How to Put Together the Parts & Pieces That Make Language Work: Grammar Competencies Part 1

How to Put Together the Parts & Pieces That Make Language Work: Grammar Competencies Part 1

How to Put Together the Parts & Pieces That Make Language Work: Grammar Competencies

by Arthur & Elaine Rubin
In any sequence of English-language improvement, grammar (i.e. the study of how utterances and sentences are constructed, based on forms and syntax) is fundamental.
That’s because it pervades all skills. To begin any kind of linguistic interaction, participants have to understand, speak, read, and/or write. There will be directives (“affirmative & negative imperative verbs"), getting-acquainted questions and answers (“be-sentences”), explanations (phrases in “the present time frame”), and many other kinds of language.
As shown at , below is a general plan of 10 wide-ranging “Language Teaching & Learning Parts & Pieces” (competencies) that seems to work. Circled here is the fourth puzzle piece—the application of grammar.  
For access and an overview of the complexity of this central area of language instruction, click on the circled Puzzle Piece D: Apply Grammar. 

Teaching what’s needed to “Know the Alphabet,” “Do Phonics & Spelling,” and “Use Vocabulary” is detailed in the below previous blogs that focus on these competencies: 
Competency Puzzle Piece D: Apply Grammar
Though far from perfect, we have divided the entire “body of knowledge” of English grammar into the following segments (numbered for reference), also detailed in the image below: 
  • D-00 Get the Idea of Grammar
  • D-01 Use the Verb Be
  • D-02 Use Base Verbs
  • D-03 Use the Simple Present
  • D-04 Master the Present Time Frame
  • D-05 Use Kinds of Nouns & Noun Markers
  • D-06 Include Modal Verbs
  • D-07 Cover the Future Time Frame
  • D-08 Use the Simple Past
  • D-09 Cover the Past Time Frame
  • D-10 Focus on Other Parts of Speech
  • D-11 Do More with Verbs & Verbals
  • D-12 Incorporate the Perfect Tenses
  • D-13 Consider the Passive
  • D-14 Make Use of Noun Clauses
  • D-15 Expand into Adjective & Adverb Clauses
To see all the “Parts & Pieces” available for each of the fifteen Primary Competencies D-1 to D-15,  you’ll soon be able to click on a sub-chart that gives access to actual products in our web store! Hundreds of “sub-competencies” will serve as portals to grammar text chapters, resource guide ideas, card packs with activity & idea books, and more!
First, both instructors and students need to understand what grammar is. Here is how Wikipedia and English Club describe it. 
Most important in any attempt to apply grammar in teaching is to keep it positive. Make sure that you (and your students) know that grammar and structure are invaluable—perhaps even essential—tools in acquiring and using language skills. They’re not artificial forced labor imposed by pedantic taskmasters!
Following is a “Sub-Competency Chart” for D-00: “Get the Idea of Grammar.” It’s followed by commentary on the five characteristics listed. Links to 5 sample (shortened) Parts & Pieces are provided.
D-00.01 Use Essential Parts of Speech. One way to begin focusing on grammar is with a short excerpt like the Introduction to WorkLifeEnglish 4G: Cross-Cultural Communication. The directives and vocabulary of uncluttered materials get people to describe what they notice on pages and around them—with nouns, adjectives, and verbs.   
D-00.02 Get Grammar Terms & Concepts. Academic or experienced students of English might enjoy “playing with grammar vocabulary,” reminding themselves of what it’s all about at the start. With amusing stories like those in the Introduction to WorkLifeEnglish 5G: Language & Culture in Depth, they can identify parts of speech, verb tenses, and more. Then they may be ready to focus on—and perhaps correct—their own and others’ uses of grammar in context.
D-00.03 Review Grammar Words. The same or other learners might want definitions of grammar vocabulary and concepts, like those displayed in an exercise from the Introduction to the New Scenario, Book One: Beginning to Use English Grammar in Context. Then they can look at an online “Glossary of English Grammar & Usage Terms” like that here
D-00.04 Assess Knowledge with a Grammar “Pre-Test.” Before delving into the details of grammar and structure, many educators/learners prefer to answer the question “How Much Do You/They Already Know?” One way to get an approximation of abilities is with an assessment tool. For example, the 11-page Grammar Pretest of WorkLifeEnglish 6G: Issues & Answers can be used with high-intermediate or advanced learners of English to evaluate which relevant areas of instruction have been mastered and which need more attention. Corresponding directly to the 100 Lessons of the text, each Item 1-100 includes four bolded phrases to consider. Test-takers choose the one example of the targeted grammar that’s correct. If they can, they then repair the other three instances so that they’re right for the context, too. Results of the test can be used to plan group and individual grammar lessons.  
D-00.05 Get Acquainted with People & Grammar.  Noting grammatical sentence structure, you/your learners can ask and answer 19 questions designed to help people get to know each other. You/They can identify the verb tenses and the parts of speech of main words in your/their sentences. Then everyone can assess his/her knowledge of grammar with a 15-question “Grammar Quiz.” They can also define grammar terms they know. All of these activities come up in the Introduction to the New Scenario, Book Two: Continuing to Use English Grammar in Context. 
Check out all the Parts & Pieces referred to in this article by looking at the full products they come from: 
This article is the first segment of Parts & Pieces D: Apply Grammar. Numbered D-00. 
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About Work/Life English
For over 35 years, Work/Life English has been dedicated to improving the lives of English language learners. We offer a comprehensive range of fun, effective English language improvement lessons and activities to help adult education ESL educators successfully engage their English language students and improve their English competencies, leading to a host of positive effects in students’ professional and personal lives. Better English, Better Life. For more information, visit
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