пятница, 13 марта 2015 г.

#EMF5. Catherine Walter. "Learning grammar and pronunciation: What do we know, and what can we do about it?" Day 2

Catherine Walter

Catherine Walter reported on very interesting and engaging topics: grammar and pronunciation.


  • How to teach grammar? Overview of approaches
  • Why this way and not that way? Overview of evidence
  • When – before or after the task? Who chooses what to teach – the teacher beforehand or should we react to the learner’s need?
  • How much explicit grammar teaching?
  • How to teach x2: what is ‘a good rule‘? A good example? A good exercise? In what order should they appear?
  • The role of pronunciation

The ideas on teaching grammar outlined here are based on research applicable to secondary school and above learners – not young learners.

the speaker asked the audience. Grammar: is it true or false?

  • If people learn enough vocabulary, they’ll acquire the grammar of the language.
  • The best way to teach grammar is to wait unteel the need for a specific grammar point emerges, and then teach it.
  • The best way to teach grammar is via tasks.
  • There is evidence that teaching grammar rules works.

How to teach? Overview of approaches:

Explicit (through rules) or implicit (through exposure, examples)? How to provide practice?

  • Exposure. Necessary? Sufficient?
    Just exposure is insufficient, which was clearly demonstrated by Canadian immersion programmes: after 12 years of all-day-long immersion the students’ spoken and written production was still non-standard.
  • Explicit teaching. Input-interaction-output model says conscious knowledge is useful – ‘crutches’ that hold you until you can walk w/o the crutches – which sounds Vygotskian!
    Explicit teaching helps noticing: Example: if your L1 has only one word for ‘yes’ and L2 has more, you might not notice that. But if someone tells you about this, you’ll notice;
    encourages comparison of noticed input with the learner’s output, can convert directly into unconscious knowledge and
  • can provide negative feedback, the knowledge of what doesn’t happen in the language (which is more difficult to get from input)
  • Tasks. When tasks appeared, they were seen as a panacea. But now it’s not clear how well they work so that’s definitely not ‘the obviously best way’. Explicit grammar instruction can be (and should be) part of task-based instruction.
  • Skills approach: the behaviourism is re-emerging in a way: we do need to practice to build our skills.

Why? Overview of the evidence.

Is there any evidence that explicit grammar teaching works?

Norris & Ortega review (2000) found that explicit teaching is better than implicit

Gass & Selinker (2008) review: after early childhood, acquiring complex forms requires both meaningful input and explicit grammar focus

Spada & Tomita (2010): explicit better than implicit on simple & complex features, effects last

A possible counter-argument: if you teach them grammar rules, do they only learn grammar rules?

Spada & Lightbown (2008): form-focused input leads to conscious and unconscious knowledge over time

When to teach what?

Two options: first teach then give a task, or feed in grammar exactly when the learners needs it.

How much explicit grammar teaching?

The four strands of language instruction, which according to Nation need equal time:

  • Meaning-focused input
  • Meaning-focused output
  • Language-focused learning (rules/pronunciation/how writing works/..)
  • Fluency development (activities tat help you get faster and more automatic – activities might be quite artificial, like scales in learning to play a musical instrument). 
The three Es:

  • Explanations (rules). There are different kinds of rules.
  • ‘No cycles, whether ridden or not!’ is imposed by an authority
    ‘At sea level water boils at 100 Celsius.’ – an expression of an observed regularity.
    very often students think that language rules are bicycle rules, but they are boiling water rules.
  • Examples: Qualities of examples are prototypical, natural sounding, not containing irrelevant difficulties (e.g.-above level vocabulary, potencially unknown cultural references), implications for corpus use.Quantity of examples are Goldclock principle (usually examples needed for inductive teaching than for deductive teaching). 
  • Exercises:

The order of the 3 Es

  • Deductive: explanations => examples => exercises
  • Inductive: examples => guiding the students towards the rule - exercises; useful to demonstrate to learners that our rules are ‘boiling water’ rules + more appealing to the students who don’t like authority + means that they cognitively process the rule more deeply, so they might remember it better.
Productive and receptive pronunciation

  • Grammar teaching should go hand in hand with teaching receptive pronunciation, because some grammar points are very difficult to hear.

  • Examples of grammar points that are difficult to distinguish: Regular present simple and regular past simple. .
  • How to teach receptive pronunciation?
    Decoding activities: A or B? Same or different? Odd one out (walks, walked, walks, walks); Write the word; how many words?
    Sentence dictation.

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