Institute for Christian Teaching

Education Department for Seventh-day Adventists




















Ritha Maidom-Lampadan

Mission College

Muak Lek

Saraburi Province









447-00 Institute for Christian Teaching

12501 Old Columbia Pike

Silver Spring, MD 20904 USA







Prepared for

the 27th International Faith and Learning Seminar

held at

Mission College, Muak Lek, Saraburi Province, Thailand

December 3-15, 2000





"Can there be faith in the language-arts classroom?"  asks Rebecca D. Becker in her article in The Journal of Adventist Education and then proposes convincingly that language-arts classes provide an excellent backdrop against which faith can be explored and nurtured.  After reading that article, I asked myself a question, "Can there be faith in the English as a second language (ESL) grammar class?"  At first glance, such a class does not seem to provide much room for integration of faith and learning due to its overwhelming emphasis on syntax and structure.  However,  I decided to give this thought some serious consideration.

Two factors motivated me to undertake this task.  The first one is the experience of my two Cambodian students studying in the ESL program of Mission College.  From their journal entries, I learned that they came to know Jesus through an English class offered by a pastor.  They attended the class with the intention of learning the language but in the process, they learned about Jesus and eventually accepted Him as their personal Savior.  Their experience motivated me to explore more ways to introduce Jesus to my ESL students or/and nurture their faith.

A second motivating factor was my participation in the 27th International Faith and Learning Seminar.  The opportunity for focused study, reflection and discussion of the essentials of Seventh-day Adventist educational philosophy convinced me that for curricula and educational programs, including the ESL classes, to be distinctly Christian, faith must be integrated in teaching and learning. Otherwise, there is no reason for Adventist institutions to exist.  After much reflection, which I believe to be guided by the Holy Spirit, it dawned on me that there could be faith in the ESL grammar class.  This paper endeavors to accomplish two goals: first, to illustrate how integration of faith and learning is possible in such a class, and second, to propose that first language acquisition and universal grammar testify to the existence of a Creator God.

First Language Acquisition and Universal Grammar: An Affirmation of Faith

Once a group of students were asked to imagine how life would be without language.  The responses were fascinating: there would have been no books, no schools, no colleges, no television, no movies, no radio, no communication, no knowledge and no relationship.  Language is central to humanity.  Part of being human is to know language and part of living is to use it.  Peoples and Bailey rhetorically question "Why are humans, so far as we know, the only creatures with myths, literature, beliefs in supernatural powers, and jokes?" and then propose an explanation. "The answer is that we are able to communicate by spoken and written language, and without this one ability, these and most of our other creative mental powers would not exist"  (1991, p. 44).  Why are we able to communicate while the rest of the living creatures on this planet cannot?  According to Genesis 1 and 2, human beings were created differently from the rest of God's creation.  Everything else was "said" into existence while human beings were "formed" according to God's image (see Genesis 1:26 and 27).  The first couple, Adam and Eve, were created already able to use language.  In fact, human beings' first recorded sentences were uttered on the very day Adam was created.[1]  From the biblical account of creation, we know that Adam and Eve did not go through the normal stages of language acquisition as much as they did not go through the process of being born.  However, as they passed on their genetic information to their offspring, they passed along the abilities to acquire and use language.

This paper proposes that many facts about language development support the idea that an omnipotent God has created human beings and equipped them with the natural abilities to acquire and use language. Every aspect of language is remarkably complex; yet before the age of five, normal children already know most of the complicated system.  Before they can think logically, children are forming and conjoining sentences, asking questions, selecting appropriate pronouns, negating sentences, forming relative clauses and using the syntactic, phonological, morphological and semantic rules of grammar. 

The ability of children to form complex rules and construct grammars of the languages used around them in a relatively short time is indeed phenomenal.  Acquisition is rapid. Only two years from the time the child produces his or her first word at around the age of one until the major part of the grammar is acquired at around three. Syntactically, children's speech becomes increasingly complex.  First, tense, case endings, articles, and prepositions are missing ("sock fall"); so are subjects and verbs (mommy shoe).  Next, children may combine two basic relationships together ("Jordan hit" and "Hit ball") to get a more complicated relationship ("Jordan hit ball").  Generally, the early sentences consist of nouns, verbs and adjectives.  Sometime between the ages of 20 and 30 months, children acquire the fundamentals of syntax.  They begin to use articles, prepositions, conjunctions, plural, verb endings, past tense, and forms of the verb to be.  By age three, their sentences become longer and more complex.  Although they often omit parts of speech, they get their meaning across and they are fluent speakers.  Language continues to develop and by late childhood, children are fully competent in grammar although they continue to enlarge their vocabulary and improve their style (Papalia and Olds, 1991, pp. 208-209). 

