Internal Grammars


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Internal Grammars

  1. 1. UNLPam – Facultad de CienciasHumanas PRÁCTICA EDUCATIVA II (Didactics of ELT and Practicum at Primary School Level) Blanco Gallego, Fátima Practical N° 19 INTERNAL GRAMMARS 1. How will learners meet pedagogical grammars? Learners will meet pedagogical grammar not only from a learners’ grammar book (directly) but also through lessons, teacher explanations and text books (indirectly). 2. What are the characteristics of an internal grammar? What other name does it receive? It is necessary to make a distinction between the grammar previously mentioned and what any individual learner actually learns about the patterns of the language: his or her “internal grammar” of the language. Every learner’s internal grammar is different from every other’s because each has a unique learning experience. Internal grammar is sometimes referred to as “interlanguage” or as “linguistic competence”. 3. How does the difference between teaching and learning apply to it? The fact that teachers teach a certain grammatical structure does not mean that the students will learn it. Learners may have been taught a piece of grammar on the syllabus, but may not be able to use that grammatical form in talking or writing. Learners seem to use words or chunks strung together to get their meanings across, with little attention paid to grammar that would fit words or chunks together in conventional patterns. 4. What factors influence the growth from words to grammar? Social factors will influence the actual need for grammar to communicate. If you can get your message through without grammar, as when a very small knowledge of a language makes it possible to buy food in a foreign shop by naming the item and amount, then there may be little impulse to drive grammar learning. 1
  2. 2. UNLPam – Facultad de CienciasHumanas PRÁCTICA EDUCATIVA II (Didactics of ELT and Practicum at Primary School Level) Blanco Gallego, Fátima 5. How does hypothesis testing proceed? Hypothesis testing are metal processes that are evidenced from a very early age. For instance, if a baby drops her spoon and someone picks it up for her, and then drops it again and it is picked up again, the baby will construct a hypothesis “If I drop my spoon, it will be picked up for me” and she will be testing it through repeated trials. The same occurs with grammar. Children do nt just produce random words ordering and forms, but they somehow work out how to use the language and then try out their hypothesis in saying things. It is as if the child has worked out a “grammar rule” and is testing it out. Later, as they get more input, so the hypothesis will change. 6. What is the importance of errors? Errors in language use can act as windows on to the developing internal grammar of the learner and are signals of growth. They can also suggest what type of teacher intervention may assist learning. 7. What is the influence of the L1 over the L2? OVERGENERALIZATIONS TRANSFER. Constructing hypothesis about the foreign language is much more difficult than for the first language, simply because the learners have relatively little amounts of data to work on. When you encounter few words and phrases, it is quite difficult to work out grammatical rules, and hypotheses are likely to be over-generalized and incomplete. When data is limited, learners are more likely to use the first language to fill the gaps. So, learners may assume, as a kind of default that the foreign language grammar works like the first language grammar (transfer). 8. Explain different ways to teach grammar. Summarize them. Grammar teaching has been as susceptible as other aspects of FLT to trends. There are different ways of teaching grammar: 2
  3. 3. UNLPam – Facultad de CienciasHumanas PRÁCTICA EDUCATIVA II (Didactics of ELT and Practicum at Primary School Level) Blanco Gallego, Fátima  Teaching grammar as explicit rules: learning as building blocks. Grammar rules are introduced one-by-one, explicitly, to the learners. Metalinguistic labels are used to talk explicitly about the grammar, e.g. “the past perfect tense”, and the terms and organization needed to talk about the language become another part of what has to be learnt. Learners are expected to learn the rules and to practice using the rules to construct sentences. After more practice, the assumption is that the rules get to be used automatically. To teach the language this way, the structures or rules are sorted into a sequence, assumed to progress from “easy” to “difficult”, and the sequence forms a syllabus. The ways of thinking needed to cope with learning through explicit grammar rules are likely to be difficult for younger children. The building block sequencing also does not fit very comfortably with younger children’s tendency for the thematic or narrative. Even the youngest children are intrigued by the way their first language works and this curiosity is likely to be felt about the foreign language. Children notice patterns as they make sense of the world around them and it may be fruitful to make use of curiosity and pattern-noticing in foreign language learning. Young children are quite capable of learning terms like words, sentences, letter moving on to learn about word classes, and their labels (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions), about a sentence construction (from seeing punctuation in written English) and early ideas about clauses as part of sentences.  Communicative approaches: no grammar needed. Being able to talk about the language is very different from being able to talk in the language, and it was a reaction to the lack of fluency and ease with the foreign language, experienced by many of those taught by grammar translation, that led to the development of communicative language teaching. A central tenet of CLT was that learners would learn the language by using it to communicate with others. The process of foreign language learning was supposed to resemble child first 3
