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. 

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