Tag Archives: language learning

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning

Like everyone else I am figuring out what I can use during distance learning.  This is a speaking activity that I do in the classroom either as a whole class or in small groups.  It has transitioned well to the remote learning classroom, particularly with platforms that allow screen-sharing. You can copy the template to your Google Drive by clicking HERE.

I call this activity “Advance” (Avancez! in French and ¡Adelante! in Spanish)

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)

Here is how it works.  This is for the Spanish version, but just replace the word ¡Caramba! with Zut! for French…any language would work with the template.

Set Up:

  • This activity can be done with the whole class broken down into teams of 2-3 or in a small group of 3-4 individual players. Project the slides if playing with the entire class (share your screen if doing remote teaching).  If playing in a small group they will need one computer or a tablet with Powerpoint or Google Slides. Be sure that they play in slideshow mode so that they can’t see the thumbnail images on the side.
  • Give each group (if playing with the entire class) or each individual (if playing in a small group) two objects that they can use while playing. This can be anything really… erasures, slips of paper, popsicle sticks or game pieces.  It doesn’t matter what they are, as long as each group (or individual player if playing in small group) has 2. I just keep track of this on my own in the distance learning classroom.
  • The object of the game is to have the most points at the end.  The teacher can set a time limit to determine when the end arrives.  It’s good if you can set a timer, but without students seeing the countdown. If players arrive at the “Fin” slide activity is done.
  • Determine the order that the groups or individuals will play in.

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)

 

 

 

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)

 

 

 

 

 

Play:

  • Begin on the first slide.  The first player (or individual player if playing in small group) identifies the picture or responds to a prompt either by speaking or writing.  If correct (clicking on the slide will show the correct answer) the group or player gets a point. If the answer is incorrect no point are awarded or lost and play continues with the next group (or individual).
  • The next group (or individual) can decide to advance (¡Adelante!) to the next slide and identifies the picture or responds to a prompt. However, there are slides that say “¡Caramba!” instead of a picture or prompt and the group (or individual) loses all of their points.  At any time a group (or individual) can choose not to advance and skip a turn.  They can only to this twice in the game and must hand over the an object mentioned in the set up.

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)

 

 

 

 

  • If a group or individual decides not to advance the play continues with the next group (or individual).
  • Once a group (or individual) has used both of their “skips” they must advance to the next slide when it is their turn.

Tips:

  • Players should not assume that there are not 2 “¡Caramba!” in a row. There is no pattern.
  • Change up the order of the slides and location of the “¡Caramba!” if you use the activity multiple times so that students can’t anticipate where the “¡Caramba!” are.
  • Depending on the proficiency level of students they can be required to identify the picture (novice level) or use it in a complete sentence (Novice High to Intermediate).  If it is a prompt it will require a novice high or intermediate response.
  • Set an alarm on a timer and when it goes off the game ends and the group (or individual) who has the most points at that moment is the winner.  It is best to play between 20-30 minutes, though the teacher can adjust this based on the dynamics of the class. Or, if players arrive at the “Fin” slide activity is done.

You can copy the template to your Google Drive by clicking HERE.  Fill in the prompts to fit your needs on each slide.  Copy as many slides and  ¡Caramba!/ Zut! that you would like and put them anywhere you would like, and as many as you would like.

Create Time Capsule by Foreign Language Proficiency Level

If you teach multiple grade levels, or various proficiency levels, you probably like to find an activity or project that can be used across levels.  I would like to share a project with you that you can use with novice and intermediate learners.  It is essentially the same concept. It differs only in how students engage with the content that they produce.

Students Create Time Capsule by Foreign Language Proficiency Level (french, Spanish)

Students create a time capsule that is a snapshot of their life over the past year.  I typically do this as the school year, so you will see 2019-2020 in the examples.  I have students do this digitally in Google slides.  I have seen in done in a journal as well with pictures and writing glued to the pages.  While the tactile nature and opportunities for creative design are more apparent with the physical product I find that that it is logistically easier to manage when it is digital.

Students begin by responding to prompts in the target language.

  • Name:
  • Town/City:
  • Birthday:
  • Age:
  • Personal adjectives (3) to describe yourself:
  • Family (name, age, relation):
  • Gratitude (3 things you are thankful for or appreciate):
  • School:
  • Teachers and Subjects:
  • Friends :
  • Activity :
    • Where?:
    • When?:
    • With whom?:
  • Activity :
    • Where?:
    • When?:
    • With whom?:
  • Activity :
    • Where?:
    • When?:
    • With whom?:
  • Music:
    •  Song:
    • Singer:
  • Film/TV/Netflix/Amazon :
    • Favorite Move or TV Program:
    • Favorite Actress or Actor:
  • Reading
    • Favorite Book:
    • Favorite Writer:

Once these are done students find pictures to go along with each of these topics and put them in google slides.  I provide the template and they fill it in.

