Teaching English Grammar
The Importance of grammar. A Brief Review of the Major Methods of Foreign Language Teaching. Some General Principles of Grammar Teaching. Introducing new language structure. The Most Common Difficulties in Assimilating English Grammar. Grammar tests.
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PART 1 WHAT IS THE GRAMMAR………………………………………4
1.1 The Importance of grammar………………………………………….….4
1.2 The Psychological Characteristic of Grammar Skills……………………4
1.3 The Content of Teaching grammar…………………………………….…6
PART 2 MAJOR METHODS AND PRINCIPLES …………………...…….8
1.1 A Brief Review of the Major Methods of Foreign Language Teaching.…8
1.1.1 The Grammar Translation method…………………………………..…8
1.1.2 The Direct Method……………………………………………………..9
1.1.3 The Audiolingual Method……………………………………….……10
1.1.4 Grammar explanations as used in the major methods………..……….10
1.2 Some General Principles of Grammar Teaching……………………..….11
1.2.1 Conscious approach……………………………………………….…..11
1.2.2 Practical approach……………………………………………….…….12
1.2.3 Structural approach……………………………………………………12
1.2.4 Situational approach…………………………………………….….….13
1.2.5 Different approach…………………………………………………….13
PART 3 FURTHER POINTS FOR CONCIDERATION……...…………….14
1.1 Introduction of new Material……………………………………………..14
1.1.1 Introducing new language structure…………………………….……..14
1.1.2 Types of context.....................................................................................15
1.1.3 The presentation of structural form………………………………..…..15
1.1.4 A general model for introducing new language……………………….15
1.2 Teaching grammar patterns……………………………………………....16
1.4 The Most Common Difficulties in Assimilating English Grammar……...20
PART 4 TYPES OF EXERCISES FOR THE ASSIMILATION OF GRAMMAR…………………………………….…………………………….21
1.1 Recognition exercises……………………………………………………21
1.2 Drill exercises………………………………………………..…………..21
1.3 Creative exercises………………………………………………………..23
1.4 Grammar tests……………………………………………..……………..24
Language is the chief means by which the human personality expresses itself and fulfills its basic need for social interaction with other persons.
Robert Lado wrote that language functions owing to the language skills. A person who knows a language perfectly uses a thousand and one grammar lexical, phonetic rules when he is speaking. Language skills help us to choose different words and models in our speech.
It is clear that the term “grammar” has meant various things at various times and sometimes several things at one time. This plurality of meaning is characteristic of the present time and is the source of confusions in the discussion of grammar as part of the education of children. There have been taking place violent disputes on the subject of teaching grammar at school.
The ability to talk about the grammar of a language, to recite its rules, is also very different from ability to speak and understand a language or to read and write it. Those who can use a language are often unable to recite its rules, and those who can recite its rules can be unable to use it.
Grammar organizes the vocabulary and as a result we have sense units. There is a system of stereotypes, which organizes words into sentences. But what skill does grammar develop?
First of all it gives the ability to make up sentences correctly, to reproduce the text adequately. (The development of practical skills and habits)
The knowledge of the specific grammar structure helps pupils point out the differences between the mother tongue and the target language.
The knowledge of grammar develops abilities to abstract systematize plural facts.
The name of my work is “Teaching Grammar”. And the main aim is to clearly recognize how to teach grammar right.
PART 1 WHAT IS THE GRAMMAR
1.1 The Importance of Grammar in Learning a Foreign Language
To judge by the way some people speak, there is no place for grammar in the language course nowadays; yet it is, in reality, as important as it ever was exercise of correct grammar, if he is to attain any skill of effective use of the language, but he need not know consciously formulated rules to account to him for that he does unconsciously correctly.
In order to understand a language and to express oneself correctly one must assimilate the grammar mechanism of the language studied. Indeed, one may know all the words in a sentence and yet fail to understand it, if one does not see the relation between the words in the given sentence. And vice versa, a sentence may contain one, two, and more unknown words but if one has a good knowledge of the structure of the language one can easily guess the meaning of these words or at least find them in a dictionary.
No speaking is possible without the knowledge of grammar, without the forming of a grammar mechanism.
If learner has acquired such a mechanism, he can produce correct sentences in a foreign language. Paul Roberts writes: “Grammar is something that produces the sentences of a language. By something we mean a speaker of English. If you speak English natively, you have built into you rules of English grammar. In a sense, you are an English grammar. You possess, as an essential part of your being, a very complicated apparatus which enables you to produce infinitely many sentences, all English ones, including many that you have never specifically learned. Furthermore by applying you rule you can easily tell whether a sentence that you hear a grammatical English sentence or not.”
