Linear grammar

The March 4th addressed the subject of how the linear progression of grammar differs in teaching EAP to general English. This was one of the best attended and most productive chats yet. A big thanks to @JenMac_ESL, @SeburnT, @JimScriv, @Stiiiv, @yearinthelifeof, @BrunoLeys, @muranava, @leoselivan, @eltknowledge, @whistlepunch and @Lexicojules for joining in the discussion.

During the chat several themes emerged. The following tweets have been selected as the most interesting and / or the most representative of all made. Every participant is represented here. The tweets are grouped according to their relevance to each theme that emerged, rather than being a chronological representation of the chat.

Full transcript: http://chirpstory.com/li/58446

Emerging Language
Should we work linearly or should we allow language to emerge as and when?

@Lexicojules
‘I guess a lot depends on teaching context & [students] starting level as to how you tackle grammar in an EAP class.’

@SeburnT
‘I think dealing with emergent [language] is the norm in most EAP contexts. I’d also say grammar & vocab get blurred.’

@JimScriv
‘Problem with “emergent grammar” is “where does it emerge from?” Also should we rely on “random” to make a life-changing syllabus?’

@Stiiiv
‘I don’t like preemptive language syllabuses at all, not for EAP. Strong belief in emergent approach.’

@JimScriv
‘You ask: “Why (un)cover structure/form/meaning until found needed?” Because we as [teachers] might be expected to have that insight.’

@yearinthelifeof
‘Agreed – we should have a good idea of what’s good for them and what they will definitely need – accelerate it!’

@Stiiiv
‘My plan is to work with teachers to draw EAP grammar out of text in the moment, not to bolt on token lessons on the passive.’

@BrunoLeys
‘Emergent shouldn’t mean at random or founded on serendipity. I know Ss will not miraculously come up with new grammar.’

Grammar focus
What is our grammar focus? Do we even have one?

@Lexicojules
‘Yes, the joy of EAP is we have a clear context/aim within which to teach grammar.’
‘I find I teach less standard categories of grammar in EAP – more mixed [language] for a purpose, e.g. hedging, thesis statements, etc.’

@Stiiiv
‘Whatever the level, [students] need to see that [grammar] is a contextualised choice, not a case of just ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.’

@muranava
‘Do we include vocab when we talk about grammar in EAP?’

@yearinthelifeof
‘Definitely – AWL, for instance, connects so well to grammar in this context (in my opinion)’

@BrunoLeys
‘I think Michael Lewis made a good point about chunks, for that matter.’

@leoselivan
‘Research has suggested, several studies have shown + become example earlier. Certain lexis attracts Present Perfect.’

@Lexicojules
‘Corpus research shows that ac genres use very few perfect tenses. They are used, just much lower priority.’
‘Yes, that’s why I’d spend more time on noun-based grammar than [traditional] verb-based stuff.’

@yearinthelifeof
‘Yes – get on to teaching nominalisation as a ‘somewhat’ priority.’

@Stiiiv
‘Yes! If you want to write academically, don’t passivise, nominalise!’

SFL
One interesting point that came for the discussion of grammar was SFL (Situational Functional Linguistics)

@Stiiiv
‘SFL is crucial for teacher awareness for EAP grammar (any grammar), I think.’

@eltknowledge
‘What I love about SFG/SFL is that it deals with lexico-grammar, and not just grammar…and sees it as a system. Great for ESP/EAP.’

@SeburnT
‘SFL … deals with lexico-grammar, and not just grammar… and sees it as a system. Great for ESP/EAP.’

Materials
Something that was only briefly mentioned but is nonetheless significant was the availability of suitable published materials.

@JimScriv
‘I wonder if in any other subject (even other languages) [teachers] would argue against selecting & teaching useful stuff [students] need!’

@Lexicojules
‘The classic corpus ref is Biber et al – Longman Grammar of Spok & Writ English – more recent work still bears it out.’

@yearinthelifeof
‘Biber’s ‘Real Grammar’ is a lovely book to use at upper level – highly recommend it.’

Starting point
A lot of the discussion revolved around the point at which we should start teaching EAP, and consequently what we expect learners to know about the language prior to this starting point.

@SeburnT
‘Doesn’t this beg the question of whether High Beginner is really EAP though?’

@Lexicojules
‘I’d expect Ss coming to EAP to already have an overview of basic grammar, so would expect to review/build, not present new.’

@SeburnT
‘I don’t think it’s about “introducing” a grammar point. It’s about addressing its need when needed.’

@whistlepunch
‘Sorry – high beginner isn’t EAP – but our curriculum is built from this level up and through to EAP.’

@SeburnT
‘I do not think EAP is an appropriate term for beginners/high beginners, etc.’

@JimScriv
‘How can a learner hedge, make thesis statements etc without the foundation grammar?’

@SeburnT
‘They should have foundational grammar before an EAP program in most cases, no?’

@JimScriv
‘Ah … a slippery argument! They don’t need G because “someone else” has taught it? Ok – if we are only talking High level.’

Curriculum
As we were discussing the linear teaching of grammar, it wasn’t surprising that the issue of how grammar fits into the curriculum should come up.

@whistlepunch
‘It is a curriculum that has served us well but doesn’t necessarily match any published text series available.’

@yearinthelifeof
‘I like the Ken Hyland ‘get ’em going on simple pres/past active&passive’ and you’ve won more than half the battle.’

@whistlepunch
‘I like the idea of point of need but in a program where testing from level to level is standardized across multiple classes.’
‘[The] hope is to identify core needs in the curriculum doc then support emergent needs through responsive classroom teaching.’

@Stiiiv
‘If content serves to drive student desire to express themselves, this can drive [grammar] dev. We can step in to tweak at point of need.’

@whistlepunch
‘Our [curriculum] moves [students] through discrete point grammar, sentence level and discourse level as well as receptive / productive grammar.’
‘I agree that students want to know what they need to learn, what will be taught. Are we defining that correctly?’

@JenMac_ESL
‘The curriculum for our last level of EAP doesn’t include any discrete point grammar.’

Summary
Did we come to any conclusions?

@SeburnT
‘Linear grammar, bad. Foundational grammar, need. Context-dependant grammar, good. Haha.’

Please add your thoughts to this chat in the comments section below. Also, please join us for the next chat on Monday, 18th March.

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4 thoughts on “Linear grammar

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