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    Grammar & Language Learning

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    Grammar and Its Teaching: Challenging the Myths

    Diane Larsen-Freeman, School for International Training (VT)

    1. Grammar is acquired naturally; it need not be taught.

    2. Grammar is a collection of meaningless forms.

    3. Grammar consists of arbitrary rules.

    4. Grammar is boring.

    5. Students have different learning styles. Not all students

    can learn grammar.

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    6. Grammar structures are learned one at a time.

    7. Grammar has to do only with sentence-level andsubsentence-level phenomena.

    8. Grammar and vocabulary are areas of knowledge.

    Reading, writing, speaking, and listening are the four

    skills.

    9. Grammars provide the rules/explanations for all thestructures in a language.

    10. "I don't know enough to teach grammar."

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    The University of ChoiceHistory of methodsof grammar teaching

    1. Grammar Translation

    2. The Direct Method

    3. Audiolingualism

    4. Communicative Language

    Teaching

    FunctionalNotional

    5. Task-based Learning

    6. Process based (Procedural

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    Covert grammar teaching means that grammatical facts are

    hidden from the students- even though they are learning the

    language. Students may be asked to do any activity where anew grammar is presented or introduced, but their attention

    will be drawn to this activity not to the grammar.

    Overt grammar teaching means that the teacher actuallyprovides the students grammatical rules and explanations-the

    information is openly presented.

    With overt teaching grammatical rules are explicitly given to

    students, but with covert teaching students are simply asked to

    work with new language to absorb grammatical information

    which will help them to acquire the language as a whole.

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    Discovery Learning is a method of inquiry- based instruction

    and is considered a constructivist based approach to

    education. It is supported by the work of learning theorists and

    psychologists Jean Piaget, Jerome Bruner, and Seyour Papert.

    Although this form of instruction has great popularity, there is

    some debate in the literature concerning its efficacy (Mayer,

    2004).

    Discovery Learning takes place in problem solving situations

    where the learner draws on his own experience and prior

    knowledge and is a method of instruction through whichstudents interact with their environment by exploring and

    manipulating objects, wrestling with questions and

    controversies, or performing experiments.

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    Grammar teaching should be implicit

    In the early 20th

    century, Jespersen, like Boas, thoughtgrammar should be studied by examining living speech rather

    than by analyzing written documents. By providing grammar in

    context, in an implicit manner, we can expose students to

    substantial doses of grammar study without alienating them tothe learning of English or other foreign language. I also agree

    with this implicit approach of teaching grammar. The principal

    manner in which I accomplish this is by teaching short

    grammar-based sessions immediately followed by additional

    function-based lessons in which the new grammar / structure

    is applied in context.

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    Acquisition vs. Learning:

    The hypothesis is that adult language students have two

    distinct ways of developing skills and knowledge in a secondlanguage, acquisition and learning. Acquiring a language is

    "picking it up" i.e., developing ability in a language by using it

    in natural, communicative situations. Learning language differs

    in that it is "knowing the rules" and having a conscious

    knowledge of grammar / structure. Adults acquire language,

    although usually not as easily or as well as children.

    Acquisition, however, is the most important means for gaininglinguistic skills. A person's first language (L1) is primarily

    learned in this way. This manner of developing language skills

    typically employs implicit grammar teaching and learning.

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    Grammar teaching should be explicit

    This does not exclude explicit grammar-teaching entirely,

    however. In cases where features of English grammar arediametrically opposed or in some other way radically different

    from the manner of expression in the student's L1, explicit

    teaching may be required.

    An exclusive approach using either implicit or explicit

    methodologies is not as effective as utilizing one or the other

    of these approaches as required. There is no one best way to

    introduce and provide practice in them. Young learners have

    more natural facility in acquisition, while adults may benefitsubstantially from more "formal" language learning. Learning

    styles and intelligence strengths are also a significant factor.

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    In a CLT classroom, the teacher pays more attention to enabling

    students to work with the target language and communicate in it.

    The following is the typical procedure of a grammar lesson

    according to a CLT author- Adrian Doff (1981).

    1.The teacher uses visual aids to present the grammar structure tobe taught.

    2.Students deduce the meaning, the form and the use of it.

    3.The teacher checks students understanding by asking yes/no

    questions focusing on form, meaning and use.4.The teacher gets students to practice the structure through

    Repetition and Substitution Drills, Word Prompts, and Picture

    Prompts. The teacher provides maximum practice within controlled,

    but realistic and contextualised frameworks and to build students

    confidence in using the new language. The teacher providesstudents with opportunities to use new language in a freer, more

    creative way. The students can integrate new language with the

    previously learnt language and apply what they have learnt to talk

    about their real life activities.

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    Classroom activities used in CLT

    Role play

    Interviews

    Information gap

    Games

    Language exchange

    Surveys

    Pair work Learning by teaching

    However, not all courses that utilize the communicative

    language approach will restrict their activities solely to these.Some courses will have the students take occasional grammar

    quizzes, or prepare at home using non-communicative drills,

    for instance

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    Grammar for Beginning Level:

    Regardless of the fact that the recommended text is

    functional, communicative or structural, grammar and

    grammar sequencing is in issue.

    The scheme would be simple to complex. Typically it deals

    with very simply verb forms, pronouns, articles, singular and

    plural pronouns in a progression.

    For EFL learners, if L1 is same, teacher may use L1 for

    explanations.

    In an ESL classroom, where teacher must rely on English

    language only, grammatical explanation of any complexity

    will overwhelm the learners.

    An inductive approach with suitable examples and patterns

    will be more effective.

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    Grammar for Intermediate level:

    1. Student can benefit from short, simple explanations of points in

    English.

    2. Overt attention in grammar can be exceedingly helpful at thisstage.

    E.g: she can kept her child. A student, when referring to past

    He must paid the insurance. tense, used to say things like.

    3. A simple explanation from his teacher about modal auxiliaries

    cured him.4. Grammar explanation must be minimum. But it should not be

    dominant focus of student attention.

    Grammar for Advanced level:

    1. At this level grammar teaching is linked with functional

    forms, sociolinguistic and pragmatic phenomena.

    2. Deductive grammar has its place at this level.

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    Teaching Grammar to Young Learners

    Presenting the grammatical structure in a child's context,

    with humour

    Practising the grammatical structure

    Drawing and writing on the board

    Story telling

    Songs and chants

    Rhymes and poems

    Total Physical Response

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    Goals and Techniques for Teaching Grammar

    The goal of grammar instruction is to enable students to carry

    out their communication purposes. This goal has threeimplications:

    Students need overt instruction that connects grammar

    points with larger communication contexts.

    Students do not need to master every aspect of each grammar

    point, only those that are relevant to the immediate

    communication task.

    Error correction is not always the instructor's first

    responsibility.

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    Developing Grammar ActivitiesFor curricula that introduce grammatical forms in a specified sequence,

    instructors need to develop activities that relate form to meaning and use.