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The English grammar

Test-teach-test

In this approach the teacher sets a communicative activity for the students which is designed to find out how well the can understand and use a particular area of language; it can be a creative activity in a role-play or writing a story. The teacher monitors and evaluates the activity in order to assess whether the language structure he or she wants to focus on is being used correctly and appropriately or not. It is also important to note if the students seem to be avoiding the structure. If the students have no problem with the structure the teacher can then go on to something else. If they are having problems or avoiding it altogether then the teacher can revise the target language. Practice activities which consolidate the studentsТ ability to use the language can follow until the teacher is happy with the studentsТ performance.

The first phase is the СtestТ where the teacher finds out what the students can and cannot already do; СteachТ is the second phase when the language is revised, and the second СtestТ is when practice activities are done to see if the students can use the language better than in the first phase.

What are the advantages of this approach?

This approach is particularly useful:

o        at higher levels where very few, if any, language structures are new to the students:

o        with confident (over-confident?) students who claim to СknowТ the target language;

o        with classes when you are not sure what the students have done previously and what they already know;

o        when you want to focus on more than one structure Ц perhaps a number of exponents of a function, or the different forms of a tense;

o        if you want to compare and contrast structures.


What are the disadvantages?

This type of approach, if it is done in one lesson, requires a considerable degree of flexibility on the part of the teacher. He or she has to respond instantly and appropriately to the first stage Ц giving feedback and picking out aspects of language to revise and consolidate. However, it may be possible to do the first phase on one day and the revision and practice activities, if it is thought necessary, on another day. In this way the teacher has time to evaluate what the students need and can plan accordingly.

If, during the first phase, the students show that they can use the target language competently, then the teacher has to have alternative activities and materials planned to replace the revision and consolidation phase.

Student-based research

Here the students are encouraged to do their own research into language areas using grammar reference books; they then report back to the class. The research can be done in or out of class time, individually or in groups. The report can take a number of forms: an oral presentation, a written report, a poster, etc. The students may also teach the structure to their fellow students and/or provide practice activities; in other words, the students СpresentТ the language. This approach puts much more of the responsibility for their own learning on the shoulders of the students.

When is student-based research useful?

This approach is particularly useful:

o        if the students are at a high level where few, if any, structures are new;

o        if they have been encouraged to be independent learners Ц capable of using reference books for their own research (see Chapter 5 Section 6: Learner development and study skills);

o        if individual students have difficulty with particular structures. In this way the teacher need on focus in class on language most of the students in the class have on trouble with.

What are the disadvantages?

o        This approach depends on having students of a high enough level, with good reference skills and a strong motivation and interest.

o        The students have to have access to reference materials.

o        You also need to have the class over a period of time.

For these reasons this approach is not always practicable in the TP situation.

СInductiveТ and СdeductiveТ approaches

Two of the basic approaches to the presentation of language items are sometimes referred to as inductive and deductive.

When an inductive approach is used, a context is established first from which the target structure is drawn. So, the approaches described under Visual/oral contexts (p. 129), Texts (p. 130) and Short dialogues (p. 131) could be called inductive. When a deductive approach is used an example of a structure and the grammatical rule is given first and then the language is practised, as described under Giving or working out the СruleТ on p. 133.

What are the possible stages in a lesson using the inductive approach?

As noted above there are a number of variations on a theme, but this is an example of one way to proceed:

1        Create the context Ц with a text which has already been used for skills practice, with a dialogue, or with a short visual/oral context.

Example

This is an extract from a lesson introducing comparative adjectives via a visual context (pictures or drawings) to a class of low-level students:

The teacher shows a picture of a tall, thin man labelled Sam, and indicates by hand gesture that Sam is tall and elicits SamТs tall. The teacher shows a second picture of an even taller, even thinner man labeled Tom and elicits TomТs tall. The teacher then puts the two pictures side by side and says SamТs tall and TomТs tall, but TomТs taller than Sam. The teacher can do the same for thin and introduce more pictures and adjectives Ц fat, short, etc.

If you set up the context through a picture or short dialogue, rather than using a text, you may want to ask some simple questions to make sure than the students have a general understanding of the context. In the example dialogue given on p. 132, for example, the teacher would need to check that the students understand that the people are at an airport, that one is the Customs Officer and the other is a traveler.

2        The situation should lead naturally to a sentence using the language to be taught Ц the model or target sentence.

Example

In the lesson presenting comparative adjectives above, the target sentence is TomТs taller than Sam and other sentences can be generated using the pattern XТs Еer than Y. You can then say the target language and/or write it on the board.

