As I was teaching French in US universities, I realized that many of my students didn't know much about grammar - they knew the rules of their languages as they were using it every day, but they were not able to explain them. I decided to build a simple reference sheet for them to use, so they would know the appropriate vocabulary to explain grammar. It has helped many of them, not only to better learn French and go beyond memorization but also to better understand how their own language works.
I wouldn't say that they appreciate our initial lesson on basic grammar, but they did appreciate its outcomes as it made the rest of our classes easier. If your students are especially struggling, the book "English Grammar for Students of French" is a great resource for both teachers and students.
A good exercise to make students review grammatical terms: Give them a short (relatively easy) paragraph. Ask them to identify the grammatical class of each word, ask them to identify which words are grouped together to perform a single function in the sentence.
Here is the reference sheet that I give them (I also have a version of it with the terms in French for higher level students)
- Grammatical classes, their function and use
- the action made by the subject of the sentence
- the subject and the time of the action determine its conjugation
- word representing an abstract idea, a person, an animal, a thing ...
- always requires an article (except for proper nouns/names)
- introduces a noun
- agrees in gender and number with the noun it refers to
- Tied to the noun, expresses its quality, a relationship, etc.
- agrees with the noun it qualifies
- Replaces a noun to avoid repetition
- agrees in gender and number with the noun it replaces
- modifies a verb
- doesn't change
- links two words or two sentences
- doesn't change
- Introduces a complement
- doesn't change (exception: au / de)
- groups of words
nominal group most basic form: article + noun can be exended with the following:
adjectives ( une maison rouge)
complements (Il roule avec un vélo de course).
relative clauses (Le voisin qui a un drôle de chapeau est venu ce matin.). You will notice that these additions go after the noun they refer to
structure de base d'une phrase: subject + predicate (= verb + object)
word order in a sentence subject - verb - adverb - object - circumstantial complements Exception: If you are using a pronoun, it goes between the subject and the verb.