Should you do grammar exercises?

Grammar exercises. To do them, or not to do them, that is the question. Many of my students come to me saying something along the lines of, "I hate English because at school all we did was grammar exercises from the book". Well, I can't argue with that. That sounds like the worst possible way to learn a language, or to learn anything really. But let's not hate on all exercises just yet. They do have their advantages. The reason many of you hate them is because they probably weren't integrated properly with other types of activities, hence leaving you with a horrible impression of English. In this post I'm going to give you some reasons why you should do exercises, and also some tips on doing them right.

 

So why do grammar exercises?

Ever heard the expression, "practice makes better"? Well, that's exactly why you should do grammar exercises every now and then.

  1. They help you to consolidate what you've studied - your brain needs all the help it can get in processing the information you've put in it while studying, so give it some love!

  2. They allow you to see many examples of how the grammar topic is used in real life - when a teacher (or a book, blog, video, etc.) explains a topic, they usually give you a few examples to show you how to construct sentences etc., but they won't give you every possible situation where you can find that particular bit of grammar used. So by doing extra exercises, you will most certainly see more examples, hence learning more!

  3. They help you to realize if you actually understand the topic or not - maybe while you were listening to the explanation everything seemed crystal clear, but as soon as you had to put your new knowledge into practice, you realize you don't actually get it. That's fine, that's when you go back and ask your teacher to explain it to you again!

 

How to do grammar exercises for success

So now that you know some of the advantages of doing this seemingly tedious homework, how can you actually get the most out of the time you spend on it?

  1. Don't treat them like a test - don't try to do exercises without using your book or notes to help you. Doing exercises should be an active learning activity, not a simple fill in the blank where your brain is distracted and thinking about what you're doing this weekend. Focus on the exercises and compare them with your notes to make sure you have really understood the concept.

  2. Don't try to do 10 pages all at once - even if you don't have a "concentration problem", your brain will probably shut off after you've done a page or two, making the rest of the pages done wasted time. Focus actively on a page, then if you have more pages to do, take a break and come back to it later.

  3. If you get stuck, leave it for later - don't keep trying to do an exercise that you just can't seem to get right. If it's confusing and you get frustrated, your brain won't learn anything new anyways. Take a break and come back later, and if that doesn't help, ask your teacher (or find someone to explain it to you again).

 

So yes, to answer your question, I do assign exercises to my students as homework, with all of the above considerations in mind. Grammar exercises, integrated with an hour or two of active studying a week (be it a lesson, watching a video lesson, or studying from a book), as well as an hour or two of an enjoyable activity in the language you're studying (watching videos, reading, Conversation Club, etc.) are all fundamental parts of learning a new language. So, off you go, find something to do to practice your English!

 

Glossary

  • [something] along the lines of: a way to refer to something similar to something else

  • hate on [something/one]: to talk badly about someone or something

  • every now and then: occasionally

  • give [something/one] some love: informal for - to help

  • get it: phrasal verb for - to understand

  • get the most out of: to benefit as much as possible from something

  • off you go: informal for - go, move



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