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Lecture 5 What a language student should learn. Teaching Grammar.

Key questions:

1. The role of TG in FLT.

2. Content of TG.

3. Principles of Gr. selection.

4. Types of ex-s for TG.

5. Assessment of Gr.


The subject of grammar is the knowledge of how to construct a sentence. Grammar is concerned with the construction of written and oral sentences. Grammar describes language device to use a finite number of rules that can generate all the sentences of a language. Grammar can also explain sentence construction and tell grammatical sentences from the ungrammatical ones. Sentences can be perceived as grammatical despite possible language inaccuracies and slips (transposition, omission, redundancy, and overgeneralization) and language twists (ellipsis, tags, and anaphoric starts).

Grammar knowledge can be declarative and procedural. Declarative knowledge is what can be demonstrated as the knowledge of rules and/or examples. Procedural knowledge is what can be applied in the process of communication.

According to some theories, declarative knowledge does not become procedural knowledge Krashen, S. 1982. Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon). Other views hold that "learned" knowledge can help in developing procedural grammar skill (McLaughlin, B. 1987 ).

Knowledge of the items and rules that comprise the formal grammar system of the language is called linguistic competence. Within the theoretical framework developed by Chomsky it is necessary to distinguish competence and performance. "Competence" refers to what the language users know and "performance" to the use of this knowledge in communication (Chomsky, N. 1965.Ellis, R. 1996. P. 712).

Procedural grammar knowledge that is formed in the language user's mind is called mental grammar. It consists of the rules that the learners have internalized and is not the "imprinting" of the normative grammar. That is why learners' utterances can be erroneous with the reference to the norms of the target language, but not to their own "mental grammar".(Ellis, R. 1996. P. 352-353).

Types of grammar activities. Grammar activities can be of the following types:

· language analysis for induction of (using examples to generate a rule) and deduction from the rules (giving examples based on a rule),

· formal drill such as substitution, completion and transformation,

· functional drill such as receiving training in expressing a certain grammar meaning (e.g. futurity, priority of actions, types of modality etc)

· meaningful drill such using grammar in a broader situational context (writing a story or acting out a role-play with a grammar focus in mind)

Grammar drill. Grammar drill is a teaching/learning activity, which emphasizes rote learning, memorization and automation of language. Grammar drill does not necessarily have to be a meaningless mechanical task. An effective alternative is the "meaningful drill", in which the learners repeatedly use identical language in order to develop the necessary skill, but every time they use the structure, they convey a certain communicative message.

Logic of teaching grammar. Logic of teaching grammar is the art of arranging a sequence of teaching actions to take the learners from the state of grammatical ignorance to the state of grammatical knowledge. There are at least three major steps in teaching grammar of a foreign/second language: explanation of grammar rules, practicing common patterns and using the language in a variety of realistic communicative situations (McKay S. 1987. Nunan D. 1991). The logic of teaching grammar is not linear (the steps do not necessarily follow one another. Instead, this logic is cyclical, i.e. some steps are repeated in cycles. The cycle of teaching grammar is shown graphically below:

The process of forming “declarative grammar” involves “isolation” of the grammar item that is chosen for teaching. The learners are taught to “notice” new grammar items in the oral and written language and to comprehend the material with the help of rules and examples. The new grammar item is “integrated” in the existing “mental grammar” of learners. This process creates grammar competence in learners, i.e. declarative theoretical knowledge of how grammar works.

Procedural grammar develops from accuracy to fluency (Ur, P.1996. P. 75-89) in communicating a message. At the "accuracy" stage the learner's attention is drawn to the correct language. At the "fluency" stage the attention is shifted to the communicative messages. Teaching “procedural grammar” starts with the formal drill, i.e. practicing grammar structures with the focus on language accuracy.

The next step is functional drill i.e. teaching how to express grammar meaning in separate sentences (saying what a driver should not do when coming across road-signs). The ability to express grammar meaning is necessary for the learners to pass over to the meaningful drill i.e. communicating a message in a situational setting with a certain grammar focus (e.g. commenting on what people are doing in the photos from the family album and focusing on Present Progressive).

Acquisition of procedural grammar first involves computation during language production. Structures have to be consciously constructed and planning has to take place some distance in advance. Before the utterance is actually pronounced the sentence is built in the learners’ minds first (Skehan, P. 1998. P. 30). Gradually the language gets memorized as chunks, i.e. collocations (e.g. “have got”, “has done” etc). Internal language processing (computation) gives way to lexicalized chunks. They function as "islands of reliability" for the language users.

Date: 2014-12-22; view: 2472

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