A command of English as is envisaged by the school syllabus cannot be ensured without the study of grammar. Pupils need grammar to be able to aud, speak, read, and write in the target language.
1.2 The Psychological characteristics of grammar skills
To develop one's speech means to acquire essential patterns of speech and grammar patterns in particular. Children must use these items automatically during speech-practice. The automatic use of grammar items in our speech (oral and written) supposes mastering some particular skills - the skills of using grammar items to express one's own thoughts, in other words to make up your sentences.
We must get so-called reproductive or active grammar skills.
A skill is treated as an automatic part of awareness. Automatization of the action is the main feature of a skill.
The nature of Automatization is characterized by that psychological structure of the action which adopts to the conditions of performing the action owing frequent experience. The action becomes more frequent, correct and accurate and the number of the operations is shortened while forming the skill the character of awareness of the action is changing, i.e. fullness of understanding is paid to the conditions and quality of performing to the control over it and regulation.
To form some skills is necessary to know that the process of the forming skills has some steps:
- Only some definite elements of the action are automatic.
- The Automatization occurs under more difficult conditions, when the child can't concentrate his attention on one element of the action.
- The whole structure of the action is improved and the automatization of its separate components is completed.
What features do the productive grammar skills have?
During our speech the reproductive grammar skills are formed together with lexis and intonation, they must express the speaker's intentions.
The actions in the structural setting of the lexis must be learnt.
The characteristic feature of the reproductive grammar skills is their flexibility. It doesn't depend on the level of Automatization, i.e. on perfection of skill here mean the original action: both the structure of sentence, and forms of the words are reproduced by the speaker using different lexical material. If the child reproduces sentences and different words, which have been learnt by him as “a ready-made thing” he can say that there is no grammar skill. Learning the ready-made forms, word combinations and sentences occurs in the same way as learning lexis.
The grammar skill is based on the general conclusion. The grammar action can and must occur only in the definite lexical limits, on the definite lexical material. If the pupil can make up his sentence frequently, accurately and correctly from the grammatical point of view, he has got the grammar skill.
Teaching grammar at school using the theoretical knowledge brought some critical and led to confusion. All the grammatical rules were considered to be evil and there were some steps to avoid using them at school.
But when we learn grammatical items in models we use substitution and such a type of training gets rid of grammar or “neutralizes” it. By the way, teaching the skills to make up sentences by analogy is a step on the way of forming grammar skills. It isn't the lexical approach to grammar and it isn't neutralization of grammar, but using basic sentences in order to use exercises by analogy and to reduce number of grammar rules when forming the reproductive grammar skills.
To form the reproductive grammar skills we must follow such steps:
- Selection the model of sentence.
- Selection the form of the word and formation of wordforms.
- Selection the auxiliary words-preposition, articles, and etc. and their combination with principle words.
The main difficulty of the reproductive (active) grammar skills is to correspond the purposes of the statement, communicative approach (a questionan answer and so on), words, meanings, expressed by the grammatical patterns. In that case we use basic sentences, in order to answer the definite situation. The main factor of the forming of the reproductive grammar skill is that pupils need to learn the lexis of the language. They need to learn the meanings of the words and how they are used. We must be sure that our pupils are aware of the vocabulary they need at their level and they can use the words in order to form their own sentence. Each sentence contains a grammar structure. The mastering the grammar skill lets pupils save time and strength, energy, which can give opportunity to create. Learning a number of sentences containing the same grammatical structure and a lot of words containing the same grammatical form isn't rational. But the generalization of the grammar item can relieve the work of the mental activity and let the teacher speed up the work and the children realize creative activities.
The process of creation is connected with the mastering of some speech stereotypes the grammatical substrat is hidden in basic sentences. Grammar is presented as itself. Such a presentation of grammar has its advantage: the grammar patterns of the basic sentences are connected with each other. But this approach gives pupils the opportunity to realize the grammar item better. The teaching must be based on grammar explanations and grammar rules. Grammar rules are to be understood as a special way of expressing communicative activity. The reproductive grammar skills suppose to master the grammar actions which are necessary for expressing thoughts in oral and written forms.
The automatic perception of the text supposes the reader to identify the grammar form according to the formal features of words, word combinations, sentences which must be combined with the definite meaning. One must learn the rules in order to identify different grammatical forms. Pupils should get to know their features, the ways of expressing them in the language. We teach children to read and aud by means of grammar. It reveals the relation between words in the sentence. Grammar is of great important when one teaches reading and auding.
