Form correction and explanations - during output or input?


Students read story they have heard before from keywords and pictures on the board.
With GestureWay the teacher can correct errors silently using gestures.
(24 hours of GestureWay)

Correction with gestures during output (recording from 2015).

Teachers usually feel they want to correct mistakes and it is difficult to resist doing so. The problem is, although students make the correction prompted by the teacher, are they really listening? Teacher interventions on form during output will often be (subconsciously) ignored by the student because he/she is concentrating on meaning and plot.

However, if we can silently suggest an alternative (the correct) option via gesture, the student must consciously rethink his/her answer and provide it themselves. Despite the interruption during fluency output, students may take more note of a correction they themselves have produced than one given to them by the teacher. Furthermore, the process of corrective feedback through gesture is quicker so does not break the student's flow so much.

 

Talking about language before and during Silent Sign.

Feedback on correction on form appears to work well during the Presentation Stage before Silent Sign or even during it. We even discuss structure and vocabulary issues in class when they crop up during these sessions - especially when the students themselves enquire. Student motivated enquiry about English grammar and vocabulary is interesting (more so when initiated by children) because we can assume if a child asks a questions he/she will listen to the answer.

When students are ready to listen about grammar.

There has been criticism among researchers of explicit teaching of grammar as students often fail to make adjustments to their inter-language as a result. They might be able to learn grammar for controlled tests but are unable to acquire it for output in the language. However, there are moments when students are more receptive to structure teaching. This was suggested in Pienemann's Teachability Hypothesis (1984). Pienemann believed "there are certain structures in a language which can only be acquired when the learner is ready" (Sharwood-Smith 1994). When students specifically ask questions, would be the moment when they are most receptive to grammar/vocabulary acquisition.


"High" or "tall"*. Some students interrupted to question "tall trees".
It seems that in school they had learnt "high" is for things and "tall" is for people.
I believe the fact they asked, shows they are "ready" to receive new information on this point.
Perhaps I could have explained better and listened more. On the other hand, my explanation is purposely brief as all explanations on form should be. (2015)

During each Presentation Stage, the teacher will need to introduce new words and structures. Will students be ready to ingest that information? My own belief on this procedure is to make this it very brief. As teachers, many of us like to do just that - teach the language. However, as much foreign language acquisition research has thrown up doubts regarding the effectiveness of explicit form teaching, I feel it is better to limit the time spent on sessions of explanations on grammar and repeat them often. It might be preferable if a teacher does not explain the whole structure problem in its entirety at one time. Brief explanations repeated are often better than lengthy explanations in one class. To do this, the English teacher must be patient and willing to remind students again and again when mistakes occur during the input phase.

*Ok, so a tree can be "high", of course and a mountain can be "tall"! It's the shape that's important and generally wide things are said to be "high" and narrower things "tall". If we usually say "tall trees" and "high mountains", it is because these refer to the generic shape of these things.


We can even drill with gestures.
After five years of English at school, (30 hours GestureWay) these students are still making mistakes with conjugating verb "to be".
Gesture drills are wonderfully brief - think of the written equivalent of this exercise!
(2015)

 

Conclusions.

I prefer to think of the effectiveness of grammar instruction in this way: a structure explained is equivalent to just one exposure on that point no matter how much time is spent on the instruction session and how much effort is made on making grammar "memorable". Making grammar memorable is fine for better results in grammar tests but does relatively little to improve a student's inter-language skills. For these reasons, why spend lengthy periods and effort on grammar instruction? When a child learns his/her mother tongue, no matter how much time and effort a parent spends trying to correct a child's utterance: "I eated an ice-cream" it will be the repeated expositions through correct input over time together with when the child is ready to say "ate" which will change the child's utterance.

Student who did English homework
Student homework mp3 recordings (2015).
I know 3rd person "s" - Listen...
English language homework tasks are a great opportunity for students to do controlled practice on structures.
But are beginners really ready for the 3rd person 's'?
In this lovely recording she did at home my student certainly wanted to show her knowledge but producing 3rd person 's' during fluency output is "another story".

Teacher feedback.

As a teacher, do you find explicit grammar instruction is useful for improving your students' inter-language? What strategies do you use to improve grammar performance in student output? Contact my Facebook or Twitter page and let me know your ideas.

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 See next article - Farewell Gesture...