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Jessica Flinkman's EDCI 5543 Wrap-up


Jenilee Green

EDCI 5543

Dr. Wei

September 14, 2009    


Wrap Up: Articles


Basic Forms of Articles:

·        Articles are in about 10% of most texts

·        Indefinite (a, an) and Definite Articles (the)


Articles Proceed Sounds:

1.      Indefinite article “a” is used when the beginning of the next word begins with a consonant sound

2.      Indefinite article “an” is used when the beginning of the next word begins with a vowel sound


For example:

·        an MBA, “M” has a vowel sound, therefore, “an” is used

·        a UFO, “U” is a consonant sound: /ju:/

·        an N, “N” is a vowel sound: /en/


Explain the Basic Forms (p. 24)

·        You'll probably need Ø boots as well.  (No article because the noun is not singular)

·        The boots will probably be more useful than the umbrella.  (unique referents: boots and umbrella)

·        Ø Santa Claus stays in Ø Greenland until Ø Christmas.  (proper nouns don't use articles)


Dr. Wei recommends that we study the Summary Box 2.1 on page 25-- this will be very helpful to you.


Meanings of articles:  Articles can be described as countable, singular or plural, and individuation


Countable/Uncountable Nouns


Countable nouns can be changed into uncountable nouns:

·        She fed the baby a teaspoon of apple. (apple changes into a substance)

·        The noun must change from a countable noun into a substance.


Uncountable nouns can be changed into countable nouns:

·        There are several new butters being produced without milk.

·        Can I have two sugars, please?

·        The uncountable nouns must become a countable noun, if you start counting it then no articles are added.


Looks plural but is singular:

·        The plural noun becomes a single unit and is then described as the unit with a singular verb.



For example, Collective nouns:













Some nouns are singular and plural in the same sentence:


·        The audience was cheering and clapping their hands.


Avoidance strategies of students may be to use circumlocution, such as, “The people who are watching the show...”


Elementary students will ask again and again, “Why?”


·        Her family has decided that they can't afford a big wedding.


Avoidance strategy: “Her family members have...”


Countable and Non-countable nouns in other languages:


·        Some nouns are countable in other language and are uncountable in English.


For example:












Individuation:  Is a single unit-- use a, an

Non-individuation: use Ø (no article)


Explanation: An individual unit has clear boundaries and that no part of the unit equals the whole.

·        For example:  A chair-- If you take it apart, none of the parts can be called a chair


An exception:

One small part of water can be considered water, even though the whole thing is also water. 


This will be on the test:


Classifying and Identifying:


A (an) is closely related to the number 1.

The is closely connected to the demonstrative that.

The basic meaning of a (an) X is ' single instance of the X type of the thing'

The basic meaning is of X is the particular X.



·        Marks the kind of things I am talking about

·        It's probably a dog outside. (It could be any dog)



·        Marks the specific thing that I am talking about

·        It's probably the dog next door. (It must be this particular dog)


Indefinite articles (a/an) imply that the thing being classified has not yet been identified.  An X implies 'classified but not yet identified.'  (see 14a, page 34)


It seems that we must classify before we identify.

Identifying can be used without classifying.


Classifying (an/a) in Professions:

·        ESL students often have trouble understanding why “a/an” is used before a profession.

·        *I am student.  (I am a student)

·        *She wants to become doctor.  (She wants to become a doctor)

·        (TESOL and linguistics departments use (*) to signify that the sentence is ungrammatical)


Already Identified (the), page 36


1.      The glass on the table in the corner must be yours.

2.      The mail came while you were at the bank.

3.      She always takes the bus to the store.

4.      He likes to read the newspaper in the morning.


These are examples of exact/specific objects that are being discussed and therefore identified by using “the.”


2nd mention rule:  If the noun has been mentioned once and then is mentioned again, everyone knows the specific noun that is being discussed.  Therefore the speakers can use “the” to refer to the exact noun.


Post-Modifying:  A phrase  or clause that comes after a noun and makes its reference more specific, as in 'the person who made this mess.'

Pre-Modifying: A word or phrase that comes before a noun and makes its reference more specific, as in 'the most amazing woman.'


No differentiation required:

·        Sometimes it not relevant for the entity to be classified as a unit


Anaphoric/Cataphoric are potential test questions!


Anaphoric:  (the)  The definite article is used to refer back to information already established.


Cataphoric: (the)  The definite article is used to point forward.  It is an invitation to read on.


Chapter 2 Articles: Group Discussion hosted by Dr. Wei


Explain the ungrammaticality of the following sentences:

1.      She has a coffee on her dress.

2.      They served us plenty of drinking waters.

3.      I have examination in French today.


Why?  Student explanations:


1.      Mistake:  Coffee is uncountable, it's a substance.  Correction:  She has coffee on her dress.

2.      Mistake:  Water is uncountable-- a substance.  Waters refers to an area of water.  Correction: They served us plenty of drinking water.

3.      Mistake: There is only one exam, therefore, it is countable.  Correction:  I have examination in French today.


Articles are a very big problem for many students and it is unavoidable.  German, Thai, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean are a few languages that do not use articles with professions.


If your students produce the following sentences, what errors have they made?  How will you make them aware of these errors, and what exercises will you prepare to correct the errors?

1.      My brother is student.

2.      He is an European.

3.      I enjoy writing the poetry.  It is my hobby.


Why?  Student explanations:


1.      Mistake:  “Student” is an occupation.  All occupations need indefinite articles.  Correction:  My brother is a student.

2.      Mistake:  European begins with the /ju:/ sound.  This sound is a consonant.  We care about the sound, not the spelling/form.  Correction:  He is a European. 

3.      Mistake: Poetry is uncountable, therefore it does not need an article.  Correction:  I enjoy writing poetry.  It's my hobby.


An error:  You made it and you don't know

A mistake:  You made it and you know


We always say “error correction” and not “mistake correction.”


Article Presentation

Jing Zou


Sheeen, Y. (2007). The effect of focused written corrective feedback and language aptitude on ESL       learners' acquisition of articles.  TESOL Quarterly, 41(2), 225-283.


Research Purpose:

To examine the role of corrective feedback (CF) in L2 acquisition by addressing written CF, and the role of one individual difference factor: language analytic ability.


Research Questions:

1.      Does focused written corrective feedback have an effect on intermediate ESL learners' acquisition of English articles?

2.      Is there any difference in the effect of direct correction with and without metalinguistic feedback on ESL learners' acquisition of English articles?

3.      To what extent does the learners' language analytic ability mediate the effectiveness of CF?


Direct correction was superior to indirect correction in producing better writing (Chandler, 2003, p.259).



Design: Quasi-experimental, pretest/post test/delayed post test

Participants: 5 NES American teachers & 91 intermediate-level students (Ages 21-56)

1.      Direct only correction group (n=31)

2.      Direct metalinguistic group (n=32)

3.      Control group (n=28)

       Metalinguistic Corrections:  The teacher provides not only corrections but also a more developed explanation revealing the whys and hows to the students.

       Direct correction: Show the student their exact error and how to correct it.

       Indirect correction:  Let the students know that there is an error and ask the student to search for the error themselves

Procedure:  The former two groups received narrative correction treatment and written CF while the control group did not.  All groups took the language analytic ability test and three tests focused on article usage.


1.      Written Corrected Feedback (CF), had a positive effect on the learning of English articles.

2.      Direct Correction group: The corrections with metalinguistic comments performed superior to the direct correction group.