At least five facts about language acquisition support the innate hypothesis of child language acquisition, which proposes that human beings are genetically prewired to acquire language. First, There is a definite pattern or an orderly progression of stages in language acquisition (Goodluck, 1991, p. 140). Before infants begin to produce words, they produce sounds by babbling.  Children's first utterances are one-word "sentences" when they are at the holophrastic stage.  After a few months, the two-word stage arises, in which children put two words together.  These two-word sentences are not random combinations of words: they have definite patterns and express both grammatical and semantic relationships.  Later, but still during the very early years, in what is called the telegraphic stage, children produce longer sentences composed primarily of content words.  By about age three, children can comprehend an incredible quantity of linguistic behavior; their speech capacity expands tremendously as they move from the telegraphic stage to infinity.  Goodluck suggests that the existence of regular stages in language development is comparable to other biologically triggered behavior in humans such as walking and in other species such as flight in birds (p. 141).

Second, acquisition is uniform across children and languages; children learning the thousands of languages with all their surface differences go through the same stages of phonological, morphological and syntactic rule acquisition.  Although the age at which a particular stage is reached varies considerably, there are rough guidelines.  For example, the babbling period is generally placed between six months and the turn of the first year.  The similarity of the language acquisition stages across diverse peoples and languages shows that children are equipped with special abilities to acquire language (Fromkin & Rodman, 1998, p. 339).

Third, there is a specific period during which children can acquire language easily without the aid of any formal language instruction. Eric Lenneberg (1967) first proposed that the ability to learn a language develops within a fixed period, from birth to puberty.  The notion of critical age is true in many species and seems to pertain to species-specific, biologically triggered behavior.  Ducklings, for example, during the period from nine to twenty-one hours after hatching, will follow the first moving object they see, whether or not it looks like a duck.  Such behavior is not affected by conscious decision, external force or intense practice (Fromkin & Rodman, p. 342).  Goodluck maintains that human's ability to learn a language is "significantly impaired" beyond the critical period (p. 141). 

Some unfortunate rare cases, where an individual has been deprived of exposure to a first language in early and middle childhood, support the idea that certain language skills may be unattainable beyond the critical period.  One sad case is Genie.   When Genie was discovered, she had been isolated in a small room where she had very limited physical movement.  She had received only minimal human contact from the age of eighteen months until almost fourteen years.  At the time she was introduced to society, Genie was unable to speak and did not know any language. Genie received extensive language therapy.  Susan Curtiss, a linguist, worked with Genie for a number of years.  Genie did learn to use language and acquire a large group of words.  However, Curtiss (1977) reported that for the most part, Genie's utterances consisted of stringing together content words with little grammatical structure.  Her utterances lacked auxiliary verbs, the third person singular agreement marker, the past tense marker, and most pronouns. She did not invert subjects and verbs to form questions. Genie's language continued to develop over the years but even after a decade, she never reached normal language development.  Genie started learning language after the critical age and was never able to fully acquire the morphological and syntactic rules of English.

Fromkin and Rodman present another case supporting the critical-age hypothesis.  Chelsea was born deaf in Northern California, isolated from any major urban center.  Incompetent doctors wrongly diagnosed her as retarded. Her caring family refused to believe that diagnosis but wondered why Chelsea did not learn to speak like other children.  They did not know that she was deaf.  When she was thirty-one, a neurologist correctly diagnosed her deafness and she was fitted with hearing aids.  Immediately after that, Chelsea received extensive language therapy and was able to acquire a large vocabulary, but like Genie, has not yet reached the syntactic level of even a three-year old child.  The cases of Genie and Chelsea support the view that early and middle childhood is the period in which human beings are biologically equipped to learn language effortlessly.