Students Create Time Capsule by Foreign Language Proficiency Level (French, Spanish)

The final step is where the projected is differentiated by proficiency level. You can see a review of proficiency levels here.

Novice mid to novice high students write about what is “in” their time capsule and these sentences go on each slide with the images.  At this level I usually provide sentence starters as well, such as “My favorite actress is…” or ” My math teacher is…”  At this proficiency level the work is done in the present.Students Create Time Capsule by Foreign Language Proficiency Level (French, Spanish)

Novice high to intermediate low students write as if they were opening the time capsule in five years and write about they did, what they liked, who their teachers were, etc. five years ago. For languages with preterite and imperfect tenses, this lends itself to distinguishing between the preterite and imperfect.  Students at this level tend (in my experience) to be better with the preterite. For the sentences that would require the imperfect I typically provide sentence starters. 
Students Create Time Capsule by Foreign Language Proficiency Level (French, Spanish)Intermediate low to intermediate mid students write as if they were opening the time capsule in fifty years and writing about they used to do, what they liked, who their teachers were, etc. fifty years ago. For language with preterite and imperfect tenses, this lends itself to using the preterite and imperfect accurately, and it provides an effective way to contextualize the tenses.

Students Create Time Capsule by Foreign Language Proficiency Level (French, Spanish)

I also include a speaking component.  Once students are done with the time capsule, and are very familiar with all of the content, I set up time for them to have a 5-minute discussion with me about their time capsule.

 

Keep Track of Virtual Group Work in the Language Classroom

As I write this post many of us are teaching remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  I have been using Zoom to teach and communicate with students.  One of the features is breakout rooms where students can be put into small groups. Other platforms offer similar possibilities.  I was trying to find a way to see what groups are doing in real time in addition to popping in and out of each group.

Keep Track of Virtual Group Work in the Language Classroom

I saw on Twitter that Rebecca Blouwolf, ACTFL Teacher of the Year, was trying out using shared Google docs during breakout group time.  I have known Rebecca for over 20 years and I respect her so much.  We started our teaching career together and I have been very impressed with all that she has accomplished.  When I saw what she was doing with Google docs I knew that I had to look into it.

My first iteration looked like this.

Keep Track of Virtual Group Work in the Language Classroom

I shared the doc (I used Google sheets) with all students and groups worked collectively in the same document.  I was able to see what they were entering in real time and could write a message to all of the groups (broadcast message in Zoom) when I saw saw some common inaccuracies or I could go into an individual group when I wanted to support them verbally.  There was one problem with this, they were all doing the same questions and could see each other’s responses.  It didn’t seem to be much of an issue, but I wanted to give each group different prompts while all working in the same shared document.  I could have shared different documents with each group, but that would mean looking at different documents.  I wanted the individual group work all together so that I could  see what all groups are doing at once.

So, I got back to work. This is the second iteration and the version that I have been using successfully.

Keep Track of Virtual Group Work in the Language Classroom

This allows for different prompts for each group (blue column), while being able to see all responses in real time. Atelier means “workshop” in French and the is the word I use with students for “breakout room.”  They type their group responses to the right of the prompts in blue.  In addition to text, groups can insert images in response to a prompt or a link to audio or a video that that they record or through search.  My initial intent was to use this to see work done in real time in Zoom breakout rooms, but I’m envisioning using this for asynchronous (not in real time) student work as well. Though this is a work-around during a crisis, I plan to continue using it when we are back in the physical classroom.

If you would like to us this with your students, make sure that you share one document with the entire class and allow editing when sharing a Google doc. For ease of formatting I use a Google Sheet, but you can do this with any of the Google doc options.  I tell students that they can delete  it out of their Google account when done so that it is not yet another document taking up space.  I have the original with all of their responses….another benefit of having it all in one place.  You can also have a spot for groups to put their names in  next to the the breakout room.  I keep track on my own.

This link will make a copy of the breakout room document in your Google Drive (just like assigning  to students in Google Classroom)  and you can modify it for your own personal use.  This is a work in progress for me.  I’d love to see and hear about what works for you.

