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).
- 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).
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.