Fourth, language development is not exclusive to hearing children. Deaf children exposed to sign language show the same stages of language acquisition, as do hearing children exposed to spoken languages. They go through manual babbling, manual "one-sign" sentence stage, "two-sign" sentence stage, telegraphic and eventually infinity.  In the telegraphic stage, similar to hearing children, grammatical signs are missing.  They appear at around the same age for deaf children as grammatical words in hearing children. A study done by Bellugi and Klima (1976) shows that deaf children's acquisition of negative morphemes in American Sign Language exhibits much the same pattern as in spoken language.  One of the most stunning portrayals of human beings' ability to acquire language is the case of Helen Keller (1880-1968).  At 18 months of age, Helen developed an illness that left her both deaf and blind.  For the next five years, she lived in silence and darkness.  Interestingly, Helen invented a number of gestures to get what she wanted.  For example, when she wanted ice cream, she turned toward the freezer and shivered.  When she wanted bread and butter, she imitated the motions of cutting and spreading.  Her family hired a tutor by the name of Anne Sullivan to teach her when Helen was about seven years old.  By using sign language, Sullivan taught Helen to communicate.  She eventually graduated from Radcliffe with honors and became a very successful educator.  Santrock attributes part of Helen's success to her "natural ability to organize language according to form and meaning" (1998, p. 316).

Fifth, children acquire language in the face of impoverished data.  Fromkin and Rodman define impoverish data as "slips of the tongues, false starts, ungrammatical and incomplete sentences, and no information as to which utterances heard are well formed and which are not"(p. 340).  Children are exposed to this kind of linguistic environment.  They hear false starts, speech errors, fragmented sentences and interruptions.  Yet, surprisingly, despite all these or through all these, children manage to acquire language. 

All these facts demonstrate that human beings are genetically prewired to acquire language.  God has blessed me with two lovely children: Jordan, age four and Crystal, age two and a half. My observation of their going through the different stages of language acquisition has been an affirmation of my faith in God.  Their ability to acquire language, a very complex system of knowledge, is astounding. Chomsky (1965) claimed the existence of innate properties of language to explain the child's mastery of language in such a short time despite the highly abstract nature of language.  Under normal conditions, all children learn to acquire the language or languages of their environment.  In other words, normal children, everywhere, learn language regardless of their race, physical make up, social class and origin.  I look upon the facts of language acquisition as evidence of the existence of a Creator God.  One might ask why the Creator God equips every child with this innate capacity to acquire language.  Deuteronomy 6:7 has the answer:  "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk to them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise." The education of children from the very start involves "talking" and this process begins right from babyhood (White, 1954).  In such an educational process, language is an indispensable tool.  In other words, the education of children requires transmission of cultural and social values, and this cannot happen without the aid of language.  What allows the things one generation has learned to be transmitted to future generations?  Enculturation and formal education are made possible by language, which probably explains why the ability to understand language is the first sophisticated subset of cultural knowledge children learn (Peoples and Bailey, p. 44). Language development is crucial to children's cognitive growth.  Once they know words for a certain thing, they can use a system of symbols to stand for the things around them; they can reflect on people, places and things in their world.  In addition, they can communicate their needs, feelings, and ideas in order to exert control over their lives (Papalia and Olds, p. 202).  

Closely related to the innateness hypothesis is Universal Grammar (UG).  Universal grammar is the principles or properties that pertain to the grammars of all human languages.  There are thousands of human languages and they differ dramatically.  However, all of them share remarkable similarities in more than one way.  Languages of the Hmongs of Thailand, the Maoris of New Zealand, the Kadazans of Borneo, the Zulus of Africa, and the native peoples of North and South America all have some common characteristics.   The following facts pertaining to all languages are taken from Fromkin and Rodman's (1998) An Introduction to Language (pp. 26-27):

·        Wherever humans exist, language exists.

·        All grammars contain rules for the formation of new words and sentences.

·        Similar grammatical categories (for example, noun, verb) are found in all languages. 

·        There are semantic universals, such as "male" or "female," "animate" or "human," found in every language in the world.

·        Every language has a way of referring to past time, negating, forming questions, issuing commands, and so on.

·         Speakers of all languages are capable of producing and comprehending an infinite set of sentences.  Syntactic universals reveal that every language has a way of forming sentences.

·        There are no "primitive" languages--all languages are equally complex and equally capable of expressing any idea in the universe.  The vocabulary of any language can be expanded to include new words for new concepts.

·        All languages change through time.

·        The relationships between the sounds and meanings of spoken languages and between gestures and meanings of sign languages are for the most part arbitrary.

·        All human languages utilize a finite set of discrete sounds (or gestures) that are combined to form meaningful elements or words, which themselves form an infinite set of possible sentences.

·        Any normal child, born anywhere in the world, of any racial, geographical, social, or economic heritage, is capable of learning any language to which he or she is exposed. 

As the Christian biology teacher sees the fingerprint of God in the natural world, the Christian linguist sees evidence of God's intelligent design in all the languages of the world.  First language acquisition is a resounding affirmation of the notion that a Creator God created human beings with the abilities to acquire and use language, while universal grammar supports the idea that God is the source of all languages (See Genesis 11:1 – 9).

