Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Shrum and Glisan, "Story-based Approach to Grammar"

Shrum and Glisan, "Using a Story-Based Approach to Teach Grammar"

Learners need to be put into situations where they need to use grammar structures in order for them to acquire these structures. The implicit approach to teaching grammar makes the teacher a facilitator and the students active participants. Words and phrases only have meaning when they are connected to a whole context. The "story-based" approach places grammatical principles in a larger context thereby emphasizing meaning over form. The story approach also incorporates Krashen's idea of comprehensible input because it provides meaningful input. 
The storytelling presentation can be done using a folktale, legend, TPR demonstration, listening segment, authentic document, or "a demonstration of a real-life, authentic task, such as playing a sport or doing a science experiment" (154). It should be an authentic, natural story and not stilted. The presentation should incorporate audience interaction. The teacher and students co-construct grammatical explanations. 
I wonder how feasible it is to use this type of lesson to teach every grammatical concept. Should all grammar principles be embedded within stories? Are there other types of activities that can lead students to an understanding of how to use the subjunctive mood, for example.  

Monday, October 29, 2012

VanPatten Epilogue: Implications for Teaching

VanPatten, Epilogue: Implications for Teaching (p. 102-114)

The first major implication for teaching that VanPatten suggests is "the more input the better" (102). VanPatten suggests that the Natural Approach be used in the classroom because it mostly closely correlates with the natural stages of language acquisition. Some of the natural approach techniques include: TPR, vocabulary presentations, and using pictures to aid meaning-making. VanPatten also suggests that students should have an active role in creating meaning by being engaged in frequent interactions in the L2. The teacher should foster activities that have communicative intent. Communication should focus on meaning rather than form (102). Output should also be communicative. Structured output, where learners focus on practicing using one grammatical form, can be used as long as it still expresses genuine meaning. 
Teachers can provide grammar instruction through recasts, clarification requests, and text enhancement. Lastly, teachers should be careful not to expect their students to produce more than they are capable of before they are ready. For example, beginning learners should not be expected to speak in complete sentences right away. In fact, "initial stages of learning should be comprehension-oriented" (VanPatten 112). 
I hope that I can align my instruction with what I have learned about second language acquisition. I have learned that there is a natural order or hierarchy to language acquisition. All communication should be meaning-based. Therefore, repetition and imitation are not useful in the long-term because while the learner can access these prefabricated phrases and patterns quickly, they do not encourage the learner to form production strategies. Grammar should be taught implicitly through indirect corrections such as recasts. It seems strange to me that more classrooms do not use the Natural Approach to language acquisition since it is so clearly backed by theory and research. 

VanPatten Chapter 5: Frequently Asked Questions

VanPatten, Chapter 5: Frequently Asked Questions, pg. 77-99
This chapter considered some interesting frequently asked questions including: What about first language use in the classroom? Don't imitation and repetition play a role in acquisition? Do learners develop bad habits if they aren't corrected? Doesn't giving learners rules help?
My gut instinct when I read the first question about L1 use in the classroom was that first language use is unacceptable in the second language classroom. However, VanPatten points out that learners' development of an implicit system does not depend on their ability to produce output. Output is necessary to develop skill in speaking and writing. However, beginning learners may need to use the L1 because "they have not built up the output processing abilities... or because they are trying to get a fix on a task or seek clarification from their classmates" (VanPatten 80). Once learners gain more familiarity with the tasks they are expected to do and develop the production strategies they need in the L2 to produce output their L1 use is likely to drop off. 
Imitation and repetition are mistakenly thought to play an important role in language acquisition. It is true that repetition can increase a learner's speed at performing a task but they won't be able to create new, original sentences. Learners should not be corrected overtly because that won't produce a lasting change in the implicit system. Rather, learners should be corrected indirectly. This can happen if the teacher recasts or rephrases what the learner says. This is definitely going to influence my language instruction. Rather than telling students directly what they are saying incorrectly, I will rephrase what they are saying back to them using correct language and syntax.
Finally, rules help learners "produce output... because they sensitive learners to input" (VanPatten 87). However, learning rules is still explicit learning and therefore does not lead directly to acquisition. Another reason rules are helpful is because they enable the learner to produce certain types of speech while the learner is still acquiring the language via the natural mechanisms. I still don't quite understand how this fits in. How can rules be taught explicitly without interfering with the natural acquisition process?

