Topic: Grammar in context

These pages explore methods and principles for teaching grammar in context.

Adverbials and positioning in clauses

Exploring the effect of adverbial placement in different texts

In this lesson, we look at ways of teaching adverbials and the different ways they can be positioned inside clauses.

Analysing structure in literary texts

Exploring structure through patterns and attention

Goals

  • Understand a method for analysing structure in literary texts.
  • Analyse the use of structure in a real text.

Lesson plan

  • This lesson is focused on the GCSE English Language 'structure' Assessment Objective.
  • It begins by considering what is meant by 'structure', and then introduces an analytical method for exploring the structure of literary texts.
  • This approach is then applied to a short extract. 
  • Some further texts are provided at the end, for us

Building characters

Analysing the language of characters in a literary text

Goals

  • Understand some of the ways that writers use language to create characters
  • Analyse the use of language in a literary text

Lesson Plan

  • You could start by asking students to think about some of the ways that writers use language to create fictional characters. What makes a convincing character? What are some of their favourite characters from fiction, and why?
  • Next, talk students through the first passage from Jekyll & Hyde.

Building characters: Activity

This extract is from later in the novel, where Mr. Hyde attacks a stranger in the street. Read it through, and think:

Clause patterns in online recipes

Exploring how and why different clause patterns are used

This activity looks at different clause patterns (statement; question; command; exclamation) in an online recipe. Students are asked to think about why different clause patterns are used, and what kind of role they play in creating the meaning of the text.

Deixis in drama

Exploring how deixis works in dramatic texts

Deixis is a word of Greek origin meaning 'pointing'. Thus, words which are deictic 'point' to different times, spaces and people. The meaning of these words is dependent upon the context in which they are used. 

For example: if a teacher stands at the front of a room, at 9.13am on Wednesday 28 June and says to a student 'I want you to come here now', then the following deictic words mean:

Foregrounding

Noticing and exploring linguistic patterns in literary texts

Foregrounding is a widely-used term in text analysis, literary linguistics and stylistics, referring to patterns of language that stand out in a text. The term itself is derived from art and film criticism, and is best understood by a visual analogy. Here is a picture of San Francisco:

San Francisco houses

Negation and conceptual effects

Goals

  • To understand different types of negation and the kinds of conceptual effects it has on readers.
  • To analyse the use of negation in a text.

Negation

Begin by explaining the concept of negation to your students. You might like to use the following definition (taken from the Englicious glossary):

Nonfinite clauses in literature

In this activity, students look at how nonfinite clauses might be used in their own writing and that of others to vary the structure of a text. On one level, this is about creating something that people like to read: something that is interesting, varied and engaging and designed to hook the reader or suit the style you are hoping to adopt. On another level, it’s about students showing teachers and examiners that they know about different forms and can use them in their writing.

Noun phrases in descriptive writing

Goals

  • To explore the role of noun phrases in descriptive writing.
  • To consider how noun phrases can have ‘descriptive weight’.
  • For students to apply this in their own writing.

Begin by asking your asks students to discuss what ‘things’ are in this description:

In my room, there is an enormous swimming pool, and underneath one of the big windows there is an ice-cream machine.

Orientating a scene: prepositions in travel guides

Goals

  • To understand how prepositions construct meaning in a non-fiction text.
  • For students to apply this to their own writing.

What and how do prepositions mean?

Begin by showing your class a list of prepositions (or - even better - ask them to generate the list themselves). Display the list on the board, and ask: what do prepositions do and how do they do it? The discussion should arrive at the following conclusions:

Phonetics and phonology - The sounds of poetry

Looking at the importance of sound in a literary text

Sound patterns in poetry

Here are two extracts from the poem Digging by Seamus Heaney. In the poem, a son talks openly about his perceived failures in following in his father's footsteps, namely because of his lack of skill with a spade and as a farmer.

Read them out loud:

Under my window, a clean rasping sound   
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:   
My father, digging. I look down 

Tense and aspect in fiction

Exploring the use of tense and aspect in a range of literary texts

In this activity we will examine some short extracts from novels. The idea is to look at the tense and aspect forms used, and think about how they are used to unfold the action of the story.

Tense in narrative

In this resource we will practise using tense consistently and think about the effect of using past tense versus present tense in a story.

Goals

  • Identify past tense and present tense forms.
  • Practise changing tense and using tense consistently.
  • Consider the effect of changing tense in a story.

Lesson Plan

Background

Tense in narrative: Activity 1

Activity 1: Tense consistency

Look at the following short passages. For each one, identify where the tense changes incorrectly, and then write a correct version which continues with the tense used at the start of the passage.

Tense in narrative: Activity 2

Activity 2: Past to present

The following extract uses past tense narration. Rewrite the extract, changing to present tense narration throughout. Take care to be consistent.

The dread came from nowhere. Without warning, my flesh began to crawl. I felt the hairs on my scalp prickle and rise. I couldn't see anything except the bear post and its cairn of stones, but my body braced itself. It knew.

Tense in narrative: Activity 3

Activity 3: Present to past

Now try reversing the process. This extract uses present tense narration, so rewrite it using past tense narration.

Panting, I fight my way out of the sleeping bag. The torch slips from my fingers and blinks out. Whimpering, I fall to my knees and grope for it. I can't find it. Can't see my hands in front of my face.

Again, compare the two versions. Does the change of tense have an effect?

The second-person pronoun and textual effects

Exploring the use of you in different texts

In this lesson, students explore the potential readerly 'effects' of the second-person pronoun you.

The use of tense in sports commentaries

This activity looks at the use of tense in two descriptions of the same event: a football match. Students are asked to think about why different tenses used, and what kind of role they play in creating the meaning of the text.

Verbs in fiction

Exploring verb choices in different literary texts

In this lesson, students identify verbs in fictional extracts and discuss the value of choosing verbs carefully in their own writing.

Verbs in fiction: Activity

Writing a story with prepositions

Applying knowledge of prepositions to a short story

This lesson looks at how you might use your knowledge of prepositions and preposition phrases to write a short story aimed at children.

A framework for language analysis

This page includes a handout on which you will find a framework for language analysis, developed over time through our Teaching English Grammar in Context course, held at UCL.

Starting to analyse a text can be a rather indimidating task. Where to start? What to include/not include? And how to do this systematically, rather than simply pulling out grammatical features at random and trying to write some kind of cohesive analysis?

Teaching grammar in context

Pedagogical principles and a rationale for contextualised grammar teaching

Teaching grammar in context is a method and approach for teaching grammar. Below is our rationale and guiding set of principles for teaching grammar in this way. You can find out more about this method on our CPD course for teachers.

'In context' means that the teaching of grammar is embedded and integrated into other aspects of the curriculum, such as creative writing and analytical reading, rather than a standalone activity. 

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