 

What If the Next Teacher Doesn’t Embrace Proficiency-Based Teaching?

We are getting there.  More and more teachers are embracing proficiency-based language teaching.  There are increasing amounts of research that support an approach to language teaching that focusing on communication.  Along with Communicative language teaching we use proficiency levels and ACTFL Performance Descriptors that provide concrete benchmarks.  Simply put, proficiency is not what students know about the language, what rather what they can do with it.  Resources, such as Can-Do statements, help to keep our teaching (and student learning/acquisition) focused on what students are able to communicate.

What If the Next Teacher Doesn't Embrace Proficiency-Based Teaching (French, Spanish(

As happy as I am to see so many teachers adopt this approach, I am often reminded of how much more work we have to do.  I find that individual teachers tend to implement communicative activities in their classrooms, but language departments and districts are slower to get there.  In May of each year I often get a reminder of the work that is to be done when my 8th graders ask me to fill out a form to recommend them for their high school language level.  I teach in a school that ends in 8th grade.  Our students go to numerous high schools after, so I get a look at what is expected and what programs look like when I receive the recommendation forms.

Here is one that I got this year, but it is a typical of many of these forms that I get from studentsWhat If the Next Teacher Doesn't Embrace Proficiency-Based Teaching (French, Spanish(

As you can see, it is just a list of grammar topics.  They place students in a language level based on what grammar topics they have studied.  There is no place to speak to what the student is actually able to communicate in the target language.  These types of lists are the opposite of proficiency, with a request to know what the student knows about the language and not what they can do with it.

The reaction when I put this on Twitter and Facebook was reassuring that there are many language teachers who are fighting the good fight.

What If the Next Teacher Doesn't Embrace Proficiency-Based Teaching (French, Spanish( What If the Next Teacher Doesn't Embrace Proficiency-Based Teaching (French, Spanish(

So, how do we respond?  I usually use it as an opportunity to educate about the ACTFL Core Practices and Proficiency Levels with a description of the students proficiency level.  I provide examples of what the student is able to do with the language at their particular proficiency level. Hopefully this creates some interest in learning more.  Just planting the seed, and hoping they will water it.

“Ben performs consistently at the Intermediate Low ACTFL Proficiency Level for Interpersonal Communication and at the Intermediate Mid Level for Presentational Writing and Interpretive Listening and Reading.  At the IL level Ben can confidently and consistently speak in discrete sentence that he creates on his own without resorting to memoized chunks.  At the IM Level he consistently writes, reads and listens at a slightly higher level with strings of 2-3 connected sentences.”

I would imagine that this is more useful than “Ben can conjugate regular verbs in the present tense.”  Even if Ben can talk about the verb forms how does that indicate that he can actually use them to communicate?  This is a frustrating situation at time, but hopefully the more often we use this as an opportunity to educate our colleagues the more the entire language teaching community will move toward proficiency.

One final point that I want to make.  I fully understand that there are teachers, departments and districts that firmly believe that that a focus on grammar and structures is the most effective way to teach a language.  I am always happy to have the conversation.  I usually have several of these conversations each time I do a workshop in a school.  I like to be challenged and appreciate the opportunity to show the benefits of a proficiency-based program.  The only thing that I ask is that those who disagree have empirical evidence to support their argument and beliefs, because that is what I am bringing to the conversation.

 

Flip Grid in the Foreign Language Classroom

I’m writing this post during the Covid-19 quarantine and distance learning.   Many teachers have had to figure out this new world of distance learning in a very short amount of time.  Though not ideal in many ways, I have had to discover new ways to keep language learning moving forward, or at the very least not regressing.  Thanks to social media and the many generous and insightful language teachers out there I have a long and inspiring list of apps, Websites and ideas to try.  There just doesn’t seem to be enough time to get to them all.  Until now.  Flip Grid in the Foreign Language Classroom

I am using this time of reinvention to look into and implement these ideas that I have come across, but have not had the chance to implement.  One of these is Flip Grid.  Now that I am using it regularly to keep students engaged in all of the communication modes I can’t imagine not continuing to use it when we get back to the classroom.  Dare I say that I appreciate the opportunity to try out new things during this time.

Flip Grid in the Foreign Language Classroom

Flip Grid allows teachers to post a prompt, such as written questions, videos or images.  Students then simply click a record button and then begin recording a video response.