The forming of the perceptive grammar and reproductive skills is quite different. The steps of the work is mastering the reproductive skills differ from the steps in mastering the perceptive skills. To master the reproductive grammar skills one should study the basic sentences or models. To master the perceptive grammar skills one should identify and analyze the grammar item. Though training is of great importance to realize the grammar item.
1.3 The Content of Teaching Grammar
Before speaking about the selection of grammar material it is necessary to consider the concept “grammar”, i.e., what it meant by “grammar”.
By grammar one can mean adequate comprehension and correct usage of words in the act of communication, that is, intuitive knowledge of the grammar of the language. It is a set of reflexes enabling a person to communicate with his associates. Such knowledge is acquired by a child in the mother tongue before he goes to schools.
This “grammar” functions without the individual's awareness of technical nomenclature; in other words, he has no idea of the system of the language, and to use all the word-endings for singular and plural, for tense, and all the other grammar rules without special grammar lessons only due to the abundance of auding and speaking. His young mind grasps the facts and “makes simple grammar rules” for arranging the words to express carious thoughts and feelings. This is true because sometimes little children make mistakes by using a common rule for words to which that rule cannot be applied. For example, a little English child might be heard to say Two mans comed instead of Two men come, because the child is using the plural “s” rule for man to which the rule does not apply, and the past tense ed rule for come which does not obey the ordinary rule for the past tense formation. A little Russian child can say íîæîâ instead of íîæåé using the case-ending “îâ” for íîæè to which it does not apply. Such mistakes are corrected as the child grows older and learns more of his language.
By “grammar” we also mean the system of the language, the discovery and description of the nature of language itself. It is not a natural grammar, but a constructed one. There are several constructed grammars: traditional, structural, and transformational grammars. Traditional grammar studies the forms of words (morphology) and how they are put together in sentences (syntax); structural grammar studies structures of various levels of the language (morpheme level) and syntactic level; transformational grammar studies basic structures and transformation rules.
What we need is simplest and shortest grammar that meets the requirements of the school syllabus in foreign languages. This grammar must be simple enough to be grasped and held by any pupil. We cannot say that this problem has been solved.
Since graduates are expected to acquire language proficiency in aural comprehension, speaking and reading grammar material should be selected for the purpose. There exist principles of selecting grammar material both for teaching speaking knowledge (active minimum) and for teaching reading knowledge (passive minimum), the main one is the principle of frequency, i.e., how frequently this or that grammar item occurs. For example, the Present Simple (Indefinite) is frequently used both in conversation and in various texts. Therefore it should be included in the grammar minimum.
For selecting grammar material for reading the principle of polysemia, for instance, is of great importance.
Pupils should be taught to distinguish such grammar items which serve to express different meanings.
For example, -s (es)
The selection of grammar material involves choosing the appropriate kind of linguistic description, i.e., the grammar which constitutes the best base for developing speech habits. Thus the school syllabus reflect a traditional approach to determining grammar material for foreign language teaching, pupils are given sentences patterns or structures, and through these structures they assimilate the English language, acquire grammar mechanisms of speech
The content of grammar teaching is disputable among teachers and methodologists, and there are various approaches to the problem, pupils should, whatever the content of the course, assimilate the ways of fitting words together to form sentences and be able to easily recognize grammar forms and structures while hearing and reading, to reproduce phrases and sentences stored up in their memory and say or write sentences of their own, using grammar items appropriate to the situation.
PART 2 MAJOR METHODS AND PRINCIPLES
1.1A Brief Review of the Major Methods of Foreign Language Teaching
The grammatical systems of Russian and English are fundamentally different. English is an analytical language, in which grammatical meaning in largely expressed through the use of additional words and by changes in word order. Russian is a synthetic language, in which the majority of grammatical forms are created through changes in the structure of words, by means of a developed system of prefixes, suffixes and ending. (p. 121, Brown C. and Jule “Teaching the spoken language”, Cambridge, 1983)
No one knows exactly how people learn languages although a great deal of research has been done into the subject.
Many methods have been proposed for the teaching of foreign language. And they have met with varying degrees of success and failure.
We should know that the method by which children are taught must have some effect on their motivation. If they find it deadly boring they will probably become de-motivated, whereas if they have confidence in the method they will find it motivating. Child learners differ from adult learners in many ways. Children are curious, their attention is of a shorter duration, they are quite differently motivated in, and their interests are less specialized. They need frequent of activity; they need activities which are exciting and stimulating their curiosity; they need to be involved in something active.
We shall examine such methods as “The Grammar - Translation Method”, ”The Direct Method”, “The Audio-lingual Method”. And we pay attention to the teaching grammar of the foreign language. We shall comment those methods, which have had a long history.
