"Oh, We Do That Next Year!"

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27 thoughts on “"Oh, We Do That Next Year!"”

  1. Matthew DuBroy

    Ben you say that the language properly spoken is what the grammar really is, and we say on here often that we teach the grammar implicitly through CI. What do we mean by this exactly?
    Do we just mean that they get the meaning of the sentence? In most language classes what happens is students learn grammar formally in order to get the meaning of a sentence. So they know what a subject is and a direct object, etc. etc. In that sense we never teach the grammar through CI because we don’t use that language (unless in advanced course perhaps one teaches grammar in the target language), so the students, at least through CI, don’t know what a direct object is. So again are we just saying they know the meaning so that when they see a direct object form they know it the action is being done to that (even if they do not explicit think in those terms because it is unconscious).
    What are we trying to affirm/defend when we say that we also teach the grammar but implicitly? Why not just say: of course we don’t teach grammar because it doesn’t help with comprehension and fluency; if later one you want to begin to edit things then a formal grammar study might be helpful.

  2. Good question. My thinking is that we need to be the ones who finally redefine the term grammar. Grammar is not editing, as you point out. They edit, but by speaking properly, we teach grammar, the real kind. So I think that if we were to say to a parent that we don’t teach grammar it would be an untruth. Teachers who still teach as they did in the 20th century – may God help their bored ass students – teach editing, and we teach grammar. They teach in two dimensions on flat paper on side of the brain. We teach in three dimensions on both sides of the brain. We don’t program robots to parrot fake language terms and memorize rules; we teach human beings real language, which is alive and teeming with grammar.

  3. Matthew DuBroy

    Would saying we teach kids to USE grammar instead of just teaching them grammar be what we are trying to say? It is hard for me to think of grammar as anything other than the formal study of grammar. But with a formal study of grammar a student can’t do anything with the language; they just know a lot about it. But we teach them to be able to use the language and in that sense use the grammar.
    I’m just thinking out loud here and I found this that seems to fit quite well with what we do and that I need to ponder more since I have equated grammar with its formal study (this is about teaching grammar for first language but I think it applies to teaching 2nd languages then):
    “We must not think about grammar as an academic study. Life is not for school; school is for life. We should always teach grammar for the simple reason that we always do teach grammar. If you are speaking to another person, you are helping form the pattern of that person’s thinking. You are contributing to his vocabulary (maybe that’s more obvious), and you are also contributing to the structure of his thought. If you constantly speak to your two or three year old child in one and two word sentences, that is how your child will tend to think. And that’s more or less OK with a one year old, less so with a two year old, and horrible with a three year old. Maybe it would help to draw a distinction between formal and informal instruction. But the two overlap a great deal, so don’t let the lines between the two grow too thick. You are always teaching grammar informally, because you are always setting patterns for imitation for those around you.” Andrew Kern

  4. Attention is key to the distinction between implicit and explicit. Focus on meaning vs. focus on form. When kids focus on meaning they pick up the structure (grammar) unconsciously – that is the process of acquisition. Programs with an “accuracy first” mentality are sacrificing fluency (and any real, spontaneous output).
    You’re right that explicit knowledge is like “knowledge about the language” (metalinguistics, though you can have non-technical explicit knowledge) and implicit knowledge is what can be done, but not explained. In fact, students building implicit knowledge may not be aware of their development. Although, it is possible for a learner to build implicit knowledge and then induce the rules and also have explicit knowledge.
    Implicit knowledge is what has been internalized. It is unconscious. It is what stimulates production. Explicit knowledge is like a tool for editing. As such, implicit knowledge doesn’t tax our attentional resources, whereas explicit knowledge takes a toll on our working memory.
    Vocabulary vs. grammar is a false dichotomy. Every word has a meaning (vocabulary) and a use (grammar).
    Teaching linguistics terminology is not necessary even for explicit instruction of grammar.
    We have to distinguish between instruction, learning, and knowledge. Each can be implicit or explicit. Explicit instruction (if done in target language) can lead to implicit learning if the learner is focused on meaning. Likewise, implicit instruction can lead to explicit learning if the learner focuses on the form and inducing rules.
    There’s focus on formS (focus on the structure to practice) vs. focus on form (combination of meaning and form focus amidst communication, like a pop-up) vs. focus on meaning.
    There’s proactive (pre-teaching or designing an activity to purposely target a linguistic feature) vs. reactive (respond to needs, correction) grammar.
    Grammar instruction can be taught deductively (give the rule) vs. inductively (have learners figure out the rules), both of which have the goal being to develop explicit knowledge.
    There are 2 main accounts of “linguistic knowledge” (as innatist e.g.Chomsky or as connectionist e.g. McClelland) both of which are developed via input and both of which see linguistic knowledge as being mainly implicit knowledge. Explicit knowledge may still play a role. . .
    The whole point of teaching for explicit knowledge should be to practice it until it is automatized (skill-building). The result is automatized explicit knowledge. DeKeyser would say that functionally it is the same thing as implicit knowledge. But as Hulstijn points out, what appears to be the automatization of explicit knowledge may in fact be co-development of implicit knowledge. In other words, our non-acquisition-teaching colleagues are either trying to develop automatized explicit knowledge or else think that explicit knowledge facilitates the acquisition process, i.e. helps implicit learning.
    Related to the discussion recently of how TPRS helps teachers become more fluent speakers – maybe we need to distinguish between practicing a rule and automatizing “sequences” of language, the latter which may be developing implicit knowledge (N. Ellis).
    None of the above are my original ideas and definitions. I’m relying mostly on R. Ellis et al, 2009.