3.      CF treatments are more likely to increase awareness when learners have higher aptitude.  This advantage was found to be more evident when the CF included metalinguistic information.

Classroom implication:

1.      Teachers can focus on different aspects of a students' writing at different times.  For example, sometimes content, organization, and linguistic correctness.

2.      When the focus is on linguistic correctness, teachers may do better if they choose to focus on a specific grammatical problem instead of providing feedback for a variety of errors.

3.      Provide metalinguistic CF

4.      Improve student language analytic ability



Demonstration: Articles



Pair Activity:

Come up with 5 or 6 items on your grocery list.


·        a tub of butter

·        whole wheat bread

·        coconut milk

·        potato

·        a dozen of eggs

·        a pound of potatoes


Class Activity:

Each person receives a list of words.  People who are in group A will stand in line waiting for group B members to walk through and be quizzed on the words.  The person must answer with either a/an/Ø.  Then the groups will switch and ask the others who have not had a chance to answer yet.


Ø Brittany Spears

a/the wrestler

a/the banana

a/the flash drive

Ø April


Dr. Wei suggests that list the objectives on the board to make it as real as possible.  These can be found with the TESOL standards online.  Also, try to stick to your lesson plan as much as possible.  If it changes, sometimes you are expected to give an explanation.



Shannon Dunn

EDCI 5543


Paper 1: Role of Grammar in TESOL

            Grammar is a crucial factor in teaching and learning a new language. This paper will focus on the two sides of grammar in TESOL: the importance for teachers and the importance for learners. For teachers, a complete understanding of grammar is expected because of the professional nature of the language learning field. Grammar is a specialized set of knowledge needed by professionals to function and contribute to the professionalism of teaching English as a second language. On the learners’ side, explicit grammar instruction is very important, especially for adults who have passed the critical period for grammar acquisition. While complete grammar acquisition may not be feasible for all adult learners, explicit knowledge of grammar can help them overcome communicative barriers due to grammar mistakes. Moreover, native Arabic adult English language learners will be the central population for this paper as they are the population I have the most exposure to.

On the side of teaching, grammar is extremely important for those who teach English as a second language. Mainly, teaching English is a professional field and part of being an active professional is having explicit knowledge of the content, of which grammar is crucial. A particular sub-set of in-depth, specialized knowledge is what creates a basis for a professional group. Professionals must have this similar base of knowledge to communicate and create discourse within the field. As in medicine and other professional fields, this specialized knowledge is collectively agreed upon by the members of the field and systematically questioned in the form of research. Therefore, an explicit understanding of grammar rules and exceptions is necessary to participate in the discourse of grammar instruction as a teaching professional in the field of English language education.

            For example, during my undergraduate student teaching, I was placed in an advanced 9th grade English classroom. While none of my students were labeled as English language learners, my mentor teacher was still implementing explicit grammar instruction at that grade level. At the time, I had not learned all the grammar rules explicitly, so even though I could implement the rules, I could not explain them very well. While I was helping the students, I felt at a loss because I was struggling to give clear answers to their questions because I could not form an answer using the rules. This experience showed me how important it was to learn the rules explicitly. Not only is it expected as a teacher, but also explicit grammar knowledge is needed to navigate and answer students’ questions. I felt lost explaining grammar to native English speakers, but English language learners would have more questions that would require a deep functional understanding of grammar structures to be able to answer clearly and concisely. I am glad that the experience that made me understand the critical role of grammar as a teacher was very low stakes. Since that time, I have taken the time to go back and explicitly study the rules of grammar and how they function and what the exceptions are. I feel this practice provided me with the skills I needed to be not only a better teacher but also a better professional. Specifically, I felt a lot more confident in my grammar instruction and explanations when I was working with an ESL class for my practicum observations. Not only could I better identify the students’ grammar mistakes, but I also had a depth of understanding that helped me form clear and concise answers that helped the students better understand the grammar concepts we were learning. Therefore, understanding grammar as a teacher of English as a second or foreign language is critical effective teaching and professionalism.

            On the learning side, grammar is important to support the language learning process. Specifically for adults, explicit, deductive grammar instruction is a clear and efficient way to teach. When I was learning Spanish, the instruction was systematic. With each set of vocabulary, a grammar form was focused on. For example, a unit of household objects was accompanied by the grammar rules for prepositions in Spanish. While this type of learning helped me with reading and writing in Spanish, I felt that the kind of thinking I had to do to formulate speech took a very long time. It was easy for me to follow the rules and form a written sentence (I would usually write these sentences non-sequentially by starting with the base sentence and adding phrases in appropriate areas), but I hesitated when I had to implement the rules mentally and formulate speech because I was used to formulating sentences out of grammatical order. I am not sure if this was just a personal difference in writing and speaking competencies or if the type of instruction better-developed writing abilities over speaking abilities. Personally, I think it was a combination of both. First, my teacher preferred to use written work over speaking activities because of the configuration of the class (distance learning) and I also excelled at written work while I was shy about speaking up in class. In other words, I feel I have a propensity to advance in writing faster than speaking when learning a second language.

            Moreover, I think that explicit, deductive grammar instruction is the most efficient way of learning, specifically after the critical period. After the critical period, I feel that it is hard to set aside one’s own understanding of language, so a new language is learned within the contexts of universal grammar. In other words, one would learn a language in reference to and based on their understanding of language patterns. This is in contrast to how children acquire a first language where grammar is learned implicitly through examples. I feel that in my experience and through the experiences that others have shared with me, most people like to be taught the grammar rules instead of trying to figure out the rules based on examples. For examples, while learning Arabic, I would frequently overgeneralize when I could use certain grammar forms because I am mostly learning through listening and speaking. In other words, I am learning more implicitly through conversation than explicitly through rules and formulation. I find this type of learning extremely difficult because I thrive best when learning explicitly and systematically, as I learned Spanish. Because of the implicit nature of my Arabic instruction, I have struggled to learn it very well. I hope that being immersed in an Arabic-speaking environment will help accelerate my improvement, which is a driving factor for exposure of various grammar structures to learn from.

            Through my experience with teaching English as a private tutor, I can tell there are certain grammar structures that a majority of English learners struggle to internalize in their own speech. For example, when I tutored people, my goal was to make sure they could apply what they learned into a natural conversation. Therefore, I would manipulate our informal conversations to encourage certain types of sentence formation. I knew they had understood and internalized a lesson when they could use those forms easily in their conversation. The hardest grammar form that I found most people struggled with was switching the subject and verb to form a sentence and inserting “do” in question formations. Specifically, I hear most native Arabic speakers say, “You want one?” or “Why I have to…?”. The extreme change to the base sentence structure to form questions is understandably difficult. All other sentences are uniformly formed as subject-verb-object, where only questions are structured with the verb first. This switch of a structure is very difficult to internalize, especially when incorrectly forming questions is not necessarily a communicative barrier. While questions are a big part of using a language, I have noticed that it is easy for English learners to avoid forming questions with the traditional verb-first format. For example, I hear “I need to do what?” as a way to avoid the traditional grammar rules for questioning. While the example is communicably understandable, it is not a formal way of questioning; therefore, many English learners never internalize proper questioning grammar because they can function in English without it, at least to a high degree. Specifically, when I am editing, I notice that many people struggle to write concise research questions because they are not used to properly formatting questions. This is one of my main focuses when editing research because I know that most advanced English learners struggle with this aspect of grammar specifically.