1.1.1 The Grammar Translation method will be discussed
This method was widely used in teaching the classics, namely Latin, and it was transferred to the teaching of modern languages when they were introduced into schools.
In the grammar-translation mode, the books begin with definitions of the parts of speech, declensions, conjugations, rules to be memorized, examples illustrating the rules, and exceptions. Often each unit has a paragraph to be translated into the target language and one to be translated into native one. These paragraphs illustrate the grammar rules studied in the unit. The student is expected to apply the rules on his own. This involves a complicated mental manipulation of the conjugations and declensions in the order memorized, down to the form that might fit the translation. As a result, students are unable to use the language, and they sometimes develop an inferiority complex about languages in general. Exceptionally bright and diligent students do learn languages by this method, or in spite of it, but they would learn with any method. (R. Lado)
We list the major characteristics of Grammar Translation.
- Classes are taught in the mother tongue, with little active use of the target language.
- Much vocabulary is taught in the form of lists of isolated words.
- Long elaborate explanations of the intricacies of grammar are given.
- Grammar provides the rules for putting words together, and instruction often focuses on the form and inflection of word.
- Reading of difficult classical texts is begun early.
- Little attention is paid to the content of texts, which are treated as exercises in grammatical analysis.
- Often the only drills are exercises in translating disconnected sentences from the target language into the mother tongue.
- Little or no attention is given to pronunciation.
(Brown H., Douglas `Principles of language teaching', N.Y., 1987)
The grammar-translation method is largely discredited today. With greater interest in modern languages for communication the inadequacy of grammar-translation methods became evident.
1.1.2 The Direct Method
The Direct Method appeared as a reaction against the grammar-translation method.
There was a movement in Europe that emphasized language learning by direct contact with the foreign language in meaningful situations. This movement resulted in various individual methods with various names, such as new method, natural method, and even oral method, but they can all be referred to as direct methods or the direct method. In addition to emphasizing direct contact with the foreign language, the direct method usually deemphasized or eliminated translation and the memorization of conjugations, declensions, and rules, and in some cases it introduced phonetics and phonetic transcription.
The direct method assumed that learning a foreign language is the same as learning the mother tongue, that is, that exposing the student directly to the foreign language impresses it perfectly upon his mind. This is true only up to a point, since the psychology of learning a second language differs from that of learning the first. The child is forced to learn the first language because he has no other effective way to express his wants. In learning a second language this compulsion is largely missing, since the student knows that he can communicate through his native language when necessary.
The basic premise of Direct Method was that second language learning should be more like first language learning: lots of active oral interaction, spontaneous use of the language, no translation between first and second languages, and little or no analysis of grammatical rules. We can summarize the principles of the Direct
- Classroom instruction was conducted exclusively in the target language.
- Only everyday vocabulary and sentences were taught.
- Oral communication skills were built up in a carefully graded progression organized around question-and-answer exchanges between teachers and student in small, intensive classes.
- Grammar was taught inductively, i.e. the learner may discover the rules of grammar for himself after he has become acquainted with many examples.
- New teaching points were introduced orally.
- Concrete vocabulary was taught through demonstration, objects, and pictures; abstract vocabulary was taught by association of ideas.
- Both speech and listening comprehension were taught.
- Correct pronunciation and grammar were emphasized.
1.1.3 The Audiolingual Method
The Audiolingual Method (It is also called Mimicry-memorization method) was the method developed in the Intensive Language Program. It was successful because of high motivation, intensive practice, small classes, and good models, in addition to linguistically sophisticated descriptions of the foreign language and its grammar.
Grammar is taught essentially as follows: Some basic sentences are memorized by imitation. Their meaning is given in normal expressions in the native language, and the students are not expected to translate word for word. When the basic sentences have been overlearned (completely memorized so that the student can rattle them off without effort), the student reads fairly extensive descriptive grammar statements in his native language, with examples in the target language and native language equivalents. He then listens to further conversational sentences for practice in listening. Finally, practices the dialogues using the basic sentences and combinations of their parts. When he can, he varies the dialogues within the material hr has already learned. The characteristics of ALM may be summed up in the following list:
- New material is presented in dialog form.
- There is dependence on mimicry, memorization of set phrases and overlearning.
- Structures are sequenced by means of contrastive analysis and taught one at a time.
- Structural patterns are taught using repetitive drills.
- There is a little or no grammatical explanation: grammar is taught by inductive analogy rather than deductive explanation.
- Vocabulary is strictly limited and learned in context.
- There is much use of tapes, language labs, and visual aids.
- Great importance is attached to pronunciation.
