Action Research Project

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  • 1. Systems of the language 1 Grammar Action Research ProjectJoanne Abos-Padilla Velásquez Andrea Castillo Bilchi Lorena Salazar Betancur Diego Ulloa Iglesias Profesora: Roxanna Correa DID0412-1 May 4th, 2011
  • 2. Systems of the language 2 Grammar Introduction The following essay is going to contrast an observed class with the theory itself from agrammar class. All this comparison is going to be presented according to an interview asked tothe teacher who carried out the observed grammar class. The topics evaluated were thefollowing: if the approach used must be inductive or deductive; if in a CLT classroom should begrammatical explanations and technical terminology; at the moment of teaching grammarmust students have grammar only classes?; if teachers must correct grammatical errors; whichstrategies are best for learning grammar; which sequence does the teacher use to conduct hisor her class; seventh, which drills (meaningful, mechanical, communicative) does the teacheruse. The results of this project are given contrasting an interview of the teacher observed andthe observation of the class. Besides, was compared with the theory in the analysis part of thisessay.
  • 3. Systems of the language 3 Grammar Theoretical Issues Harmer (1983) states that “the grammar of the language is the description of the waysin which words can change their forms and can be combined into sentences in that language.”If grammar rules are too carelessly violated, communication may suffer” (p.12) In the Englishgrammatical system, a sentence can be transformed, structured and formulated. Theknowledge of combining small units to make a sentence is called competence, and itsrealization is called performance. On the other hand, Newmark (1975) refers to grammar as“neither necessary nor sufficient for learning to use a language.” (p. 165) we need grammar inorder to learn how English is used, but is not enough. It is also necessary vocabulary andpronunciation, and the three systems are equally important in the English learning process.According to Thornbury (1999) a deductive approach is the one that ‘’starts with thepresentation of a rule and is followed by examples in which the rule is applied’’. Meanwhile anInductive approach ‘’starts with some examples from which a rule is inferred’’(P.29) Deductiveapproach is more related to grammar translation, which is commonly taught in the student’smother tongue what is not good at all because leads the students to have almost noopportunities to practice the foreign language they are learning. On the other hand,Thornbury (1999) refers to the deductive approach as something not necessarily dependenton translation; there are many student grammar practice books that have all exercises andexplanations in English. The Inductive approach is basically the way in which students discoverby themselves the rules through examples. It requires the students to be exposed to certainexamples first, to then comprehend the rules. According to Thornbury (1999) is also called‘’learning through experience’’. (P.29) Grammar goes beyond than just structured sentences; ithelps people to comprehend better a specific language. According to Littlewood (N.D.),grammar has three important reasons to be: 1. The use of grammar makes the communication among people socially acceptable. 2. Grammar lead people to talk about decontextualized things, it means to talk about things that probable are not present in the specific moment of the conversation. 3. Littlewood (N.D.) states that ‘’Grammar enables speakers to convey messages that are more subtle and abstract than would otherwise be possible’’. (P. 5)
  • 4. Systems of the language 4 Grammar Grammatical errors are commonly done by students, especially when students arelearning a second or foreign language. For teachers the first step is to identify student’s errorsthen to classify them into different types such as lexical, grammatical, discourse andpronunciation errors. One of the most important things about correcting errors is how tocorrect students. Thornbury (1999) states that it is known that few people like being wrong,not many people like being corrected either, therefore it is very important in the way thatteachers correct students, furthermore we know that there seems to be no way of learning alanguage without being wrong. Thornbury (1999) argues that there is the case of thenegative feedback that is just saying that the student is wrong, what can provoke a de-motivation in the student development, meanwhile there also exist the ambiguous feedbackfrom the teachers that can cause a misunderstanding in the students, because probably theywon’t know if they are wrong or not, and finally there are also the positive feedback in whichthe students are told that they are doing right. According to Brown (2000) grammar lessons must not be taught as a discrete skillbecause they require the grammatical techniques into general language courses. The classmust be a general language class with some grammatical techniques to support the language.In some conditions, grammar only classes can give to grammar a useful function. Some ofthese conditions are when the grammar class is in the program of the class, it is used incontext to make meaningful language or in the performances of the students outside thegrammar only classes. The strategies than can be useful in the learning grammar processaccording to The National Capital Language Resource Center, Washington, DC (2003-2004) are:“relate knowledge needs to learning goals”, where it is important to identify the declarativeand procedural knowledge in order to recognize to which goal students are referring to. “Applyhigher order thinking skills”, here it is important to teach students the way in which thelanguage works because this gives them the chances to equate it with other languages thatthey know. It would help them to create a critical thinking and analytical skills to comprehendthe language. When we “provide plentiful, appropriate language input”, is necessary to have inmind that students use procedural and declarative knowledge. Therefore students must beaware of the relationships that exist among from, meaning and use of some grammar rules.According to the strategy “use predicting skills”, students must focus in which type ofcommunication task they are being given. It means to have a look at the tenses uses, thesentence structure and length and all patterns that can contribute to make somecommunicative task different to another. In the “limit expectations for drills”, The mechanical