VanPatten Chapter 4: Output

VanPatten, Chapter 4: Output p. 61 - 76

This chapter addresses the questions: What is output? How do learners make output? What is the role of output in the learner's linguistic system?
Output is defined by VanPatten as "language that a learner produces to express some kind of meaning" (62). That means that parrots are not producing genuine output, because they do not know what they are communicating. Learners must have "communicative intent" when speaking. 
The two processes involved in learners making output are access and production strategies. Access is "activating the lexical items and grammatical forms necessary to express particular meanings" (63). Production strategies are a hierarchy of strategies that speakers use to communicate. The hierarchy ascends from the most basic language production tools to more difficult procedures. For example, the lowest procedure in the hierarchy is lemma, or being able to access words. The next is category procedure, which refers to the ability to add inflections to words such as the "ed" ending for the past tense.
The role of output in the learner's creation of an implicit system is a facilitative, helper role. Learners who need to be able to produce output are more likely to pay attention to the syntax and structure of the input (69). Output can be the catalyst that encourages learners to become better at processing input. This was the part of the chapter that I connected to most. I have found myself trying really hard to pay attention to Spanish speakers' syntax in order to pick up more types of phrasing so that I can add them to my production strategies. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Storyetlling in Curtain and Dahlberg, Ch 3, p. 57-73

Curtain and Dahlberg. Languages and Children. Ch 3, p. 57-73.

    The Natural Approach to language development emphasizes that there are predictable stages of language production that can be expected of the language learner. The first stage is pre-production. TPR demonstrations are done and student are not expected to speak. The second stage is Early Speech Production, where students can respond to yes or no questions, either-or, single or two-word answers, and open-ended sentences. The third stage of the Natural Approach emphasizes activities, games, and problem-solving activities.

     Within the second stage there is an order of questioning that teachers should use that proceeds from the easiest level that requires no oral response to the most difficult level of open-ended questioning (57).
1) Who has the cheese? Student point to the cheese.
2) Does Helena have the cheese?
3) Does Helena have the cheese or the bread?
4) What does Helena have?
5) What did Duane do this time? Or... Tell us about the cheese.
       The text mentions that some teachers have this order posted in their classroom. I definitely want to keep the order of questioning in mind during my instruction. It is easy to want to make students "repeat after me" at first when you should really not be forcing them to respond orally before they are ready.

      The Gouin Series is similar to Total Physical Response. It differs in that there are six to eight "short statements describing a logical sequence of actions that take place in a specific context, such as getting up in the morning, cooking a meal, or making a phone call" (67).  During the Gouin series the teacher repeats the series of actions and pantomimes them. Then the students pantomime while the teacher repeats the series of actions orally. Lastly each student volunteers to pantomime "solo" while the teacher repeats it. I would like to try out the Gouin Series to see how effective it is and how it feels to teach using this more structured approach as opposed to circling questions during TPR.

Implicit Instruction Improves Scores on Grammaticality Judgment Test

Winitz, Harris. "Grammaticality Judgment as a Funciton of Explicit and Implicit Instruction in Spanish." 

The goal of this study was to determine whether implicit instruction or explicit grammar instruction resulted in higher scores on a grammaticality judgment test. The experiment was administered in college Spanish classes. One group of students was taught using implicit instruction: Total Physical Response activities, short reading passages, two Spanish books, and audio-casette listening assignments. Some of the TPR activities included: "pointing to objects, finding items in teh room, and acting out scripts" (36). Their assessments included picture identification and drawing or sequencing that corresponded to what the teacher had said in Spanish (37). This group was also exposed to more comprehensible input in the target language. The control group was taught using explicit instruction including: pronunciation practice, grammatical rules, and vocabulary learned through translation. 
The grammaticality judgment test lists sentences in Spanish that are either allowable or not. For example, "La manzana de hombre gordo está en la mesa" is not allowed in Spanish. According to Krashen's theories, quantity and quality of comprehensible input is the key factor influencing language acquisition. This experiment confirmed his theory. Students in the implicit instruction group scored much higher on the grammaticality judgment test that students in the explicit group.

The article talks a lot about the Monitor Hypothesis. I'm still a little confused about this idea. I believe that the main point is that students monitor the output they are producing based on the grammatical rules they have learned. If they are taught implicitly then they are less likely to censor themselves and more likely to produce output, whether correct or incorrect. Learning grammar explicitly causes students to be more self-conscious about what they are saying and therefore less likely to say it. Am I on target?