- very little use of the mother tongue by teachers is permitted.
- Successful responses are immediately reinforced.
- There is a great effort to get students to produce error-free utterances.
- There is a tendency to manipulate language and disregard content.
1.1.4 Grammar explanations as used in the major methods
We shall briefly review the treatment of grammatical explanations by some of the major methods. This is not meant to be an exhaustive study of all available methods; rather it is an attempt to show the variety of ways in which different methods deal with grammar explanations and may help teachers in evaluating available materials.
Grammar translation is associated with formal rule statement. Learning proceeds, deductively, and the rule is generally stated by the teacher, in a textbook, or both. Traditional abstract grammatical terminology is used. Drills include translation into native language.
The direct method is characterized by meaningful practice and exclusion of the mother tongue. This method has had many interpretations, some of which include an analysis of structure, but generally without the use of abstract grammatical terminology.
The audio-lingual method stresses an inductive presentation with extensive pattern practice. Writing is discouraged in the early stages of learning a structure. Here again, there has bee considerable variation in the realization of this approach. In some cases, no grammatical explanation of any kind is offered. In other, the teacher might focus on a particular structure by isolating an example on the board, or through contrast. When grammatical explanation is offered it is usually done at the end of the lesson as a summary of behavior (Politzer, 1965), or in later versions of this method the rule might be stated in the middle of the lesson and followed by additional drills.
Each method is realized in techniques. By a technique we mean an individual way in doing something, in gaining a certain goal in teaching learning process. The method and techniques the teacher should use in teaching children of the primary school is the direct method, and various techniques which can develop pupils` listening comprehension and speaking. Pupils are given various exercises, connected with the situational use of words and sentence patterns.
1.2 Some General Principles of Grammar Teaching
1.2.1 Conscious approach
This means that in sentence patterns teaching points are determined so that pupils can concentrate their attention on some elements of the pattern to be able to use them as orienting points when speaking or writing the target language. For example, I can see a book. I can see many books.
The teacher draws pupils' attention to the new element in the form of a rule, a very short one. It is usually done in the mother tongue. For example: Ïîìíè, ÷òî âî ìíîæåñòâåííîì ÷èñëå ê ñóùåñòâèòåëüíîìó ïðèáàâëÿåòñÿ îêîí÷àíèå -s [s,z] èëè -es [IZ]. Or: Ïîìíè, ÷òî â îòðèöàòåëüíûõ ïðåäëîæåíèÿõ ñòàâèòñÿ âñïîìîãàòåëüíûé ãëàãîë “do not” (“does not”).The rule helps the learner to understand and to assimilate the structural meaning of the elements. It ensures a conscious approach to learning. This approach provides favourable conditions for the speedy development of correct and more flexible language use. However it does not mean that the teacher should ask pupils to say this or that rule, Rules do not ensure the mastery of the language. They only help to attain the practical goal. If a pupil can recognize and employ correctly the forms that are appropriate, that is sufficient. When the learner can give ample proof of these abilities we may say that he has fulfilled the syllabus requirements.
Conscious learning is also ensured when a grammar item is contrasted with another grammar item which is usually confused. The contrast is brought out through oppositions. For example:
I get up at 7 o'clock.
It's 7 o'clock. I am getting up.
He has come.
He came an hour ago.
Give me a book (to read into the train).
Give me the book (you have promised),
I like soup (more than any other food).
I like the soup ( you have cooked).
Rule for the teacher:
The teacher should realize difficulties the sentence pattern presents for his pupils. Comparative analysis of the grammar item in English and in Russian or within the English language may be helpful. He should think of the shortest and simplest way for presentation of the new grammar item. The teacher should remember the more he speaks about the language the less time is left to practice. The more the teacher explains the less his pupils understand what he is trying to explain, this leads to the teacher giving more information than is necessary, which does not help the pupils in the usage of this particular grammar item, only hinders them.
1.2.2 Practical approach
It means that pupils learn those grammar items which they need for immediate use either in oral or written language. For example, from the first steps of language learning pupils need the Possessive Case for objects which belong to different people, namely, Mike's textbook, Ann's mother, the girl's doll, the boys' room, etc. The teacher masters grammar through performing various exercises in using a given grammar item.
1.2.3 Structural approach
Grammar items are introduced and drilled in structures or sentence patterns.
It has been proved and accepted by the majority of teachers and methodologists that whenever the aim to teach pupils the command of the language, and speaking in particular, the structural approach meets the requirements.
Pupils are taught to understand English when spoken to and to speak it from the very beginning. This is possible provided they have learned sentence patterns and words as a pattern and they know how to adjust them to them to the situations they are given.
