Sunday, May 24, 2015

Grammar for Learners with poor narrative skills

Table of contents

° Forward ------------------------------------------------------------- 3
° Teaching writing via grammar lessons ---------------------------- 4

° Part I
           The simple past tense
- What happened? ---------------------------------------------------- 5
- The past simple from discrete sentences to narration ------------ 6

° Part II
         The past continuous tense
- What was happening? ---------------------------------------------- 7
- The past progressive from grammar to Narration ---------------- 9
- Implementation ----------------------------------------------------- 9
- Students’ sample writings ----------------------------------------- 11

° Part III
       The past perfect: Simple & progressive
- Sequence of events ----------------------------------------------- 15
- Illustration --------------------------------------------------------- 16
- Conclusion ------------------------------------------------------- 17

Key words: 
writing, narration, past tenses, simultaneity, sequence of events, recount, cohesion,
coherence, unity of the topic, connectives,


          Narration is a skill which needs a relatively high scale in language manipulation and communication abilities. Like everyone else, the teenagers are also fervently keen on recounting their past experiences, telling tales, and making up stories especially in a foreign language to share with people from other cultures. Yet,
they are frustrated as the use and usage of language is an eminent obstacle hard to overcome overnight. Consequently they give in and never try again. What a loss!

         As these same learners love grammar classes so much, I've thought of teaching them narrative writing through grammar. I mean teaching the past tenses for the sake of paving the way for them to break the silence barrier and tell what they have to tell. I suppose when they learn the past tenses, they will be able to make use of them to tell about past events in a clearly well-organized and comprehensible way.

         Teaching grammar for the sake of writing purposes is more beneficial for the learners who have a lot of ideas, vocabulary and expressions and are eager to exploit them to improve their narrative skills. Therefore, why not teaching them the tenses in contexts to take as models to copy and then gradually try to write their own texts. This has greatly facilitated using English for them to come up with exciting recount writings?

         In this first part, I’ll concentrate on how to make possible exploiting teaching the past simple tense to enjoin the students to write about their personal deeds some time in the past, last night, yesterday, last week(end), last month, last summer holiday, last year and so on.

         The combination of the simple past and the past progressive in accurate grammatical and semantic structures can result in astonishing stories provided that the imagination is fertile and the vocabulary repertoire is relatively rich, hence the gate for inventing fictitious stories becomes possible. The students need to master the use of the tenses in addition to some linking words such as “when”, “while”, “before” and “after” to focus only on these four in this stage.

        Teaching compound sentences describing actions in the past is better done through simultaneity showing that two or more actions happened or were happening at the same time. Later on they could learn to use the past perfect and the simple past to set chronology about actions in the past using more connectives apart from “before and “after”, like “as soon as”, “no sooner .. than”, “by the time”, “x days/months/years later” and so on.

         The learners get motivated because all that they need is to surmount the obstacle of describing simultaneous actions or sequencing events in the past. This measure is crucial to allow them to recount their experiences or share what happened to them or describe events for the sake of informing, entertaining or reflecting. Grammar thus can be successfully employed to target and boost the learners’ narrative skills and communicative competence.