Grammar Pop Ups

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12 thoughts on “Grammar Pop Ups”

  1. Agreed. I think it also encourages students to consciously focus on form during communication time. Which will encourage grammar/form questions. This will be especially so for those students who have previous form-only training and and whose good grades were based on form over meaning.
    During reading the flow of the story is right in front of them and we can more easily refocus on the story line.

  2. Maintaining what Nathaniel calls “the flow of the story” is so important. I agree with you that one should not interrupt story-asking with pop-up grammar. But why interrupt the flow of the story during the reading time?

    I would take what Ben said (which is 100% accurate) a step further and say we should not do any explicit grammar instruction until students have completely finished the story, written it out as a class, and read their retell. They need to be able to process the meaning first, then write out their ideas, finally edit.

    We learn grammar when reading for meaning; reading while focused on the “flow of the story,” not the structures. Reading is precisely when grammar acquisition happens, so don’t stop that flow.

    Foreign language teachers can take a sigh of relieve here: beginning readers (most of your kids) don’t need any explicit grammar instruction. Krashen says “it is more efficient to delay grammar study until the student has read a great deal” as intermediate and advanced readers. He even recommends no explicit grammar instruction for the first several years of reading instruction for all children: even monolinguals.

    Explicit grammar instruction has no place in a conversation or story. In my opinion, it has no place in a beginning language class.

    1. All depends on your take on the concept of reactive focus on form and on what you mean by explicit instruction.

      When a learner tries to say something and errs, when a student’s comprehension breaks down, when a learner asks about a form they have noticed, then many SLA researchers would say this could exemplify a “readiness” for acquisition of that form and they would then justify a quick explicit (or implicit) explanation, always based on meaning (e.g. the -o at the end means “I”).

      When you establish meaning in the L1, then that is explicit instruction (e.g. “como” means “I eat”). Is that vocabulary or grammar instruction? BOTH!!!

      If that knowledge can then be used in the future for learners to better process the incoming input, then it was beneficial to acquisition.

      But how often does explicit instruction happen this way? Reactively? In the midst of communication? Focused on meaning? Short explanation?

      We really do not have the research to support conclusively whether or not such a 5-10 second reactive focus on form (grammar pop-ups) is helpful in the classroom or not.

      And remember as well that we don’t only have to teach for acquisition. We can also teach for learning, since it will help a learner function at a higher level of his current acquired competence. We don’t have to discourage all monitoring.

      1. I agree with Eric here. I never plan pop-up grammar ahead of time, but when I see students strugglng to understand, which with my English learners is often caused by word order, I do a quick pop-up with the structure which is bothering them. Students can understand all the individual words yet not grasp certain structures. Who told Tris to attack first? Who did Four tell to attack first? The difference seems simple to us but not to native French speakers. A brief explanation can erase that frown from their face.

          1. Okay. I teach English as a Second Language. I’m always on the lookout for fellow ESL teachers. EFL sounds fun too.

      2. I like that you mentioned that some elements of language overlap: “como” is vocabulary and grammar. From and outsider’s perspective (up until this year) Foreign Language teachers have a bad reputation for being grammar-centric. There is so much more to language production than grammar. Foreign language students will likely not need this ever, but over the course of many years (mostly second) language learners need to develop all traits of writing: content, organization, word choice, conventions (including grammar), style/voice. Grammar is strictly right or wrong; this is off-putting for novices. Teaching other writing traits values the content (good for them for really listening to the story) and students’ unique voice (some kids don’t know writing with a sense of humor can be a good thing)-not just obsessing about grammar.

        “We don’t have to discourage all monitoring.”
        This is important and true. Krashen’s Monitoring Hypothesis states that monitoring is successful in helping students “polish” their language production, but only when they have to have time (in addition to an initial incubation period), awareness that it’s “editing” time /a focus on correctness, and knowledge of the rule. That’s why I feel strongly that editing (only with advanced students) should be done as a “stand alone” step –you can bring in a “pop up grammar” lesson, sure, but you also need to give students time to process and polish. Pop-up grammar is a succinct, brief message from teachers, but it needs to be followed by a lot of quiet, low-pressure time for kids to edit. Low pressure can come from referring to writing as “drafts” and offering small group support.

        “We can also teach for learning, since it will help a learner function at a higher level of his current acquired competence.”
        Also true–without monitoring, advanced ELLs in particular wouldn’t grow. So many ELLs become “lifers” (receiving ESL services for life) fail to refine the finer points of language that would get them up to grade level.

        Eric, lots of people here understand a great deal about acquisition for (beginning) foreign language students, but you clearly have the fullest breadth of understanding about the full scope of a language and literacy development: including the pedagogy of language and literacy for mastery, like second language learning.

  3. Crickets from me on this …I disagree with the dismanteling of what we know works for story-based language classes. I will stand-by and listen but not really seeing what you are trying to accomplish on these anti-TPRS posts Ben.

    Just when TPRS has more strength then ever before we are trying to reconstruct it? I don’t get it….

    1. Or deconstruct!

      Dust will settle, Michael. It always does.

      I, too, am feeling confused, but out of the mess of the clay thrown around on this blog, some pretty nice pottery generally emerges. I for one am firmly anchored with what my students tell me makes them feel that they are understanding better. And that’s enough for now.

    2. It is a lot of change at once, but I wouldn’t say anti-TPRS. Innovating and trying to refine our craft is very pro-TPRS. Taking the focus off of grammar and putting it squarely on the story (as in the above post) is the essence of TPRS.

  4. I think I get it.

    Ben’s fight is for teachers. His fight is for classrooms of the future. His fight is for Krashen in the classroom. He’s soaring at new heights in his comprehension-based classroom instruction and some of the things he is or is not doing differ from TPRS.

    With regards to this post, I think I rarely, if ever, do grammar pop-ups during stories.

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