3        Check that the students have grasped the meaning of the structure. (See How can you check students have understood what is being presented? on p. 138.)

4        Practice saying the target language. Concentrate on the pronunciation. (See Section 3: Pronunciation.) Let the students repeat after you or from a model provided on cassette. They can do this together and then individually. (If the structure is one that is usually written but not spoken, this stage can be omitted.)

5        Give further practice. This is usually less controlled than the repetition practice and can involve pair work or group work.

6        Then write up* the language structure. At this stage a clear record of what has gone on before is given. Try to make the record the students copy from the board as memorable and integrated as possible (not just a list of unrelated sentences). Whenever possible elicit from the students the language you write on the board. This serves as a further check that they understand and remember what you have presented. Name the structure/function using clear headings, and give information about the form and/or use where appropriate.

For example:

o         note whether the words in the structure are nouns, adjectives, pronouns, etc;

o         mark the sentence stress and intonation and note any contractions (see Section 3: Pronunciation);

o         give the grammar rule (in this lesson: to make comparative adjectives of words of one syllable, add Цer);

o         note any special features of the spelling (if the word ends in a single consonant letter, double it: for example, fat à fatter, thin à thinner).

If you are using translation with a monolingual group you can also write up the translation, if appropriate. Give examples of the language item in sentences, perhaps in the form of a substitution table. If possible, try to make the examples personal and memorable for the students.


Example

I am (IТm)


Sonja.

You are (YouТre)


Tomas.

Rick is (HeТs)

taller than

his brother

We are (WeТre)


our parents

On average Americans are (TheyТre)


Mexicans


Other means of helping to understanding to understand and remember the meaning can be added - by using Сtime-linesТ, for example (see p. 138). Give the students time to copy the information in their note books or to make a note of where the information is recorded in their course book.

Whether you want to do more than this depends on the language item and the class. Further practice may be needed in the form of guided and/or freer practice, integrated into skills work Ц as part of the same lesson or on another day. You may also want to set some homework to practice the new language. In the lessons that follow you can try to build in activities that will re-activate the language item. Often students need a little time for the new item to Сsink inТ Ц they may recognize it, but often delay putting it into active use.

What are the possible stages in a lesson using the deductive approach?

Again, there is no one way of presenting a structure using a deductive approach. However, one possible way of staging such a lesson is as follows:

1                    Present the structure and explain the СruleТ in a way that involves the students.

Examples

In order to compare ways of talking about the future you could put two sentences on the board: IТm seeing her tomorrow and OK, IТll see her tomorrow and ask the students to discuss the difference in the situation and the meaning.

With a function you could give the students a number of exponents and ask them to group them Ц perhaps according to degree of formality Ц and then discuss when and with which people you would use such expressions. For example, with requests Ц Open the window. Can you open the window? Open the window, would you? Do you think you could open the window? Would you like to open the window? I donТt suppose you could open the window for me, could you? etc.

2                    Write up the language structure(s). (See Stage 6 in the inductive lesson above.)

3                    Set up some activities so that the students can practice using the language in a meaningful context Ц perhaps in a role-play, a discussion or in a piece of writing. The practice can often be integrated into skills work.

How can you check students have understood what is being presented?

There are a number of ways you can check that the students have understood the meaning of a language item and the way it is used. It makes sense to check their understanding before any controlled practice Ц otherwise they may just be repeating parrot-fashion!

Visuals

In addition to illustrating meaning, visuals can be used to check understanding.

Examples

Students can be asked to choose the picture that best illustrates the meaning of a particular word or sentence; to put pictures in order to show a sequence of events; or to match pictures and sentences, as in his example which compares the past simple and the past perfect.

Which sentence goes with which picture?

They started the meeting when she arrived.

TheyТd started the meeting when she arrived.

Time-lines are graphic ways of illustrating the use of tenses. For example:

for six months

now

OctoberApril

We arrived

for a period of time

WeТve been here for six months.

sincenow

OctoberApril

We arrived

since a point in time

WeТve been here since October.

now

pastI rememberedI sent

then

I remembered to send him a birthday card.

now

pastI sentI remember

then

I remember sending him a birthday card.

You can check studentsТ understanding by asking them to select the correct time-line, to label or even draw time-lines.


Concept questions

Concept questions are questions you ask students to check whether they understand the meaning of a language item. If you consider the concept questions when thinking about the language youТre going to teach this should help you get the meaning clear in your own mind. Until you have had considerable experience you will need to write the questions in your lesson plan and have them to hand at the appropriate stage of the lesson.