In our country the structural approach to the teaching of grammar attracted the attention of many teachers. As a result structural approach to grammar teaching has been adopted by our schools since it allows the pupil to make up sentences by analogy, to use the same pattern for various situations. Pupils learn sentence patterns and how to use them in oral and written language.
Rule for the teacher:
The teacher should furnish pupils with words to change the lexical (semantic) meaning of the sentence pattern so that pupils will be able to use it in different situations. He should assimilate the grammar mechanism involved in sentence pattern and not the sentence itself.
1.2.4 Situational approach
Pupils learn a grammar item used in situations. For example, the Possessive Case may be effectively introduced in classroom situations. The teacher takes or simply touches various things and says This is Nina's pen; That is Sasha's exercise-book, and so on.
Rule for the teacher:
The teacher should select the situations for the particular grammar item he is going to present. He should look through the textbook and other teaching materials and find those situations which can ensure comprehension and the usage of the item.
1.2.5 Different approach
Grammar items pupils need for conversation are taught by the oral approach, i.e., pupils aud them, perform various oral exercises, finally see them printed, and write sentences using them.
For example, pupils need the Present Progressive for conversation. They listen to sentences with the verbs in the Present Progressive spoken by the teacher or the speaker (when a tape recorder is used) and relate them to the situations suggested. Then pupils use the verbs in the Present Progressive in various oral sentences in which the Present Progressive is used. Grammar items necessary for reading are taught through reading.
Rule for the teachers:
If the grammar item the teacher is going to present belongs to those pupils need for conversation, he should select the oral approach method for teaching.
If pupils need the grammar item for reading, the teacher should start with reading and writing sentences in which the grammar item occurs.
While preparing for the lesson at which a new grammar item should be introduced, the teacher must realize the difficulties pupils will meet in assimilating this new element of the English grammar. They may be of three kinds: difficulties in form, meaning, and usage. The teacher thinks of the ways to overcome these difficulties: how to convey the meaning of the grammar item either through situations or with the help of the mother tongue; what rule should be used; what exercises should be done; their types and number. Then he thinks of the sequence in which pupils should work to overcome these difficulties, i.e., , from observation and comprehension through conscious imitation to usage in conversation (communicative exercises). Then the teacher considers the form in which he presents the grammar item - orally, in writing, or in reading. And, finally, the teacher plans pupils' activity while they are learning this grammar item (point): their individual work, mass work, work in unison, and work in pairs, always bearing in mind that for assimilation pupils need examples of the sentence pattern in which this grammar item occurs.
PART 3 FURTHER POINTS FOR CONCIDERATION
1.1 Introduction of new Material
1.1.1 Introducing new language structure
We will consider ways in which children can be introduced to new language structure.
When we present grammar through structural patterns we tend to give students tidy pieces of language to work with We introduce grammar, which can easily be explained and presented. There are many different ways of doing this, which do not (only) involve the transmission of grammar rules.
It is certainly possible to teach aspects of grammar - indeed that is what language teachers have been doing for centuries - but language is a difficult business and it is often used very inventively by its speakers, In other words real language use is often very untidy and cannot be automatically reduced to simple grammar patterns. Students need to be aware of this, just as they need to be aware of all language possibilities. Such awareness does not mean that they have to be taught each variation and linguistic twist, however. It just means that they have to be aware of language and how it is used. That is why reading and listening are so important, and that is why discovery activities are so valuable since by asking students to discover ways in which language is used we help to raise their awareness about the creative use of grammar - amongst other things.
As teachers we should be prepared to use a variety of techniques to help our students learn and acquire grammar. Sometimes this involves teaching grammar rules; sometimes it means allowing students to discover the rules for themselves.
What do we introduce? Our job at this stage of the lesson is to present the pupils with clear information about the language they are learning. We must also show them what the language means and how it is used; we must also show them what the grammatical form of the new language is, and how it is said and/or written.
What we are suggesting here is that students need to get an idea of how his new language is used by native speakers and the best way of doing this is to present language in context.
The context for introducing new language should have a number of characteristics.It should show what the new language means and how it is used, for example. That is why many useful contexts have the new language being used in a written text or dialogue.
A good context should be interesting for the children. This doesn't mean that all the subject matter we use for presentation should be wildly funny or inventive all of the time. But the pupils should at least want to see or hear the information.
Lastly, a good context will provide the background for a lot of language use so that students can use the information not only for the repetition of model sentences but also for making their own sentences.
Often the textbook will have all the characteristics mentioned here and the teacher can confidently rely on the material for the presentation. But the textbook is not always so appropriate: for a number of reasons the information in the book may not be right for our students in such cases we will want to create our own contexts for language use.
