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Providing Opportunities for Using Language

It is important to remember that grammar should be derived from context and not the other
way around. So then, opportunities for production should not be derived from grammar, but rather an
opportunity to express something using the needed grammar. That is, production activities should
always be meaningful, contextual, and enjoyable to the student.
Meaning-bearing Activities
Traditionally, activities in textbooks have centered on drilling methods to form good habits. The
problem with many of these activities was that there was no need for meaning to complete the
activities. Some, if not many, included a translation part of the activity. Simply translating a sentence
does not make it meaningful. The meaningfulness of an activity is predicated on its inability to be
complete without understanding meaning. When creating or altering activities to make them meaning-
bearing, teachers should keep in mind that meaning is paramount. If the student is overwhelmed trying
to understand the text, there will be less resources available to the student to process the form in focus.
A good example of this is seen in Lee (1998).
Contextual Activities
Although an activity may be meaning-bearing, it may not be contextual. Contextual activities
not only use the target form with target vocabulary and structures but also make it purposeful. These
activities are somehow related to something that is done by people in the target language. Luckily, this
is something that is easy to solve with many activities. Simply providing a scenario or use of the
language to perform an action outside of the activity usually will make an activity not only meaningful
but contextual as well.

Enjoyable Activities
Unfortunately grammar does not have the ability to win over the masses with its own
qualities. I hate grammar. or Do we have to talk about grammar? are common statements when
beginning a new grammatical concept. However, when we give students a reason and ability to use it,
those complaints can fade away. In addition, the topic in which the grammar is placed plays a large role
in keeping students motivated to push through the grammar if its not enjoyable and even to possibly
make the grammar itself enjoyable. Krashen argued that acquisition happens when learners are
motivated, self-motivated, and have low anxiety levels (according to Shum & Glisan, 2010). It should be
a focus of instructors that their students are motivated and enjoy the things they discuss in the target
language and that they wish to express themselves accurately.
The provision of input and opportunities by the teacher is of the greatest importance for
teachers as they prepare and conduct classroom activities with students. Without the ability to provide
these two crucial things, students cannot and will not progress on the proficiency scale, which is the
ultimate goal of any language classroom. Grammar falls into these two provisions by allowing students
to understand the target language more accurately and use it more efficiently and practically.

Enhancement #8: Additional Activity for Formal Commands
In the textbook the first activity provided does not require students to understand what is being
said (i.e., it is not meaningful) but rather only requires that they choose the correct form of a formal
command. The instructions provide enough information that a student could simply look over each
choice pair and decide which the correct form is without actually reading and understanding the
commands they are giving. Additionally, I would like to add some interactivity to this section as this
topic is not only undesirable for this age group (chores) but also rather dry.
Teacher Instructions: Set out on a table some items dealing with chores (an empty spray bottle, broom,
duster, trash bag, and images of things that may be too big). Then call a few pairs of students up at a
time allowing them to compete to see who can do the chore first with the object. Start by using the
formal command only of cognates and/or high frequency. This allows students to hear the target form
without needing to focus too much on vocabulary they may not be too familiar with. As you progress
add new, more difficult forms (-car, -gar, -zar, or the plural formal command forms). Then, after you
finish ask a student to give commands to other students seeing if they can do it correctly. You can
monitor what they are able to understand by what they do. Additional ideas could be to have students
have school supplies on their own desk so that everyone is doing the commands and to have them
compete in Simon says at the end.

This should be done just before an explicit presentation of the grammar to see what students can glean
from their own attention. You may even have students attempt a cloze activity afterwards that allows
them to choose from various forms and to select pictures that correspond to the command given.

Doughty, C. & Varela, E. (1998). Communicative focus on form. Focus on Form in Classroom Second
Language Acquisition. 115-138.
Doughty, C. & Williams, J. (1998). Pedagogical choice in focus on form. Focus on Form in Classroom
Second Language Acquisition. 197-261.
Lee, J. F. (1998). The relationship of Verb Morphology to Second Language Reading Comprehension and
Input Processing. The Modern Language Journal, 82(i), 33-48.
Lee, J. F. & VanPatten, B. (2003). Making Communicative Language Teaching Happen. New York, NY:
Ortega, L. & Mochizuki, N. (2008). Balancing communication and grammar in beginning-level foreign
language classrooms: A study of guided planning and relativization. Language Teaching
Research. 12(1), 11-37.
Shrum, J.L. & Glisan, E.W. (2010). Teachers Handbook: Contextualized Language Instruction. Boston,
MA: Cengage.
Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century. (2006). Lawrence, KS: Allen Press, Inc.
White, J. (1998). Getting the learners attention: A typographical input enhancement study. Focus on
Form in Classroom Second Language Acquisition. 85-106.