Enrich, Enhance, and EmpowerGrammar InstructionUsing Discourse DataSun, HaoIndiana-Purdue University
The role of grammar instruction • Strongly debated in the past three decades or so • Varied from priority to zero position • Teaching grammar & acquiring grammar • “Focus on forms” to “focus on form”
Focus on forms(traditional) • Isolation or extraction of linguistic features from context or communicative activity
Focus on Form: (proposed) • [F]ocus on form … overtly draws students' attention to linguistic elements as they arise incidentally in lessons whose overriding focus is on meaning or communication. • (Long, 1991)
Focus on Form: (proposed) • Aspects of the L2 input learners need to notice, but have not • Will require some kind of pedagogical intervention when persistent problems arise incidentally during language use in the classroom that is otherwise meaning oriented.
General perceptions of grammar instruction • Boring • Mechanical • uninteresting
Grammar in Language Education • Using language grammatically and being able to communicate are not the same. • Language teaching needs to help learners accomplish both. (Celce-Murcia & Larsen-Freeman 1999)
Formalgrammars (Mental grammar) Concerned with grammatical competence Aiming to explain syntactic facts (without recourse to pragmatics) on the basis of formal grammatical properties of sentences Functional grammars Meaning is central; grammar is a resource for making and exchanging meaning (Halliday 1978) Contextual features constitute primary importance in selection of language use Unit of analysis extends beyond the sentence Approaches to Grammatical Analysis
Functional Grammar (A) I had also been rejected by the law faculty. (B) The law faculty had also rejected me. In addition to formal feature differences, functional grammarians are more concerned with: • The communicative effect of the message in the two forms • What contextual factors have led to the passive choice
Traditional way ofgrammar instruction • A sentence-based view of grammar • Decontextualized with unrelated sentences • Inconsistent with communicative competence (Celce-Murcia & Olshtain 2000)
A discourse approach to grammar instruction • But what is discourse?
Discourse • Language use beyond the sentence level • Occurring naturally in context • Written discourse • Spoken discourse
A discourse approach to grammar instruction • A functional view of language (Halliday & Hasan 1976) • Communicative competence (grammatical, sociolinguistic, discourse & strategic) • Rules of grammar context sensitive: e.g. passive, indirect object alternation, tense-aspect-modality (Celce-Murcia & Olshtain 2000) • Few grammar choices strictly at sentence level and completely context free (e.g. determine-noun agreement, Celce-Murcia & Olshtain 2000)
A discourse approach to grammar instruction • Pragmatic rules determine which form works best in which context and why • Grammar teaching integrated with language skills • Emphasis on language use in context • Grammatical analysis at the discourse level necessary • Some learning difficulties lie beyond the sentence level (e.g. Sun 2006) • Awareness of form, meaning and use
Using discourse data in teaching • For both grammar explanations and student assignments, following approaches suggested by several scholars (e.g. Celce-Murcia & Larsen Freeman 1999; Celce-Murcia & Olshtain 2000; Lock 1996; McCarthy 1991)
Authentic texts e.g. • News reports • Newsletters • Editorials • Public notices • Email messages • Novels
Using authentic texts in teaching Examples • The passive voice “The Russian submarine” • The present perfect “Jobs in Wyoming”
Assignments incorporating discourse data For whom? • Prospective English language instructors • Advanced or intermediate English language learners
Focus of analysis • Tense/aspect • Passive • Articles • Conjunctions • Connectives • Relative clauses
Tasks • Select authentic texts • Identify the target form in discourse context • Explain its meaning • Discuss its effect • Explain the differences with regard to related forms and other options
Passive voice assignment • Identify six passive voice sentences from (at least) two different sources • Provide the full citation of the sources of the texts • Provide the grammatical context (preceding and following sentences) • Write out the active voice counterpart for each of the passive voice sentences
Passive voice assignment (2) • Discuss what differences in meaning, rhetoric effect, or discourse cohesionsuch a change brings about, compared with the use of an active voice • Discuss contextual differences if relevant (register, genre, topic etc.) • Discuss what problems are encountered in the analysis, if any, and why
Samples of student analysis (1): Passive voice • “Desert nomads traditionally live in easily portable, black, goat-hair tents. These are partitioned with a curtain, one half taken up by women, children, storage of cooking utensils and other necessities, and the other half used for entertaining.”
