Author: Luciana C de Oliveira and Mary J Schleppegrell
Publisher: OUP 2015
This book is part of the Oxford Key Concepts for the Language Classroom series, which aims to make research findings accessible to language teachers (primarily of students aged five to 18) on topics that are likely to be important to them.
As the authors point out in the introduction, anyone who expects that this book will outline a system of prescriptive grammar rules or offer advice on how to teach particular grammar points will be disappointed. Instead, the book takes a more holistic standpoint. It anchors grammar teaching in the wider context of the learning goals that teachers have for their students, adopting a functional grammar approach that demonstrates the way in which language and meaning are linked, and which takes into account the growth of CLIL and the current emphasis on content-based learning in schools.
A series of ‘Classroom Snapshots’, essentially transcriptions of exchanges between students and teachers, are discussed and analysed to determine what the students are learning and how this is being achieved. In addition, there are various activities, some designed to encourage readers to reflect on what they have read and apply it to their own contexts, and some which are essentially descriptions of classroom scenarios which exemplify the points being made. The first activity in Chapter 1 invites readers to respond to a series of statements about grammar teaching, saying whether they agree or disagree, and how strongly. One very nice aspect of the book is that all these statements are revisited in the final chapter and the authors give their own opinions, informed by the research and ideas presented in the rest of the book.
In keeping with the aims of the series, Focus on Grammar and Meaning covers theories of grammar instruction and presents insights gained from academic research. Two chapters are devoted to classroom-based research, one involving young learners and the other adolescents. Specific studies are described in ‘Spotlight Study’ sections, and these are sometimes linked to the ‘Classroom Snapshots’ so that the practical implications of the research may be seen in action.
This book covers many aspects of a complicated subject in a readable and accessible way, and I can recommend it to anyone tasked with the job of teaching grammar in primary and secondary schools.