  • 5. Systems of the language 5 Grammardrills guide the grammar to be seen as boring because it is only focused on pronouns, nouns,number or tense of verbs. According to Littlewood (N.D.), to understand a sequence to teach agrammar class is necessary to classify them into four main topics: 1) Pre-communicative language practice: In this step is important to link the language itself with the meanings. A good option to do this is to focus on a specific situation. Here the purpose is to empower the students to practice the language and link it with their meanings. It could be useful to make students talk about their own experiences in order to make them personalize the language. 2) Communicative language practice: At his point the basic principle is that now there are information gaps and learners must overwhelm those gaps. All this mentioned before is related to the way that the language is seen now, it is seen as an expression of meanings that must communicate information to other people. 3) Structured communication: Students are able to use any language they wish, this must taught recently, as a reason to express different meanings that appear during the process of the communication. In this step can exist more open questions such as: what do you think about the weather? The important issue here is that students must answer these questions by themselves. 4) Authentic communication: Here the communication goes beyond the classroom itself because students must employ the language in order to respond to meanings that could appear. In this moment there is still control of the teacher but not as direct as it was before. In the grammar learning system, there are three main drills, meaningful drills, mechanicaldrills and communicative drills. The meaningful drills are the ones in which students, in orderto obtain the correct answer, should understand and be focused on the stimulus. It has onlyone correct answer, so it cannot be any discussion about other alternative. According to Wong& VanPatten (2003) the question must be controlled and cannot be answered if it is notunderstood (pp. 403-423). A meaningful drill should give a context, to avoid generalization;increase to natural language and some elements of option or alternative. In the mechanicaldrills, there is only one answer that can be correct, and there is a full control in it. It is notnecessary an understanding of what is being drilled. We can associate the mechanical drill withthe Skinnerian method, because when they have the correct answer, the teacher uses an
  • 6. Systems of the language 6 Grammarautomatic reinforcement in order to learn the word as a habit. Fernando Rubio, Amber Passeyand Selene Campbell states that “one can substitute words from the drill with no sense wordsand still be able to complete it correctly” (2004) In the communicative drills we can have morethan one correct answer, but the grammatical structures must be formed in a correct way. Thegrammar we learn must be transfer to the suitable context or situations. Not all theparticipants know the answer. The communicative drill is a good situation to practice realEnglish, but produces a lack of motivation to comprehend the meaning because the phrasesthe students practice are not created by themselves.
  • 7. Systems of the language 7 Grammar Data Questions According to what we According to the teacher observed Teacher taught grammar Grammar should be deductively because she was presented deductively, Should grammar be clarifying doubts and because it should be presented inductively or correcting mistakes, so to do explained and exemplified at deductively? Why? that she needed to explain the same time very directly, the rules of grammar in order because otherwise it would to make students understand be difficult for Spanish native better. speakers, to understand different types of tenses.Should we use grammatical Teacher was correcting It’s very important. Teachersexplanations and technical mistakes but she had to have to explain or to be very terminology in a CLT explain grammar with their explicit on that. The technicalclassroom? Give examples. technical terminology first terminology is important because sometimes you will be encountering many technical words that you need to know.Should grammar be taught in Teacher was practicing all Depends on the situation. separate “grammar only” what they studied before, so Teachers have to be always classes? Why? the class that we saw was a using all the abilities, the mixture of grammar and abilities don’t talk about lexis. pronunciation only, when you are teaching pronunciation, teachers also can explain things in grammar, because pronunciation and grammar are always connected, if students don’t pronounce very well you are changing the tense. S hould teachers correct This class was focus on Sometimes teachers have to grammatical errors? Why? correcting mistakes; be alert on the way their however, the way the students are, if they can be teacher corrected them was corrected, if teachers after listening them, without exemplify and tell at the very interrupting their speech. beginning that they will be corrected in grammar errors it’s ok, but if they are presenting, they are in an
  • 8. Systems of the language 8 Grammar explanation and they made mistakes or grammatical error is not very good to correct them right away, maybe later and that is why it is important to write it down. Which of these strategies for The strategies that the She: learning grammar do you teacher used were relate - Relates knowledge needs to use? knowledge needs to learning learning goals- A.- Relate knowledge needs goals and provide plentiful - - Provides plentiful, to learning goals appropriate language input. appropriate language input.- B.- Apply higher order - - Uses predicting skills. thinking skills- C.- Provide plentiful, appropriate language input- D.- Use predicting skills- E.- Limit expectations for drills Do you follow a sequence The sequence of the lesson The sequence that she feels is when you teach grammar? If was to teach the rules first appropriate; it’s like the the answer is yes, can you and then practice to correct common sense. She always describe the sequence in mistakes. puts herself in the students’ brief? position and she asks herself how she would understand better? And in that order, she tries to organize her ideas, in terms of grammar. Which of the following drills Meaningful drills: They will She uses all of them. do you use? associate it with something * Meaningful drills: They will emotional that they will associate it with something remember later. emotional that they will remember later. Communicative drills: it’s the * Mechanical drills: are good way they can connect to each for pronunciation, so they other, no matter how, but automatically say a word and they have to communicate. they remember later on. * Communicative drills: it’s the way they can connect to each other, no matter how, but they have to communicate.
