Part of the four-page "grammar wrap up" at the back of Boost! Grammar Level 4
One of Lindsay Clandfield's comments on my last post (After the weekend: A post-unplugged coursebook unit) got me thinking about the whole "Grammar McNuggets" and "grammar-driven coursebooks" thing.
Lindsay noted that my sample unit wasn't grammar syllabus driven, and if anything, possibly bore a resemblance in parts to the Lexical Approach. He was right in that the "noticing" aspects of my unit worked more with complete chunks, and grammar rules -- in the way we're often accustomed to seeing them in coursebooks -- weren't featured at all.
I have to admit that coursebook unit writing becomes a whole lot less enjoyable (and really bloody difficult at times!) when you are trying to match a theme and communication to an overarching grammar syllabus.
And as a teacher, I find that the mood changes a lot in the classroom when you are working through a unit and then hit that grammar box or diagram -- especially if it's a big 'un...
But those boxes and diagrams (even if we call them Grammar McNuggets) can be useful... if we acknowledge and use them as a reference rather than the be-all of a page or unit of study. Integrating complex grammar rules and boxes into what are supposed to be communicative units tends to stall the rhythm and feel of a lesson on the one hand, but also risks having that potentially useful reference passed over and left buried in a unit the students may never again look back at.
So, in a nutshell, integrating grammar like this into units (especially when that grammar came first, before the lesson content itself) has its drawbacks, but leaving systematic and clear guidelines to grammar out of the book altogether involves possible problems of its own.
One potential solution to this, in my mind, is to leave the big grammar diagrams and rule explanations out of the main units and feature them at the back of the book as a reference section instead.
And here are some of the advantages I see in this move:
1. The grammar-oriented reference section at the back of the book will be easier to find and refer to, no matter where the learners are at in the book or what kind of activity they are engaged with;
2. Unit content can include references to grammar (through examples) that don't necessarily need to become a major stage of the lesson right then and there on the page;
3. There will be more room in units to feature more "natural" language chunks and collocations, directly relevant to the content and communication being featured;
4. The grammar reference section can gather content and examples from multiple units across the coursebook rather than from the one isolated unit (common in current coursebook approaches where specific kinds of grammar are linked to specific units, and rarely any of the other units);
5. The concept of grammar -- in terms of detailed rules and tables -- becomes more of an option for teachers during classes, rather than a prerequisite stage of a lesson sequence;
6. The "grammar syllabus" can become more of a result or consequence of the coursebook, rather than the cause or initial game plan.
There may be some other potential advantages here that I haven't thought of yet.
Can you think of any?
Or do you think it is preferable to leave grammar as an essential section of given units, embedded in a particular place in each unit, and perhaps even the most important guiding principle for the sequencing and content of your coursebooks?