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Mira Leventhal-Abudi
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Discussion Questions
1. What is the role of grammar in the English curriculum in Israel and Germany? Are there any similarities or differences?

In 2001 a new English curriculum was written for the Israeli educational system and then in 2013 this curriculum was revised and adapted. The English Curriculum in Israel sets forth the expected standards for the teaching of English in Israeli schools under the supervision of the Ministry of Education. The Israeli English curricula, both from the year 2001 and 2013, are viewed as crucial documents that should be implemented in the classroom. It is expected from teachers to use it in unit planning, assessment, adapting material and creating tasks. Both versions were written in cooperation with teachers. The 2001 version states that over the years the curriculum will be adapted according to input from the practicing field, and thus the 2013 version was created resulting in a curriculum that will better address the needs of teachers, material writers and test designers.
The 2001 curriculum does not address grammar at all and does not give any guidelines regarding this topic. Teachers were free to teach whatever grammar they wanted in whatever manner. The rationale behind this was that more and more pupils have extensive contact with English before beginning formal English instruction and therefore any simple listing of items to be taught would be random and over-rigid.
In 2013 however, when this curriculum was revised, a decision was made to come back to formal, structured grammar teaching. The revised English curriculum includes word and grammar lists to be taught explicitly, in order to standardize the linguistic content of materials being taught and tested. These lists of grammatical structures to be taught at each level are based on the criteria of frequency and expert judgment by academics and practicing teachers.
Grammar instruction is important for efficient language acquisition and therefore should specifically be taught in schools. The learning of grammar includes learning the form, meaning and use of grammatical structures which helps students understand what they have heard or read, and assists them in expressing themselves in speaking and writing. The revised English curriculum defines all the grammar topics that should be taught at each level. The teaching of the grammar structures is cumulative i.e. all structures taught at the Foundation Level are included within the Intermediate Level, and all those taught at the Intermediate Level are included in the Proficiency Level. In the revised curriculum, grammatical knowledge has been divided into the following components: syntax, verb, nouns, adjectives/adverbs and prepositions.
In addition, the revised Israeli English curriculum emphasizes meaningful language learning and encourages teachers to integrate this method in grammar teaching. Teachers are inspired to give meaningful exercises that allow learners to practice grammar, vocabulary and specific language points.

2. How should grammar be taught in EFL contexts? Please explain and give examples.

The discussion on grammar teaching and its role in language learning brings up a lot of controversy amongst teachers and curriculum writers. Some find that grammar is not essential for foreign language learning while others view that grammar is necessary. In Israel, after a period when grammar was not even part of the curriculum, grammar is now reestablished in language teaching and some formal grammar instruction is required in the EFL classroom. There are many approaches and strategies to choose from regarding grammar teaching.
In my opinion, grammar is an integral and very important component of language teaching and learning and I find that formal grammar instruction is necessary for EFL students. I strongly believe that teachers need to find a balance between traditional grammar rule teaching and a more communicative and interactive approach, that focuses on how to make use of structures rather than a pure knowledge of grammar. In my opinion, grammar has to be taught in context and not isolated as was common in the Grammar Translation Method. Therefore, grammar teaching should consist of a mixture of both explicit grammar instruction and implicit grammar instruction. Both explicit and implicit grammar instruction have advantages and disadvantages. Explicit grammar teaching gives students the exact rules, points out exceptions and suits learners with strong logical, mathematical and verbal intelligence. However, explicit language instruction may lead to superficial language learning, where students memorize the rules, but don’t necessarily know how to imply them. Implicit grammar instruction on the other hand is good for “picking up the language on the go”, helps the students communicate in a natural environment and is similar to how we learn our L1. It is important to remember that all students are different. Some will take a more logical approach to learning, whereas others will be more inclined to simply use the language as they receive it. Techers need to learn how to blend these two methods together.
In explicit grammar teaching, two main approaches are possible: deductive grammar teaching and inductive grammar teaching. A deductive approach works from the general to the specific. In this method, rules, principles, and structures are presented first, and then their applications are learned and practiced. Once learners understand rules, they are told to apply the rules given to various sentences. While this approach gets right to the point, is fast and provides learners with appropriate examples, it requires students to memorize rules, and grasp concepts and is very teacher oriented. On the other hand, the inductive approach is “bottom up” and has students observe a number of specific instances and then infer a general principle or concept. In this approach, students are active in their grammar learning, which leads them to better understand the concepts. In my opinion, whenever possible, grammar teaching should be inductive. I understand, that in some cases it is easier and quicker to provide students with the rules, however, if time and topic allow it, inductive learner is much deeper. For some learners however (especially the weaker ones), I think that rules need to be presented black and white in order for the kids to remember and implement them. For children where learning comes easier to them, inductive grammar learning makes them use higher order thinking skills, and therefore learning is at a higher level, but this might not be appropriate for weaker students. Therefore, teachers need to be sensitive to learners’ needs and abilities, and use various methods while teaching grammar in the ESL classroom.
In my practicum I have observed my mentor teacher both in deductive and inductive grammar teaching. She usually starts out inductively, lets the students think a little and figure it out on their own. However, there are always students in the class that do not get it, that need extra help, and then she takes them aside and teaches them the grammar rules deductively. I find she has a good balance between the two.
Most students are hostile towards grammar learning, and so I think as an EFL teacher, you must find fun and meaningful ways to teach grammar. Grammar does not always have to be taught formally, but can be taught in fun, playful ways. Songs are a great way to teach grammar inductively. Kids love music and when it is a song they know and like, it is fun for them to find the “hidden” grammar structures within the lyrics (for example present progressive – the lemon tree). In addition, by singing phrases, the forms will become embedded into the mind a lot faster. Games too are a great way to teach grammar in the EFL classroom. Most kids enjoy playing games, and don’t even notice they are learning while playing them. Games can include board and card games in smaller groups, or grammar games to be played with the entire class. Last, it is critical to teach grammar in context. Sentences and rules out of context do not mean much to the EFL learner. Teaching grammar in context makes it much more interesting for the learner which results in higher motivation and better learning.