    1. My grammarian colleagues who pretend to be in the communicative tradition (their evidence for doing “communicative” teaching? Bad CPAs and rehearsed dialogues) say something like what Eric (correctly) attributes to DeKeyser: drills will turn into skills.
      This is wrong: as VanPatten flat-out says, the only way the brain can acquire language is through processing input– not grammar, but input– and that “input must come from someone else.”
      The problem for many of us is that the kids *do* learn something from bad teaching and the gramaricators can say “well they *do* learn. E.g. my dept head gets her kids at end of French 12 to CEFR level A2 (2nd level of 6) this is after ~6 years of French. IMHO not very good (c.i. could go double as fast– I am getting something like A1 after 1 year).
      SO: a good response is “grammar grinding works…just not very efficiently.” I have started saying this online and at workshops to ease the pain for the worksheeters.

  5. I have a colleague who at the beginning of year 1 Spanish, gives students a complete list of grammar, the vocab endings, tenses, moods, etc. She then tells them that they will be learning all of this over the next few years, but not all at once, or as a list to memorize. and if they want to know about another form, ending, tense, etc. they can look it up–and here’s the key–without being given a stage oo which to show off their amazing superior 4%er intelligence, which is why most of those brats ask the questions. I think this will work well with my population, and I plan to frontload them with access to grammar, and an invitation to all of them to contribute new forms and structures in supoortive ways, or ask me questions during individual work.

  6. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    I have farmer friends in rural Costa Rica. Some left school before 6th grade. They read and write (what they must) and speak beautifully. Do they know any of the names of the tenses, parts of speech, surface structures of the language? What of all the illiterate or low levels of literacy people that speak – but have never studied learned abt the language? Bilingual families?
    We are saying that the metalinguistic part is NOT essential for acquisition. We are referring to studies that conclude that knowledge of the linguistics doesn’t necessarily lead to more/improve acquisition.
    We are saying that the flood of CI through listening/reading teaches the grammar implicitly. Also that time spent on surface structures/rules/patterns is time not spent on meaning/CI. Pop-ups ought to be sufficient at the lower levels – maybe some formal stuff at higher levels/when developmentally appropriate. You need tons of hours of input, I’ll bet, to mobilize any of the rules (MONITOR). I can see an advantage for an UNTIMED writing later in the class sequence, but not before.

  7. similar story: my husband moved here from Germany when he was 5. He learned English initially by being dumped into Kindergarten – never had an ELL class in his life. He speaks and writes in English just fine — in fact, he writes technical manuals and is a mechanical analyst! One day I was talking to him about direct and indirect object pronouns, and he said, “what the hell is that? and WHY do you have to subject your students to that?” and I laughed…..I told him that he just very beautifully proved the point behind TCI !!! 🙂

    1. mb…I have a similar story that involves Blaine Ray. When he came to our school to do some guest teaching I tried to get him in as many other classes as possible. I wanted the teachers of our large department to benefit from observing him with their students. I was really trying to help my department chair understand what I had been up to and the changes to the S ans S documents. I straight up asked her if Blaine could teach one of her upper level classes, Spanish 4 or 5. I explained to her what Blaine had told me, that TPRS works really well with advanced students.
      She told me that she couldn’t have Blaine teach because they where doing a lesson on relative pronouns….”la que, lo que, los que, la cual, los cuales etc…
      When I told this to Blaine, he looked at me with a smile and those eyebrows and said,”What the heck are relative pronouns?”
      I can’t imagine turning down a special guest to cover something like relative pronouns or any grammar lesson of the day…Ridículo!

  8. Adriana was talking to her husband. Both are paisas. She said “you know Spanish has like 8 past tenses, like English?” and he said “really? What’s the past tense?” and two days later he said “oh yeah you were right.”
    Just the other day Brigitte pointed out to me that the German infinitive for “to like” is mögen and not magen. Amazing how I’ve been speaking it for 46 years and didn’t know that.

