Oxford English Grammar Course
Michael Swan’s name is well known among language teachers, particularly for his grammar guides such as Practical English Usage, which are liberated from bookshops en masse at the start of each new CELTA course. These books are very popular among teachers because they provide stripped down explanations of grammar points, presented in a comprehensible way, which can then by relayed to students. In the Oxford English Grammar Course series, Swan, along with Catherine Walter, have combined these kinds of short grammar explanations with the self-study elements of their earlier self-study books such as How English Works to produce a full three-level grammar course for self-study and for classroom use. The books are available at basic, intermediate, and advanced levels, and are designed to guide learners from the reasonably simple grammar of English to its more advanced elements.
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Grammar Sense 3
Grammar Sense 3 is a massive, multi-pronged attack to the question “How should I teach grammar?” 18 chapters each focus on one grammar point. At over 411 pages the book has room to teach each point’s form, meaning, and use in great detail. Reading, listening, speaking and writing exercises mean there is a lot to get through; using all this material effectively, especially without overwhelming students, will require careful planning. The book may need the teacher to be selective, but, if used well, can provide the grammar students need as well as a springboard to more meaningful communicative activities.
Each chapter is broken down into two parts. The first introduces the form. It does this through authentically-sourced readings, grammar tables and sentence building/completion exercises. The second half of each chapter delves into subtler points of use. It asks students to compare and analyze each grammar point’s different meanings. This knowledge is reinforced through speaking and writing exercises, and tested with critical thinking questions.
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This series of four books offers concise, useful practice of grammar. Each book has between 25 and 35 units offering two to three pages of grammar description and practice exercises. The material covered in the four books is presented clearly and develops logically, covering the key grammar usually focused on at A1-B1 level.
Compared to other grammar books on the market, I think this series offers a wider range of exercises but fewer grammar explanations. It has approximately a third of a page of grammar explanations, within the 2-3 pages of material for each grammar point presented. The books are colourful and visually appealing, using cartoons and other visuals to break up the grammar exercises. The activities themselves draw on a wide range of techniques including gap fills, matching exercises, labelling pictures, sentence ordering, crosswords and sentence correction.
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A Handbook of Spoken Grammar
This book, with audio CD, can be used either for self-study, or in class to supplement other material. It focuses on an aspect of language that is often neglected in course books: spoken grammar. According to the authors, it “teaches learners to speak more naturally, using the patterns that native speakers use when speaking English”. The authors relied on corpus data and recent research into spoken English to select the elements for study, which are presented in 20 units, from the simplest to the most complex. I was interested to see how well it measured up to its claims.
Each unit is a stand-alone section, with two double page spreads. The first two pages present the elements for study, with clear explanations of the focus, the reasons for use and the most frequent contexts in which the language will be found.
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Grammar One (part of the Oxford "Grammar" series for children)
The Grammar series of student books from Oxford neatly deals with the thorny issue of how to teach grammar to young learners in a communicative way. The series can be used as class books to prepare for the Cambridge ESOL Young Learners English Tests or as supplemental material to illustrate a specific grammar point. It all begins with Grammar Starter and Grammar One, which correspond with the Starter exam and then towards Movers. Grammar Two prepares young learners for the Movers tests and on towards Flyers. Finally the last of the series is Grammar Three, which works on the Flyers test and beyond. So you can use these as the main exam preparation book for your young learner classes for many different levels and grades.
Each book covers around twenty distinct grammar items that relate to the appropriate Cambridge exam. The item is presented in a short text or written dialogue to illustrate the meaning. The grammar explanation is on
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The Active Grammar books are published by Cambridge University Press and this is a review of the 2011 editions of Levels 2 and 3. The levels correspond with two levels of The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEF). Level 2 corresponds to B1-B2, and Level 3 corresponds to C1-C2. According to the description of the text at the beginning of the books, the Active Grammar series takes a communicative and interactive approach to learning.
The units are divided into the following grammatical concepts: tenses, modals, questions/multi-word verbs/verb structures, determiners and prepositions, adjectives/adverbs/passive/conditional, and word formation and sentences. At the beginning of each chapter there is a different context in which the particular grammar concept can be found. The books also provide brief comprehension questions after the introductory activities. After that, there is an immediate explanation of the specific grammar concept. There are numbered explanations with up to three examples per explanation. In between explanations there are “tip” boxes, which provide helpful extra attention to questions that may be raised by students.