  • 9. Systems of the language 9 Grammar Analysis In general terms, and according to what the teacher taught in the class in question andwhat she answered in the interview, there was a strong consistency; what she taught wasbacked-up by theoretical material. The English teacher focused on errors when necessary, butit was necessary to be released at the end of every student’s speech because that way therewould be no interference in the process of learning. In technical terms, she prefers teachingvery explicitly by connecting all the abilities during a lesson in spite of what class students aretaking in (such as grammar only or lexis only). In terms of order, the teacher in questionsupports the idea of putting herself in students’ position and see what order they would preferto be the rules taught, but she was ahead with the rules first and then with the correctionaccording to the rules while practicing. She also applied strategies such as relate knowledge tolearning and provide plentiful, appropriate input; she did not use either use of predicting skillsnor limit expectations for drills because they were not needed in the lesson observed. Thislatter case recurred in terms of use of drills; she just used meaningful and communicative drillsputting aside mechanical ones because it was not needed at all during the class observed;however, the teacher always tries to make a mixture of all the types of drills in order to coverall student’s needs according to lesson. According to Scott (1999), the way in which grammar is presented does not dependnecessarily on translation but on the discovery through examples (inductively) or thepresentation of the rules to understand through examples later (deductively). Despite this, theteacher interviewed told us she’d rather the deductive way because of a very strong reason;she thinks we, Chilean students, have stuck Spanish language in our minds, so it is better for usto know the rules first and then be clarified through examples because this way is easier thanthe other, which was at the same time the way she surely used in the class observed. Due tothis, this teacher usually include technical terminology in her classes; through inductive wayteachers do not usually need to explain the rules with technical words because they arediscovered by the students themselves and just presented later when already comprehended.
  • 10. Systems of the language 10 GrammarAccording to what Scott states, the correction of errors during a lesson will depend on eachstudent, so teachers should be careful when correcting them. At the same time he also statesthat there are three type of correcting: positive, ambiguous and negative which can be eithernegative or positive depending on the teacher criteria, and which, in this case, the teacher haschosen right for Scott; she told us it will depend on the aim of the lesson and also on thestudents. Following the same line, and according to the results of the interview, we could statethat the teacher in question believes that almost the entire class is conditional upon students,i.e.; the way of the grammar class is presented will depend on the way of learning of eachstudent.
  • 11. Systems of the language 11 Grammar Conclusion The grammar system is very controversial because there are many ways to teach it. Wecan teach it deductively or inductively, correcting the mistakes or not correcting them, withthree different drills, such as mechanical, meaningful and communicative, and with differentsequences, according to the teacher’s methodology to teach and the students’ way of learning.In the class observed, we noticed that the teacher followed the theory given by many authorsin many ways. The teacher focused her attention in the students’ errors when it wasnecessary, because it is important for her not to have interference in the students’ learningprocess. She used all the possible strategies in the lesson and she asked her students theiropinion, putting herself in students’ position. She applied many strategies as well as drillings inthe practice, and she also told us in the interview all the strategies and drills she used in theclass. She used deductive learning because students have always Spanish language in theirminds and they need to know the rules and then practice with examples. The author’s theory,as well as the teacher’s class and interview were related in many ways that is why this class issuccessful with beginners in English language.
  • 12. Systems of the language 12 Grammar References- Brown, D. (2000). How to plan a lesson. Teaching by Principles: an interactive approach to language pedagogy. Logman.- Harmer, J. (1983). Describing the language: Grammar. The Practice of English Language Teaching, Logman. (pp. 12-16)- Littlewood, W. (N.D.) Grammar in a communicative approach. English Centre, University of Hong Kong. Retrieved from: www.edb.gov.hk/FileManager/EN/.../grammar_communicative.doc- Newmark, L. (1979) ‘How not to interfere with language learning’ in Brumfit, C.J. and Johnson, K. (eds.) The Communicative Approach to Language Teaching, Oxford University Press, (pp.165)- Power, T. The Cognitive Approach. English language teaching & Brightons local history. (N.D.) Retrieved from http://www.btinternet.com/~ted.power/esl0312.html- Rubio, F; Passey, A & Campbell S. (2004) Grammar in Disguise: The hidden agenda of communicative language teaching textbooks RAEL - Revista Electrónica de Lingüística Aplicada 3, Universidad de Utah, p.158-176. Retrieved from : dialnet.unirioja.es/servlet/fichero_articulo?articulo=1396249&orden=28335- The National Capital Language Resource Center, Washington, DC (N.D) Strategies for learning grammar. The essentials of language teaching. Retrieved from: http://www.nclrc.org/essentials/grammar/stratgram.htm- Thornbury, S. (1999) How to teach Grammar. Logman.- Ur, P. (1996). Teaching grammar. A Course in Language Teaching (pp. 30-35). England: Cambridge University Press.
  • 13. Systems of the language 13 Grammar- Wong, W. & VanPatten, B. (2003). The evidence is IN: Drills are OUT. Foreign Language Annals, 36, (pp.403-423)