Teaching Semantic Sets of Vocab Words Interferes with Learning

Erten and Tekin, "Effects on vocabulary acquisition of presenting new words in semantic sets versus semantically unrelated sets." (2007). 

People have vocabulary organized in their minds in patterns or semantic sets. Semantic sets are word groups where the words have closely related meanings or share common elements. Students tend to "recall words on the basis of the semantic field in which they are conceptually mapped" (408). As a result, many language textbooks organize words into semantic sets. There is evidence, however, that this can interfere with students' learning of vocabulary. 
For this study sixty fourth graders were taught eighty new vocabulary words. The fourth graders learned four sets of words: two groups of semantically unrelated vocabulary words and two groups of related words. The study indicates that students recalled semantically unrelated words more accurately and more quickly than semantically related words. This is because teaching vocabulary words that are too closely connected at the same time can "cause interference due to cross-association and may even hinder vocabulary learning" (407).
I connected to this article personally, because in high school my AP Spanish teacher taught us vocabulary using semantic sets. For example, she had us learn 30 vocabulary words for different types of fruits and vegetables in one week. To this day I cannot tell you how to say "olive" or "melon" in Spanish. Now I know that's because learning words that were too closely connected caused interference. 
The text suggests that teachers organize instruction around a theme as opposed to semantic relationships. For example, "Sweater, changing room, try on, wool, striped" would be a better group of words to teach than "scarf, tie, coat, pants, and skirt" (409). I will definitely take this into consideration when I am teaching. 

Authentic Video Increases Language Output, Listening Comp, and Confidence

Weyers, Joseph. "The Effect of Authentic Video on Communicative Competence." 1999. 
This article was about an experiment done testing whether or not having students watch "authentic videos" increased their oral comprehension, communicative competence, and language output. The students were second semester college Spanish students. The rationale for the experiment was that students' language comprehension is dependent on the "quantity and quality of comprehensible input" (340). Telenovelas can be considered quality input because they are more authentic, meaningful, and affectively engaging to students than cookie-cutter educational programs. 
The experimental group improved in listening comprehension as a result of the intervention. The intervention also increased their language output and confidence speaking the language. It did not have a statistically significant effect on the style or quality of the output they produced.

I connected to this article immediately because when I took AP Spanish in high school our teacher had us watch telenovelas of our choosing at home every week. I think it would have been even more beneficial if she approached it the way these experimenters did and pre-taught some of the vocabulary in the telenovela ahead of time or provided an advanced organizer with an outline of the events and characters in the show. 
I also find it interesting that watching the telenovelas improved students' speaking confidence. It makes sense in terms of connectionist theory that watching, listening, and talking about the authentic video would improve language acquisition since they are receiving the input through multiple modalities. It also lowers the affective filter since telenovelas have simple, accessible story lines. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Curtain and Dahlberg, Chapter 2: Creating an Environment for Communication, p. 31- 47

      New information is stored in the brain that is meaningful and emotional. The four types of communicative competence are: grammatical competence, discourse competence, sociolinguistic competence, and strategic competence. An example of communication that is not "communicative" or does not carry meaning is asking a student "Are you a boy or a girl?" when you already know the answer. That is why speaking drills are ineffective; they do not carry valuable meaning or have "communicative purpose" (33).
      Some of the activities that can be used to facilitate meaningful communication include: games, songs, rhymes, and finger plays, hands-on experiences with props, stories, dialogues, role play, partner and small-group work and content-related instruction. 
      These ideas relate to what we talked about in class yesterday (10/22). We did an activity sharing with our groups. Most of the activities that were shared were some type of role play activity. Role play activities are great because they take place within a context (i.e. shopping, making crepes, bargaining in a market). My activity was a human scavenger hunt. The students look at pictures of various things (a football, piano, a family of four) and use the pictures to ask questions about their classmates' lives and interests. Since they are requesting new information from one another this activity has "communicative purpose."
     This chapter also emphasized the importance of using the target language for "regular classroom tasks, such as giving directions, organizing activities, and managing behaviors."This is significant because it sends the message to students that language is useful and works in authentic contexts. 

