I attended a Teaching Arabic Grammar workshop for university and school teachers at Leeds University on 22-24 July 2019.  We were 25 participants from the UK, Europe and the USA. Our excellent facilitators were Rasha Soliman and Amanda Howard.

Day 1

The day started with a very nice introductory activity. Going around the class, we introduced ourselves and said one thing about someone who had introduced themselves before. It was a great ice-breaker and perfect 1st and 3rd person grammar practice. 

I loved the disclaimer that we might not all agree with what we hear, but Arabic is diverse and so we should accept there are different ways of doing things.

Next, we got stuck straight into the series of tasks the were set for the day. I’ve listed them here with pictures of the accompanying slides:

Task 1-2: Do you know these abbreviations?

Focus on Form, Presentation-Practice-Production, Student Talking Time, Total Physical Response, Task-Based Learning, Communicative Language Teaching, Community Language Learning, Target Language, Second Language Acquisition, Grammar Translation Method

Top tips

  1. When doing substitution drills, use a flashcard for e.g. switching persons (هو، هي)
  2. Try to limit Teacher Talking Time!

Task 3: Reflect on your own learning experiences as a second language learner. What did you enjoy most in your grammar lessons? What did you enjoy least? 

  • If you had negative experiences, it is possible that this had something to do with the way that grammar was taught

Task 4: List a number of tricky Arabic grammatical topics to teach. Why are they tricky?

Task 5: Think of traditional ways/techniques of presenting and practising any of these tricky grammatical concepts

After watching a video of a traditional grammar lesson, we learned this top tip: 

  • Context is important! Provide a context for the rule rather than giving random examples.

Task 7: Define ‘Grammar’

  • Morphology (parts of words) and Syntax (order of words)
  • UK grammar gap: the metalanguage is not taught at schools so in many cases students don’t have the terminology, although this is beginning to change

Task 8: What has a bigger impact on comprehension, grammar or vocabulary?

  • Both are important but vocabulary plays a slightly bigger role
  • What dish do the following ingredients make?

We all guessed correctly, that it is spaghetti bolognese of course! In this example, the individual ingredients are like the vocabulary in a sentence, while the actual steps for making the dish represent the grammar.

But teaching grammar is still important. Why?

Without good grammar, students risk speaking a form of pidgin Arabic, like this:

So this concluded the first part of the first day, and we later went into more detail about Second Language Acquisition (SLA) theory, and more practical applications in Day 2. 

Read more about what we did on Day 2 here.