Home Forums Teacher Development Forum Do you agree with Scott T that grammar shouldn’t be the basis for curricula?

This topic contains 4 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Lizzie Pinard 2 years, 5 months ago.

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  • #271 Reply

    Joanna Sutcliffe

    In his article, Grammar, Power and Bottled Water (http://www.scottthornbury.com/articles.html), Scott Thornbury rails against the recent ‘grammar renaissance’, giving recents for his belief that a structural approach to teaching is misguided. WHat do you think?

    #277 Reply

    David Read

    I think that the article is actually pretty old (1998!) so I’m wondering how many of the ideas expressed then are still relevant today. Are we really in the grip of a ‘grammar renaissance’. I’d suggest we’re more in the grip of a ‘vocabulary renaissance’, with the importance of collocations/corpus data/frequency being fronted at the expense of grammar. I think this is particularly true of many of our own students who have reached that intermediate plateau and need vocabulary rather than grammar to take them to the next level. What do others think?

    #278 Reply


    I think I’ll always remain undecided. I do agree with David when it comes to collocations, and this is something my Grammar& Writing students realized at the end of the term 3. Once they learnt how to construct a variety of sentence structure, modality, hedging, article use, etc., my feedback included error codes for wrong word or register. I did study a lot of grammar in Greek, English and German, and this is what I naturally do when you throw me into a new language – analyze word forms and order. We need to remember that our students still can from contexts where grammar is taught as a set of rules to memorize and assessed in gap-fill activities. So, I think it is about the how we teach grammar, not whether we teach it or not.

    #279 Reply


    *structures haha

    #281 Reply

    Lizzie Pinard

    For me babies and bathwater come to mind, a la Michael Swan. I think ELT likes to swing from one thing to another with great enthusiasm but could do more of not throwing previous ideas and approaches away in the process. Like Anastasios, when I study a new language, I am interested in the grammar, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be a set of rules to learn. I learnt a lot of Italian grammar inductively by reading (and comparing it with French grammar also) widely. I don’t think there is one best way to teach or to learn, it depends on the individual. As teachers, we need to equip students to use ways that work best for them and help them see the benefits of ways that might be less comfortable for them initially but that might become more comfortable (and helpful) with a bit of perseverance. I’m not sure that collocations etc are fronted at the expense of grammar, I think grammar probably is still fairly central (even if not overtly) in most syllabuses (syllabi?) but perhaps these days we are getting increasingly better at making it relevant and meaningful, and not treating it at the expense of other things. Though, in contexts where there is a lot of material to wade through and a grammar heavy test at the other end of it, I don’t doubt that the other things might often get left aside. So I suppose testing (and how that is done varies from context to context) influences the whole thing too. So I suppose I agree with Anastasios in that it’s about the how rather than the whether.

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