What is interactive teaching?
Teaching methods have evolved substantially over the last decade in all fields: from primary schools to universities, classroom teaching has undergone a huge shift from ‘teacher-centred’ to ‘student-centred’ learning. Rather than considering learning as a process by which knowledge is transferred from the teacher to the student, learning is now understood as a co-creative process in which students and teachers alike are actively engaged. This shift in the way teaching and learning is understood has brought changes in concrete teaching methods as well: rather than setting aside huge blocks of time for classroom lectures, teacher-student contact hours have become more focused on interactive teaching, which requires the student to actively engage, thereby ensuring better, deeper learning.
Interactive teaching methods are therefore less about the specific techniques than about the teaching philosophy behind them. As such, they can be adapted for all levels and types of education, including language teaching. In this article, we first explain what interactive teaching is and then walk you through 6 tips to develop interactive teaching methods for English grammar for teenagers.
How to teach it
Taking an interactive approach to teaching English grammar doesn’t mean throwing out your syllabus or abstaining from classroom lecturing. Rather, interactive, student-centred teaching means reframing the use of these teaching methods and integrating them as part of a broader interactive and engaging lesson plan.
An interactive grammar lesson for English learners can be structured into three parts. If there is a lot of grammar to be learned, break up the material into sections and repeat the three steps outlined here for each.
At the beginning of class, start by explaining the grammar clearly. Use a whiteboard or blackboard to write down the key points, which will serve as a useful aid during the following sections of the class. Even in the presentation stage, you’ll benefit from integrating more interactive methods. Once you’ve gone over the grammar for the day, check that the students understand the basics. If possible, get every student to give you a correct example of the use of each element, to make sure everyone has understood. If it appears that some of the students don’t understand, make sure to repeat this part again before moving on.
Once you’re confident that your students have a good understanding of the basics, use structured, interactive practice to deepen their comprehension. Rather than a classic teaching session, in which this portion of the lesson might be devoted to exercises in textbooks, keep it interactive: write ‘fill in the blanks’ sentences on the blackboard and have students give you an answer in turn.
After your short practice session, use more interactive methods to deepen students’ understanding and comfort with the grammar taught. For teens, this part is especially essential: their attention span is short and using interactive methods can really help to focus them. Here are 6 of our favourite activity and method tips to make your lesson a success:
- Activity tip: watch a movie scene and fill in the blanks
Choose a scene from an age-appropriate movie that fits your students’ level. Unless your class is very advanced, that means avoiding movies with strong English accents (Scottish, Irish and even some British accents will make this exercise almost impossible). Write out the scene, removing words relevant to your grammar lesson (remove adjectives if your lesson is about adjectives, etc.). Have students fill in the blanks while watching the scene, and then divide roles and have them read out the scene. This will stimulate them to listen attentively, which is essential to learning any language (read more about the importance of listening in this article).
- Method tip: teach in the language you’re teaching – even grammar
It’s not easy, but the effort will pay off. Teaching English grammar in English means students can’t just passively absorb what you’re saying, but have to actively pay attention to understand your meaning. By using English in the classroom constantly, you move from treating English as an object to be learned to using English as a tool to communicate.
- Activity tip: bring real life into the classroom
Students learn better when the work they do engages concrete aspects of their lives. Figure out why your students are learning English and develop exercises accordingly. IELTS teachers as well as private teachers and immersion hosts may have students who are thinking of studying or doing an internship abroad. Have students write a mock motivation letter (for lower levels, create a letter with blanks to fill in). Seeing their language skills applied to a task they will need to do in real life will your students to see the value of learning grammar properly and make them more engaged.
- Method tip: switch roles
Interactive teaching is all about subverting traditional classroom roles and behaviour. Have your students teach the class a lesson in groups of 2 or 3. For example, ask students to present a grammar lesson with plenty of examples and develop an exercise for the rest of the students to complete as a group. Doing this exercise is incredibly: working through a grammar lesson independently, figuring out how to explain it to others and coming up with exercises requires your students to apply their knowledge, ensuring they really engage with the subject matter and remember it much better. If students are uncertain about how to do this, you can sit in on their preparation session to make sure they’re on the right track.
- Activity tip: use music
Music is a fantastic learning tool, as melody and rhythm are excellent aids to memorisation. You’ll be surprised how quickly your students can recall whole sentences perfectly using songs as learning aids! Give students a sheet with the lyrics and play the song a few times, going over any grammatical elements on the blackboard. Once you’re confident the students understand the lyrics, give them a second sheet in which parts of the lyrics have been blanked out. Listen to the song again while having the students fill in the blanks. This exercise can be repeated many times with different songs. Each time, more sentence structures and grammatical elements will be embedded in your students’ minds!
- Method tip: ask for feedback
One of the most important elements in an interactive learning environment is giving your students many opportunities to tell you how they’re doing. Feedback slips at the end of each lesson will give them the chance to summarise what they’ve learned and indicate anything they struggled with, helping you to plan your next lesson. Ask a few simple questions and give students 5 minutes to answer them:
- What was the most useful thing you learned today?
- What grammar element did you find difficult and why?
- What part of today’s class would you like to go over again in the next class?
Grammar teaching is the one thing that English teachers universally dread – even if you’ve mastered the techniques, making it through a class with all students still awake is not easy! Applying interactive teaching methods will engage students and give them a more active role in the classroom. From simple elements like feedback slips to having students teach a part of the lesson, the activity and method tips outlined above are sure to make your grammar lessons a success.