Techniques in grammar instruction Making grammar accessible to ELLs University of Alberta: EDPY 413Presented by: Chelsea Androschuk, Nicole Mackay, and Robyn Ferguson
Historically, grammar has been considered to be (Hinkel & Fotos 2002): -nouns -pronouns -verbs -prepositions -participles -adverbs -articles -conjunctions
The advent of other approaches:-Direct approaches (audio-lingualism)-Functional approaches-Communicative approaches
The Audiolingual Method-The audiolingual method focuses on the comprehension of language at a largely mechanical level (Davidson, 1978).-Examples of mechanically structured activities might include repetition or substitution. The teacher is in control of the lesson, and students can often successfully participate without any understanding of meaning (Davidson, 1978).
Functional Approaches-These are usually based on situational language needs (Hinkel & Fotos, 2002).- According to Skehan, these activities often follow a “presentation, practice, and production” protocol (cited in Hinkel & Fotos, 2002).
Communicative/Humanistic Approaches-These methods mimic a natural acquisition of language, for example, how a child acquires L1 (Hinkel & Fotos, 2002).-Language is acquired using meaningful input, with no formal grammatical instruction. It is assumed that ELLs will naturally acquire the forms of language when this approach is used (Hinkel & Fotos, 2002).
Myth: Grammar structures are meaningless forms (Larsen-Freeman, 1995)- Learning a structure in grammar, is not complete unless its function is explored at the same time (Wagner-Gough, 1975).- There are 3 dimensions to grammar instruction: form, meaning and function/use (Larsen-Freeman, 1995).- Grammar instruction should include the answers to when and why to use any given structure (Larsen- Freeman, 1995).
Myth: Grammar acquisition consists of arbitrary rules (Larsen-Freeman, 1995)-Interlanguages (ILs) appear to follow rules, and are systematic (Larsen-Freeman, 1995). This does not mean that an ELL would be using a grammatical structure as a NS would from first exposure, but that they are still moving toward its proper use while forming rules in his/her IL.-Though systematic, this development through an IL may not be linear (Larsen-Freeman, 1995).
Myth: Grammar structures are learned one at a time (Larsen-Freeman, 1995)-The acquisition of some structures may depend on the acquisition of others. A simple accumulation of structures, one at time, can lead to a phenomenon known as backsliding. When backsliding occurs, it is because certain elements become omitted in order to make room for new elements (Larsen-Freeman, 1995).
Myth: Grammar is acquired naturally, anddoesn’t have to be taught (Larsen-Freeman, 1995)- In French immersion programs, where the focus is on meaning alone, students have demonstrated a less than expected understanding of grammar in the language (Harley & Swain, 1984).- Students may develop the ability to convey meaning, without developing proper grammar. Selective form- focused instruction may therefore be necessary to ensure that as language develops, so does grammar (Larsen-Freeman, 1995).
Lightbrown and Spada (1990)research (cited in Larsen-Freeman, 1995):-This study looked at 4 (primarily communicative) French immersion classes, each of which incorporated a varying level of form-based instruction in grammar.-Their results demonstrated that the class that never focused on grammatical form performed the worst according to the assessment used.- Part of the reason for this, according to Larsen-Freeman (1995), is that focusing student attention may facilitate learning.
Myth: Error correction and negative evidence might be unnecessary when instructing grammar (Larsen-Freeman, 1995)-If errors are not corrected, then overgeneralizations in language tend to occur (Larsen-Freeman, 1995).-Negative evidence might be part of the input that ELLs need, though they may not have needed it to the same extent for their L1 (Larsen-Freeman, 1995).
Myth: All grammatical structures are learned in the same way (Larsen-Freeman, 1995)“Any claim to the effect that all acquisition is the product of habit formation or of rule formation, or today, of setting/resetting parameters or the strengthening of connections in complex neural networks, is an obvious oversimplification of a complex process” (Larsen-Freeman, 1995, p. 141).