Curtain and Dahlberg, Chapter 1: Characteristics of Young Learners

Curtain and Dahlberg, Chapter 1: Characteristics of Young Learners  (p. 1-30)

     The reason that children learn languages better than adults is because they are acquiring it. However, it takes more than just plopping someone in an L2 environment for them to learn a language. The input has to be comprehensible, or on a level at or slightly above what they can understand (Krashen).  An example of this is caretaker speech or teacherese. Adults speak more slowly, use less complex sentences, gestures, meaning checks, and concrete referents when talking to babies and toddlers.
SLA theory proposes that language which learners are exposed to should be "as natural as possible... that the past tense should not be postponed" (4). I agree with this theory; however, I wonder how a teacher could keep the speech natural while also not exceeding the "i+1." 
       Second language acquisition is much more complex than behaviorists suggest. Behaviorists believe that people are motivated by external reward and behavior is increased as a result. Cognitive psychologists believe that "internal motivation drives the learning process" (8). The learner is an active participant in their learning and, as a result, their response, emotions, and personality matter. The brain will store information that is meaningful, attached to a context, and novel. Therefore, drilling grammar out of context is not good practice and will most likely not be stored long term since it is not meaningful input. The affective filter needs to be lowered in order for learning to take place (10). Learning also is more readily constructed through social interaction such as "games, role-plays, partner and small group activities" (8). 
       Children ages 4 through 10 years old interpret the world "in terms of absolutes" (16). Fantasy and emotion are important aspects of learning. An instructional practice that stems from that is that instruction should have a story-like quality with a strong beginning, middle, and end. Instruction should also "have strong emotional and moral appeal" (16). Children ages 8 or 9 through 15 years old are more interested in their internal world, realistic detail, and heroic characters. This chapter offers lots of fantastic, detailed information about what types of learning activities to do with children of different ages. I would like it if we could discuss this idea in class in more depth. How do instructors plan instruction differently for different age groups?

Curtain and Dahlberg, Introduction

Curtain and Dahlberg, Introduction xix-xxiii

      The author has a particularly helpful page of key concepts for success on page xxi. I like that this book opens with a list of the way that children learn languages best because it is a good reference and guide. Constructivist theory is important to Curtain and Dahlberg; human beings are actively constructing an understanding of language. There is also an emphasis on "communicative contexts that carry significance for the student" (xxi). That means that students need to have a motivation to use the language and be using it in an authentic context in order to learn it. Some of the contexts that he includes are: "storytelling, music, games, rituals, drama, and celebrations." 
      After reading over this list is has made me really excited about the possibility of teaching a foreign language. I remember reading on the Kagan website about how dopamine, the chemical that regulates memory and learning, also is connected to pleasure. To oversimplify it, the more dopamine in the brain the more likely the student is to learn the material. Therefore, fun games and activities are not only beneficial but they are essential for student learning to take place. It requires a lot and work and preparation on the teacher's part but it is so much more rewarding to see students actively engaged in using the language and generating output than simply lecturing at them about grammar. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Kagan's Free Articles Online

Kagan's Free Articles

Willis, J. Cooperative Learning is a Brain Turn-On. San Clemente, CA: Kagan Publishing. Kagan Online Magazine,Fall/Winter 2009.

     I found a fascinating article on the Kagan website called "Cooperative Learning is a Brain Turn-On." We have been learning a lot in EDIS 5480 about why social interaction is invaluable to language acquisition. This article addressed why that is the case. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter involved in memory storage and executive functions. It is also linked to pleasure and rewards. People are more likely to learn and remember when what they are doing is linked to a positive, rewarding sensation of dopamine release. Social interactions are rewarding, motivating, and pleasurable and cause dopamine to be released. Therefore, more dopamine is available to help the brain store memories. Ta da!
    Another reason that social interaction increases language acquisition is because using productive speech and doing constructive activities embeds the information in multiple parts of the brain including the auditory and visual memory areas. It is more beneficial for students to be constructing meaning by actively discussing and talking about it: "students experienced a greater level of understanding of concepts and ideas when they talked, explained, and argued about them with their group, instead of just passively listening to a lecture or reading a text."

     I love this brain stuff! I want to go back and re-read this article. I found it fascinating and it totally relates to connectionism and what we have been talking about in class.

Cooperative Organization of Strategies for Oral Interaction

Naughton, Diane. "Cooperative Strategy Training and Oral Interaction: Enhancing Small Group Communication in the Language Classroom."

