We believe in giving the students as much reinforcement as possible : showing the written word, providing compelling visuals, modeling pronunciation, translating when things are abstract, using rhythmic chanting, songs, etc. Teaching grammar is another way to reinforce the language and give students the framework to manipulate structures and make the language their own. Why withhold anything that will help them acquire language?
That being said, we have also found it very helpful to stop what we're doing and give students time to practice and memorize verb conjugations and new tenses. It takes time to do that, so we will take out a week or two with middle school students in order to do a focused grammar study. We strive to create these units with familiar language because we believe that communication and comprehension of the language should come before analysis. If the students do not understand the context of the grammar point, the meaning and their ability to transfer the concepts into meaningful language will be lost.
With my sixth graders, I recently taught them a unit on present tense verbs, holding them accountable for regular -er, -ir, and -re verbs in French, as well as eight different irregular verbs that they had encountered in their REAL FRENCH tout de suite Level II Student Activity Books. I gave them many ways to practice-- conjugation exercises, simple translation sentences, a number of Quizlet sets, and a number of verb "jingles" that my seventh grade students helped me create. Here they are :
The songs help the students remember the conjugations, and the "rap" included gives them a little context for the verb. I set them up in different colors to help them distinguish the verbs. My hope is to create some more of these, so that there will be a distinct jingle for all of the verbs in my unit. If you are interested, you can see the final evaluation they had to do. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)
If you would like a copy of the PowerPoint for this unit, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org