3 options in language teaching:Focus on FormsFocus on meaningFocus on form
Focus on Forms:“Parts of the language are taught separately and step by step so that the acquisition is a process of gradual accumulation of parts until the whole structure of language has been built up…At any one time the learner is being exposed to a deliberate limited sample of language” (Wilkins, 1976, p. 2).
Focus on Meaning:The essential claim is that people of all ages learn language best, inside or outside the classroom, not by treating the languages as the object of study, but by experiencing them as a medium of communication… “language is organized in terms of the purpose for which people are learning language and the kinds of language performance that are necessary to meet those purposes” (Wilkins, 1976, p. 13).
Focus on Form:“Overtly draws students’ attention to linguistic elements as they arise incidentally in lessons whose overriding focus is on meaning or communication” (Long, 1991, pp. 45-46).“Often consists of an occasional shift of attention to linguistic code features– by the teacher and/or one or more of the students– triggered by perceived problems with comprehension or production” (Long & Robinson, 1999, p. 23).
Advantage of Focus on Form:“The learner’s attention is drawn precisely to a linguistic feature as necessitated by a communicative demand” (Doughty & Williams, 1999, p. 3).
Arguments against Grammar Instruction:The study of grammar promotes knowledge about language not how to use the language (Krashen, 1983, p. 10).We acquire our first language without any explicit knowledge of grammar (Krashen, 1983, p. 10).The natural order (Krashen, 1983, pp. 12-36) in which languages are learned precludes the influence of instruction.If communicative competence is the goal, then classroom time is better spent engaging in language use (Krashen, 1983, p. 37).
Arguments for Grammar Instruction: Without explicit instruction learners’ interlanguage often fossilizes. Grammar instruction may act as an advanced organizer helping learners to notice features of language when they are ready. Learning finite rules can help to simplify an otherwise daunting and complex task by organizing it into neat categories. Older students’ expectation about language learning often includes grammar instruction. Learning grammar structures allows for more creative applications of language. (Lightbown & Spada, 1990, pp. 429-448)
Teaching Grammar:Teachers need to consider how to present grammar to their students (approach), what options for dealing with the grammar should be used, and which area they will focus on during practice (accuracy, fluency, or restructuring).
ApproachesDeductive– teaching through rules (the rule is provided followed by the provision of examples in which the rule is applied).Inductive– teaching through examples (students are provided with several examples from which a rule is inferred).
Sources of inductive instruction: Realia / Actions Worksheets (can often be structured to inductively lead students to a grammar rule) Authentic texts (after listening to a dialogue or reading a text, students can answer questions to highlight certain grammatical structures– these may then be used to derive rules) Dialogues Recorded Conversations
Options:Teaching through practice: Drills: activities that are structured to allow only one correct answer Exercises: Open-ended grammar activities Practice leads to the creation of a continuum ranging from text manipulation activities to text creation activities.
Practice:Text manipulation activities: Provide students with sentences that they will be required to operate on in some limited manner such as: fill-in-the blank, make a choice from items provided, substitute another item, or transform into another pattern.
Practice:Text creation activities: Require learners to produce language creatively using the target structure (these activities are not truly communicative because the students are aware that the purpose of the activity is to practice a specific structure).
Communicative grammar tasks:Provide students with genuine opportunities to communicate using language that is known.These tasks differ from text creation activities in that the students are not restricted in the language that is used.As a result, because students are not focused on the use of a particular structure, tasks must be designed to ensure that the desired structure is utilized.Refer to Penny Ur’s Grammar Practice Activities, 1988. (Lightbown & Spada, 1993)
Integrative Grammar TeachingCombines a form-based with a meaning-based focus. “form focused instruction and corrective feedback provided within the context of communicative interaction can contribute positively to a second language development in both the short and long term” (Lightbown & Spada, 1993, p. 205).Students should be able to learn explicit grammar rules as well as have a chance to practice them in communication in the authentic or simulated tasks (Musumeci, 1997).
PPP Presentation / Practice/ Productionbased on the Grammar-Translation Method in which grammar explanations are followed by exercises.follows the premise that knowledge becomes skill through successive practice and that language is learned in small chunks leading to the whole.views accuracy as a precursor to fluency.