            However, there is another aspect of grammar instruction that may indicate the futileness of grammar instruction, especially when it comes to applying questioning grammar for adult English learners. A recent study conducted by Hartshorne, Tenenbaum, and Pinker (2018) revealed that the critical period for acquiring English grammar ends at age 17.4 years old. Therefore, there is an understanding that English learners who are first exposed to English after that time will not be able to fully acquire perfect English grammar. In other words, these learners will be able to communicate effectively, but not as efficiently because they will most likely not gain control of all grammar forms. In my experience with native Arabic speakers, I found the grammar format for questioning to be an issue for all people who learned English as an adult without exception. Since Hartshorne et al. (2018) further explained that specific grammar errors could indicate an English speaker’s first language, I expect that question formation may be a specific indicator for native Arabic speakers; however, I am not as familiar with how well speakers of other native languages internalize the grammar structure for questions.

            However, just because research indicates that the degree of grammar acquisition is linked to the age of first exposure does not mean that any part of grammar should not be taught explicitly and in-depth. In my experience, native Arabic speakers know how to form question sentences. They know the rules, hence they can follow them to correctly form question sentences; however, in casual conversations, it is not an internalized form they can use automatically. If a communicative barrier arises because of how they form a question, many people can recast their question correctly, but it takes them longer to formulate a formally structured question sentence because they have to think of the grammar rules and apply them. Knowing correct grammar and being able to automatically apply it during a casual conversation are two different things. The key part of this is that the knowledge of English grammar is important to know as an English learner, even if they cannot internalize it completely in their everyday conversations. Therefore, as a teacher of English, explicitly mastering the grammar rules and being able to explain them clearly is a crucial requirement. Moreover, when teaching students with different L1 backgrounds, different languages affect grammar acquisition in different ways as Hartshorne et al. (2018) concluded. Therefore, it is not known which grammar forms will be affected by which language. Furthermore, just because an English learner does not apply correct grammar in causal speech does not mean they do not know it, it only means it is not internalized, Therefore, teaching all grammar forms explicitly is even more crucial so those individuals have the information to recast their speech correctly.



Hartshorne, J. K., Tenenbaum, J. B., & Pinker, S. (2018). A critical period for second language acquisition: Evidence from 2/3 million English speakers. Cognition177, 263-277.



Jason Carter

EDCI 5543 Paper 1

The Role of Grammar in TESOL

            I believe grammar instruction has an integral role in the success of non-native speakers who are being educated at the graduate level in the United States.  I will frame my argument using my experience in working with native Korean speakers and the struggles they have experienced with typical usage of articles in academic writing.  Although college students from Korea who are studying in the United States have had experience learning about the basic grammatical usage of articles, they still struggle with the typical application of articles in academic writing.  Not only do I believe that students at the collegiate level should learn about English grammar, it is necessary for these students go beyond the basic grammatical forms.  After students have a solid understanding of the basic usage of articles, I believe it would be advantageous for these students to learn about the articles in a more contextual manner including the information structure in order to enhance their American-English academic writing ability.

            Since articles consist of a noticeable amount of most texts, I believe that if students are able to conceptualize the usage of articles it will increase the chances of correct usage.  The most common error I have witnessed by writers whose native language is Korean is the omission of articles.  This omission of articles seems to be the result of an overgeneralization from the native language and seems to be compounded with the undervaluing of articles by native English speakers.  Articles seem to be equated with simplicity, seen as the first step into a larger world of more important vocabulary, and native speakers themselves are unaware of the information that articles contain and no doubt interpret unconsciously.  I believe this overgeneralization is a result of neglect of the contextual structure of articles by native speakers.

            To reconcile this issue between the lack of contextual emphasis and overgeneralization, I believe teachers should put more focus on the informational structure of articles.  In addition teachers should also make students aware of the types of errors they are likely to make with article usage.  I believe this emphasis should be focused within academic writing since article usage has more value in writing than in speaking and a student’s academic success is more dependent on writing well than speaking well.

            As has been stated within our class discussions, it is important to teach grammar to adult students deductively.  I believe adults desire to know the rules in order to better understand the pattern of language.  Many times I have been asked why a particular form or phrasing was preferred over another and after being able to provide an adequate answer I then also desired to know why.  With adult learners, it is important for them to have a thorough understanding of English grammar so that they may be able to move beyond the basic forms and then learn English within a more contextual structure to see that many apparent exceptions to the typical usage are actually more complex forms of the same usage.

Articles have become a grammatical curiosity to me.  They initially seemed to be filler, like the uninspired songs tucked around the one or two chart-topping hits of a pop musician.  I had little regard for these elementary words until I began to proofread the papers of a non-native student.  I remember when I took Spanish in high school; I could not understand why every noun always came attached with an article.  I would be introduced to some new and interesting noun and inevitably attached was “el” or “la” like some younger sibling that the parents would allow to tag along.  I felt that if something like this small word was always present it would be equally reasonable if it was never present and just understood.

            Now that I have aged a bit, I have come to appreciate the profundity in simplicity.  As Wing Chun is a complete Kung Fu system in only three short forms, articles are a full grammatical structure in three letters or less. I could not fully grasp the important function of articles without having proofread those papers.

            While I was in college, a classmate had asked me to help proofread her papers and to help her with grammar.  Honestly I had no experience doing such things but felt I was an able writer and felt that it was my obligation to help a pretty girl that had requested it from me.  Needless to say, my initial interest in grammar and second language acquisition was strictly academic.

            It was while I was reading these papers that I noticed myself consistently plugging in “a,” “an,” and “the.”  Why was I doing this? I had already condemned articles to the purgatory of archaic language.  There was something I intuitively knew about articles that I wasn’t realizing.  I was instinctively classifying and identifying objects.  I was signifying with articles what was old and new information.  I still did not fully realize what was happening until the beginning of this semester when we were assigned to read the chapter about article usage.

            It was during this time when I first began to proofread papers written by a non-native speaker that I started to value grammar instruction and realized its importance regarding the success of non-native speakers in academic English writing.  I wanted to know more so that I could help not only non-native speakers who approached me for help but to also enhance my own understanding of my native language.  It is frustrating, as an adult, to merely have an inductive understanding of language, particularly when others are approaching you as an authority on the subject.  It made me feel very inadequate to not be able to properly help these students.  I might be able to succeed about writing in literature at the college level, but why could I not help others attain the same level?  The simple answer is grammar instruction.  I could not provide what I had not received.

            I believe ELL students are taught the basic forms of articles.  So then my question is why do native Korean speakers, even after being promoted out of the ELL program, overgeneralize and omit articles as is typical in the Korean language?  I believe students are not taught the contextual structure of articles in English and this is due to the lack of importance for articles felt by native English speakers.  Again, from my own experience, as a native English speaker, I felt articles were extraneous.  It wasn’t until I had read a paper by a non-native speaker that I began to understand their significance.

            It is not only important for ESL teachers and students to further develop student understanding of articles in English but also, for Korean learners specifically, to understand the use of articles in the Korean language.  I asked my classmate why she continually omitted articles.  I discovered through our conversation that the definite article is basically implied through context and is thought of as unnecessary.  Also the indefinite article essentially does not exist and in its place is the use of “one.”  Rather than “I want a pear” it would be phrased in Korean as “I want one pear.”  My classmate was unaware of this comparison until our recent conversation and I have already noticed a difference in her writing while I proofread her lesson plans.