1.1.2 Types of context
Context means the situation or body of information, which causes language to be used. There are a number of different context types, but for our purposes we will concentrate on three, the students' world, the outside world and formulated information.
The students' world can be a major source of contexts for language presentation. There are two kinds of students' world. Clearly we can use the physical surroundings that the students are in - the classroom, school or institution. But classrooms and their physical properties (tables, chairs, windows, etc.) are limited. The students' lives are not constrained in the same way, however, and we can use facts about them, their families, friends and experiences.
The outside world provides us with rich contexts for presentation For example, there is an almost infinite number of stories we can use to present different lenses. We can also create situations where people speak because they are in those situations, or where the writer describes some special information. This is especially useful for the practice of functional language, for example.
We can ask students to look at examples of language which show the new language in operation, though this last category can sometimes have no context. These three sub-categories, story, situation or language, can be simulated or real. Most teachers are familiar with 'made-up' stones which arc often useful for classwork: real stories work well too, of course. In the same way we can create the simulation of an invitation dialogue, for example. But here again we could also show students a real invitation dialogue. In general we can say that real contexts are better simply because they are real, but they may have complexities of language and comprehensibility which can be avoided by simulated contexts - life-like but clearly mode-up to some extent.
Formulated information refers to all that information which is presented in the form of timetables, notes, charts etc. Once again we can use real charts and timetables, growth statistics, etc. or we can design our own which will be just right for our students.
1.1.3 The presentation of structural form
One of the teacher's jobs is to show how the new language is formed - how the grammar works and how it is put together. One way of doing this is to explain the grammar in detail, using grammatical terminology and giving a mini-lecture on the subject. This seems problematical, though, for two reasons; firstly many pupils may find grammatical concepts difficult, secondly- such explanations for beginners will be almost impossible.
A more effective - and less frightening - way of presenting form is to let the students see and/or hear the new language, drawing their attention in a number of different ways to the grammatical elements of which it is made. For whilst advanced students may profit from grammatical explanations to a certain extent, at lower levels we must usually find simpler and more transparent ways of giving students grammatical information.
1.1.4 A general model for introducing new language
The model has five components: lead-in, elicitation, explanation, accurate reproduction, and immediate creativity.
During the lead-in the context is introduced and the meaning or use of the new language is demonstrated. This is the stage at which students may hear or see some language (including the new language) and during which students may become aware of certain key concepts. The key concepts are those pieces of information about the context that are vital if students are to understand the context and thus the meaning and use of the new language.
During the lead-in stage, then, we introduce our context (making sure that key concepts are understood) and show the new language in use.
During the elicitation stage the teacher tries to see if the students can produce the new language. If they can it would clearly be wasteful and de-motivating for them if a lot of time was spent practicing the language that they already know. At the elicitation stage - depending on how well (and if) the students can produce the new language - the teacher can decide which of the stages to go to next. If the students can't produce the new language at all, for example, we will move to the explanation stage. If they can, hut with minor mistakes, we may move to the accurate reproduction stage to clear up those problems. If they know the new language but need a bit more controlled practice in producing it we may move directly to the immediate creativity stage Elicitation is vitally important for it gives the teacher information upon which to act: it is also motivating for the students and actively involves their learning abilities.
During the explanation stage the teacher shows how the new language is formed. It is here that we may give a listening drill or explain something in the students' own language; we may demonstrate grammatical form on the blackboard. In other words, this is where the students learn how the new language is constructed.
During the accurate reproduction stage students are asked to repeat and practise a certain number of models. The emphasis here will be on the accuracy of what the students say rather than meaning or use. Here the teacher makes sure that the students can form the new language correctly, getting the grammar right and perfecting their pronunciation as far as is necessary.
1.2 Teaching grammar patterns
We'll examine "Teaching Grammatical Patterns" by Robert Lado (Chapter 10 "From Sentences to Patterns")
Robert Lado thinks that even children who have never studied the rules grammar make use of the grammar of the language. This is seen in the mistakes they make. When a child says, He goed, he is forming a "regular" preterite on the pattern: showed, weighed, served: "goed." His error reveals the fact that he has been applying the pattern even though he is not able to describe it.
- Patterns and Sentences
A grammatical pattern is an arrangement of parts having linguistic significance beyond the sum of its parts. The parts of a pattern are expressed by words or classes of words so that different sentences often express the same pattern. All the sentences of a language are cast in its patterns.
John telephoned, The boy studied.
We understood different sentences are expressing the same statement pattern in English.