 Learning English as a Second Language and Formal Grammar Instruction

Adam and Eve must have been the only adults who acquired their language effortlessly.  The previous discussion on language acquisition exhibits that language is learned much easily at a younger age than when a person is older. In fact, young children who are exposed to more than one language before the age of puberty seem to acquire all the languages equally well (Fromkin and Rodman, p. 347).   Santrock suggests that second language acquisition itself is another source of evidence for the critical-period concept since second language learning within the critical period happens with equal ease to first language acquisition (p. 323).  In other words, language learning in adulthood is much more difficult.  This understanding is central to the curricula of all ESL programs.  Therefore, ESL programs aim at giving formal instruction in English to help learners acquire the language. 

An important component in the ESL instruction is the teaching of grammar.  What is grammar?  A simple definition of grammar is the rules by which we put together meaningful words and parts of words of a language to communicate messages that are comprehensible. There are two aspects of grammar:  1) know the rules, and 2) apply the rules (Bowen et al., 1982, p. 161). In a broader meaning, grammar is the structural patterns of language (Frodesen, 1991, p. 275).  When people learn a language, what they are actually doing is learning its structural patterns and meanings.  In other words,  "language learning is essentially grammar learning" (Widdowson, 1988, p. 154).

Native speakers can apply grammatical rules of their language without being able to describe them.  The rules are internalized for subconscious application when communicating.  On the other hand, some second language learners know and can explain the rules but are not able to apply them, and because of this, are able to communicate only partially or not at all.  Even though both native speakers and non-natives speakers learn grammar of English, their goals, to a large extent, are dissimilar.  In grammar classes, native speakers are given prescriptive rules that help them achieve correct usage.  The most visible purpose seems to be the corrections of certain forms and constructions that are considered erroneous or substandard, such as the distinctions between I are not hungry and I am not hungry;  She don't care about men and She doesn't care about men.  The emphasis in such a class is that some forms are correct and should be used; others are wrong and should be eliminated. The study of the student's native language  (grammar) is justified in an academic program for the same reason botany and astronomy are since one goal of education is to understand the world we live in (Bowen et al., pp. 61 & 163).

Second language teaching regards grammar as an aid to language users in accurately communicating their messages and not as some isolated body of knowledge that must be studied for its own sake.  There is certainly a place for learning grammar as an academic subject which seeks to reveal a picture of the systematic nature of language, particularly, the syntactic aspect of language.  As an academic subject, grammar seeks to show the complexities of the language and the various ways of analyzing those complexities.

However, the situation is different in the ESL grammar class.  Its teaching is not so much knowledge transmission as it is skill development.  What teachers are trying to bring about in the learner is linguistic behavior that conforms to the rules, not knowledge of the rules themselves.  Grammar is a component of language that enables us to make our meanings clear and precise.  Therefore, teaching grammar means enabling students to use linguistics forms accurately, meaningfully and appropriately (Larsen-Freeman, 1991, p. 280).

Research indicates that formal grammar instruction is especially helpful for adult second language students. Since they approach the necessary learning tasks without the experience of having lived in the language and thereby having internalized usage data, the need to be informed of correct and incorrect usage is crucial. The second language student has to learn English usage, usually in the confines of the classroom, where imagination replaces experience (Bowen et al., p. 164). 

Teaching Methodology

Grammar lessons are usually composed of three phases: presentation, practice and communication (although all three may not be conducted within one class period).  The first step in the lesson is the presentation of a linguistic rule.  There are several options regarding the presentation phase.  The linguistic rule could be presented inductively or deductively and could be made explicit or implicit.  An inductive activity is one in which the students infer the rule or generalization from a set of examples.  For instance, students might infer the subject-auxiliary inversion rule in forming yes-no questions, after having been exposed to a number of such questions.  In a deductive activity, on the other hand, the students are given the rule and they apply it to examples.   If  the teacher  has chosen an inductive approach in a given lesson, a further option exists--whether or not to have students explicitly state the  rule.  This is optional since one certainly can teach grammar without stating any explicit rules.  Recall that what we are trying to bring about in the learner is linguistic behavior that conforms to the rules, not knowledge of rules themselves.  However, ESL students usually request rules and report that they find them helpful. Alert teachers will adapt their presentation to the circumstances. Regardless of the presentation methods, effective language teachers are not only aware of developments of knowledge about acquisitional sequences but also able to provide accurate descriptions of second language grammar rules and rules of use when appropriate. 