3. Do you think technology facilitates grammar learning? Please explain and give examples.

The effective use of technology in education has changed education around the world and it has created more educational opportunities. There are many ways in which technology can be used in grammar teaching to engage students and enable exciting, engaging and interesting lessons. When using technology in the grammar classroom, it is important to plan how you're going to use the technology in advance. Teachers need to ask themselves how the use of technology is going to aid the learning of the students. If it is not going to aid teaching or learning, then it should not be used. Like any aspect of teaching, I think technology is effective in grammar teaching in the appropriate amount. Students today are very technology-oriented, and the use of various technological tools in the grammar classroom can definitely facilitate grammar learning.
There are various technological tools teachers can use in their grammar lessons:
1. Quizlet and Kahoot are two very popular apps used in Israel in the EFL classroom (both for grammar and vocabulary). Quizlet is an online learning and memorization tool, that lets users create "sets" of terms customized for their own needs. These sets of terms can then be studied under several study modes such as flash cards, definitions and spelling. Kahoot! is a free game-based learning platform and may be played using any device, desktop or laptop with a web browser. Kahoot! can be used for formative assessment, to assess individual student’s progress, strengths and weaknesses. During Gameplay, the questions and up to 4 multiple choice answers are displayed on the main screen and students have to choose the correct answer.
2. YouTube: Israeli teachers use YouTube a lot to show students short videos or introduce them to new songs. As mentioned above, songs are a great way to teach grammar structures and YouTube can be a great technological teaching aid. I usually prefer downloading the videos and songs to my USB as you need to be careful with YouTube because you never know what video will come on right after the video you show, and if you do not turn it off right away you might have an unpleasant surprise. There is also a website called “Movie Segments to Assess Grammar Goals” that contains a series of movie segments and activities to assess or practice grammar points through fun, challenging exercises.
3. PPT and Prezi presentations: PPT is a great tool for both teachers and students. Teachers can prepare PPT presentations to introduce a grammar topic, give exercises and students can present their work with this tool. In PPT presentations teachers can embed pictures, diagrams, videos and sound files to enhance the content. Prezi is a more modern, more exciting presentation tool that is becoming more and more popular.
4. Grammar websites: Technology has also enabled students to practice their grammar on websites in the internet. These websites allow students to practice a variety of grammatical items and language features presented to them in interactive activities.
5. Writing blogs: Students can practice their writing and grammar by writing their personal stories on an individual or shared writing blog.
6. Online collaboration tools: Online collaboration tools, such as those in Google Apps, allow students and instructors to share documents online, edit them in real time and project them on a screen. This gives students a collaborative platform in which to brainstorm ideas and document their work using text and images.
In addition, a very important aspect of technology in EFL grammar lessons is differentiation. Technology can be used to create flexible learning environments for different students. Technology allows teachers to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of every student. Technology makes it possible to pace lessons appropriately for each student’s learning level and can be used to promote learning in the multiple intelligences. Technology can be designed to accommodate kids on the entire spectrum, and focus on emphasizing strengths rather than weaknesses. It allows us to help kids get past the blocking hurdles such as reading difficulties and let them concentrate on their strengths.