They should be:

o        simple and short. The language level should be below that of the students and certainly simpler than the language item you are focusing on. Try to design questions which only require a yes/no or a one-word answer from the students. One-word questions, for example Ц Past? and gestures such as a thumb over the shoulder to indicate the past together with a questioning expression are not only acceptable, they are preferable;

o        in language that does not include the language being checked in either the question or in the answer. If students donТt understand what you are checking, then your question will be meaningless and will not guide the students towards understanding;

o        varied and numerous. Often more than one question is needed for each aspect so that more than one student can be asked without the others picking up the СrightТ answer from the first student. However, concept checking must be done efficiently Ц youТve got to find a balance between asking too many questions and asking enough to satisfy yourself that the meaning has been grasped;

o        asked often and spread around the class. It is not usually possible to ask all the students in the class, but if you make sure you ask at least one of the slower students, their answers should give you a good indication of how well you have managed to get the meaning across.

Examples

1                    Past perfect to indicate an action that took place before another action in the past:

They had started the meeting when she arrived.

Was she there at the beginning of the meeting? (No)

Did they start the meeting before or after she arrived? (Before)

Did she miss the start of the meeting? (Yes)

Did she miss the meeting? (No, not all of it, just the beginning)

Was she late for the meeting? (Yes)

2                    A polite request Ц a young man to a woman who is sitting near him in a restaurant:

Would you mind if I smoked?

Does the man want a cigarette? (Yes)

Does the man know the woman very well? (No)

Why does he ask her? (He is polite. He doesnТt want to upset her)

Does everyone like smoking? (No)

Is he asking before or after he has the cigarette? (Before)

How would you ask a friend the same question? (Is it OK if I smoke? etc)

(See also Section 2: Vocabulary for examples of СconceptТ questions used to check the understanding of vocabulary items.)

Translation

This is only possible with monolingual groups but it can cut down on lengthy, laborious explanations Ц particularly at lower levels. You can check the studentsТ understanding by asking them to translate words or sentences. However, it is dangerous for students to assume that a word-forЦword translation is always available. Often the connotation of a word which is looked up in a dictionary is not fully appreciated and consequently the word is used inappropriately. Also, you may not want students to get into the habit of translating every language item they meet.

Task 1.

Aim

To give practice in drawing Сtime-linesТ to illustrate the meaning of structures.


Procedures

1                    Draw time-lines to illustrate the meaning of the following structures:

a)                 IТve been here since four oТclock.

b)                 He was going round the corner when he lost control of the car.

c)                 This time next week weТll be lying on the beach in Florida.

d)                 IТm using this office while mine is being decorated.

2                    If possible, show your time-lines to a colleague, a high-level student, your supervisor, someone not in EFL for their comments.

Comment

Of the people who were shown your time-lines, who understood them easily, who had the most difficulty/ Why do you think this was?

Task 2

Aim

To give practice in writing questions to check that students understand new language.

Procedure A

1Write concept questions to check the understanding of particular language items. For example:

aI wish theyТd come.

bHe used to go fishing every week.

cShe must have gone out.

2Swap questions around and get each set modified or developed by others in your group.

3Discuss.

Procedure B

1                                            Write concept questions for a particular structure.

2                                            Ask colleagues to try to guess what is being checked.

Procedure C

1                                            Get each person in your group to prepare concept questions for different items.

2                                            Shuffle the items and questions.

3                                            Get the whole group to match them.

Task 3

Aim

To consider the most suitable approach to use when presenting and practising a structure.

Procedure

1                                            Think about a class you are familiar with Ц perhaps your TP group or a class you are observing.

2                                            Which approach would you use Ц inductive or deductive Ц to present or revise the following structures? How would you illustrate and check the studentsТ understanding of the meaning of the structures?

aThe present perfect to talk about experience of events before СnowТ: for example, IТve seen СCatsТ six times.

bWays of expressing likes and dislikes: for example, I really likeЕ, I hate Е, I absolutely adore Е, I canТt stand Е, etc.

cA comparison of the uses of so and such: for example, HeТs such a good dancer. HeТs so good. We had such good weather. The weather was so good. ThatТs such good news.

3Compare your ideas with a colleague.

Comment

1                                            You may, of course, consider that these structures are not suitable for your class or that you would choose different examples to illustrate the language.

2                                            You may be able to try out your ideas in a lesson with the class.


* When you write the language up on the board depends to some extent on the students Ц some feel more secure if they can see the target language written up as soon as it is focused on. You can put the target or model sentence on the board (in Step 2 above) and then add to it after oral practice (in Step 6). Or you can write up the sentence but rub it off before oral practice. In this way the students are listening to, rather than reading, the sentence and their own pronunciation is likely to be better as a result.


—траницы: 1, 2, 3


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