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Three effective ways to teach grammar, lexis, and functions

Three effective ways to teach grammar, lexis, and functions

  • Do you find that the way you teach grammar and lexis is not effective? 
  • …that it doesn’t help your students to communicate in English?
  • …or is it that you find it difficult to connect grammar, lexis, and functions?

Poppies, as  the collaborative project it aims to be,  has asked Ángela Ruiz & Bego Pérez to share with you what they often do in their classes.

They’re bothEnglish teachers holding a permanent position in the Spanish state education system.So, here you have three practical, highly effective ways to teach and practise grammar, lexis, and functions

Since those who started the Poppies Foundation Plus in September 2019  are now dealing with Pragmatic Competences and, more specifically, with how we deal with functions in our Syllabus and how we connect them with grammar, I thought it would be proper to “update” this post, originally published on 22nd Nov. 2016.

How I teach and practise grammar with my students


The way Angela teaches grammar in context

Depends on the group

At least in most of the cases. There are, however, a few steps that I usually follow.

Steps I usually follow

First students talk

First of all, before me teaching, I like listening to my students:

I usually write on the board the title of the topic we are going to deal with and tell my students to say what they know about it. This helps us set the situation in which the language items take place. Students can say anything they like since, at this point, I do not correct them.

At the end, when most of them have said something, it is me telling them.

The teacher’s turn

I start by explaining what it is: a verb tense, a subordinate clause to connect two or more ideas, etc… I think it is important that they know what they are working on.

After that, I always explain the use of the grammar point. If it is a tense, when we use it; for example, we use it to talk about what we do every day, or past experiences, etc. If it is a subordinate clause, the context when we use it, such as to talk about a hypothetical situation in the present or a future time,  and so on.

Students’ practice

As for the practice, during the whole process of explaining,  I always include examples.

I use these examples as an excuse to help my students produce their own sentences. I think they learn more by practising, particularly when it is about aspects which are familiar to them, like their own life. They also find it easier to remember later.

End of lesson

To finish the lesson students have to write and share their own sentences on the topic so that I can check that they understood what we did in class.

What my lessons always have

One of the most important things in my lessons is that I speak less and my students more. I try to make them speak as much as possible.  My lessons are student-centred and follow, therefore, communicative trends.

I hope this can be helpful. Thank you very much for taking into account what I have to say. It is always a great honour to share it with you.

Thank you to you, Ángela! That’s what collaboration is about. Teachers are not afraid of sharing!

Teaching/learning new vocab

Bego's way of teachinng vocab

Bego’s way of teaching vocab with mindmaps


The best way is by doing mind maps.

There is a website I have recently discovered that works really well in class. Bubbl.us | brainstorm and mind map online

The procedure with higher levels and age groups

I tend to introduce the main topic and then words related to that topic.

Next,  SS work with sentences (controlled practice and context)

and it is followed by free practice- SS have to select a few words of the new vocab and write dialogues using those words.

With one particular group, believe it or not, we did a rap song (it was 1 BACH, very fluent as well)
Might have been surprised if I didn’t know you. But I’m fully aware of all the great things you can and do in class, Bego. Thanks for your contribution and for the link, which will be part of the “Resources 4 English Teachers”

What about the lower levels and age groups?

As for the little ones, 1 ESO or 2 ESO, I also do the brainstorming,

Then we do writings as a class using those words.

After we have done enough practice, they have to do their own writing.

If feasible, we do cardboards to decorate the class. Unfortunately, this year is not possible, we have gone from 28 to 33 in one class.

Dealing with functions in the English class

The third one is suggested by me.

As I keep telling in the face-to-face classes and in the videos at the Poppies Foundation Plus:

We cannot say that we follow communicative approaches and then state that the objective of a lesson is to teach the present simple.

Besides, both the LOE & LOMCE refer to and include in their Curricular Contents a variety of functions.

Something I used to do years ago when I was teaching at Secondary schools

Give students different situations

Ideally in English, but if the level is too low you can give them the situation in Spanish & in English:

You are visiting New York and…
  1. You’ve met a very nice American who has just introduced you to a friend of his from Canada.
  2. You are sitting on a bench with this friend. You need to borrow his tablet.
  3.  Then, you decide to go for a sandwich and a coke.

And let them provide the appropriate language for those situations

  1. What do you say to her/him?
  2. What do you say?
  3. How do you order it?

Of course, this time in English!

How do you organise this activity?

Well, it can be done

  • Individually, at the end of a unit as a self-assessment tool (And for the teacher to check that the student can actually do what had been set as a goal for the unit)
  • In pairs, where each student is given a set of situations and the other has to respond to the situation.
  • In groups of three where one sets the situation and the other two have to interact in that situation with the appropriate language.
  • Do you have any other ideas about teaching grammar, lexis, and functions which work and would like to share with Poppies?
  • Post your comment below to share them.

Desde sus orígenes, el objetivo de PoppieS es ayudarte en la preparación de la oposición a profesores de inglés y contribuir a que la escuela pública ofrezca la enseñanza de calidad –de y en lengua inglesa– que tus alumnos necesitan en el s. XXI

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