  4. 4. UNLPam – Facultad de CienciasHumanas PRÁCTICA EDUCATIVA II (Didactics of ELT and Practicum at Primary School Level) Blanco Gallego, Fátima language acquisition, where it all just happens without any direct or explicit teaching. It is questionable whether such a strong form of CLT was ever adopted in practice. More likely is that obvious weaker forms were taken up, with attempts to make language practice activities more realistic. What certainly happened to grammar teaching was a downgrading of its importance in foreign language classrooms. A form of CLT that is based entirely on listening to comprehensible input is Total Physical Response (TPR). Students listen to commands in the foreign language and respond only through movement and action. The difficulty of the input is gradually increased and eventually students take over the teacher’s role and give commands in the foreign language. It is claimed that learners develop skills in listening and in speaking through TPR, and it has been shown to be particularly appropriate for beginners. Along with other “no grammar” approaches, however, there seem to be limits to what can be achieved without some attention to output and to grammar.  Focus on form: the revival of grammar teaching. This method trails the theory that second language learning could follow the same route as first language acquisition. Children do pick up the foreign language quickly and develop very good accents and listening skills. They can achieve good results through the second language. But in terms of grammar, children taught through the second language do not develop the same levels of accuracy as native speakers and, without this attention to the form of the language, problems with basic structures continue. In subject classrooms, learners seem to bypass aspects of grammar, where more attention is paid to the subject content than to the language that carries it. Furthermore, if all pupils in a class are second language learners, the language that they use with each other can contain and reinforce inaccuracies in grammar. 4
  5. 5. UNLPam – Facultad de CienciasHumanas PRÁCTICA EDUCATIVA II (Didactics of ELT and Practicum at Primary School Level) Blanco Gallego, Fátima Grammar may emerge naturally in first language, it may even be genetically determined, but grammar of a foreign language is “foreign” , and grammar development requires skilled planning of tasks and lessons, and explicit teaching. From the learners’ point of view, it is increasingly recognized that attention to form is vital and that learners need to be helped to notice the grammatical patterns of the foreign language, before they can make those patterns part of their internal grammar. Not only are noticing and attention needed in input , but in output too, learners need to be helped to focus on the accuracy and precision of their language use. The potential of collaborative work in pairs and groups for grammar work is also being increasingly recognized. Batstone suggested sequencing of grammar learning activities around particular patterns or structures: Noticing (Learners became aware of the structure, notice connections between form and meaning, but do not themselves manipulate language). Structure (Bring the new grammar patterns into the learners internal grammar and, if necessary, recognizing the internal grammar. It requires controlled practice around form and meaning). Proceduralizing (The stage of making the new grammar ready for instant and fluent use in communication, and requires practice in choosing and using the form to express meaning). 5
  6. 6. UNLPam – Facultad de CienciasHumanas PRÁCTICA EDUCATIVA II (Didactics of ELT and Practicum at Primary School Level) Blanco Gallego, Fátima  Learning-centred grammar teaching. Young learners need to be surrounded by and participate in meaningful discourse in the foreign language, and it would not be conceptually appropriate for grammar to be explicitly taught as formal, explicit rules in young learners classrooms to children under the age of 9 or 9 years. However, it is important for teachers to have an awareness of grammar issues, and to have techniques that they can take advantage of learning opportunities that arise when learners need grammar to take their language learning forward and can bring grammatical features of stories, dialogues, songs, etc. to the attention of even the youngest children non-formal ways. Good learning-centered grammar teaching will be meaningful and interesting, require active participation from learners, and will work with how children learn and what they are capable of learning. Teaching techniques for supporting grammar learning  Working with discourse to grammar. Many types of discourse that occur in young learner classrooms have grammatical patterns that occur naturally, but that can be exploited for grammar learning. Classroom discourse contexts and routines can serve to introduce new grammar, which access to meaning supported by action and objects, or to give further practice in language that has already been introduced in other ways. Routines are an ideal context in which chunks can be expanded.  The language of classroom management. Some very simple phrases for classroom management can be introduced, and as time goes by, these can be expanded. Some of the phrases originally used by the teacher can be used by pupils when they work in pairs or groups. The language of classroom management can thus act as a meaningful discourse context within which certain patterns arise regularly and help with building the internal grammar. 6