4. Can you share with your partner a critical incident that you distinctively remember (positive or negative) related to grammar learning or teaching?

I am not teaching myself yet, besides in my practicum, but I have observed several grammar lessons over the past year. I think my critical incident was when I observed two grammar lessons on present progressive, one inductive and one deductive. These two lessons (by two different teachers) really demonstrated these two approaches to grammar teaching. In the deductive lesson, the teacher gave the kids a picture, taught them the rules of present progressive, and then had them practice sentences. In the inductive lesson, the kids were also given a picture, but the teacher just said: “what are the people doing” and then had the kids make sentences, without actually learning the rules. She then wrote every sentence on the board and asked the kids, what the sentences had in common. One step at a time, the kids came up with the rules for present progressive.
The kids in the inductive class were much more involved, it was like solving a puzzle. They had to think about it, and they were active in the classroom. The kids in the deductive lesson were much more passive. They just took the rule and made sentences.
It was a critical moment for me, because it made me realize the power of inductive grammar teaching. Like I mentioned earlier, inductive learning is not suitable for all students, and teachers need to find the right balance, but it definitely makes the lesson more interesting.

5. Can you share with your partner strategies you currently use to improve your grammar knowledge? (e.g., the use of internet links, grammar book, other). Please give examples.

As a native English speaker, I must admit, I do not practice my own grammar a lot, and this is probably a mistake. Natives do not always speak correctly, and they definitely don’t know why they say the things they do, and as an English teacher it is very important to be familiar with all the rules.
I have a few grammar classes in the college and do the exercises both in our grammar book and online. In our course we use the grammar book: “Understanding and using English Grammar” by Betty Azar and Stacy Hagen. It is very clear and gives a good explanation for every grammar structure. It is not suitable for children, it is good for adults and teachers. It gives the dry rules and then from there, teachers can come up with activities suited for their class’s level. We use lots of online exercises, and these are great, because you can test yourself, see the results right away and find your weaknesses. Examples for online sites are: English grammar online (https://www.ego4u.com/), http://eslus.com/LESSONS/GRAMMAR/POS/pos.htm, perfect English grammar http://www.perfect-english-grammar.com/grammar-exercises.html, and many more. In addition, when grammar is taught in my practicum school, I listen carefully, as it is interesting to see how grammar is explained to Israeli children and sometimes compared with Hebrew grammar.
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Introducing myself:
My name is Mira and I am a Swiss/American/Israeli. I was born in the States, lived there until I was 5 years old and then moved to Basel, Switzerland with my family. I grew up in a village outside of Basel. When I was 20 I moved to Israel. I speak English, German, Swiss German and Hebrew. I am a native English speaker (we always spoke English at home) but I also learned English as a second language in school in Switzerland. So I know both sides of the equation. My hobbies are sewing, swimming and going on trips with my husband and two daughters (Hadar 2.5 and Liah 5.5).
I have a Bachelor’s degree in social work and a Master’s in business (MBA). I have been thinking about becoming an English teacher for many years, and finally, last year I had the courage to go for it. I am very happy about my decision and look forward to helping Israeli children learn English. At the moment I see myself teaching in elementary school, as I adore young children and enjoy the creativity it takes to teach them.
The Israeli educational system is very different than the Swiss one, so I have a lot to learn, as I didn’t go to school in Israel. The educational system consists of three levels: primary education (grades 1-6), middle school (grades 7-9) and high school (grades 10-12). Compulsory education takes place from kindergarten through to 12th grade. School starts approximately at 8:00 in the morning and is finishes around 13:00. Younger children often go to after-school care (until third grade) and older children go home. Israeli kids have a lot of after-school activities – sports, arts, music, scouts etc. The school year begins on September 1, and ends in the end of June. Starting from first grade, children have several teachers for different disciplines. English teachers are usually what is called “professional teachers” where they teach English to the different grade levels in the school. Sometimes English teachers are also homeroom teachers, and then they teach additional lessons to their homeroom class. In Israel, kids usually learn English from third or fourth grade, but some schools start as early as first grade. English is a very important language in Israel, and kids are usually excited and motivated to learn it.
I am looking forward to meeting you all and reading your input.
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