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Approaches to Grammar

Instruction in
Communicative Language
Aaron Royer, U.S. State Department English Language Fellow
What Do You Think?
Lets Discuss

What is grammar?

What role does grammar play in your

classroom? Do you teach it? If so, how?

Is grammar the unit you use to organize

your class? If not, what is?
Important Questions

What is the nature of language and how is

it represented in the brain?

How are second (and third, etc.) languages


What does it mean to speak a language?

What is communication?
All About Grammar
Defining Grammar

Pedagogical definitions tend to focus on


However, linguists define it as the

phonetics, phonology, syntax, morphology,
and semantics of a language

Does what you teach reflect this broader

So.. Should We
Teach It?
Pedagogical grammars
dont look much like
linguists grammars

Many modern
approaches based on
assumption SLA similar
to L1 acquisition

Krashens Acquisition
vs. Learning hypothesis

Can connect phrases in a simple way in
order to describe experiences and events,
dreams, hopes and ambitions. Can briefly
give reasons and explanations for opinions
and plans. Can narrate a story or relate the
plot of a book or film and describe my
CEFR B1 Speaking
Which Structures And When?

The ones theyre ready to acquire?

The most frequently used structures?

Decision always somewhat arbitrary

How Do We Teach And Assess It?

Via a set of pedagogical rules?

Inductive vs. deductive?

Paper and pencil test? Fill in the blank?

Approaches to Grammar Instruction

Focus on Forms Focus on Form Input Based

Arbitrarily choose Grammar is means Language taught
structures to an end through
Lessons revolve Choose structures comprehensible input
around a structure based on task No explicit grammar
Meaning is Lessons revolve instruction (in
secondary focus, at around a task traditional sense)
best Can be reactive or Some explicit
proactive instruction to draw
learners attention to
features of input
What Does CLT Say?
Fundamentals of CLT

Focus on communication: expression,

interpretation, and negotiation of meaning
in a given context for a specific purpose

Curriculum and lessons organized by tasks

Meaning over form

Focus on Form in CLT

Structures chosen based on requirements

of task

Can be done before (proactive) or during

(reactive) the task

Tasks also used as assessments of

grammatical knowledge
Focus on Form:
Reactive vs. Proactive

Proactive Reactive
Before task During task
Prepares students with Grammar instruction in
structures theyll need to response to student errors
complete task which affect task
Can be inductive or performance
deductive Can be explicit instruction
Focus should be on or recasts
meaning Select errors which most
affect meaning
Developing a CLT Grammar Lesson

Choose a task (perhaps from the CEFR or

ACTFL proficiency guidelines)

Be proactive: decide which structures

students need to know to do this task

Decide how to best present these

structures: inductive or deductive?
phonology? semantics? pragmatics?
Developing a CLT Grammar Lesson

Monitor students production during tasks

and provide reactive grammar instruction in
the form of recasts or short explanations

Assessment of students acquisition of

structures determined from successful
completion of task
Suggested Activities
Writing a Postcard

ACTFL, NH, writing: ..can write short

messages and notes on familiar topics
related to everyday life

What grammar and vocabulary is needed

to complete this task?

Greetings, closing statements

vacation vocab, simple sentences
Writing a Postcard

Proactive: analyze example postcards with

students and have them determine

Proactive: present grammar through these

examples (inductive)

Reactive: give students feedback on

structures as they draft postcards
Writing a Postcard

Final product (postcard) is evidence of

students acquisition of structures

Should ideally be authentic with a real


YouTube Recipe Video

ACTFL, NH, speaking: ..can give basic

instructions on how to make or do
something using phrases and simple

What grammar and vocabulary is needed

to complete this task?

Imperatives, present simple, food vocab

YouTube Recipe Video

Proactive: have students watch some

sample YouTube tutorials

Proactive: discuss and analyze language

in these tutorials

Reactive: give students as-needed

instruction as they work on their recipes
and tutorials
YouTube Recipe Video

Again, final product (recipe tutorial) is

evidence that they have acquired structures

Make more authentic by publishing for a

real audience
Your Turn
Potential Objectives

ACTFL, IL, Speaking: ..can express my

preferences on topics of interest (movies, tv
series, etc.) using a series of simple

ACTFL, NH, Writing: ..can write

information about my daily life in a letter,
blog, discussion board, or email message
Any questions?

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