Grammar is an area which is dealt with rather poorly in coursebooks in Hong Kong. This directly affects the teaching and learning of grammar in schools.
In a P4 coursebook, it is presented as:
‘We use ‘should’ to talk about the correct things to do. We do not change the verb after ‘should’.
shouldn’t = should not’
In an S1 coursebook, it is presented as:
‘We use the modal ‘should’ to talk about things that are necessary or right to do. We use the same form of a verb after the modal ‘should’.
We make negative statements with ‘should’ like this’:
You will notice that:
(a) the depth of treatment is almost the same despite a grade level difference of 3 years;
(b) the approach to presenting grammar is equally ineffective in both examples: absence of a rich context; reliance on abstract explanation; and a focus mainly on language form, with scant attention to meaning and use.
(i) Boring – students not motivated to learn grammar;
(ii) Students see grammar as a set of tedious rules, rather than as a means for communicating ideas accurately;
(iii) As the grammar presentation is often simplistic, students fail to gain a sophisticated understanding of the form, meaning, and use of a grammar structure.
There is now a huge literature on grammar pedagogy. Yet these coursebooks fall back on the most uninspiring and ineffective method – abstract and over-simplified explanation. If we teachers rely on these coursebooks, we really can’t blame our students for not learning their grammar properly.