Flip Grid in the Foreign Language Classroom

When done, they can edit, work with filters and then submit.  The teacher can decide which of these functions to make available.  The teacher can then choose to make the videos viewable by the entire class or to keep them private and only viewable by the teacher.  Personally, I have used it both ways.  When only viewable by me I use the platform for an assessment (formative or summative) and make the videos available to the class when I want students to interact with each other.

There are lots of things that can be done directly on the Flip Grid Website, such as students leaving video comment or reactions to each other, leaving feedback on student videos and following student interactions.  Many of these features require students setting up an account.  That may be something that you are interested in doing.  I only use the video response feature and created unique usernames for each student in the class.  You can send them direct link to the grid (prompt) either through email or directly on Google Classroom.  Students just simply enter their username and they go right to the prompt.

Flip Grid in the Foreign Language Classroom

I’m also having students watch each others videos and answering questions that I create based on each individual video.  This is a way of keeping the communication modes alive.  Sometimes the videos are spontaneous responses and I have also had students read something that they wrote. These are the videos with more accurate language that I use for follow-up questions for the rest of the class to engage with.

Flip Grid in the Foreign Language Classroom

Flip Grid in the Foreign Language Classroom

 

Flip Grid in the Foreign Language Classroom

Also… “Flip Grid, which has 20 million users from all over the world, will now be completely free for schools; previously, the service cost $1,000 a year per school. The purchase will help Microsoft in its push against Google and Apple in the classroom.”

Worth a try at that price!

Foreign Language Digital Task Cards (Boom)

A few years back the concept of task cards entered into education, and, more specifically, into the foreign language classroom.  Typically task cards are individual cards that offer students opportunities to engage with a particular topic in various forms.  Each one usually has a prompt or activity that students complete either individually or in pairs or small groups at different challenge levels.  They are particularly useful because they provide opportunities for increased engagement and differentiation. For a refresher you can read my post on 1o ways to use task cards in the foreign language classroom.

I recently learned about digital task cards and once I saw how effective they are with students I jumped right it.  Though I like the tactile aspect of the more traditional physical task cards, digital cards are more sustainable and they provide instant feedback to students.

Foreign Language Digital Task Cards (Boom) French, Spanish

Watch these videos where I take you through a “deck” of digital task cards on the Boom Learning Website.

Spanish Digital Task Cards.

French Digital Task Cards

No printing, cutting, or laminating, just assign the decks to your students and you are ready to go. Students can get immediate feedback on their progress and you get several teacher reporting tools. A fun, effective, and engaging way for students to engage with the language.

Spanish Digital Task Cards.

French Digital Task Cards

You can create your own decks when you set up an account.  There is a limited number with the free account.  You’ll have to upgrade if you want to create more.  You can also purchase decks that are already made on the Boom Learning Website.  I am all in with these right now and I am making more decks every week. You can get them on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Users new to Boom Learning get a three-month free trial of student progress reporting for up to 150 students. Your trial includes the ability to make up to 5 free DIY decks. Boom Cards play on modern browsers (released in the last three years), on interactive whiteboards, computers and tablets. Boom Cards apps are also available.  If you do not subscribe at the end of your trial, you will be able to continue using Boom Cards with the Fast Play feature. 

Spanish Digital Task Cards.

French Digital Task Cards

How Can Teachers Use Research to Guide Their Language Teaching?

I like a good story.  Stories are interesting, intriguing and often capture and maintain our interest.  While I enjoy a good story or pleasant anecdote, I need more than a story of success and suggestion based on experience when I’m looking introspectively at my practice as a language teacher.

I actually like reading research that is conducted in applied linguistics and, more specifically, in the field of second language acquisition (SLA).  I quite enjoyed my graduate school days when we dove deep into empirical research and used it to inform our understanding of the cognition and social dynamics that govern learning a first or second language.  Who doesn’t like spending a little quality time with Krashen, Vygotsky, Swain, VanPatten or Asher?

While I do enjoy a good, quality, peer-reviewed, empirically sound research project I don’t always have the time, and, let’s be honest, the  focus, to read all about it.

How Can Teachers Use Research to Guide Their Language Teaching? (French, Spanish)

OK.  Get ready for it.  This is the the type of thing that I get incredibly excited about….On an episode of Bill Van Patten’s podcast, Talkin’ L2 with BVP, a guest mentioned the Website OASIS .  It is quite remarkable what they provide and are able to produce.

How Can Teachers Use Research to Guide Their Language Teaching? (French, Spanish)

OASIS summaries are one-page descriptions of research articles on language learning, language teaching, and multilingualism that have been published in peer-reviewed journals. The summaries provide information in accessible, non-technical language about each study’s goals, how it was conducted ,and what was found.  There are often ideas for using the information to inform classroom teaching as well.

