Teaching Grammar in Context Using Authentic Resources



In my last post, “How do I incorporate authentic text into my daily lesson plans? Part 1,  we considered incorporating authentic text into lesson plans beginning with introductory phase activities or tasks.

Now, let’s turn to using authentic resources to teach grammar in context.  ACTFL, in its Core Practices for World Language Learning, practice number 5 states “teach grammar as concept and use in context,” encouraging students to focus first on meaning and later on form.

ACTFL Core Practices

For teaching grammar as concepts in meaningful contexts, ACTFL recommends that:

*Grammar should be addressed within meaningful communicative contexts as one element of language proficiency.

*Instead of focusing on grammar rules and diagramming sentences, teachers should guide students towards an understanding of how grammar functions.

*Students learn how to use the form rather than memorized conjugations that may not be applicable across contexts.


*Research shows explicit teaching of grammar has little effect on language acquisition.

*Thinking of grammar in terms of concepts will broaden learners’ understanding and use of the target language

*Grammar should be learned implicitly through target language use and explicitly through the discovery of grammar rules through use of meaningful examples.


This “function over form” approach allows students to analyze language structures, make guesses, and draw conclusions though an inquiry-type process.  This new way of approaching the teaching of grammar moves us from the traditional lesson segment, most often taught in English, where students are given paradigms such as verb conjugation charts.  Instead, it empowers learners to use the big picture of their experiences with the language they have heard, viewed, and read as a basis for deriving meaning from discourse.

There are several approaches that can be implemented to assist students through the inquiry process:

Concept Attainment

Using an Inductive Approach

grammar inductively

Discovery Technique


The Flipped Model


PACE Model



Scenarios for teaching grammar in context

Scenario A   

The teacher of a novice level Italian class, during a unit on family, gives students a handout with a variety of lists generated from two infographics, “Quanti sono” and “Gli Animali da Compagnia.” [PRESENTATION]

In small groups, students make predictions for each set (most popular pet, how pets are acquired, identity of owners, etc.).  The teacher shows the infographics and students check their predictions against the data presented.  Each small group of students is given two sentence strips.  One has “We predicted that _______” and the other “We were surprised that ______” (in the target language).  Groups share their sentences with the class.

   gli animali


Next, the teacher asks students to find words in Infographics with which they are unfamiliar but can guess using the visuals or because they are cognates.  The teacher uses target language examples, circumlocution, and visuals, etc. to reinforce their meaning:

  • millioni
  • spendono
  • veterinari
  • accessori

Students are provided a list of question frames about the infographics in Italian.  Students work in pairs asking and answering the questions.

  • How many _____ are there?
  • Are there are more _____ than _____?
  • Are there fewer _____ than _____?
  • Do you have ______ at home?
  • Who has _______?

If the teacher feels the students are ready, in lieu of providing question frames, students write their own questions that are answered in the visual using the teacher’s questions as models. The students then pair to ask and answer student questions with a partner.

After, the teacher leads the students through a discovery process such as concept attainment, using the resource to draw conclusions about how plurals are formed in Italian which was a concept that students struggled with in the previous class.  Students use a T chart to chart out their ideas showing singular forms in one column and plurals in the other.  The teacher asks students to extend their thinking to other vocabulary words they know. [ATTENTION, CO-CONSTRUCTION, EXTENSION]

Screen Shot 2018-03-01 at 8.18.35 PM

As an extension activity, small groups of students create one question for a combined survey about pets using Google Forms for their classmates:

  • What pets and how many they have
  • How they got their pets
  • Age of their pets
  • Who in the family takes care of the pet(s)

Once the data is collected, students compare the data with the data from the infographics.

Scenario B

For a novice level Spanish class’s homework assignment from the previous class, the teacher uses the flipped model by asking students to review an infographic and a video about the imperative (El Imperativo) and take notes on an organizer that has columns labeled “You do” and “You don’t do.”



For the following class, the teacher shows the infographic, “Buenos Hábitos al Comer en un Restaurant” (Good habits for eating in a restaurant) as part of a unit of study on the theme of healthy eating habits.  The teacher leads the class through interpreting the infographic, using target language examples, circumlocution, and visuals, etc. to reinforce the meaning of unknown words. [PRESENTATION]

buenos habitos


Students create a T-chart with the columns “Estoy de acuerdo (I agree)’ and “No estoy de acuerdo (I disagree).”  Students organize the tips on the infographic into the two columns.  The teacher then asks students to share their opinions with the class, providing sentence stems.  The teacher adds to the list in response to student need.

Screen Shot 2018-03-01 at 8.25.52 PM

  • In my opinion…
  • When I go to the restaurant, I…
  • I agree/disagree with…
  • It is difficult to…
  • I agree because it is ______.

Next, the teacher draws students’ attention to the use of the imperative in the infographic.  The teacher and students collaboratively add to the chart from the homework that shows infinitive forms of verbs, “You do,” and “You don’t do” and then come up with a rule about how the imperative is formed. [ATTENTION, CO-CONSTRUCTION, EXTENSION]

As an extension during a subsequent class, the teacher guides students through creating an infographic about advice for eating in the school cafeteria.

Scenario C

For a novice level French class, the teacher shows examples of regular -ir verbs in context using authentic resources (memes, tweets, and other social media posts) in the form of a PowerPoint.

guinea pig      toi choisis       jaime

on hyberne balletScreen Shot 2018-03-01 at 9.03.07 PMScreen Shot 2018-03-01 at 8.58.38 PM

Screen Shot 2018-03-01 at 8.56.47 PM



(idea credit:  Mary Belz, mbelz@hcpss.org)

The first time through the Powerpoint, the teacher asks questions about each image in the target language.

  • What is the guinea pig doing?
  • According to Ice Heart what happens in winter?
  • What did Yasmine’s mother tell her about eating salami?

Students are given a table that contains infinitive forms of the -ir verbs given in the context of the authentic resources.  The second time through the PowerPoint, students fill in their observations about the -ir verbs based on the visuals.

Screen Shot 2018-03-01 at 9.11.06 PM

After, in small groups, students discuss what they think the rules are.  They then complete the second table based on their conclusions:

Screen Shot 2018-03-01 at 9.11.13 PM

As an extension activity, in small groups, students create a meme using an -ir verb.

For more resources on teaching grammar in context, visit https://www.grahnforlang.com/grammar-in-context.html


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s