  7. 7. UNLPam – Facultad de CienciasHumanas PRÁCTICA EDUCATIVA II (Didactics of ELT and Practicum at Primary School Level) Blanco Gallego, Fátima  Taking with children. Conversation with individual children can be very powerful for language development, because they can pick up on exactly what and individual child needs to know next to talk about interests him or her, the “space for growth”. If a child volunteers something in the first language or in what they can manage of the foreign language, the teacher can respond in the foreign language, offering a fuller or ore correct way of saying it. This type of “corrective feedback” can also be used for expanding the talk. Talk with children as a class can also offer incidental focusing on form.  Guided noticing activities. Those are which lead to noticing of grammatical patterns in the language.  Listen and notice. Pupils listen to sentences or to a connected piece of talk and complete a table or grid using what they hear. In order to complete the table, they need to pay attention to the grammar aspect being taught.  Presentation of new language with pupils. In language syllabuses that require teachers to present new language regularly to children, the idea of learner-noticing can be helpfully introduced into more traditional ways of teaching grammar. When introducing a new pattern, the teacher can construct a dialogue with a story-line that uses a “repetition plus contrast” pattern, to be played out by puppets.  Language practice activities that offer structuring opportunities. In structuring activities the goal is to help learners internalize the grammatical pattern so that it becomes part of their internal grammar. The focus is on internal 7
  8. 8. UNLPam – Facultad de CienciasHumanas PRÁCTICA EDUCATIVA II (Didactics of ELT and Practicum at Primary School Level) Blanco Gallego, Fátima work that happens as a result of activities that demand accuracy, rather than on fluency in production.  Questionnaires, surveys and quizzes. These are commonly found in young leaner course books, children are asked to interview their friends to find out their favourite food, for example. The teacher needs to plan which language forms the pupils will be encouraged to use.  Information gap activities. Activities with information gaps are often found in course books to practice skills. Again, with just small adjustments, they can be used with grammar goals rather than oral fluency goals.  Helping hands. This is nice practice that offers opportunities for structuring the simple present for routines. The topic was helping in the house, and the children, aged 5 or 5 years as I recall, had drawn round their hands and cut out the hand shape. On each finger they wrote one sentence describing something they do to help at home. The paper cut-outs were then displayed on the wall, making a kind of palm tree out of the hand shapes.  Drills and chants. Drills are a useful way of giving all children same speaking practice when the class is too large for individual speaking. They also offer language and involvement support to children when used to practice new language, because the child can listen to others to pick up bits that she or he is unsure about, and drills can be lively and fun if the pace is kept up. The dangers of over-using drills occur mostly if the children do not understand the content, and drills are then a mechanical exercise in making a noise, rather than language learning opportunities. Repetition drills, in 8
  9. 9. UNLPam – Facultad de CienciasHumanas PRÁCTICA EDUCATIVA II (Didactics of ELT and Practicum at Primary School Level) Blanco Gallego, Fátima which the children repeat what the teacher says, can help in familiarizing a new form.  Proceduralizing activities. We want learners to automatize their use of the grammatical form so that it is available quickly and effectively for use in communication. Task design must ensure that grammar is essential for achieving task goals and that some attention to accuracy is required, but the idea is that attention to accuracy can gradually be relaxed as it becomes automatic.  (Polar animal)Description re-visited. The production of a description to the whole class might then be a useful proceduralizing activity for those items of grammar. Because it is a public performance, it will justify attention to getting forms exactly right through rehearsing and perhaps writing down a text.  Dictogloss. This is a generic activity that offers many possibilities for young learner classroom once reading and writing are established. The basic idea of Dictogloss is that the teacher reads out a text several times, the pupils listen and make notes between readings, and then reconstruct the text in pairs or small groups, aiming to be as close as possible to the original and as accurate as possible. During the collaborative reconstruction, learners will talk to each other about the language, as well as the content, drawing on and making their internal grammatical knowledge. In Vygotsky terms, if the text is carefully chosen, learners will be working in their zone of potential development and their peers may scaffold learning in the ZPD. 9
  10. 10. UNLPam – Facultad de CienciasHumanas PRÁCTICA EDUCATIVA II (Didactics of ELT and Practicum at Primary School Level) Blanco Gallego, Fátima  Introducing metalanguage. Teacher uses repetitions + contrast pattern, and formulate the “rule” at the end, after the specific example. It is useful and quite possible to talk about language without using technical terms.  Cloze activities for word class. A new rhyme, song or poem could give a discourse context to focus on word classes through a simple cloze activity. The song, say, is written out with gaps; in one version, all the nouns are omitted, in another, all the verbs, and in a third, all the pronouns. The pupils would hear and sing the song a few times and then would be divided into three groups, each given one of the three cloze versions. In groups, the learners would work together to fill the gaps. This kind of activity focuses attention on word classes and how they contribute to discourse, without going into any heavy grammar. Developing the grammar of a foreign language is a long and complicated process; luckily, young learners have a long time ahead of them with the language. There is no need to rush into technical rules and labels that will confuse. For their ultimate success, it seems likely to be far better to give children a sound basis about patterns and contrasts in and encouraging curiosity and between languages, and introducing grammatical metalanguage slowly and meaningfully. 10