            In this light it is important for ESL teachers to teach how articles help us indicate the different levels of information.  Students should learn that the use of the indefinite article not only classifies but also indicates new information is being introduced and that the use of the definite article that the item being referenced has already been introduced and is being identified as a specific item.  If ELL students are able to reconcile that the omission of an article in English indicates that no differentiation is required and that in Korean omission indicates that information is already understood from the context, they will not only become more proficient in English but also help define two different world views in which they interact.

            It is not only important for adult ELL learners to learn English grammar but it is also advantageous for both, the students and teachers to, at the very least, have an awareness of the grammatical structure of the student’s native language so as to be able to contrast the two languages.  I believe this contrast can benefit both the native language and the second language of the student in the same way that I have had the opportunity to train in multiple kung fu styles and in my experience I have seen the “universal grammar” pertaining to martial movement but have also seen the unique philosophy that is inherent in each style.

I understand it is not feasible for ELL teachers to have adequate knowledge of the various languages that come into the classroom, but teaching ELL at the graduate level perhaps we can move towards specialization within two or three languages because I believe in order for our graduate students to truly become proficient at the level necessary to succeed in graduate coursework we have to progress from the idea that we as teachers are facilitating the acquisition of another language but rather that we are helping build a second world view within our students. 

            It is to the advantage of us all if our graduate students are able to write at the appropriate academic level and I believe this can be achieved through a thorough grammatical understanding of both English and the student’s native language.  When a person reaches the graduate level of education, I believe it is paramount to have an appropriate command of the written language.  At this level of education every word counts, every word has been meticulously pondered and chosen.  The goal of graduate education should be to send out into the world independent and creative thinkers who have truly mastered a subject of study and are able to confidently articulate that information, particularly in writing and be on the verge of conducting academic research.

            I also believe at the collegiate level of ELL education, more emphasis should be put upon academic writing.  The students seem to put too much emphasis upon trying to acquire a native accent. Although certainly a noble endeavor, it is not necessarily possible.  What I do believe is possible, is for the non-native speaker to write as proficiently as a native at the same academic level.  A large portion of assessments at the collegiate level are written and beyond college what is written certainly is longer lasting than what is spoken.  I see no competition regarding where the focus should be for college students regarding speaking and writing.  It is easier to convey meaning while making mistakes in conversation but writing has a more lasting impression and can used as an equalizer between native and non-native speakers in that with diligent practice a non-native speaker has the capability to be as eloquent as any native speaker.

In order for ELL students to become successful, teaching grammar becomes a crucial process.  In the case of articles we, teachers and students, must surpass a basic understanding.  To understand articles, or any piece of grammar, at the contextual level will help facilitate meaningful learning and aid in the crystallization of two world views for the students.  Through grammar we can create a confident and articulate member of the global community.


Phillip Johnson

Paper 1

Dr. Wei

EDCI 5543

Sept. 28, 2009


My conception of the teaching of grammar and the role of grammar in TESOL is highly dependent on the age of the learner. For younger learners, I believe that communicative techniques/methodologies that focus on comprehensible input are better, as children may not have developed competent usage or understanding of grammatical features of their first language (L1). Gao (2001) states, teaching children grammar is futile. For the most part, I agree with this statement and feel it may be pointless to explicitly teach grammar until the child has a better-developed grammar schema in their first language. Adults, or even adolescents, whose L1 grammar schema is more mature or fully developed can draw upon this schema as a resource foundation upon which to more rapidly build grammar skills and fluency in a second language (L2). While children are able to learn more rapidly in some ways, when compared with older (adult) students, adults are often better equipped to learn grammar because they reference their native language in the acquisition process.  Adults can be conflicted, however, because of preexisting inhibitions and the fear of making errors and losing face (Gao, 2001). This monograph will focus on adult learners and the utilization of explicit grammar teaching and its impact on fluency and accuracy in the acquisition of L2.

            There are and have been many diverse methods of teaching foreign language or English as a second language (or as a foreign language) (ESL) as well as grammar instruction. Batstone and Ellis (2009) suggest that there are two types of basic grammar instruction, one that treats grammar as the subject matter in and of itself and one that uses grammar as a tool to more rapidly build communicative skills. In my experience as a student of foreign language (Spanish, French and German), I found that learning grammar rules out of context with little or no communicative purpose in mind, is a largely ineffective means for me (and others) to quickly move toward anything other than basic knowledge of the language structure itself. I feel that if grammar is taught in and of itself, no real fluency can ever be achieved because grammar is a passive subject matter and not an active means to facilitate proficient and fluid communication in L2. As Gao (2001) points out, “Meaning, social function and discourse are the purpose of grammar teaching. Grammar teaching for the sake of it will definitely lead us to the old path of ‘teaching about the language’” (p. 333). I cannot emphasize enough how strongly I agree with this statement. It has been my experience in speaking with friends and acquaintances in social situations that there are often widely-held negative connotations associated with the teaching of grammar because certain past methodologies never led to communicative competence on any great level for most of them. Unfortunately, the teaching of grammar left a bad taste with them because their instruction fell short of their desire of being able to actually use the language in communicative situations. 

            As teachers of English as a second language (ESL) or foreign language (FL), we must focus on the motivations bringing the students to our classes; the reasons for studying ESL/FL are ultimately those of language used for interaction and communication with native speakers, not merely to learn about the language structure. It has been my experience that many students have left language classes, after perhaps years of instruction, with no solid ability to utilize the language in fluent conversation and interaction. They may have been left with the ability to read a menu, but not the ability to actively engage with native speakers. While grammar instruction is definitely a necessary component of teaching language, Hinkel and Fotos (2002) beautifully sum up the question of adult grammar instruction by saying, “...For adults, the question is not so much whether to teach or not to teach grammar, but rather what are the optimal conditions for overt teaching of grammar” (p. 10).

            When I was in high school, I studied the only foreign language offered in my school, Spanish.  I distinctly recall the over-abundant use of audio-lingual methodology. Much of the class time was spent listening to audiotapes of native speakers producing correct grammatical language structures, followed by repetition by the class, word-for-word, of the material presented. I cannot begin to remember how many times I heard the phrase, “...repetir por favor...”, (please repeat). There was no attempt to create authentic situations in which to practice grammatical structures in context, perhaps make mistakes, and receive feedback from the teacher. There was no conversation elicited between the teacher and students. We simply listened to the tapes and repeated endlessly, perhaps memorizing the structure presented. This in no way led to any great deal of communicative competence for me or for most of my fellow classmates.

            In college, I studied in Germany for a year after having had five semesters of German language instruction.  I found out quickly upon my arrival that those five semesters of instruction were woefully inadequate for me to be able to communicate effectively with native speakers, let alone to be prepared to take classes, such as literature, in German. The manner in which I had been taught German here in the States did not prepare me to be conversationally functional; I had been taught more about the language than how to actually use the language communicatively.

