment, specifically when it comes to grammar!
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Guided Discovery 101
Guided discovery is a way to encourage your learners to make their own discoveries and explanations for language, with your guidance. It’s an alternate to the traditional lecture-style of teaching grammar, and it can allow your students to learn in a more natural way. Just like Total Physical Response aims to mimic the natural way that infants learn a language, guided discovery gives your students the support they need in order to “pick up” the rules of language in a more natural progression.
Guided discovery requires teachers to plan activities and questions that will nudge their students towards the key points of the lesson. For example, I may not explicitly teach my students about comparatives, but through the guided discovery activities and tasks I’ve planned, my students will work with comparatives and pick up on the rules and patterns.
The teacher, through guided discovery, can help their learners gain a more active role in language learning. Instead of just sitting and listening to the teacher talk, guided discovery gives the students the autonomy to learn on their own (with the support and guidance of the teacher).
You may be asking yourself what the teacher’s role exactly is. A large part of the teacher’s role in guided discovery has to do with the planning stages of the lesson. This technique requires the teacher to select tasks at the appropriate level for the learners, and to manage or structure the lesson so that all learners are engaged and active throughout the tasks.
While the planning of your lesson is one of the aspects that could make-or-break your guided discovery, the teacher is also in charge of offering appropriate instructions, help, feedback, and explanations of grammatical concepts throughout the lesson. Listen to your students and follow their leading. Your purpose as a teacher during guided discovery is to guide, clarify, help your students to stay focused, and raise awareness of grammatical concepts that will help your students succeed.
Without proper teacher involvement, the lesson can be chaotic and unproductive. Guided discovery is not simply planning activities and then taking a seat, it is an active partnership between the students and the teacher in order to uncover new language.
How Can I Use Guided Discovery In My Classroom?
Guided discovery is a great tool for adult learners because it recognizes their autonomy in the classroom and their ability to guide their own learning. It’s also a great technique to use with grammar because it allows students to not only learn the subject at hand, but also to see it in use and to view it as more than an abstract part of a language. Grammar learned through guided discovery is grammar learned in context.
Guided discovery places a huge value on teacher guidance, but it can be difficult to know how to guide your learners without switching into “lecture-mode.” The key technique involved is to pose questions. The questions you pose are meant to be ones that will encourage your students to notice, think about, and learn from certain aspects of the language they’re working with.
The questions you pose will vary depending upon your class, proficiency-level, tasks, goals, etc. However, questions that you pose should ask students to identify or notice the aspect of grammar that you’re highlighting. However, you don’t want to ask your students to identify the grammatical point right off the bat. The questions should guide your students to their own conclusions.
Brushing Up On Your Grammar?
For example, if I’m using guided discovery to teach my students about plurals, I may give my students the following sentence: “I have one dog and two cats.” The questions I pose could ask students to draw a picture of the subject’s animals, ask how many dogs and how many cats there are, have them identify what is different between the first animal that is mentioned and the second, etc.
From these questions, students will be able to identify that the first animal (dog) is singular and the second animal (cats) is plural. We can then go into a discussion about the addition of the -s suffix before switching to a sentence that takes the subject matter a step further, such as: “She has three chairs and two couches in her living room.”
This second question will guide my students towards noticing and learning about the spelling of plurals. The guided discovery could continue further and we could observe and figure out the pattern for how plurals are communicated and spelled in English.
The questions you ask through guided discovery can help you and your students create a more interactive and engaging grammar classroom. Remember to ask questions that will suggest and point your students towards your grammar point from the class in order to give students the autonomy to learn naturally.
With a little guidance and lots of support, students and teachers can learn grammar in an effective way, while still mimicking the way that language is learned naturally. Grammar can be taught in an informal classroom, and I may even argue that it is learned best informally, depending upon your teaching placement.
I Want to Hear From You!
Have you ever used guided discovery for grammar or any other linguistic concept? Tell us about it below!
How do you approach grammar in the adult classroom?