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Teaching grammar: research, theory and practice

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Teaching grammar: research, theory and practice Penny Ur ETAI miniconference Rehovot, February 2010 Some questions: grammar within a communicative methodology Is ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Teaching grammar: research, theory and practice


1
Teaching grammar research, theory and practice
  • Penny Ur
  • ETAI miniconference
  • Rehovot, February 2010

2
Some questions grammar within a communicative
methodology
  • Is learner mastery of correct grammar a major aim
    in (communicative) language teaching?
  • If it is, then how should it be taught?

3
What do you think?
  • Would you agree or disagree with the following
    statement?
  • Its not important for students to use correct
    grammar when they are talking, as long as they
    are getting their message across.
  • Its not important for students to use correct
    grammar when they are writing, as long as they
    are getting their message across.

4
Accuracy is important because
  • From the point of view of the hearer/reader,
    inaccuracy, even if it doesnt affect meaning, is
  • distracting, jarring
  • discourteous
  • may lower respect for the speaker/writer

5
And because
  • from the point of view of the speaker/writer,
    inaccuracy may
  • lower self-confidence
  • lower self-respect as a language user

6
And because
  • from the point of view of the teacher,
    professionalism means teaching the language as
    best we can.

7
Research and theory
  • implicit and explicit teaching
  • noticing
  • the teachability hypothesis
  • exemplar-based learning

8
Implicit and explicit teaching
  • The goal is implicit knowledge of correct grammar
    (i.e. getting it right without thinking about it)
  • BUT
  • Does this imply implicit teaching (no
    explanations)?

9
Implicit teaching
  • Krashen (1981) input hypothesis
  • You learn by getting lots of comprehensible input
  • The Natural Approach
  • The Interaction Hypothesis (Long, 1985)
  • You learn by interacting
  • Task-based learning

10
Explicit teaching
  • BUT
  • Explicit grammar teaching appears to be helpful
  • Spada (1997)
  • Norris and Ortega (2001)
  • But only explicit teaching doesnt produce
    people who can communicate

11
The relationship between explicit and implicit
knowledge
  • The non-interface position
  • The weak interface position
  • The strong interface position

12
So where does that leave us?
13
Noticing
  • Schmidt
  • There is no such thing as unconscious acquisition
    of a second language
  • Noticing is necessary for learning
  • Intake is that part of the input which has been
    noticed
  • Incidental learning is possible, provided that
    noticing takes place

14
The teachability hypothesis
  • There is a natural developmental sequence of
    acquisition of morpho-syntactical structures,
    impervious to teaching.
  • Teaching of a grammatical feature will be
    effective only if the learner is developmentally
    read to acquire it.
  • Teaching of a feature when a learner is not ready
    may have a detrimental effect.
  • (Pienemann, 1984)

15
Exemplar-based learning
  • You learn grammar by accumulating lots of
    memorized exemplars
  • Through extensive exposure noticing
  • Importance of learning grammatical chunks
  • Ellis (N.) (2002) frequency
  • Nattinger and DeCarrico (1992), Wray (2000)
    formulaic sequences

16
So the conclusion so far is that
17
You need
  • communication some explicit teaching of
    grammar
  • you need to notice
  • you may not learn new grammar because youre not
    ready for it
  • you need lots of exposure to grammatical chunks
    (exemplars)

18
Some practical models
  • Task-based Focus on form
  • Task-based Consciousness-raising
  • Practice-based instruction

19
Task-based focus on form
  • A communicative task, with incidental focus on
    form
  • ... 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 45-46)

20
May be based on
  • error correction
  • noticing of salient forms in texts
  • teacher- or student-initiated attention to a
    lanaguage feature
  • Originally unplanned, brief (Long, 1991)
  • But later largely planned, extended (Ellis,
    2001, Shak Gardner, 2008)

21
Task based consciousness-raising
  • Practice is not helpful (some research,
    experience, the teachability hypothesis).
  • But awareness of grammatical rules, forms and
    meanings may facilitate later acquisition
  • So
  • Occasional lessons where learners attention is
    drawn to forms, often in the shape of an
    explicit rule
  • Discussion of examples, and some intellectual
    effort

22
Practice-based teaching
  • The transformation of declarative into procedural
    knowledge by a process of automatization through
    practice (Dekeyser, 2007)
  • Underpinning in cognitive psychology skill
    theory
  • Research evidence that it helps (Van Patten
    and Cadierno, 1993 Muranoi, 2007)

23
PPP
The communicative approach
Input-based
Task-based
Focus on form
Skill-theory, practice-based
Consciousness-raising
24
Implications for classroom teaching
  • Problems with implementing research-based theory
    in practice
  • Varied, sometimes incompatible, conclusions
  • Insufficient attention paid to purely
    pedagogical factors

25
Ultimately the teacher decides
  • Teaching is informed, but not determined, by
    research-based theory (Widdowson).
  • Methodological decisions are taken by the teacher
    within particular situations, determined by
    pedagogical constraints professional judgement.

