For many of my teaching years I have taught grammar in a very structured way, presenting grammar in its abstract form and slowly building up to communicative tasks.
In teaching the Present Continuous, I would:
1. Present and explain the form (to be + base verb +ing)
2. Have students practice the present continuous form (I’m working. She’s studying.)
3. Present communicative situations in which students use the present continuous form.
Situation: talking on a cell phone. A: What are you doing? B: I’m studying.
This year I’m teaching with Future by Pearson Longman and it is changing my approach to grammar.
1. First, we start with a communicative context, for example: talking on the phone. Students practice the phone conversation using different sets of vocabulary, but they never change or manipulate the grammatical form.
2. Then, in the following lesson, students study the grammatical aspect of the conversation. They work with the target structure in progressively more open-ended tasks.
3. In the culminating task, students use the grammar structure in a novel and communicative way.
Basically we start with a communicative context, break it down to study its parts, and then build it up again to use the grammar correctly in a new communicative context.
This approach irritates my analytical mind. I have to allow the communication to lead the language study, but I have found that it is a much more intuitive approach for my students. In their daily lives they use language to communicate. They don’t think about the abstract patterns of the language. They think about the message. By sticking with the communicative context, they are anchored in a situation they recognize and understand. It is so much easier to build from there!