Now that we have discussed the inductive/deductive and implicit/explicit issues, we can briefly illustrate options for presenting a structure during the initial phase of a lesson.  A necessary ingredient for this phase is having some language samples or examples which illustrate the teaching point.  There are a variety of formats which can be used such as songs and poems, authentic texts (e.g. newspaper articles), realia (e.g. clothes) and segments of taped radio/television broadcasts.   As a follow up to the presentation of rules, teachers need to be prepared at all times during instruction not only to respond to students' questions and provide explanation of the learning points, but also to react to learners' problems, clarify for the learners the possible source of their problems and explain possible solutions.  Obviously, such explanation is not always phrased in terms of the target grammar, functions or use, for they may involve psychological operations with language or physical behaviors such as how to pronounce a phoneme correctly (Crookes & Chaudron, p. 50).

Larsen-Freeman in "Teaching Grammar" recommends that in the practice phase lesson, we need to select an activity that encourages meaningful repetition of the pattern, not verbatim repetition (p. 286).  There are several methods available here depending on the grammar structure being practiced.  Common exercises are filling in the blanks, sentence combining, multiple-choice and ordering of sentences.  For a specific learning point, learners need to progress from more controlled and mechanical to more free and communicative behaviors. Most approaches to second language pedagogy involve a third, more communicative phase.  In the communicative phase, less control over grammatical structure is exercised than during the practice phase.  The aim during this phase is to have students use the structures they have been practicing in as natural and fluid a way as possible.  Some possibilities for such processes are:

·        Answering questions using particular grammatical structures

·        Paraphrasing - rewriting passages in one's own words

·        Summarizing - using paraphrased sentences to write a summary of a passage

·        Synthesizing - paraphrasing material form two or more sources to write a summary

·        Free writing

·        Grammatically analyzing a text or article

Crookes and Chaudron  (1991, pp. 53-54) list some free activities for ESL classes:

·        Role play

·        Language games

·        Reports

·        Problem solving

·        Drama

·        Simulation

·        Discussion

In all these exercises, students' understanding or misunderstanding of the grammar structure is revealed in their doing of the exercises.  They attempt to communicate thoughts by using specific grammar structures.  Consequently, students usually make many errors.  In describing the functions of an ESL grammar teacher, Corder writes, "the function of  the teacher is to provide data and examples and where necessary, to offer explanations and descriptions and more importantly, verification of the learner's  hypotheses (i.e., corrections)" (1988, p. 34).  Thus Corder considers error correction a necessary element of pedagogical practice and most language teachers agree with him.  While there are clearly times that error correction can be intrusive and therefore unwarranted, at other times focused error correction is highly desirable.  It provides the negative evidence students often need to reject or modify their hypotheses about how the target language is formed or functions.  Students understand this, which explains why they often deliberately seek error correction to assist them with their language learning task (Larsen-Freeman, p. 293).

Potential for integration of faith and learning

The key to integration of faith and learning hinges on two questions: 1) what to say? and 2) how to say it?  Remember that the grammatical rules of a language do not tell us what to say but rather how to say what we want to say.  Since  grammar instruction focuses mainly on syntax, the content used in such a class is rarely important for its own sake; rather it is simply a vehicle for the learners to exercise language skills.  Because of its focus on structure, grammar instruction offers tremendous freedom in the choice of content and therefore gives plenty of room for integration of faith and learning. Since grammar basically deals with expression of thoughts, it necessitates students' thinking about the content.  In other words, learners have to think about the content  before they can convey their thoughts.  Content can be carefully planned to allow the integration of faith and learning in the ESL grammar class by way of using two strategies: 1) finding appropriate task stimuli and 2)  creating relevant tasks.  Task stimuli, as the term suggests, introduce or lead students into given tasks. Fortunately,  Crookes and Chaudron in Guidelines for Classroom Language Teaching alert teachers that almost anything can be used as stimulus materials for language tasks (p. 54).    Shavelson and Stern (1981, p. 478) summarize the components of a task based on Doyle's work (1979, 1980, 1983) as follows:

1)                  Content.

What themes or values should be used in learning the particular grammatical points?

2)                  Materials.

What can be observed or manipulated?

3)         Activity.

What can the teacher and students do during the lesson or practice?

4)                  Goals.

What does the teacher what to achieve?

5)                   Students.

What are the students' abilities and interests?

The following table exhibits how faith can be integrated in the content of the ESL grammar class by finding appropriate task stimuli and creating relevant tasks.