            I remember explicitly, an incident that occurred on my first day in Bonn, Germany. I met the director of the program in which I was participating. He was helping the students get to their respective residences and he asked me if I needed help getting to my residence. I had rented a car at the airport, of which I still had possession, and I promptly answered, “ *Nein danke, ich habe mit dem Auto gefahren.” (“No thank you, I came by car”, indicating I did not need his assistance.) The form I used was grammatically incorrect. Transitive verbs in the present-perfect tense in German require the auxiliary-verb, ‘to be’, not ‘to-have’. It is a grammatical structure that is taught and stressed in German language instruction. We do not use ‘to be’ in present-perfect tense in English, we always use ‘to have’. The correct response would have been, “Nein, danke, ich bin mit dem Auto gefahren.” The director immediately corrected my mistake and I was incredibly embarrassed. However, I have never made that error again and the use of ‘to be’ with transitive verbs is now a permanent part of my implicit knowledge of grammatical structures in German. Perhaps if I had been provided with more opportunities in the classroom to practice this structure, I would have been spared such an embarrassing episode.  

            Another experience in Germany involved Korean students. In many countries, and Asian countries in particular, I believe grammar translation methodology is still widely used. There were several Korean students enrolled in the program with me. They were able to read and write German quite well, but were nearly incapable of speaking the language. I believe this was due primarily to the lack of the use of communicative instructional methods in their native land. While grammar translation and audio-lingual methods employ the use of adult schema of grammatical structures, it is my observation, that these methodologies do not engender proficient use of the spoken language.

            While these older methodologies are useful, (they certainly have value), if employed as sole educational devices they will probably not lead to the level of oral competency desired by most adult learners. Newer methodologies, when coupled with elements of older, structural methodologies are capable of eliciting much more positive results in the language learner.  Batstone and Ellis (2009) state that “...effective grammar instruction must complement the processes of L2 acquisition”, and they emphasize the “Given-to-New” principle, which bases new grammatical connections upon information that is already known to the learner (p.195). In my opinion, this Given-to-New principle can exploit the way adults learn. Unlike children, adults tend to learn language through their use of existing schema and teachers need to utilize this learning mechanism to its fullest advantage. The Given-to-New principle might also be equated with Hinkel and Fotos’ (2002) description of explicit and implicit knowledge.

            According to Hinkel and Fotos (2002), explicit (declarative) knowledge and implicit (procedural) knowledge were treated as separate entities until recently. Development of awareness of specific grammatical features through formal instruction leads learners to consciously notice the features in subsequent exposure to the features. Learners frequently make comparisons between their existing linguistic knowledge and the new information which leads to adaptation and implementation or testing of new knowledge through output and in turn, to implicit or unconscious awareness (Hinkel and Fotos, 2002). The development of comprehensible output (by this I mean not only being understood, but also being grammatically correct), in my opinion, is best developed through frequent and extensive exposure to grammatically accurate comprehensible input with multiple opportunities for output and corrective feedback. Newer methodologies sometimes fail to incorporate aspects of older structured methodologies in that they omit explicit instruction of grammar in their format. They fail to address common aspects of the learning styles of adult learners, who, unlike children, often cannot attain fluency in an additional language in a natural setting (Gao, 2001). “...Grammar, as a means of improving speech or written communication, can be utilized to compensate for this loss” (Gao, 2001, p. 334). Although the adult learner may have had many communicative opportunities and frequent exposure to the target language, there is evidence that suggests explicit instruction needs to be utilized in order to achieve desired accuracy results (Hinkel and Fotos, 2009). In my opinion, balanced instruction is extremely necessary to successfully teach a language and maximize the student’s abilities to retain and utilize the language in a communicative manner.

            Communicative methodologies and structural methodologies both have various strengths and weaknesses. I understand the rationale behind the recent trend toward communicative methodology, but it seems to me the baby has been thrown out with the bath water, so to speak, by excluding explicit grammar instruction. I do believe that communicative methodologies such as Total Proficiency Through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS) are extremely effective for younger learners because they do not focus too intensely on structured grammar instruction. This or similar methodology, without the inclusion of explicit grammar instruction, is probably not as effective for adults, for we are not utilizing their previous linguistic knowledge and we are not addressing the way adults tend to learn. I believe there should be some sort of meshing or combining of communicative and structural formats for adult learners. Formal instruction of target grammatical features/structures leads adult learners to a greater awareness of the structure itself and situations need to be created for the more authentic use of the structures by the students to test them and perhaps allow opportunities for mistakes and corrective feedback. In this way, incorrect usage does not become fossilized. Every student or group of students will have varying language acquisition goals, for social, business or other purposes. In my future classroom endeavors, it will be my goal, whenever possible, to customize instruction based on students’ specific communicative needs.






Batstone, R., and Ellis, R. (2009). Principled grammar teaching. System, 37 (2), 194-204.

Hinkel, E., & Fotos, S. (Eds.). (2002). New perspectives on grammar teaching in second

            language classrooms. Mawah, NJ, London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Gao, Z. C. (2001). Second language learning and the teaching of grammar.

            Education, 122 (2), 326-336.



Paper 2: My Belief in Teaching Grammar

Jessica Flinkman

University of Missouri - Kansas City


Compare and/or Describe Your Concept Change in Grammar throughout the Course of this Semester

            Before EDCI 5543, I had little respect for the importance of grammar in teaching/learning English. Growing up, I did not enjoy grammar. My teachers in elementary, middle, and high school didn’t portray a huge exuberance towards grammar when they taught, so I had a negative view of it when I started teaching and didn’t think of it as important. Because I understood it from an early age and used it every day successfully, I took advantage of all the information I already knew and never actually learned the concepts in-depth or to the point where I could teach them. Through EDCI 5543, I’ve learned the importance of understanding grammar in order to explain it better. I also learned that grammar is not a topic to teach on the side, but rather a foundational element of English learning.

When I applied for a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in TESOL in May, I had been teaching English in China for nine months. During those nine months, I spent a lot of my time researching grammar in order to teach my students the best that I could. However, when I say, ‘researching,’ I mean finding websites with helpful definitions of grammatical structures that I wanted to teach. The websites were not research articles or periodic journals. Therefore, my confidence level in teaching grammar was low because I wasn’t confident I was teaching each concept wholly. In my one-year teaching grammar to Chinese students, I learned a lot about what I didn’t know about grammar. For example, on my first day teaching uncountable nouns, I had an activity ready for my students to have a fun time and learn what is countable and uncountable. I tied in articles and zero articles by recycling the rules of when to use an article versus a zero article. We already discussed this the week before and learned one of the rules for zero article was that it applies to uncountable nouns. So, I decided to use this rule to apply to my uncountable nouns. For my activity, I collected a list of countable and uncountable nouns from various websites and cut them out as little pieces of paper. I formatted the students’ notes to have a T-chart labelled, ‘countable’ and ‘uncountable.’ I explained the purpose of the activity was to help them to understand which nouns to use a definite, indefinite, or zero article in front of (based on the rules we already learned). We discussed the rules one more time and then the fun part of the activity: I took the nouns that I cut out and flung them across the room. The students had to collect five nouns (or confetti, as I called it) and categorize them into the correct category. I thought I included every element necessary to teach well: I had recycled information we learned before; I applied the learning topic to what we had already learned and what we needed to learn (based on their journal entries); I made it fun and interactive to engage the students; I made it just difficult enough that I could assist them, etc. I understood that “if you understand that what you are trying to do is to get students to use grammatical structures accurately, meaningfully, and appropriately, then you realize that you need to provide students with an opportunity to use grammar structures in meaningful and engaging activities” (Pérez-Llantada, 2007, p.158). My goal was to make them enjoy learning about the grammatical structure. However, when I did the activity, I was met with so many questions about the correct use of the nouns. I didn’t take into account the context of the nouns and that there are multiple examples of how the structure of a sentence can influence the noun. I became overwhelmed with the questions my students were asking me about the exceptions in countable and uncountable nouns. The shallow research I did wasn’t enough to help the students’ questions.

