3.2 Grammar within a Communicative Approach
3.3 Teaching Grammar
3.4 Inductive Approaches
3.5 Deductive Approaches
3.6 Error Tolerance and Correction
A communicative approach does not imply that the teaching ofgrammar is ofsecondary importance or that fluency should be sought at the expense of accuracy. If the learners are to be able to find their own way and process the input encountered in authentic texts they will need an understanding of the system ofwords and rules that underlies the language they are learning. It is also important to inculcate habits of accuracy in pupils alongside the confidence to speak/write fluently.
The General Activity 11,5 in particular requires learners to engage in activities designed to develop their grammatical knowledge and skills:
Consulting reference materials (e.g. dictionaries and grammars) relating to the vocabulary and grammar of the target language
- Using vocabulary correctly and appropriately with the help of dictionaries.
- Learning to cope with simple grammatical terminology relating to the target language. Using target language forms correctly on the basis of explanations in grammars written in English, Irish or in the target language.
3.2 Grammar within a communicative approach
(a) Current approaches to grammar teaching point to the need to locate it within the communicative function. Understanding the rules of grammar should not be an end in itself. Learners should be helped to recognise the communicative value of grammatical structures. Grammatical structure appears to develop in learners' speech in response to communicative need i.e. learners acquire a form and the ability to use it productively when it assumes a critical role for the learner in communicating essential information.
(b) Formal and extensive grammar presentations should be restricted. Exercises that require practice of mechanical drills in which students have no choice in their answers are of limited utility. More effective learning may result from exercises where the context requires students to choose between alternative responses. Making the correct choice should arise from comprehension of the text rather than purely displaying knowledge of the grammatical rule.
The following exercise illustrates the point made in (b) above:
3.3 Teaching Grammar
Pupils also learn best when what has to be learnt is contextualised. In authentic materials language is presented in context with a fimction beyond mere demonstration of a grammatical point. Teachers might utilise authentic recordings and other texts more extensively in the teaching of grammar.
3.4 Inductive Approaches
Current approaches to grammar teaching are based on the realisation that the learner possesses his/her own inbuilt system and thar some subconscious processes are impervious to outside manipulation. Studies of second language acquisition suggest that a consciousness-raising approach to grammar which requires learners, either deductively or inductively, to become aware of features of the target language may help them to acquire an explicit knowledge of the target language grammar, which may, eventually, feed into the acquisition process.
Where it is found necessary to conduct these activities in English a move back to using the target for examplanation can be made. To facilitate this learners should be help to familiarize themselves with the linguistic conventions and expressions that can be used for this purpose.
3.5 Inductive approaches
An inductive approach encourages students to discover for themseelves the underlying patterns, structures etc. of the target language. This could be based on deliberately organised contrasting examples of that structure. Different colour marker pens can be used to highlight various grammatical aspects of the input (e.g. masculine/feminine forms) and students then asked to describe what they perceive t o be the underlying pattern or explanation. If learners are required to exercise intellectual effort by forming and testing hypotheses about a targeted feature of the linguistic system of the other language this may result in greater retention. In the following chain of exercises, learners begin by identifying the grammatical item in a text and consider the function of that item. They then explore further the nature or pattern of the grammatical item, i.e. adjective and adjectival endings.
In exercise A, 3 learners consider the function of the adjectival endings. In exercise A, 4 learners are provided with more information about adjectival endings. They may have come to discover this information for themselves when completing the previous exercises.
In exercise B learners relate the examples of adjectives they have been focusing on t o four categories illustrating adjectival endings. They are asked to discover/identifi/any rules or patterns they perceive.
In exercise C they apply their newly acquired knowledge to another text in which they have to select an appropriate adjective and adjectival ending. Thus learners' ability to transfer what they have learned to new (but parallel situations) is being developed.
3.6 Deductive approaches
In a deductive approach students are given an explanation of the grammatical pattern or structure in question with some examples. In both approaches follow-up exercises can test in various ways the students' comprehension of the pattern in question. For example, in a cloze test students might have to decide which tense, mood or verb is correct in the given context. The test items should be different instances from the txampJca 50 that the students' ability to transfer what they have learned to new (but parallel situations) is being tested. The active, rather than passive, participation of the students is very important. In the following example the learners are given some information and then required to use this information to draw conclusions for themselves. Such activities involving active participation may also result in greater retention.
In the following example learners are initially given more information about the grammatical item under consideration rather than discovering this information for themselves
3.7 Error tolerance and correction
Learners' errors are considered to be an integral part of the language learning process from which we can gain very significant insights. It has been suggested that first and second language learners make errors in order to test out certain hypotheses about the nature of the language they are learning. Errors may orten be the result of learners' generalisations about features of the target language on the basis of a number of possible sources of knowledge. This may be based on knowledge of language including the target language, mother tongue, other languages, the communicative functions of language and world knowledge.
3.8 The teacher can play an important role in this whole process by providing feedback for learners on the basis of their performance. Positive feedback and motivation through praise are considered to be much more effective than negative feedback in changing pupil behaviour. It is important not to place undue emphasis on error correction. Fluency and accuracy are, at the same time, essential features of communication. Therefore a balanced approach is called for.
3.9 Error tolerance should be based on a recognition of the priority of message transfer - generally errors should not be corrected immediately unless they lead to a breakdown of communication. Errors noted in the course of learners' speech and/or writing could be the focus of whole class analysis at a later period. Learners could also be involved in the correction of classmates' mistakes.