  9. I definitely find myself saying that I “build an implicit language system in my students.” This is how we differ from traditionalists. I love talking about ILS and it comes from what Eric has been sharing based on his research into VP. For me it is the same as teaching for mastery or “acquiring” language when I talk to others.
    Even though we build an ILS doesn’t mean we can’t incorporate grammar instruction IF it serves the needs of our students… Non-believers appreciate hearing that. I think it brings them closer to understanding our work. I have colleagues that think I don’t teach grammar, use grammar notes, or teach from a conjugation chart. Nothing wrong with those things in the context of providing CI and building an implicit language system IMO.
    When we say this to others (building an implicit language system), I think it allows them to understand more about TCI. Sometimes traditionalists have the opinion that we don’t teach grammar. We for sure teach grammar but for a different purpose than they expect. No matter the teaching method, all teachers want students to “learn” language

  10. The misconception is that “if the teacher doesn’t teach (meaning explicitly) it, then it doesn’t get acquired.” What crap! Does a parent “teach” his kid grammar? First language acquisition is indirect (unobtrusive) instruction. The kid will know what is grammatically correct and what is not, but without thinking about a rule and without being able to verbalize the grammar rules. That’s the kind of knowledge we are after!

    1. Along the lines of talking about how language acquisition works – and for lack of a place to share this:
      On Fridays, I start classes with a quote on Second Language Acquisition or something I think is integral to it. (Last week was your Rigor poster, Ben, longest “quote” we’ve had.) We read a quote, I invite discussion, and within a couple minutes we go on. I like it a lot & think it’s good for them to have a sense of why and how things are unfolding. Sometimes it affirms “not perfect” output is totally normal; sometimes it shows them their role in success; sometimes it’s just a “duh” moment for them because for most of them, they can tell what we do is working. (It’s also ready if I’m ever asked questions by parents — and their children will already have heard it.)
      I skipped SLA quotes today though. At a transition point in class, a boy in Chinese 1 said, more or less, “We aren’t going to talk about Second Language Acquisition today? Aw. I really like that.” So nice – it’s been missed.

      1. Very cool about metacognition, Diane. You certainly remember a few years ago when we got into making up those little self reflection checklists based on our group’s definition of Rigor. I remember jen was in on that discussion. I personally always seemed to just run out of time at the end of class to ever do those checklists, and they fell by the wayside, so maybe starting class with such a discussion like you are doing is the best idea.
        This lack of time that we all run into because we have so many badass things to do in any given class makes me think about a Latin expression I learned years ago from the great Latin scholar Jeremy, the Nowhere Man in The Yellow Submarine:
        “Ad hoc loc and quid pro quo, so little time, so much to know!”
        I certainly support using English to do this – it’s time well spent!

        1. Another fun thing from Chinese 1 today: a girl said she dreams in Chinese regularly, and a boy said he thinks in Chinese at random times throughout the day. The din. I should bring up that topic on a Friday. It’s the only CI taught Chinese ones who say this. They now think more fluently in Chinese than the 2’s.

        1. Jeff do you mean the Rigor posters? I feel so strongly about them and the entire self-reflection initiative – our students should be able to articulate the process of CI and their role in it, to anyone who asks, and people will ask.
          Frankly this piece got dropped here in the frenzy of new strategies over the past year but if we are really to align with standards and assess our students in terms of what they can do, particularly in terms of the Interpersonal Skill of the Three Modes of (the mega standard) Communication, and not on what they can memorize, then we need to keep those posters front and center.
          I will certainly put them up on the Primers as a follow up to this little thread that Diane thankfully brought up. In my opinion, none of us can go into next year without reading Robert’s primer articles on Rigor and knowing the content of those Rigor posters, which took us so long to hammer out.
          So thank you for the suggestion – I’ll update the Primer link with the Rigor posters right now.

          1. Jeffery Brickler

            Diane also had a great selection on SLA quotes, I saw it on the forum. It would be great to access them to work with the kids.

          2. The craziest thing of all is that Diane’s students now know more about SLA than, dare I say?, the majority of FL teachers.
            Here’s a message I sent recently to my adult students:
            I believe every aspiring second language speaker should know some of the basics about how to acquire a language. It will make your study so much more efficient and effective. Here are 6 short videos I HIGHLY recommend.
            Bill VanPatten is a contemporary leader in the field of second language acquisition and in these videos he dispels of a lot of myths that are still being perpetuated in most foreign language classrooms worldwide. Watch these videos and instantly know more than most foreign language teachers about language acquisition. Ha. I wish that were a joke.

  11. Grammar trained memorizer kids forget the contents of all those boxes due to actual lack of use of same. It’s that Anne Matava story about her kids getting the top 15 scores in Maine on the National German Exam by far and then, at the end of her four years with them, she showed them a conjugated verb and they all went nuts and said to her, “Frau Matava! Thank you for the neat filing system!” They LIKED the charts because THEY ALREADY KNEW THEIR CONTENTS, what verb form went with what subject in what tense. (Those are the same kids who quit their study of German in college because they “didn’t know any grammar.” Their stopping their careers in German when they got to college is a scathing indictment of what those smug college teachers do to crush hope in kids about their language careers, not to mention their teacher. That right there is a pisser and a half.)

      1. Just downloaded it! The din is an upcoming topic. Also some Chinese-specific stuff…there are people doing SLChinese research on reading with conclusions that support reading helps I’ve learned to use.

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