Grammar Structure


Task Stimulus

Communicative  Task

Simple Past


Other structures:

·        Past progressive

·        Past perfect

·        Past perfect progressive


The simple past indicates that an activity or situation began and ended at a particular time in the past.


Examine past events:

·        Creation

·        The flood

·        The first coming of Jesus

Examine Bible characters or Christian heroes

·        Noah

·        Abraham

·        Daniel and friends

·        Martin Luther


·        Where did I come from?

·        Why do I believe what I believe?

·         How is my past related to my present life?

·        How did life originate?




Grammar Structure


Task Stimulus

Communicative Task

Simple Present


Other structures:

·        Present progressive

·        Present perfect

·        Present perfect progressive

1)  The simple present says that something was true in the past, is true in the present and will be true in the future.  It is used for general statements of facts.

2)  The simple present is used to express habitual or everyday activity.

1) General statement of truth:

·        God is love.

       1 Jn 4:8

·        I am who I am.

Ex.  3:14

·        Jesus said to him,"I am the way, the truth and the life…"

Jn 14:6

2)   Habitual activity

·        Lifestyle of God's people

·        Spiritual life

·        Social life

Questions to consider:

·        Why did God call Himself 

     " I AM"?

·        Who am I?

Simple Future

Other Structures:

·        Future progressive

·        Future perfect

·        Future perfect progressive

Will or be going to is used to express future time. 


Will also express willingness

Future events:

·        The second coming of Jesus

·        The New Earth

·        How will the earth end?

·        What are you looking forward to doing in the New Earth?  Why?

·        Who are you looking forward to meeting in the New World? Why?

Modal auxiliaries

Modal auxiliaries generally express a speaker's attitudes.  For example, modals can express that a speaker feels something is necessary, advisable, permissible, possible or probable; and in addition, they can convey the strength of these attitudes.




1)      Polite request

2)      Formal permission

3)      less than 50% certainty

I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

 Jn 10:10

·        What kind of abundant life do you think Jesus offers?

·        Why does He offer it?

·        What does the may mean here?

Grammar Structure


Task Stimulus

Communicative Task

Be able to


·        For I am persuaded that neither life nor death, nor angels nor principalities, nor powers   …shall be able to separate us from the love of God…

Rom 8:37-39

·        For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.

Heb. 2:18

·        What is Jesus able to do for you?

·        What makes it possible for Jesus to be able to do things you are not able to do for yourself?

·        Why do you think Paul was convinced that nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God?


Ought to

1)  Advisability

1)      90% certainty


Read the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17

·        Why should people keep the Ten Commandments?

·        What are some of the "shoulds" you have learned at home, school and church?  What is the rationale for all these "shoulds"?


1)      Strong expectation

2)      Prohibition (negative)

3)      95% certainty

But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Mat. 6:15

What must we do to be forgiven?  What do you think of this?  Is this fair?


1)      Ability or possibility

2)      Informal permission

3)      Informal polite request

4)   Impossibility (negative one)

·        I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Phil. 4:13

·        …If God is for us, who can be against us?  Rom. 8:31


·        What is the implication of Phil 4:13 for your life?

·        Think of a situation when God helped you do something you could not do on your own.  Tell you friends about this.


Grammar Structure


Task Stimulus

Communicative Task


1)  100% certainty

2)  willingness

3)  polite request

·        God will wipe every tear from their eyes…

      Rev. 21: 4

·        …I will never leave you nor forsake you.  Heb. 13:5


·        What is your favorite text in the Bible?  Why?

·        Do you trust God's promises?  Why or why not?

Stative Passive

Stative Passive form is used to describe an existing situation or state.

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and blessings.

Rev. 5:12

·        Why is Jesus called the Lamb that was slain?

·        How does the Bible describe the state of the dead?


Nouns are words used to name people, places, things or ideas.




Countable Nouns

Nouns referring to tangible objects  that can be easily counted

Examine the tabernacle.  Pay special attention to the items there.


What do the items in the sanctuary or tabernacle mean? 

Are they still relevant to our life now?

Mass Nouns

Nouns that refer to  things that occur in undifferentiated aggregates.



But the very hairs of your head are numbered.

Mat. 10:30

In English, hair is uncountable noun. What does Mat. 10:30 mean?  What does this verse tell us about God?

Abstract Nouns

Nouns that refer to ideas, concept and other intangibles.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Gal. 5:22

Why are "these things (which are abstract nouns)" called the fruit of the Spirit?


Adjectives modify nouns or pronouns.

·        The Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…."

      Exo. 34:6

·        God is love.

