“Is it a good idea to teach grammar from context (e.g. a listening exercise) rather than presenting directly out of the blue?”

“How can I use a listening exercise to teach a grammar point?”

Many students internalize grammar better from first seeing / hearing it in a context, rather than having it introduced directly by the teacher.

You can indirectly introduce grammar via a listening exercise.

In the following extract from an exercise, students listen to some dialogues of people talking at work. The students’ task is not the traditional task of listening for information. Instead they are instructed to listen to the tenses the speakers use when carrying out a particular function (in this case expressing intentions and decisions).

This kind of exercise is useful as it shows students how different tenses are used in typical situations – literally grammar at work!

Listen to these people carrying out various tasks. In each case circle the tense that the female (F) speaker uses. In some cases she uses both tenses. (W= will, GT = going to, PC = present continuous).

1 Taking spontaneous decisions over the phone                                 W      GT

2 Offering to help a colleague do something                                        W      GT

3 Reporting arrangements made at an earlier time                             PC      GT

Dialog 1

F     Hold the line and I’ll see if he’s available.

M    Actually I think I’ll just leave a message – could he ring me before 10.0?

F     OK. I’ll give him your message.

Dialog 2

M    I can’t find the receipts anywhere and I need them to get reimbursed.

F     Don’t worry I’ll help you find them. I’ll give you a hand after the meeting.

Dialog 3

F     We’re actually having the meeting with the CEO before the presentation.

M    Sounds sensible.

F     And then afterwards we’re going out for a trip around the medieval part of the town before dinner.

Once students have done the exercises, they can look at the script to check their answers. They then analyse why in each case a particular tense was chosen. As a follow up, they can role play similar situations, and thus practise the grammar orally. After this, they can convert their conversations into emails, as if the same conversation had been carried out not face to face but via email.

Adrian Wallwork