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Teaching vs. Learning
• Whether or not our student utilize the opportunities we present to them to learn is beyond our
control. We know that teaching does not cause learning…..but we must act as if it does. (Larsen-
Freeman 2003)

• This sums up the current state of the discussion of teaching grammar. We know that language is not
learned by the application of rules. Not the ones we learn is school which are best called conventions,
nor the more elaborate ones propounded by Chomsky and others in an attempt to come up with a
format for a Universal Grammar. The current state of debate in its simplified form suggests:
• No grammar teaching at all – Krashen, Chomsky et al
• Grammar highlighting – Kumaravadivelu et al
• Grammaring – Larsen-Freeman and others
Grammar in Context & Cotext
• Context is the situation which encompasses communicative language. It is a multidimensional network
of ideas, concepts sounds, smells and feelings surrounding a human interactions. This web of matrices -
an environment or material in which something develops; a surrounding medium or structure – is pa
critical part of what we call grammar and the background for the complex adaptive system that
Cameron & Larsen-Freeman call grammar

• Cotext is relationships of the word linkages found in a conversation or a text. These correlations form a
network which adds meaning through collocations and cotextual links, I refer here to the function of
words such as that that signals a connection with some further idea or concept in the text.
Kumaravadivelu on Context Beyond Method: Macro Strategies for Teaching,

• Language communication is inseparable from its communicative context. Taken out of context,
language communication makes little sense. What all this means to learning and teaching an L2 is that
we must introduce our learners to language as it is used in communicative contexts, even if it is
selected and simplified for them; otherwise, we will be denying an important aspect of its reality.
Teaching Language in Context
• Making Meaning Predictable

• Context is an all-encompassing multimedia web which determines, connects and adapts language
through meaning and form. This takes the form of neural networks in the brain.

• Context is a situation in the student’s mind that allows the learner to predict what might be said in that
situation. It may involve a real situation like, Ordering food in a Restaurant, but may also be notional
like Being Late, or, episodical (Gouin) like Looking for My Friend. It also involves getting the students
engaged in the context in some way that is meaningful to them in and of itself.

• Context evolves in real time at the moment of production as a situation develops, and is not limited to
a single theme of event – e.g. discussing lunch plans with parents while planning further activities with
friends. Imagine a timing problem involved.
S.P.E.A.K.I.N.G. Hymes (1972) as quoted in Kumaravadivelu (2002)
• Communicative events have a combination of factors that define the context:
• Setting: the place & time in which the communicative event takes place
• Participants: speaker & hearers & their roles
• Ends: Stated and instated objectives
• Act sequence: form, content & sequence of utterances
• Key: manner & tone of utterances
• Instrumentalities: oral, written, formal or informal channels
• Norms: conventions & interpretation based on shared knowledge
• Genre: category of communication: e.g. report, lecture, casual…
KWICs – Key Words in Context
• We should really be pretty accustomed to this idea of key words, KWICs, since they are critical to our
search for everything on the web.

• KWICs weave the internal web that might be called grammar forming the links and flow that comprise
our complex adaptive system.

• KWICs inform our understanding of language in use and provide insight into how to teach grammar to

• All the words in core language….target language… are not equally important to construe meaning.

• KWICs narrow down the focus of our teaching-learning, and can help teachers to ascertain what the
learners already know, and what they need to know. That’s the essence of grammar teaching.
Grammar Teaching Instantiation
3 Approaches to the Teaching of Grammar -
• No grammar/Integrated grammar Chomsky, Krashen and others have proposed that grammar is
simply acquired in use and that no conscious attention to grammar is needed or desirable. In this
view, grammar terminology simply gets in the way.

• Grammar highlighting The predominant practice today is highlighting grammar in use in

integrated skills lessons with clear context and cotext. Focus, repetition, board modeling and
examples are all encouraged to help the student recognize common grammatical forms and apply

• Form Focused grammar Grammar is presented, modeled and practiced using activities that may
or may not be grounded in context and cotext. The question of whether structure or lexis should
be the focus remains.
Integrated Grammar Learning – No Grammar
• Grammar is an integrated part of the communicative lesson in modeling and practice activities.
Grammatical form and functions are modeled and practiced in context and cotext. “…the
frequent use of a structure will not be mechanical repetition. Instead, students should engage in
a (variety of) meaningful activity that requires the frequent use of a form.