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Practical Grammar 3
Practical Grammar is a three-part series, the third of which is reviewed herein. The textbook is designed for students of British English, with the third level focusing on those who have an intermediate to high-intermediate level of English proficiency. As such, the book shifts its content from introducing new grammatical forms to improving accuracy of use with known grammatical rules.
The textbook itself is broken down into 100 units, with groups of four units focusing on different grammatical points and every fifth unit being a review of the preceding four. For example, units 71 through 74 cover reported speech; reported statements; reported questions, requests, instructions and orders; and reporting verbs respectively, and are followed by a review in unit 75.
A particularly refreshing feature of Practical Grammar is its use of real-life scenarios at the beginning of each unit. These texts and short conversations offer students a glimpse of each grammatical point being used in appropriate contexts. The inclusion of such material seems a ready answer to the ever-persistent push toward developing students’ communicative competence and should be a welcomed attribute to all those claiming their allegiance to communicative language teaching. Such dialogues are further exemplified by Practical Grammar’s inclusion of two audio CDs, with which students can listen to the language being spoken by native speakers.
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My Grammar and I
When it comes to grammar, as far as I can see, there are three types of English teachers. There are those who don’t speak English as first language. These people have battled their way through the language’s quirks, and rules that have so many exceptions that you wonder why they are rules in the first place, until they have reached a point where, while perhaps not being entirely fluent in the language, they have a level of competence whereby they can teach English. The chances are that having studied the language so much themselves, they are able to deal with most of the grammatical queries that come their way.
The second group are the native teachers of a certain age (I’m far too polite a person to suggest what that age could be…), who were educated at a time when grammar was seen as a cornerstone of L1 learning. Maybe they even attended a Grammar school, which suggests that the subject was so highly thought of they even named the whole school after it. This group has the best of both worlds when it comes to grammar teaching, native levels of proficiency matched with an in-depth knowledge of the mechanics of the language.
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Teaching English Grammar
When offered the chance to review a book by Jim Scrivener, I jumped at it. When I first started in this industry Learning Teaching was my roadmap – he seemed to be able to explain fairly complex concepts very clearly, giving me the confidence to go out and teach and, perhaps most importantly, experiment. I can see Teaching English Grammar helping new teachers in exactly the same way with what is (for native speaker teachers at least) the hardest part of EFL teaching.
The book starts with a brief introduction in which the author sets out his aim to “save you time, energy and stress and help you to feel more confident, well-informed and one step ahead of your students”. There is then a brief section on key terminology, including useful potted guides on the use of timelines and finger contractions. This is a brief section mostly aimed at new teachers, but even an old-timer like myself found a useful tip – that teachers spend too long worrying about making lessons fun, when the real aim should be to make them engaging.
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Grammar for English Language Teachers
Grammar for English Language Teachers is more than another reference grammar book for EFL teachers. It is a necessary tool for native and non-native, experienced or newly qualified teachers.
The book consists of four parts. Part A deals with the different parts of speech not as isolated grammatical items but as words that determine various aspects in the forming of sentences. In addition, the second edition includes an extra chapter on Combining Words. This chapter explores language from a ‘lexico-grammatical’ point of view, following the latest findings of research in Applied Linguistics. Part B includes chapters on verbs and related forms such as the tenses, modal verbs, infinitive and -ing forms of verbs, and many more. Part C analyses sentence constituents and word order. The first two chapters of this part analyze both the basic principles and major variants of sentence constituents. The other chapters deal with passive constructions, discourse markers and
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This is the second edition of Penny Ur’s grammar practice activities, a reference book aimed at EFL teachers. The book moves away from the dull and conventional grammar exercises found in the majority of text books (gap fills, completion exercises, etc) and introduces innovative and communicative ways of making grammar more fun while getting students to
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Grammar Practice (Third Edition) is a grammar practice book series of four levels for elementary, pre-intermediate, intermediate and upper-intermediate students. Each book is divided into two main sections: grammar and vocabulary. The grammar section is further divided into sections covering tenses, modal verbs, adjectives, adverbs and comparison, nouns, pronouns and determiners, sentence and text structure and so on. The vocabulary section is divided into sections on prepositions, word formation, phrasal verbs and so on. Individual units cover points such as singular and plural nouns, order of adjectives, possibility and prefixes.
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