Another way to think about grammar in context

This is my fifth post on thinking about grammar in context using authentic resources.  Why?  Because it is a topic that teachers and leaders are at this very moment trying to digest and actualize from the core practices.

ACTFL Core Practices

As stated in the Core Practices, grammar should be approached as a concept and in context.  That means that we are having students focus on function over form.  This shift in instructional approach is aimed at increasing student proficiency in the language, to be able to communicate meaningfully with others.

There is no question that grammar is a necessity in communication.  As learners advance along the proficiency continuum, the understanding and use of grammar become a differentiating factor.  It’s how we are having students learn about language grammar that is changing.

What if we thought about grammar as an outgrowth of an exploration of a topic of interest?  And, that the grammar becomes a secondary point of reference after the meaning being communicated in the text.

Let’s consider the variety of ways we might have students discover grammar in communicative contexts through authentic text:

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  • Grammar in context does not impede meaning.
  • Structures can be treated as vocabulary without in-depth analysis.


  • Text is chosen for content/theme alignment.
  • Text contains grammar in context with which students are familiar.
  • Teacher makes connections to prior learning.
  • Students notice familiar patterns in the text.


  • Text is selected to draw attention to particular grammar points in context.
  • Teacher may employ a protocol for grammar discovery.


  • Teacher selects follow-up texts that provides additional context for a grammar point.
  • Students can explain the patterns they notice and test their hypotheses to find additional examples.


  • Students can transfer and apply understanding of grammar to new texts.
  • Text may contain examples of multiple grammar points in context. Students can identify grammatical clues that support meaning.


It is also worth pointing out that having students see grammar as part of communicating messages in another language is a key part of building language fluency.  Instead of using isolated, meaningless practice sentences, there are protocols through which students can use inductive thinking to gain an understanding of syntax and grammar.

Those protocols include:

  • The PACE Model
  •  Concept Attainment
  • The Inductive Approach
  • The Discovery Technique
  • Unlocking Language Patterns

All of the protocols above and more can be found on my webpage called “Grammar in Context.”

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If you’d like to visit the previous posts, here are the links below:

Teaching Grammar in Context Using Authentic Resources (4/13/18)

Teaching Grammar in Context Using Authentic Resources: Part 2 (7/27/18)

Teaching Grammar in Context Using Authentic Resources: Part 3 (11/2/18)

Using Memes to Show Grammar in Context (1/28/19)

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