Tuesday, March 30, 2010




A class PTA was going on. A parent stands up. Holding up a note book and pointing to a word written in the book he asks, ‘what do you teach in this school? What’s written here? dg … my son has read it dog. Who else in the world will read it? What is the spelling of d-o-g? Not only the word dog ... Look at this k-o-u …

Is it cow? ‘Teacher you have to take dictation, give imposition …’ He suggested.

You might have come across this kind of issues.

· Why do we discourage the conventional way of learning spellings?

DICTATION…? What does the child gain out of dictation?

Let’s analyse the issue:

The child may write the right spelling only because you forced him to do so. That means it never came out of his need or never attached to his own thought.

In that case he may write the spelling of that particular word. But when he comes across any other word he may fumble for the right spelling.

Let’s take an example,

A III rd std child learning the spelling of table—t-a-b-l-e

He may repeat it several times without having any sense of the sound that each letter has. When he wants to spell the word ‘TAR’ he will find it difficult. It is because in the first case ie ‘table’ the letter ‘a’ represents one sound. But in the second word ‘tar’ a stands for something else.

In any language the sound of a letter may vary in different different words.

Eg: Let’s take the letter ‘a’ in different words

In the words- ‘and, arm, age, village, about’ the sound of the same letter ‘a’ is different. That means

Teaching the letters in isolation or leraning the spellings repeatedly and giving dictation and imposition have little to do with getting the right spelling.

Now comes the question of how will the children learn the right spelling?

In the class room the child gets a lot of chances to hear, see and produce sounds. And also he will have real need to present his ideas in writing. In such contexts he will look for the right letters and words

of the sounds he produce.



Once a teacher complained to the trainer. Whenever I ask my children to write any discourse they always ask me to supplement English words for the Malayalam version. It creates a lot of disturbance in the classroom. There must be a list of such words in the course book so that they can learn them by heart.

Eg: One of the boys wrote ‘we have three thavis in our kitchen.’

· What shall we do in such cases?


CASE 2 An OSS experience

Sr. Deepthi gives 20 – 25 words everyday to her children to by heart and wanted them to write sentences with that.

Trainer: How does it work?

Sr: If we give the name of the parts of the body like head , hand, leg etc they will write full sentences like I have two hands I have two legs …

Trainer : Whose need is this? It is the need of the teacher to write something not the need of the child. The child wrotre these sentences mechanically.

Sr. can teacher supply the words when the child really needs?

Then only the child owns the word.

Eg. A picture of a boy lying on the road hit down by an ice cream

Vendors vehicle.

Another picture of that same boy who stand with icecream on his body parts. Showing this picture ,teacher asked the children to write or add more lines to the poem.

Here is icecream on my hand

Here is icecream on my leg



We are not promoting by heart learning. It will not help the child to develop his vocabulary. When the child feels the need for a particular word he will enquire for the apt word. If it is made available at that meaningful context it will get registered. It is different from mugging up words from the given list. We are looking for the need based expansion of vocabulary.

· Is it not a translation from Malayalam to English?

No, we are not translating in this context. But we are supplying the name of the objects in English.

· When do the children expand vocabulary?

Learning words in isolation will never enrich his vocabulary.

In stage 1 children make a lot of concept maps related to different themes. Stage 2 & 3 they are constructing a number of discourses which demands a lot of new words. There he explore for words and the vocabulary organically expands. Teachers’ interaction,

Narratives, reading passages … are the sources for developing his vocabulary.



A foreigner meets a clerk at the enquiry counter in a bus station.

He asks a readymade question in Malayalam.

Mysoorilekkulla bus eppazhanu?

The clerk responds. Eppol Poyathe ullu.

· What could be the condition of the foreigner?

· Did he get the expected information?

· Could he make out anything from the clerk’s words? Why?

Teachers frequently ask for ready made pieces of conversation

for using in the classroom.

A speaker cannot anticipate how the listener is going to respond.

So ready made conversations given in the source books will not help the teacher or learner to communicate in the real life context.



A headmaster was giving feedback to his colleagues after observing his English class in std III. ‘ You should have taught the rules first. I saw one boy written like this, ‘He has take away the bag. Your students don’t know even the V1 V2 V3 forms of the verbs. Has + past participle is the structure. How can you expect your student to write correct sentences if they don’t know the grammar rules.

· Don’t think you that the HM is right?

· Can anyone write correct English before mastering its grammar rules?

Let’s go back to our childhood days, when we started speaking mother tongue. Were we aware of the grammar rules when we uttered our ideas in language. Have you ever come across a 4 year old child making mistakes in Malayalam?

We are not conscious about the rules when we are expressing our ideas. In reality the consciousness about the rules delays and ruins the naturality of our speech.

Can mother tongue acquisition be compared to second language leraning?

Any language can be internalized by the human brain with equal ease. Mother tongue is acquired and English can be acquired if its acquisition is facilitated ie if we exspose the children to English in an emotionally charged natural and meaningful way they can internalize English effortlessly.

Naturally a question arises what wrong is there in learning in grammar rules. If we watch a grammar class closely we will realize that sentence level grammar is handled there. That too without realizing its functional value. Structures learned without its function are lifeless and useless. This will only retard the flow of expression.

If no grammar is taught formally, how can our students write correct sentences?

Grammar is caught rather than taught. When a child acquires the first language she doesn’t learn grammar in a formal way. She internalises grammar of mother tongue through exposure to the language. Similarly in second language acquisition we must provide exposure to the learner using interesting texts. This will make them aware of the structures as well functions of the language. Discourse oriented pedagogy has been conceived with a view to facilitating language acquisition at primary level through experiencing a variety of discourses. Discourses take care of recurrence of language elements.

When do we teach formal grammar then?

The acquisition paradigm is followed in primary level which helps the learner to develop the knowledge of language non-consciously. Once the learner has achieved this, hopefully at secondary level we will introduce grammar formally. This will help him as conscious monitor.

What methodology is followed in teaching grammar?

The curriculum is meant to be transacted in tune with social constructivism and crtical pedagogy. At all level construction of knowledge has to take place. So we cannot stuff the learners with a lots of information about grammar. Grammatical concepts are to be constructed by the learner by analyzing a certain body of linguistic data available from the discourses…

(Visual of a grammar class.)


  1. Please include some classroom evidences to establish your arguments

  2. hai thalis,
    reading your uploaded version on the strategy to address teaching of English grammar is really informative.Keep it up yar....