• An implicit approach to grammar is one where the students are ‘led’ to the grammar through a
series of steps – this is what is meant by the ‘discovery technique’. In other words, the ‘discovery
technique’ aims to lead students towards a generalized grammar rule or pattern. However, it is
possible in the ‘discovery technique’ to be predominantly concerned with the form. The idea is
that students will ‘discover’ the grammar through a series of steps (these might be tasks,
language awareness activities, pictures, questions etc.) and will deduce both the form and the
meaning from the context(s).
Integrated Grammar Lessons
• Integrated grammar activity is part of the communicative language learning lesson. As such they
are not a separate feature of the lesson, but part of an integrated multi skills lesson. They would
• highlighting of language features and forms, and
• speaking, listening, reading and writing practice with these forms.

• Grammar practice activities may be employed, but most of the grammar learning is part of the
integrated skills lesson activity. Integrated grammar learning lesson sequences will be the
medium to input grammatical features.
Integrated Grammar – Questions to think about
• How was the grammar taught in each of the lessons?
• Silent Way
• Project based learning

• How does context and cotext provide the basis for grammar in use in these lessons?

• How does the teacher select what grammar is to be taught?

• Does the learner acquire the grammar that is taught?

Highlighting Grammar – Integrated Skills
• This is a presentation of meaningful content (Krashen)

• The context is modeled in a progressive development, often as a story, where the main
characters are using the target language in a meaningful context, like talking about Going Places
or Buying Things.

• The target language or dialogues is built up using drawing, actions and examples to model
meaning The target language is repeated by the presenter several times as the story evolves on
the board, using the board to highlight grammatical features in focus.

• Students are asked to help write the Q & A on the board.

• Known language is elicited • The students are asked to choral key language
Highlighting Grammar
Highlighting Grammar
Highlighting Grammar
Highlighting Grammar
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Highlighting Grammar
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Highlighting Grammar
Highlighting Grammar
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Highlighting Grammar
• The first step is for the learner to “notice,” to be conscious of structural and lexical features. It is
critical that these features be presented as comprehensible input in a communicative context.
This is usually a conversation dialogue, and is best presented in story form. The grammar may be
highlighted by:
• Underlining
• Examples
• Actions
• Choral repetition
• Writing on board; student copying
Collaborative Learning
• Language is an intimately social activity, and in the ‘marketplace of life’ is learned though
interactions, both social and economic. Learning language in isolation is seldom productive in
terms of developing communicative competency.

• As well, we know that our students have different levels of language knowledge and ability.
Students have a variety interlanguage – language forms that are understandable, but not quite
right – e.g. I come yesterday. The use of these interlanguage forms is not an infectious disease.
They will get fixed with time and practice.

• Encouraging students to learn together through student to student interactions is especially

useful, especially if the teacher offers repeated meaningful models of form and usage.
Highlighting Grammar – Questions to think about
• What is meant by highlighted integrated skills lessons?

• What is the theoretical basis for this approach to grammar teaching-learning?

• What does integrated mean here?

• What are the techniques for highlighting grammatical features?

• What are the steps in an highlighted integrated skills lesson?

• What is the importance of collaborative activity to this process?

Form Focused-Grammar Practice
• Research shows that conscious attention to grammar may be helpful for some students, not necessarily
for all. There is a very strong argument for “innateness,” – e.g. the acquisition of grammar through
unconscious acquisition. See

• Grammar practice needs to be:

• Modeled in context and cotext
• Focused on meaning, and practice of forms
• Realistic and engaging*
• Focused on the learning challenge – form, meaning or use*
• *Larsen-Freeman, Teaching Language: From Grammar to Grammaring (2002)
Grammar Practice – Larsen-Freeman
• In any event, in keeping with the first essential criterion of grammar practice activities, the frequent
use of a structure will not be mechanical repetition. Instead, students should engage in a meaningful
activity that requires the frequent use of a form. An example of an oft-used activity that does this quite
naturally is the game of “twenty questions,” where players attempt to guess what someone else has in
mind by asking up to 20 yes/no questions. If this is done as a whole class activity the teacher, or other
more proficient students, can scaffold* the grammar and vocabulary for all students, enabling them to
pose the question they wish to pose.

• *scaffold – To narrow the gap between learner interlanguage and conventional forms through exposure
through meaningful exposure.
Form Focused Grammar – Questions to think about
• How do you focus a form-focused lesson?

• How do you deal with the 4 skills in a form focused lesson?

• Listening
• Speaking
• Reading
• Writing

• How could you get context and cotext into a form focused lesson? Is it helpful?