It was at that point that I realized that just knowing how to use grammar correctly wasn’t good enough - I needed to know how to explain it and anticipate common mistakes. Some part of me already knew that when I was in China, but I didn’t know where to start with my research. So, coming into a class for teaching grammar to ESOL was daunting, but also welcome in my life.

Another concept change that occurred when I started EDCI 5543 was my misconception that grammar instruction was not that important. As I stated before, I learned a lot of grammar rules that I didn’t know before I taught in China by researching articles that weren’t reviewed and websites. As a result of all this scattered research, I found a lot of conflicting rules on different websites. I admit that I got so overwhelmed that I just chose the website that made the most sense and used that as my resource for teaching. The problem with this was that I was so confused with the rules that whenever it came to actually learning the grammatical structures in a way that is helpful or meaningful (through a peer-reviewed article or research article, for example), I gave up because I felt overwhelmed and marked grammar as less important in my mind. During my instruction for writing, I recognized the importance of grammar, but I stayed within my bounds of knowledge when it came to teaching my students the rules. They improved, but with less knowledge than what I could have given them if I had researched the grammatical forms, concepts, and exceptions. Thus, when Dr. Wei started discussing the meanings behind rules so effortlessly in class, my overwhelmed feeling came back. It wasn’t until I started reading the book and seeing that every structure has exceptions that the rules of grammar started to make more sense and the task of explaining a grammatical structure to an entire class became less daunting. 

Identify What Is Missing in Current ESL/EFL Classroom Practice

When I was teaching in China, I realized how easy it is to get discouraged while learning grammar and teaching grammar because of all the information involved in all the grammatical concepts. As stated before, I also experienced difficulties with learning grammatical structures through website resources. Therefore, I suggest that two elements are missing in the current ESL/EFL classroom practice: the posture of humility and grace when teaching and learning grammar and also more resources available to teachers and students for learning grammar.

One difficulty that I faced in China was not knowing all the answers to the grammatical questions my students were asking. A teacher should have grace for his/her students when it comes to learning the content, but a teacher should also have grace for himself/herself when it comes to knowing the content. Therefore, one thing that must be changed is the stigma that if you don’t know all the grammar rules and structures off the top of your head, then you can’t be an effective grammar teacher. A lacking phrase in grammar instruction is the humility necessary to say, “I don’t know, but let’s find out together”. I understand that teaching in an EFL setting would change how the students perceive a teacher saying, “I don’t know”. However, it is necessary to create a culture in the classroom of exploring and learning through mistakes. Before teaching in China, we were trained to never say, “I don’t know,” but rather, “We are not talking about that right now, I will tell you next week,” because the students in China generally do not appreciate the instructor telling them they don’t know everything. Respecting the social expectations of the culture you are immersed in, specifically for EFL, is essential to building the rapport necessary for students to feel comfortable for you to change the said culture. For example, I listened to my trainees at first when it came to saying an indirect “I don’t know” by avoiding the topic when I didn’t know it, but then I realized that these students trusted me. I started telling them that not knowing everything is okay and that’s why we’re here: to learn. By proving to them in the first couple of months that I was dedicated to their learning and their improvement, especially with grammar, I had grounds to show them a little bit of the grace culture that American teachers are starting to dabble in in modern classrooms, as far as the tabooed words, “I don’t know.”  By creating this culture in my classroom last year, the first time I told my students that the grammatical structure we were learning was hard for me to understand, I saw their faces shift in discomfort. But they eventually opened up to my saying, “Let’s look this up together and see if we can figure it out.” Slowly, I showed them the idea of looking up concepts and thinking for themselves as far as discovering techniques to self-teach and understand difficult structures. It took me a while to decide on this culture of humility with my students, but once I did, I found it very successful.

While mercy and humility in a classroom are important, it is still crucial for educators and learners to have access to valuable resources. In my experience I had in China, I didn’t have a book to base my curriculum on, so my experience is different than most EFL teachers. However, the books and resources that I found online while researching grammatical structures did not cover all the concepts of the grammar I was teaching (i.e. examples of exceptions). Dr. Wei explained in EDCI 5547 that the problems that an ELL will have in a certain language cannot be predicted or generalized until the assessment has occurred. This applies to my teaching grammar in China: it is not possible to see all the problems that my Chinese students will most definitely have with English grammar. However, if I had a book that pointed out all the exceptions of grammar and the rules I was teaching, it would have made my job a whole lot easier. While I’m sure different books exist that provide multiple resources, I’m looking for a book specifically targeted for all the grammatical structures that an ESOL teacher would teach and what exceptions are involved. In an ideal world, there would be activities included to enhance the students’ understanding. Even an informational part of the book on the structure to refresh teachers’ knowledge on the various structures would be ideal. As I said before, there are a lot of books on the in-depth reasons behind structures – like our book for EDCI 5543 – but these books do not cover all the concepts necessary to teach a second or foreign language. Even if George Yule had to write different volumes on English grammar to cover all the topics, at least teachers would have access to more grammatical structures than just ten concepts.

Personalize Your Grammar Pedagogy by Integrating Scholarly Work

In my experience teaching grammar, I found that “both teachers and students invariably face serious difficulties with regard to EFL grammar instruction” (Al-Mekhlafi & Nagaratnam, 2011, p. 82). So, even though the approach of mercy and humility in the classroom seems counterproductive, I believe that “we, as educators, should try to embrace approaches that work with children even when these approaches don't fit neatly into our ways of thinking” (Sekayi, 2000, p. 397). These ‘ways of thinking’ may also be due to the culture of the students we are teaching, as I mentioned above. However, with any culture anywhere, because English grammar is difficult, both teachers and students are going to make mistakes. Instead of fighting to be right all the time and losing sight of what it looks like to learn, teachers need to reevaluate how they are approaching their students’ mistakes and their own mistakes in order to help create an atmosphere of learning from mistakes, a powerful learning tool in itself.

Because learning and teaching English grammar is difficult for students (Al-Mekhlafi & Nagaratnam, 2011), I think it is necessary for “EFL Curriculum and material developers to show an understanding of learners’ and teachers’ difficulties, and provide sufficient guidance and help in the curriculum document and the teachers’ book showing how the potential difficulties could be addressed in planning their classroom activities” (Al-Mekhlafi & Nagaratnam, 2011, p. 83). This supports the claim that a resource needs to be provided for teachers to use to anticipate difficult grammatical structures. With a user-friendly book (or volume of books) for all teachers to use, I think grammar would become much more applicable and fun to teach.

Identify the Particular Knowledge You Would Like to Receive in Order to Realize Your Grammar Teaching Beliefs

Overall, my experience in EDCI 5543 has been beneficial and enlightening of the fact that grammar is much more important than I thought when I was teaching in China. If I had a more impactful experience learning grammar in my education, maybe my teaching would have looked differently. Instead of taking every structure and breaking it down, I taught the best I could based on the limited knowledge I had access to in my classroom. For the future, I want to find ways to give the reasons behind grammatical structures, and I want to make the instruction itself meaningful, effective, and fun.

