Natural Grammar (Scott Thornbury)

Natural Grammar (Scott Thornbury)

Mastering grammar patterns as is one of the priorities of any language learner. There are a wealth of methods, approaches and techniques which are designed to fix grammar patterns. Despite the wide range of approaches some learners still lack appropriate usage of grammar patterns and come up with their misuse. In this article, we will present the approach proposed by Scott Thornbury,  a well-known methodologist, linguist and an internationally recognized academic and teacher trainer in the field of English Language Teaching (ELT).

Main Ideas

Natural Grammar is designed to make students and teachers think about new ways to analyse grammatical structure according to a functional approach. This is achieved by focusing on the actual patterns of use of normal speech, in which grammar emerges from the lexis of words, rather than from some fixed patterns which are instructed according to strict rules. Grammar is presented in this book as a language made up of lexical chunks of meaning, which are shown to be part of a dynamic process of communication. The dynamic process is taken as a basis of the natural flow of communication. Therefore, in his famous bookNatural Grammar Scott mentions that though the book is about grammar, it is organized around words. According to him, even very simple words have grammar since you have to choose from particular grammar patterns associated with the given word. He brings an example of ‘for’ which is used with nouns, (for teachers, for doctors), with the verb in -ing form (for coming, for telling) and creates certain well-spread grammar patterns. So here are the high-frequency grammar patterns for “for” (for +NP, for + -ing)

From many various examples that we come across in the book, it is clear that when a student masters these specific patterns he/she is well aware of the most high-frequency grammar usages in the language. As a result, he/she gets access to the most wide-spread patterns of the language. The study and mastering of those patterns will give the chance to be a more confident and proficient learner.

As Scott Thornbury presents various patterns in his book, in this article we will take some of the patterns and give ideas of classroom activities which can help to reinforce them.

Set Phrases/Collocations

The book is full of examples of set phrases and collocations which are of utmost importance for natural communication in the target language. Here, we will present some ideas of how students can get extra practice on set phrases.

  • Dictaglosses: The teacher tells students that he/she is going to read them a story; while they are listening, they must write down the most important words. They need to focus on the collocations in the story, or any other language point you may be focusing on. After listening twice, students must reconstruct the story in pairs. Then they are given the original story with part of the collocation missing. A story can be picked up for set phrases with the word “all” used on page 4 from Scott Thornbury’s book.
  • Videos: Videos are a fantastic way of teaching and revising verb-noun collocations or any other type of collocations as they contain natural everyday actions. The language to be targeted must be taught before the video watching. Students are put in pairs facing each other with one facing the screen and the other with their back to the screen. They describe everything which happens on the screen to each other. For this type of activity, any set phrase, collocation, or grammar pattern used in Scott’s book can work.
  • Story making: When students learn some phrases or some target language they may revise those items by making up stories where they need to use them. A nice example of it can serve the material on pp. 76 and 77 (target language little)
  • Post-it Warmers: The teacher sticks different set phrases on the walls of the classroom, under the door, on the board, and everywhere possible. He/she sticks one half of the set phrase in one place and the second half in another place. Students work in pairs, move across the room and find as many set phrases as possible. The activity is timed. When the time finishes, the teacher counts the number of set phrases for each pair to decide the winner. This activity can be implemented while dealing with the language on page 10, 16,78,104, or any other language the teacher finds relevant. An alternative to this activity is when the teacher sticks a head noun from set phrases, divides the group into groups and they write as many expressions as possible under the head noun (with a head noun-little they can write set phrases like little by little, just a little, as little as possible, little or no). The main grammar patterns used in the book ‘Natural Grammar’ are of very frequent usage. So their study is of great help for any language learner. Taking this into account, teachers must propose well-designed and meaningful activities to fix those patterns. We have tried to present some activities which can cover a wide range of patterns hence giving the teachers the chance to implement the same activity for many patterns.

Share with us any other activity you think useful.

Лиза Мардоян

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