A pattern is not a sentence, however. Sentences express patterns. Each sentence illustrates a pattern. To memorize a sentence does not imply that a pattern has been memorized. There can be countless sentences, each unique, yet all constructed on the same pattern.
- Patterns and Grammar
Children learn the grammatical patterns of their language before they study grammar in school. When a child says goed instead of went or knowed instead of knew, he is applying the regular preterite pattern on the analogy,
open: opened = go: goed
Patterns are learned in childhood. Adults no longer have to learn new patterns; they learn new words that are used in old patterns. That the old patterns are alive is shown by putting unknown words and phrases into them.
And what is the role of the native language in learning the patterns of a foreign language?
- Native Language Factor
The most important factor determining ease and difficulty in learning the patterns of a foreign language is their similarity to or difference from the patterns of the native language. When the pattern in the target language is parallel to one in the native language, the student merely learns new words which he puts into what amounts to an extended use of his native pattern. Since his word learning capacity is not lost, he makes rapid progress. When, however, the native language pattern does not parallel that of the target language, the student tends to revert to his native language patterns through habit.
- Grading the Patterns
There is no single grading scale for teaching the patterns of a foreign language. Any systematic cumulative progression, taking into account the structures that are difficult, would be satisfactory from a linguistic point of view.
Approach The mimicry-memorization exercise tends to give the same amounts of practice to easy as well as difficult problems. It also concentrates unduly on the memorization of specific sentences, and not enough on the manipulation of the patterns of sentences in a variety of content situations. For those patterns that are functionally parallel to the native language, very little work needs to be done, and very little or no explanation is necessary. On the other hand, for those patterns that are not parallel in the two languages, more specific understanding of the grammatical structure points at issue is needed while the sentences are learned and not before or after. And more practice with the pattern is necessary before it is learned, that is, used without attention to its structure.
- Basic sentences
The memorization of sample sentences that con-tain the grammatical problems to he mastered is common to both pattern practice and mimicry-memorization. For this practice there is ample justification in linguistics and in psychology. The utterances have to become readily available if the student is to use them in the rapid sequence of conversation.
- Teaching the patterns
A sentence can be learned as a single unstructured unit like a word, but this is only the beginning. The stu-dent must acquire the habit of constructing sentences in the patterns of the target language. For this he must be able to put words almost automatically into a pattern without changing it, or to change it by making the necessary adjustments.
Teaching a problem pattern begins with teaching the specific struc-ture points where a formal change in the pattern is crucial and where the student is not able to manipulate the required changes. The steps in teaching problem patterns are (1) attention pointer, usually a single sentence calling the students' attention to the point at issue; (2) ex-amples, usually minimally contrastive examples showing a pair of sen-tences that differ only on the point or points being made; (3) repetition by the class and presentation of additional examples of the same contrast; (4) comments or generalization elicited inductively from the students and confirmed by the teacher; (5) practice, with attention on the problem being taught.
These steps an intended to clarify the crucial point of contrast at the time when sentences are being learned. They should take only a small portion of the class time--no more than 15 per cent.
Robert Lado accents that many teachers make the mistake of trying to explain everything at length while the class listens passively. Long explanations without active practice are a waste of time, and even with practice they are inefficient. Most of the class should be devoted to practice.
During the accurate reproduction phase there are two basic correction stages: showing incorrectness (indicating to the student that something is wrong) and using correction techniques.
- Showing incorrectness
This means that we will indicate to the student that a mistake has been made. If the student understands this feedback he or she will be able to correct the mistake and this self-correction will be helpful to him or her as part of the learning process.
There are a number of techniques for showing incorrectness:
§ Repeating: Here we simply ask the student to repeat what he or she has just said by using the word 'again'. This, said with a questioning intonation, will usually indicate that the response was unsatisfactory (although it could be misunderstood as only indicating that the teacher has not heard the student's response).
§ Echoing: We will be even clearer if we repeat what the student has just said, using a questioning intonation since this will clearly indicate that we are doubting the accuracy or content of what is being said.
Sometimes we can echo the complete student response, probably stressing the pan of the utterance that was incorrect, for example:
She go to school?
Another possibility is to echo the student's response, but only up to the point where the mistake was made,ftor example: She go …?
Echoing, in its various forms, is probably the most efficient way of showing incorrectness.
§ Denial: We can simply tell the student that the response was unsatisfactory and ask for it to be repeated. This seems somewhat drier than the techniques so far discussed; it may be a bit more discouraging.
§ Questioning: We can say 'Is that correct?' asking any student in the class to answer our question. This has the advantage of focusing everybody's mind on the problem, though it may make the student who made the mistake seem somewhat exposed.
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