PPP- Stage 1In the first stage of the sequence the teacher introduces the language and forms to be studied.
PPP- Stage 2 In the second stage students practice using the language and grammar introduced by the teacher. This stage is often characterized by decontextualized drills.The focus of this stage is the accurate use of language.
PPP- Stage 3After students have demonstrated that they can accurately use the language and forms introduced, fluency is developed by providing opportunities for students to use what they have learned in a less controlled environment.
Criticism of PPP:SLA research demonstrates that practice does not lead to perfection (Lightbown, 1985).Language learning does not occur in a linear fashion influenced directly by the instruction that takes place (Ellis 1993; Skehan, 1996).Relies heavily on the use of decontextualized and meaningless drills (Wong & Van Pattten, 2003).
Task Based Language TeachingAccuracy and fluency are addressed in TBLT with a linguistic focus supporting the task or emerging out of difficulties experienced during the task.This maintains the focus on communication rather than learning particular forms and promotes the relevancy of grammatical instruction.
Willis’ (1996) ModelPre-Task: lexicon is introduced and learners are engaged in brief activities to activate their schemata about a particular topic or to equip them to participate in the main task.Task: learners are actively engaged in completing a communicative task.Language Focus: learners’ errors are highlighted and specific activities are utilized to allow them to practice using the correct language forms.
Accuracy Addressed Through Focused TasksFocused tasks are tasks that are likely to require the use of a particular form.For example, writing a recipe will require the use of the imperative and decorating a room will require the use of prepositions.
Willis’ TBLT FrameworkWillis (1996) advocated addressing accuracy through the structure of lessons: a) Pre-task b) Task c) Post-task (language focus)
Pre-task PhaseIn this phase the teacher will:1) Introduce and define the topic2) Use activities to help students recall or learn vocabulary and phrases3) Provide examples of how the task may be completed4) Provide instructions for completing the task
Task Phase During this stage the students complete the central task of the cycle individually (in pairs or groups). While the students work, the teacher ensures students understand the task and are being productive. The teacher monitors time closely and observes how groups are functioning. This information may be relayed to students to promote effective group functioning or may be used in formulating future groups.
Language focus phaseIn this phase students move from a focus on meaning to a focus on form.The purpose of this phase is to develop accuracy by directing students’ attention to particular language forms and usage.
Tasks to Promote NegotiationNegotiation contributes to language acquisition by making input more comprehensible (Long, 1985) and by providing opportunities to attend to form (Pica, 1994).
Types of Tasks – Willis (1996)1) Listing – brainstorming, fact-finding2) Ordering and Sorting – sequencing, ranking, categorizing, classifying3) Comparing – matching, finding differences and similarities4) Problem Solving5) Sharing Personal Experiences6) Creative Tasks
Types of Tasks – Pica, Kanagy, Falodun (1993)1) Jigsaw – learners combine different pieces of information to create a whole2) Information-Gap – learners have different information. They negotiate to find the other individual’s information3) Problem-Solving – students must find a solution for a problem (typically there is one resolution)4) Decision-Making – students solve an open-ended problem by discussing multiple options and choosing the best5) Opinion Exchange – learners exchange ideas without needing to come to a consensus
Some benefits of TBLTCurrent educational research outlines that learners engage in the learning process using a variety of styles and intelligences.TBLT provides an inductive approach to instruction and addresses different learning styles than PPP.TBLT encourages more meaningful learning experiences that are relevant to students.
Some benefits of TBLT (Willis, 1996)PPP is a form of the “banking model” of education whereas TBLT is a student-centered approach that provides a voice to students (content and language usage).Principles of democracy are more reflective of a TBLT classroom.
Comparison PPP TBLTTextbook language CommunicativeOfficial content language valuable Process valuableViews students as Students are valuable “unknowing” contributorsLearning content not Learning opportunities problematic Students are given aPower difference voice inherent
Social RationaleTBLT empowers learners by giving them agency and recognizing the value of their language (non- standard forms of English).
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