Just use the search bar on the OASIS  Webiste to look for articles any topic of language acquisition of interest to you and you will soon have accessible research findings that allow you to move beyond anecdotal evidence.  Enjoy, and try not to fall down the rabbit hole.  I always do.

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content

This is an activity that I have used with various proficiency levels.  It involves presentational writing and interpretive reading.  It can be used with on demand writing, that is writing that is generated in the moment and doesn’t go through a revision process, or polished writing that includes feedback and additional drafts.

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

Essentially students begin by responding to a prompt in writing and then the other students in the class read what their classmates wrote and write a response.  Depending on how lengthy the writing is students may be able to read almost all of their classmates writing and respond within one or two classes.

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

This works particularly well when students are able to use language expressing opinions and agreeing or disagree with the writer.  I have students put their writing piece on their desk with a blank sheet of paper next to it.  Students then circulate and read their classmates’ writing and write a written response or reaction on the sheet next to it.  For novice level students they use chunked phrases such as “me too,” “not me,” “I also enjoy…,” I prefer….” when writing a reaction to novice level writing.  For Intermediate students they may begin by writing an opinion on a reading or a film and their classmates will write a response.  I have also had students write two reactions; one that is their own and then one that is in response an existing reaction.  This takes on the feeling of a social media thread.

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

Even if the original writing undergoes a feedback process, the written responses allow students to also do on demand writing and to write in response to other comments.  What the actual written responses and reactions look like will vary depending on what the original writing prompt is and the proficiency level of the class.  I have used this with novice and intermediate students with lots of success.  It take s bit more modeling with lower proficiency levels, but they are able to see how much they are able to write when the piece they are reading is at their level.  This is one of the benefits of using student-created content as the reading text.

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

Students like to get up an move and this allows them to do that in the classroom.  I use paper so that it is more tactile, but this type of activity could easily be done on a computer or even using Padlet.  As for a follow up activity, try a discussion of what different students read or of trends and consistencies.  Maybe ask  questions about what students learned.  Again, the type of follow up will vary based on the original writing prompt and proficiency level of the class.

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

Here is description of this activity that I recently did with a group of novice mid/high students.  I asked them to write a “paragraph” telling about themselves using any and all phrases, vocabulary and structures that they have acquired so far. This particular class is 6th grade and meets 3 times a week for 45-minutes.  Most of the class has reached novice high, though some are novice mid.  Students wrote their paragraphs in class with no access to technology or dictionaries for looking up words.

They focused on novice language topics such as personal info (age, name, where they live, who they live with,what they like to do, what sports/activities/school subjects they prefer). I gave some ideas of topics, but it was on demand writing, meaning all generated in the moment. For homework they typed it and added some photos. Because it is all student-generated, using vocabulary and structures that they have acquired, the reading is “at level” for classmates reading and commenting. If anything was unclear the images are there to assist.

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

Give this student-generated reading and writing activity a try.  It is very useful when moving the audience of student writing away from always being the teacher.

Communicative Language Teaching Mindset Shift. That Was Then. This Is Now.

The field of language teaching is always on the move.  Every decade or so there is an innovative way to approach language teaching.  For a recap of the language teaching methodologies that have surfaced over the past century take a look at this post.  Over the past decade many foreign language teachers have embraced communicative language teaching, which focuses on authentic communication over language forms such as grammar structures.

That Was Then. This Is Now. Communicative Language Teaching Mindset Shift (French, Spanish)

To be clear, a certain level of accuracy of language is needed to convey a message that is comprehensible.  The difference from methodologies of the past is that previous approaches to language teaching focused almost solely on accuracy of language.  These days we see the value in focusing on the message, even when that means looking past some errors when the learner has not yet acquired the language structure.  ACTFL has compiled a significant amount of research to support the the effectiveness of communicative language teaching.

There has been a significant shift in mindset along with the arrival of communicative language teaching.  Previous methodologies focused on what learners did wrong rather than on their progress.  The goal was complete accuracy in the past along with the belief that a speaker would not  be understood if the language was not completely correct.  We now accept that communication can happen despite occasional inaccuracy.  This is the base of the difference in mindset, or underlying tenets that support the approaches.

Here are four areas of this mindset shift that distinguish current communicative approaches from accuracy-centered approach of the past.