In my time in EDCI 5543, I’ve built an appreciation for the importance of knowing grammatical structures and how to explain them. I would love to learn even more teaching strategies for grammar - specifically how to explain the reasons or history behind grammatical structures. I think teaching reason would help students to have more motivation to learn grammatical structures and hopefully make the class more helpful. “So my idea is to teach reasons so that students understand that language is the way it is. Also, I think reasons tend to be broader-based than rules, and if you understand the reason why speakers make the choices they do, you have some access to the way that people think in that language, the culture of speakers of that language” (Pérez-Llantada, 2007, p.160). While explaining the reasons of grammar is beneficial, I don’t have all the knowledge or experience built up to know the reason behind most grammatical structures. When I taught grammar to my Kindergarteners in 2017, I got the question, “Why is grammar like this, Miss Flinkman?” quite often.  My answer would almost always be, “Sometimes the English language is silly and the words don’t follow the rules.” While that might be the explanation behind certain grammar structures, I would still appreciate knowing more on the subject to feel more confident in my role as teacher, specifically on how to explain why the structure isn’t fitting into its mold.

Based on my experiences teaching in China, my grammar instruction was lacking content, but it was not lacking fun activities to engage the students in learning. I think it is very important to have an understanding of the students’ perspectives on learning grammar and making grammar applicable to the students’ lives. “EFL teachers would do well to understand and address their learners’ concerns in planning their lessons and classroom activities, and use supplementary materials, if necessary, to help learners cope with the difficulties” (Al-Mekhlafi & Nagaratnam, 2011, p. 83). This could look as simple as making a game out of the grammar rules (like I did with my uncountable and countable nouns) or even applying the grammar to the students’ lives. “If students are engaged in psychologically authentic activities, they have an opportunity to practice using language meaningfully for their own purposes. This is the only way to overcome the inert knowledge problem” (Pérez-Llantada, 2007, p.159). However, with my limited experience teaching, I want to learn more games and activities to use in instruction. Also, I want to learn which grammatical structures would be less or more difficult to teach using games so that I don’t have another experience like my noun confetti game. “Students are taught grammar as a set of rules, but even if they can apply the rules to exercises successfully during the lesson, they don’t seem to be able to activate their knowledge of the rules when they are communicating during another part of the lesson or in another context” (Pérez-Llantada, 2007, p.158). Applying the grammar to my students’ lives in a meaningful and fun way would be beneficial for me for my future career.


Al-Mekhlafi, A. M., & Nagaratnam, R. P. (2011). Difficulties in teaching and learning

grammar in an EFL context. Online Submission, 4(2), 69–92.

Pérez-Llantada, M. C. (2007). New trends in grammar teaching: issues and applications. An

interview with Prof. Diane Larsen-Freeman. Atlantis: Revista de La Asociación Española de Estudios Anglo-Norteamericanos, 29(1), 157–163.

Sekayi, D. N. R. (2000). Flexibility, arrogance and humility in the classroom: Rising above the

focus-obscurity framework. Education, 121(2), 394.



Shannon Dunn

EDCI 5543


Paper 2: My Belief in Teaching Grammar

            Teaching grammar is a necessity in any teaching situation, whether it be taught implicitly or explicitly for first or second language acquisition. My experience with grammar instruction in English as my first language and Spanish and Arabic as second languages have influenced the way I thought second languages should be taught; however, second language acquisition research has shifted my concepts of teaching. Since I plan to teach English as a second language to adults, this paper focuses on mainly adult ESL/EFL contexts. This paper outlines my concepts of grammar teaching, what is missing in ESL/ELF classroom practices, pedagogical support for grammar instruction, and what I still need to learn to fulfill my grammar teaching goals.


Compare and/or Describe Your Concept Change in Grammar Teaching   

My concept of grammar teaching has drastically shifted over time. These concepts started as my own understanding of how I was taught English grammar throughout primary and secondary school and how I learned Spanish as a pre-teen and adult. Through my years of English grammar instruction, I felt that while using correct verbal grammar was barely commented on, written grammar was highly focused on with explicit instruction from elementary through high school. I remember having a grammar workbook every year of school from third to tenth grade. These workbooks always had the same format: grammar rules at the top and practice exercises on the bottom and back. While it was easy at that time to skip over the rules and just go with what sounded right, I wish I had paid closer attention. As I focused on becoming an English teacher, I went back to review those specific rules and am learning them again more in-depth through EDCI 5543 English Grammar for ESOL Teachers.

            In my first experience with second language learning, I found that the grammar instruction in my Spanish courses was much the same as in my English courses. In middle school and high school Spanish, we learned words, and once we had enough vocabulary, we were given grammar rules and expected to follow them, which manifested mainly in written exercises mirroring exercises found in the elementary grammar workbooks. While speaking was also a significant portion of Spanish class, it only followed the written grammar practice, and it was never the mode of assessment, for which I was thankful. Because of the formulaic nature of how Spanish grammar was taught, I tended to write my sentences out of order. I would think of the sentence in the English order but leave spaces in the Spanish sentence where I would come back and fill in the Spanish word when I got to it in the English structure. With this experience only, I would say explicit, formulaic grammar instruction is the best method for teaching grammar in any language context; however, that experience is too narrow to fully understand the diversity of language learning contexts. While my experience could be used to generalize about language learning for motivated adolescent learners, there are many other language-learning situations that come to different conclusions. For example, younger language learners who are displaced may be extremely resistant to learning a new language (Igoa, 2013). People who see no practical need for a second language may also be hard-pressed to put true effort into language learning.

            As an adult language learner, I picked up Spanish again; however, I was much less motived. Due to affective factors that were not barriers when I was younger, I did not learn as effectively in college as I did in secondary school. While the instruction was mainly the same, more cultural information was focused on as a strategy to increase motivation; however, frustration with the overall situation was a large barrier to language learning, especially when learning and retaining grammar. Therefore, my concept of teaching grammar has shifted to account more for affective factors students struggle with, specifically in regard to motivation, emotion, and mood.

            These kinds of affective factors have been an impenetrable barrier to my language learning of Arabic. Negative feedback and criticism have destroyed my motivation to learn Arabic. While I still want to learn, I feel I do not know which resources are credible, useful, and practical. Therefore, my grammar teaching will also include explicit practical resources such as grammar videos (such as those shown in the class from Anglo-Link) and practical usage guides. Specifically, coupling meaningful vocabulary with practical, contextual grammar is my main focus for grammar instruction because creating meaningful contexts for both vocabulary and grammar support retention of both.


Identify What is Missing in Current ESL/EFL Classroom Practice

            While there are many practices that would benefit the ESL/EFL classroom, the larger contexts of language learning programs and their purposes also largely affect students’ language learning success. Within the classroom, especially at the lower levels of proficiency, technology should be more integrated into language learning. While ESL settings provide more opportunities to converse with native speakers, EFL settings have a limited native-speaking audience to converse with. This is where social media could support students’ language learning. While social media focuses more on writing-based language skills, there is also a lot of multi-modal language learning opportunities that result from social media exposure, which is difficult to recreate authentically with traditional teaching methods. Also, creating a platform for students to practice casual language with native speakers authentically provide a path to sustain causal interactions as they improve their language. Moreover, while higher-level language courses focus more on CALPS, sustained social media involvement can further develop BICS outside of the classroom. In the classroom, this could be as simple as following certain twitter accounts and posting comments to main posts, writing reviews on Google or Yelp of local business students go to, and replying when someone comments on their posts. Introducing these kinds of resources to students show them that language learning is not only inside the classroom and that there are communication opportunities everywhere, even if it is not face-to-face.

