Illustrating abstract concepts in concrete ways is a key skill in being a teacher or an educator. If you’re not gifted enough to do this naturally, seek help. But by no means resort to telling the student that his head or hard.
The English Language is one subject area that comprises of lots of abstract ideas, which, if not properly illustrated, will fail to carry over.
The truth is, if someone is making a rule about anything, that rule must valid parameters. Yes, it may be abstract in nature, but it must not be so abstract so as to elude reality.
We can use, as an example, the rule governing subject/verb agreement and the classical “bread and butter” scenario.
Which is correct:
a) Bread and butter are breakfast ingredients.
b) Bread and butter is breakfast ingredients.
Most obviously, “a” would be correct. The subject consist of two independent nouns: bread…and butter.
But, on the other hand, let’s look at it this way:
Bread and butter is a tasty food.
Here we have the same subject “bread and butter.” However, this time, it is treated as a singular subject. That is because we’re not talking about the separate items “bread” and “butter,” but a combination of those two fused into one product.
Sounds confusing? Not really. But the reason why so many students hate English is that instructions fail to illustrate abstract concepts properly.
We can help the students understand by letting them know that the state of being verbs “is” and “are” serve as equal signs.
So let’s try this again.
Bread and butter = two breakfast ingredients.
Bread and butter = a tasty snack.
If you’re confused as to whether the noun is singular or plural, try switching things around.
Two breakfast ingredients = bread and butter.
A tasty snack = bread and butter.
By switching the values around the “equal sign,” we can confirm that the first sentence is a plural noun, and the second sentence case is a singular noun.
Listen, learning the abstract concepts of the English Language is hardly ever beyond any student. They can learn it. They should. If not, then it defeats the purpose of creating the subject in the first place.
It’s all a matter of being able to illustrate the abstract concept in a concrete way. As an English instructor, you have to. After all, it’s your bread and butter. Or should I say “sand and cement”?