Objectives and Content:

  • Past: The teacher was the all-knowing possessor of knowledge and directed all content and objectives to ensure progress toward correct language.
  • Present: The teacher works in collaboration with students and there are shared learning objectives.  Content is driven by both the teacher and the student.

Communication:

  • Past: Typically communication was focused on the four traditional language skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking.  This usually meant that these skills were practiced in isolation and were not interconnected.
  • Present: The three modes of communication (presentational, interpretive, interpersonal) are now the focus.  They provide students with opportunities to do something with the four skills.

Performance:

  • Past: The focus was on what students knew about the language and its structures.  Practice of correct grammatical forms of the language were typically done in isolation and out of context.
  • Present: The focus is on what the learner is able to do or accomplish with the language.  This is always tied to context and students communicate authentically with the language despite occasional inaccuracy in language when the message is clear.

Assessment:

  • Past: Assessments determined the level of language accuracy and the teacher could easily and quickly point out what was incorrect, such as verb forms, noun gender, adjective agreement, etc.
  • Present: Assessments are performance-based.  Teachers use tools and strategies such as backwards design and Can-Do statements to guide students toward communication.

Where are you regarding your teaching mindset?  If you want to embrace communicative language teaching, take a look at the “present” mindset statements and see where you are.  It can take some time and a solid approach is always evolving.  It doesn’t have to happen this week.   Download this PDF with some questions to help keep your lesson planning in the “present.”

Teaching Foreign Language Grammar: Inductive or Deductive?

Approaches to teaching are always improving, or, maybe we should say changing.  When there is momentum behind a new, innovative or highly-supported methodology many of us get behind it and begin to implement it, as best we can at least.  Teachers are particularly prone to “buy-in” when we see colleagues (real or virtual) having some level of success with a new methodology.

Teaching Foreign Language Grammar: Inductive or Deductive? (French, Spanish)The wave of communicative language teaching is currently, and rightfully, the foreign language teaching methodology that is supported by the foreign language teaching community. This has helped put the teaching focus on guiding students toward authentically communicating rather than simply learning about the details of the language.

One of the biggest debates or challenges among the communicative language teaching community is the topic of grammar instruction.  There are lots of questions and concerns around this.  Should we teach grammar?  Should we only provide examples of language structure through comprehensible input? What is the “right” way to teach or expose students to grammar structures in a second language?  Implicit or explicit grammar instruction?

Some researchers in language acquisition and teachers claim that grammar should be taught explicitly, as rules.  Others point to the teaching of grammar implicitly, suggesting that students acquire language structure only through meaningful exposure in context.  As a result they create their own “language rules” implicitly rather than having the rules taught explicitly.  Let’s make sure we have a solid understanding of the two approaches to language instruction.

  • Deductive instruction is a “top-down” approach, meaning that the teacher starts with a grammar rule with specific examples, and the rule is learned through practice.
  • Inductive instruction is a “bottom-up” approach, meaning that the teacher provides examples of the structure in context and students make observations, detect patterns, formulate hypothesis, and draw conclusions. PACE Model is an example of this approach.

I prefer to move beyond anecdotal evidence and consider the benefits of the two types of grammar instruction as they are presented in language acquisition research.

Brown (2007):

  • “While it might be appropriate to articulate a rule and then proceed to instances, most of the evidence in communicative second language teaching points to the superiority of an inductive approach to rules and generalizations.”

Shaffer (1989) :

  • “Evidence against the notion of an inductive approach should not be used for difficult structures.”

So, where does this leave us?  As much as we as teachers would like one tried and true way we all know that teaching and education is mostly a mixture of effective techniques.  To this end here are some thoughts from Shaffer:

  • Implicit grammar instruction is effective for language structures that are regular and consistent as this allows students to observe patterns, make generalizations and form linguistic rules.
  • Explicit grammar instruction is more effective for language structures that are irregular, inconsistent and less commonly present in communicative language.

Ultimately it would seem that a varied approach is necessary depending on the regularity or irregularity of a the focus structure.  The important thing to keep in mind is the active engagement of the student in whichever process is used. The inductive approach lends itself to active engagement using a process such as the PACE Model.  When teaching irregular language feature deductively be sure to provide opportunities for students to use the structure communicatively and also provide additional comprehensible input activities that contain the focus structure.

Brown (2007).  Principles of Language Learning and Teaching.  Pearson Longman

Shaffer (1989).  A Conversation of Inductive and Deductive Approaches to Teaching Foreign Languages. The Modern Language Journal 73.4