Samples of student analysis (1): Passive voice • Active (generated): Desert nomads traditionally live in easily portable, black, goat-hair tents. Somebody partitions these with a curtain. Women, children and the storage of cooking utensils takes up one half, people entertain in the other half.
Samples of student analysis (1): Passive voice • Student analysis: As is plain, the former paragraph clearly attains a discourse cohesion that the latter does not. The flow of ideas is much smoother in the original paragraph. The altered version is stilted, clunky and it progresses rather un-logically…
Samples of student analysis (2):The present perfect • “Is the ‘war on Terror’ passé? Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has started to talk more about a ‘global struggle again violent extremists.’ Terrorism experts, who for years have requested more nuanced language, are pleased…” • Simple past (generated): Is the ‘war on Terror’ passé? Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld started to talk more about a ‘global struggle against violent extremists.’…
Samples of student analysis (2):The present perfect • The meaning of the present perfect sentence from the Newsweek article indicates that the Secretary of Defense has begun to speak in new terms. The use of the present-perfect implicitly carries meaning that the writer intends to convey – specifically, it allows
Samples of student analysis (2)The present perfect • for further development…. On the other hand, given the use of the verb “to start” here, the sentence in the past tense seems to imply that the starting… at some point concluded…. That is, this talking ceased. Such an actuality is neither specified nor intended.
Benefits • Enhance a deeper understanding of the grammatical functions at the discourse level (what) • Increase awareness of grammatical options and rhetorical effects (why) • Encourage exposure to and exploration of authentic texts • Improve communicative competence
Benefits • Bridge the connection between learning and application • Make learning meaningful, useful and practical • Motivate learning by providing choices • Create a variety of learning tasks • Promote discovery learning and learner autonomy • Practice problem solving
Feasibility • More authentic texts available nowadays due to the internet • All students have access to English discourse data
Challenges Students’ views: • Identify the forms in real texts among many others not as easy • Determine the function and effect can be challenging
Rewards Students: • “A long-time problem overcome” (in writing) • Confidence in differentiating forms • Gain insights into discourse level grammatical functions • An effective way to enhance learning
Challenges Instructor: • Complexity of structures and analyses can vary tremendously among students’ selection of texts and samples for analysis
Rewards Instructor: • Students gain knowledge of both the grammatical forms and functions • Students are able to apply their understanding to natural discourse (language use) in the real world beyond classrooms
Conclusion • Discourse-based approaches to teaching hold great potential • Effective implementation of such an approach requires consideration of issues such as goals and context of learning • Both instructors and students need to have an understanding of what they will gain from such an approach and why they are doing it
References • Celce-Murcia, M. & Larsen-Freeman, D. (1999). The Grammar book: An ESL/EFL teacher’s • course. Heinle & Heinle. • Celce-Murcia, M. & Olshtain, E. (2000). Discourse and context in language teaching. • Cambridge University Press. • DeCarrico, J. (2001). Vocabulary learning and teaching. In Celce-Murcia (ed.) Teaching • English as a second or foreign language (3rd). Heinle & Heinle. • Halliday, M., & Hasan, R. (1976). Cohesion in English. London: Longman. • Hinkel, E. & Fotos, S. (2002). New perspectives on grammar teaching in second language • classrooms. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
References • Hinkel, E. (2004). Teaching academic ESL writing. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. • Liu, D. & Master, P. (2003). Grammar teaching in teacher education. TESOL. Inc. • Lock, G. (1996). Functional English Grammar. Cambridge University Press. • McCarthy, M. (1991). Discourse analysis for language teachers. Cambridge University Press. • Sun, H. (2006). Sources of difficulties in cross-cultural communication and ELT: The • case of the long-distance “but” in Chinese discourse. Reflections on English Language Teaching 5.1 (2006): 23-46.