According to SLA theory, social interaction is necessary for language to be transferred from input to output. Small group oral interaction is highly encouraged in language classrooms to facilitate the meaning-making process. However, small group interactions in a classroom are not always as beneficial as theory indicates. For example, some students are less motivated to negotiate meaning and choose instead to substitute a word in their L1.
This article was highlighting a study that taught formally English language learners several strategies for negotiating meaning during small group interaction and measured how much their language production ability improved as a result. They taught strategies from the Cooperative Organization of Strategies for Oral Interaction (COSOI) program. The strategies include: 1) using follow-up questions, 2) requesting and giving clarification, 3) repair "in which learners attempt to recast their own or another's non-target-like utterance in a target-like way," and 4) requesting and giving help (Naughton 172). The study concluded that there is value to formally teaching oral interaction strategies. n particular, strategy 4 was used more frequently by the experimental group. This is probably because "learners need to be encouraged to interact in this way because they are not necessarily oriented toward this type of behavior" (Naughton 177). 
It makes sense to me that learners need to be taught these behaviors. Although a language classroom is a great opportunity for social interaction, interacting in a different language presents several challenges that will likely raise the affective filter and make students less likely to challenge themselves and their partner to negotiate meaning effectively. Encouraging students to use these strategies would probably make those behaviors acceptable in the classroom and thereby facilitate more effective interactions in the L2. 

Using Literature to Teach Language and Culture

Moeller, Aleidine J. "Literature: A Rich Resource for Teaching Language and Culture in Context." 

This article discusses the need for foreign language students to interact with literature in their L2 while they are acquiring a language. Textbooks can often feel dry and inauthentic, whereas literature provides a valuable source of comprehensible input and an authentic, meaningful text that connects back to the culture of the L2. The author supports an approach to literature that focuses on the reader's response and personal experience. Some of the considerations when choosing a text are: linguistic level, length, vocabulary, age of students, reader motivation, "whether the text expands cognitive, aesthetic, and emotional development," and "whether the text promotes cultural understanding" (Moeller 35). 
The author provides a variety of types of activities that can be done with a work of literature. One example she gives of a pre-reading strategy is to introduce a picture depicting the story and ask the students to create a story about what they see in the picture. This seemed like a really innovative, fun, affectively engaging way to introduce a story. It gets students interacting using the L2, which is the goal, and gives them more motivation to find out what happens in the story. 
Another activity that I thought seemed valuable was the "$20,000 pyramid" activity, which is kind of like playing the game "Taboo" in your L2 with vocabulary words. One student has to describe six vocabulary words in a column. This game seems especially ideal for building proficiency and encouraging output while lowering the affective filter.
I believe that incorporating authentic, classic literature into the language learning experience is critical. Too often language learners are reading dry, contrived texts out of a textbook that don't offer a real meaningful, valuable, quality reading experience. I hope to incorporate some of these activities into my classroom. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Dialogue Journals In Learners' L1

Ewald, Jennifer. "Second Language Students Reflect on Their Own Dialogue Journals"

     Dialogue journals benefit students by allowing them to express concerns or questions about the class to the teacher in an informal way. This study was conducted with 129 Spanish language students at the Spanish 101 level. The difference between this study and many other studies is that the dialogue journals were completed in the learners' L1. The effectiveness of the journals was measured according to whether or not the dialogue journals in L1 had the benefits of: "promoting good dialogue, constructing meaning, and reducing banking model effect" (Ewald 55).

     The dialogue journals promoted good dialogue by giving timid students an opportunity to express themselves in writing. It gave the students a forum to say things to the teacher they wouldn't feel comfortable saying in class. The journals also helped the students construct meaning by giving them an opportunity to reflect on what they were learning. Additionally, the journals reduced the "banking model" by giving the students voice. Teachers who use dialogue journals communicate the idea that students are not passive recipients of information but rather active participants in their learning. The journals also proved to the students that the teacher cared about how they felt about learning.  

    I never thought about the possibility of having students write dialogue journals in their L1. This article definitely illuminated the benefit. If anything it is valuable for the students to realize that their thoughts and feelings are valued by the teacher no matter how well they speak or write the language. It seems like dialogue journals in learners' L1 are a great way to lower the affective filter Krashen talks about.