Grammar, Vocabulary and Skills – notes for teachers

Students: ss

Below I have completed some basic information which will be of use to students working to become ESL teachers of English language.  Most of what I covered while I was training in CELTA was based on various sequences.

Raymond Van Neste – 16 April 2020




Grammar and Vocabulary

Grammar and Vocabulary come under the heading of ‘Systems’.   You need these two to be able to do the others, which are: reading / writing / speaking / listening.   With grammar and vocabulary you learn something specific, something concrete.   The other four here are known as skills.  You can’t learn skills quickly and there is a need to practice and develop over time.

When writing a lesson plan and writing your aims for the lesson – for a systems lesson the language I would use is to clarify and use the vocabulary and grammar.  But if you are teaching a skills lesson you wouldn’t say ‘clarify’ you would say: ‘practice and develop’.

A systems framework  allows you to sequence the lesson.  This is a default template to practice the target language.  It’s called: PPP: Presentation / Practice / Production.

Productive Skills: Speaking and writing.  There is no template / framework for these.  See: Eliciting in the ESL Classroom for further information.  Note, with productive skills, these skills are flexible and vast so the teacher can be adventurous here because as stated there is no framework in which they need to be taught.

Receptive Skills: Reading and listening.  When these skills are a part of a grammar, vocabulary lesson then it’s important to remember to help the ss with their vocabulary.  Here the teacher will pre-teach blocking vocabulary.  The teacher can use the MPF sequence as a way of teaching the words that have been chosen as the vocabulary for the lesson.

What this means is that each word (for vocabulary) should be explained to the ss in its context so that meaning is clear to the ss.  It is then pronounced before being drilled by the ss, and the form given by the teacher as to whether the word is a verb, or whatever it is.


Aims are a very important part of a lesson.  In fact it could be the most important part.  This is basically where you think you are going in a lesson.  Sometimes they are expressed as aims (what I’m teaching) and sometimes they’re expressed as outcomes (what the ss will learn).  It’s a matter of personal preference.

Very important here is to remember that aims are not about what the activity is  during the lesson.   Aims are about why you’re doing it.  They are about what the ss are learning and why they are learning it.  Aims answer the question why you’re doing something. What is the linguistic purpose of a particular activity or a particular lesson?



The main aim is the main thing you want the ss to learn.  But there are also sub-aims.  For example you might want to teach some vocabulary or also you’re doing some reading, for example.  You might want to give practice in listening / reading for gist / concentrated reading / listening for specific information.  Skimming and scanning, guessing meaning from context.

The teacher may want to give practice in production skills: writing and speaking.  This could be grammatical or functional, lexical.  It might be that you just want them to improve their fluency.  These are the kind of wordings that are helpful when you are writing aims.

Raymond Van Neste – April 2020


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