      1 Jn 4:8  

·        What are the characteristics of God?

·        What does the verse "God is love" mean?

Grammar Structure


Task Stimulus

Communicative Task


Adverbs are words used to modify verbs, adjectives or other adverbs

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might.

Deut. 6:5.

How should you love the Lord our God?  What does it mean to love Him with all your heart, soul and might?

Conditional Sentences

Conditional sentences are used to make predictions, discuss possibility in the past, express dreams, give advice and make apologies.

·        If you love me, keep my commandments.

      Jn 14:15

·        But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

      Mat. 6:15

·        How do you show your love to someone you love?  How about God?

·        What is the condition required to receive forgiveness from God?


The following lesson plan illustrates how faith can be integrated in the ESL grammar class.



Lesson Plan


Level: Intermediate ESL Grammar

Topic:  Simple Past

Explicit Objective:

Students will learn how to use the right form of verbs to describe past events.

Implicit Objectives

1.      Students will examine the Creation story and how it affects their faith.

2.      Students will reflect on questions:

a.       Where did I come from?

b.      What do I believe about how life originated?

These implicit objectives are achieved in the communication phase where students practice relevant grammatical points in as natural and fluid a way as possible.


1.      A transparency sheet for the presentation phase.

2.      An overheard projector.

3.      A white board and markers.

4.      Handouts for practice phase.

5.      Handouts for communicative phase.

Presentation Phase[2]:  

Use inductive method.

a.       Show the following sentences on a transparency sheet to students.  Ask them to pay attention to the verb forms.


The  Transparency Sheet for Presentation Phase


Analyze the following sentences and come up with a theory or rule regarding the verb forms.

1.      James studied his Sabbath School lesson last night.

2.      James studies his Sabbath School lesson every Friday night.

3.      Felicia prayed before she ate lunch this afternoon.

4.      Felicia always prays before she eats.

5.      Jacob went to church last Saturday.

Jacob goes to church every Saturday.


b.      Request for students' conclusions regarding the verb forms.

c.   Present rule for forming regular and irregular past tense verbs.

Practice Phase[3]:

1.  Give the following exercise to students for in-class task.


Fill in the blanks with the correct verb forms.

 In the beginning, God ___________(create)  the heavens and the earth.   The earth _________(be) without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep.   The Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.  Then God _________ (say), "Let there be light"; and there was light.  And God saw that the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.  God  ____________ (call) the light Day and the darkness He _________ ( call) Night.  So the evening and the morning were the first day.

On the second day,  God __________ (say), "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters."  Thus God __________ (make) the firmament, and __________ (divide) the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it ____________ (be) so.  God ___________ (call) the firmament Heaven.  On the third day, God ____________command the waters under the heavens to gather together in one place and dry land  __________ (appear).   He ____________ (name) the dry land  Earth and the gathering together of the waters He ___________ (call) Seas.  God ___________ (order) the earth to bring forth grass, herb and fruit trees.  On the fourth day, God ___________(establish) lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and to be signs and seasons, and for days and years.  God ___________ (make) two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night.  He __________ (make) the stars also.

            On the fifth day, God __________ (fill) the waters with living creatures, great and small.  He  ___________ (create) birds to  fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.  He ___________ (command) the water creatures and all the birds to multiply and to fill the earth.  On the sixth day, God __________ (fill) the land with every imaginable living creature according to its species.  Then God ________ (say), "Let Us make man in Our image, according to our likeness."  So God ________ (take) a lump of clay and ___________ (form)  a man.  He, then, _________ (breathe) into the his nostril and the man __________ (become) a living being.  Then out of the man, Adam, God____________ (take) one of his ribs, ___________(close) up the flesh in its place and __________ (create) a woman, Eve.  Therefore, on the sixth day, God _________ (create) a man and a woman.  God ___________ (bless) them and _________ (tell) them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth."

            On the seventh day, God __________ (end) His work which He had done, and __________ (rest) on the seventh day from all His work which he had done.  Then God ___________ (bless) the seventh day and ___________ (sanctify) it because in it He ___________ (stop) from all His work which God had created and made.  This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were _________(create).

Adapted from Genesis 1 and 2.


3.  Discuss students' answers in class.

Communicative Phase:

1.  Group students into threes and ask them to discuss one of the following questions for 10 minutes.

a.       Where are you from?  Who created you?  Who created your parents and your ancestors?

b.      What do you believe about how life originated?

c.       Do you know of any other creation story? 

2.  Class discussion regarding questions in item number 1.


Ask students to write a short essay on one of the questions in item number 1.  This assignment is due in the next grammar class.