            Classroom practices are also extremely influenced by the language learning context. Specifically, I am referencing language programs for adults, as that is my future teaching focus. In regard to adult language learning, program expectations, requirements, and policies affect the students’ language learning process. While there are many types of adult language learning programs, I will focus on those programs aligned with teaching English for academic purposes, such as those attached to universities. These programs prepare speakers of other languages to study in English; however, these students come with different academic goals that should be tailored to in intensive English programs. For example, many programs target language learning to the undergraduate level, meaning that completion of the language program aligns with undergraduate language needs; however, many language students will matriculate into graduate degree fields, which require a higher level of proficiency and include more rigorous course requirements. If language programs target undergraduate-level adequacy, then there is a large gap that graduate students have to compensate for. In regard to grammar in this situation, language students should be exposed to more rigorous reading preferably in their own academic field. From my experience with many international graduate students, they struggle most with reading and writing because their language programs did not prepare them for the grammatic complexity of academic articles and major-specific writing assignments. Major-specific vocabulary and grammar usage are substantial hurdles that speakers of other languages have to overcome. Language programs could better transition these students into their graduate academic programs by connecting them with an academic advisor in their field of study who will support them with major-specific reading resources and writing assignments. Moreover, once students are no longer in a language program, they should still be able to reach out to the language program for help because language learning is never truly complete.


Personalize Your Grammar Pedagogy by Integrating Scholarly Work       

As previously stated, grammar instruction is important at every age and proficiency level; however, this section will focus mainly on adult learners. Adult learning may seem more difficult based on the critical theory hypothesis posed by Lenneburg (1967); however, different language skills indicate different critical period cutoffs. For example, Singleton and Lengyel (1995) provided evidence that vocabulary acquisition had no age limit; therefore, they established that second language learning is a possibility at any age. Furthermore, Hartshorne, Tenenbaum, and Pinker (2018) indicated that native-like grammar acquisition was possible up to 17.4 years of age. There are also multiple studies that investigate phonological acquisition for native-like accents reviewed by Scovel (2000). While many studies indicate there is a critical period for native-like accents, it ranges from 3-7 years of age. These studies indicate that it is easier to learn these specific skills before this specific time; however, that does not mean they cannot be learned. Most likely, the critical period of these skills indicates a cutoff period for these skills to be internalized, which means language users can produce and comprehend them without extra mental processing effort. Even if students do not internalize language skills, it is more important that students know how these skills are used so students can recast their language when it creates communicative barriers.

            This notion brings me to the point of implicit versus explicit grammar teaching. Multiple studies have shown that adult learners respond better to explicit grammar instruction (Akakura, 2012; DeKeyser, 1995). This instructional preference is most likely due to students understanding of complex language through their first language experiences, which transfers skills based on the principles of universal grammar (Chomsky, 1988). Since adult language users already have complex language skills, teaching grammar explicitly allows them to use their first language as a system of similarities and differences for their new target language. Since children do not have these complex language structures and experiences to use as prior knowledge background, implicit grammar instruction tends to work better for them (Akakura, 2012).

            Explicit grammar instruction is only one part of grammar learning. Explicit grammar instruction needs to be coupled with practical contexts to help support retention and acquisition (Celce-Murica, 2002). This is very logical because certain grammar structures are found commonly in specific language situations. For example, written recipes consistently utilize you (understood), therefore coupling this grammar form with cooking words provides an authentic language learning context where this grammatical structure and vocabulary naturally occur together. Not only does this reinforce the concept of practicality to students, but it shows them in what context this structure is commonly used.

            While the previous points focused on teacher-controlled aspects of language learning, there are factors that affect language learning that are harder for teachers to control: affective factors. Emotions and mood play a significant factor in students’ learning process, which is largely influenced by students’ cultural viewpoint and personal opinions of language learning (MacIntyre & Vincze, 2017). The effects of positive emotions on language learning have not been as extensively studied as the effects of negative emotions, but negativity toward language learning is a hot topic in language research, especially when resistance to language learning involves cultural factors such as identity and prejudice.

            Specifically, in regard to teaching grammar, negative feedback can be detrimental to students’ language learning motivation. MacIntyre and Vincze (2017) indicated that embarrassment and sadness were major negative emotions that hinder language learning, which can easily result from grammar mistakes inside and outside of the classroom. Within the classroom, it is important for the teacher to create a safe environment through example and intolerance for negative comments from other students. Experiences outside of the classroom are much harder to control, specifically when the dominant culture of the area holds demeaning stereotypes or practices prejudice towards certain language-speaking populations. MacIntyre and Vincze (2017) suggest fostering peacefulness and amusement in language learning environments to decrease students’ stress and unease while experimenting with language learning. A supportive language learning environment can turn the tables on past negative language learning experiences and encounters.


Identify the Particular Knowledge You Would Like to Receive      

While I feel that UMKC’s master’s in TESOL program covers a lot in terms of grammar teaching, there is still a lot I need to learn. Having gone through the entire program, I can say that I feel confident in my ability to teach grammar to speakers of other languages. This confidence has been strengthened in EDCI 5543 specifically because we are currently going through common grammatical concepts that have pointedly specific usage rules that native speakers tend not to know explicitly. Having a better understanding of these rules and seeing my fellow classmates do lesson demonstrations targeting language learners has helped me understand what to expect in language classrooms.

I feel that what I want to learn now fall more outside of the classroom, but still, affect how grammar is taught. Specifically, I want to learn more about supporting advanced learners’ transition from intensive language-level grammar to the grammar that is used and expected at the graduate level. In alignment with that, I also want to learn more about the administrative influences that affect classroom practices. It is well known that Common Core was created to align with college expectations, but I have not heard about or reviewed for myself how adult language standards are created, structured, or aligned with specific language needs. From my understanding, ESL programs use a set of standards that lead to proficient language use; however, the students’ intended language purposes may be different than the goals aligned to the standards of the program. This is a big issue separating communicative competence, undergraduate-level language usage, and graduate-level language usage. Community-based language or public adult education options usually focus on communicative competence and practical work-related language use (Gonzalves, 2017). These programs align their language content to ESL Model Standards for Adult Education Programs, English Language Proficiency Standards for Adult Education, and other various standards created at a state-wide level. While these standards are widely used, in adult education, the attainment of these goals does not seem to align with the academic needs of graduate-level students. The Applied Language Institute at UMKC utilizes the ACTFL Standards; however, a detailed description of these standards are not available for public review, which means that I cannot ascertain whether or not they are better than the aforementioned standards for adult learners at the collegiate level.  

Furthermore, many undergraduate courses utilize more multiple-choice tests and less writing-intensive assessments than graduate courses; therefore, graduate students must be prepared for extensive complex reading and writing tasks that are far above what is expected of undergraduate students and in language intensive courses. I would like to learn more about how teachers can facilitate those learning needs in regard to grammar instruction in the classroom to bridge the gap between language learning for academic purposes and practical language use in graduate-level academic settings.








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Gonzalves, L. (2017). Placement, progress, and promotion: ESL assessment in California's adult schools. CATESOL Journal29(2), 163-184.

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MacIntyre, P. D., & Vincze, L. (2017). Positive and negative emotions underlie motivation for L2 learning. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching7(1).



Copyright © Dr. Michael Wei