26
A suggestion five basic components of grammar
teaching
  1. Task-based focus on form
  2. Presentation- and practice-based
  3. Communication only
  4. Focus on form only
  5. Exemplar-based teaching

27
Task-based focus on form
  • The basis of the lesson is a communicative task.
  • We may teach bits of grammar / vocabulary /
    spelling before, during or after but the focus
    is always on the communicative task.
  • Example an agree/disagree discussion

28
A communicative task
  • Discuss how far you agree with the following
    statements
  • The teacher should correct me when I make a
    mistake.
  • Agree .Disagree
  • The teacher should ask other students to correct
    me when I make a mistake.
  • Agree .Disagree
  • The teacher should get me to correct myself.
  • Agree .Disagree
  • The teacher should make me rewrite essays after
    shes corrected them.
  • Agree .Disagree
  • The teacher should not only correct me, but also
    explain why what I said was wrong.
  • Agree .Disagree

29
  • Meaning-focused
  • Pair/group work
  • Full-class summary and discussion
  • Form-focused
  • modal should
  • object / reflexive pronouns (correct me/myself)

30
2. Presentation practice
  • A grammatical rule, presented inductively or
    deductively
  • Then practice activities, progressing from
    mainly form to mainly meaning focus.

31
Example The Present Perfect
  • Conventional form-focus
  • Nina is looking everywhere but she cant find her
    keys. She (lose them)
  • Peter weighs only 50 kilos. Last month, he
    weighed 60. He (be on a diet)

32
Example The Present Perfect
  • 1. Focus on meaning, but controlled form
  • Find someone who...
  • ...has slept in a cave.____________
    ____________
  • ... has eaten caviar ____________
    _____________
  • ... has visited India ___________ ____________
  • ... has been in a car accident ________
    _________

33
  • 2. Focus on meaning, semi-controlled form
    (sentence completion)
  • Since this time last year, I have .
  • 3. Focus on meaning, free sentence-making
  • Think of a situation (using the present perfect)
    that would produce the reaction
  • 1. Oh dear! 2. Wonderful! 3. What a surprise!
  • 4. Congratulations! 5. Help!
    6. What a relief!
  • 7. What a pity 8. Thank you! 9. What a
    pity!
  • 10. Im sorry! 11. Oh no!
    12. (sigh)

34
4. Focus on meaning, full paragraph writing
Today is picture B. What has happened since
yesterday (picture A)?
35
  • 5. Focus on communication
  • Group discussion
  • You are a committee of experts who have to
    interview candidates for a specific course or
    profession.
  • Your candidate is requesting
  • to become a marriage counsellor
  • to become a kindergarten teacher
  • to join the police force
  • to work on a summer camp for teenagers
  • to become an ambulance driver

36
3. Communication only
  • Receptive
  • listening to recorded or improvised speech
  • extensive reading
  • watching movies, TV
  • Productive
  • talking, communication games
  • exchanging information,
  • creative or transactional writing

37
4. Form-focus only
  • Examples
  • Tip of the day isolated language points
  • Grammar rule explanations
  • Analysis of formulaic sequences
  • Comparison with L1

38
5. Exemplar-based
  • Familiarization or learning by heart of
  • Chants
  • Poems
  • Proverbs
  • Dialogues
  • Songs
  • Performances sketches or plays

39
Variable selection and emphasis Two examples
  • Grammar teaching procedures in the following
    situations
  • ELF at elementary level in a state school
  • A university EAP course

40
A. ELF at elementary level in a state school
  • Predominantly
  • Presentation and practice
  • Exemplar-based learning
  • Focus on communication
  • Occasionally
  • Form-focus only
  • Task-based group work

41
B. Young adults in a university EAP course
  • Predominantly
  • Task-based reactive form-focus
  • Form-focus only
  • Communication only
  • Occasionally
  • Presentation practice
  • Very occasionally
  • Exemplar-based

42
In conclusion
  • Research and theory have not produced a consensus
    on the best way to teach grammar.
  • They have produced many interesting and
    suggestive insights.
  • The practical five-component model proposed here
    is one possible basis for decisions about the
    treatment of grammar in materials for specific
    contexts.

43
Thanks for listening!
  • pennyur_at_gmail.com
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