Teachers and Integration of Faith and Learning

Effective integration of faith and learning calls not only for teaching spiritual themes and Christian values in a formal way,  but also for teachers to act and think Christianly. Akers argues that even the most adept, technically skillful integration of the religious perspective into learning will fail miserably without a genuinely caring teacher. He further describes the role of Christian teachers:

Religiously designed curricular maps and learning resource materials are impressive--even indispensable--but in the end, integration happens through the efforts of the teacher.  He or she is the critical catalyst.  When the teacher walks into the classroom and closes the door, he or she is the curriculum because the learning is mediated largely through his or her frame of reference and worldview.  The teacher becomes the grand interpreter, the "meaning-maker."  Information is inert until someone gives it human and spiritual meaning.  That's why it is critical that the teacher's life and views be thoroughly Christian."  (p.6)

Christians are not the only people who realize the powerful impact teachers make on students.    Brown, a noted authority on second language learning,  points out that educational systems around the world are still by and large the voice of bureaucracy and of political and economic status-quo and proposes that language teaching is not neutral, sterile and inorganic (1998, p. 250).  What implication does this statement have for the Christian grammar teacher?  This implies that even the grammar teacher has a voice.  What should the Christian grammar teacher voice?  When I seriously ponder this issue, I cannot but agree with Brown that the teacher cannot be neutral, and concur with Holmes that taking a "neutral" position is, in fact, taking some position (p. 57).

In recent years the language teaching profession has witnessed a noticeable increase in the number of articles, books and presentations on the important nature of language pedagogy.  We language teachers are reminded that we are all driven by convictions about what this world should be like, how people should behave and how governments should control that behavior.  We are told, for example, that we should "embody in our teaching a vision of a better and more humane life" (Giroux and McLaren, 1989, xiii).   In his paper "The Place of Moral and Political Issues in Language Pedagogy" Brown asks, "When all the fine points of our teaching philosophy have been defined and argued, and we go back to our English language classrooms, can we in fact ever escape the potential moral and political agendas that sneak their way into our syllabuses and textbooks?"  In addition, he points out "…upon further reflection, I think it is clear to every English language teacher that even at the very beginning levels of language, certain "messages" will inevitably be delivered through textbooks, exercises, illustrations, linguistic examples, and teaching methodology.  The moral, ethical, and political nature of these messages is unavoidable (p. 253).  For the Christian teacher, the question to be seriously considered is "what kind of messages am I sending to my students?" For what the teacher is silent about and what he or she is "turned on" to, speak powerfully to students about what is worth talking about and what students ought to consider important. Therefore, even silence becomes a message (Akers, p. 7).


Integrating faith and learning in the ESL grammar class calls for intimate knowledge of English grammar.   In short, teachers must be experts in their fields. In fact, it is only after they have become thoroughly familiar with the content of their course that they  can identify key issues or themes that lend themselves to connecting faith, meaning, values and learning (Rasi, 2000).  There are possibilities in designing grammar courses, textbooks, workbooks and supplementary material in which faith and learning is systematically integrated in the teaching of grammar in ESL classes.  Such endeavors demand time, energy and money.  Many teachers feel a genuine spiritual commitment to integrate faith and learning in their classes.  However, as Korniejczuk and Brantley have discovered, they are often "thwarted" by lack of time, inadequate resources and insufficient administrative.  In addition, teachers in the Adventists educational institutions are often guided and directed by the administrative priorities at the local, union and division levels.  I agree with Korniejczuk and Brantley that for an effective change to occur, it must begin within the administrative structure as well as within the classroom.  Nevertheless, teachers, in whatever circumstances we are in, can start or continue making the effort to integrate faith and learning in their classes; and this includes the ESL grammar class.  One major objective of the ESL grammar class is to help ESL learners acquire familiarity of the syntactic structure of English language.  Due to its tremendous emphasis on skill development, content utilized in such a class is not fixed.  Almost any content can be used to teach grammar.  This means that the ESL grammar teacher can integrate faith and learning by selecting material for presentation and practice that emphasizes biblical principles and themes. As such, the ESL grammar class can be distinctly Christian for there is faith there.



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[1] When God brought Eve to Adam, he said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman because she was taken out of man." Genesis 2:23 (NKJV)

[2] Faith can be integrated at this phase by using either biblical texts or sentences promoting Christian values.

[3] Activities for the practice phase where students engage in more controlled language tasks require more effort and time to prepare compared to activities for the communicative phase.