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Teaching Language in Context

Teaching Language in Context

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Published by Cleber.de.Souza

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Published by: Cleber.de.Souza on Sep 21, 2009
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Theory of Bilingual Education
Adriana Sand
CascanteTeaching Language in Context. Alice Omaggio Hadley
The role of context in comprehension andlearning
Hypothesis 1.
Opportunities must be provided to students to practice using language in context.This chapter explores content & context. Students need opportunities to learn language in contextand apply it with real situations. This goal can be achieved if language is presented and practiced incommunicative context. Natural language occurs in context. “Normal linguistic behavior doesn’t consist of production of separate sentences but in their use of for the creation of the discourse.” (
).“Classroom thinking and real-life thinking have been a long-standing problem in education” (
emphasized the need for context and “sentence connectedness.”
refers to instruction asmental gymnastics, replete with leap from one range of ideas to another. Disconnected exercises becomeboring, and disjointed language practice activities can still found in modern text. Scholars believe thatprograms should incorporate analytic and experiential approaches to language learning. Stern explains thatin analytic approach, language is the object of study, and in experiential approach language is learnedthrough communication in content-based classrooms.
et al. feel these two types are complementary.Learners benefit most if form and function are instructionally linked. Students need opportunities to usethe target language, to be motivated to use it accurately, appropriately, and coherently. Focused practiceactivities must be functional, organizational, and sociolinguistic. Analytical activities and form-focusedpractice is improved if they consist of sentences connected one to another in a logical sequence.In this part of the chapter there are two samples exercises. The first one is descontextualized. Thesecond one is contextualized to a theme of the unit of study, which is politics. Both samples are equivalentin difficult and structure. But while the sentences in the first sample would hardly say in sequence in a real-world situation, in the second, it could say in summarizing political views. The second activity is morenatural, and focused on particular grammatical point. Meaningful processing can be assured for sample 2by asking students to use the given model to create their own statements about politics.The fundamental difference between noncontextualized and contextualized practice is that linksform with meanings that language learners want to convey in natural communicative situations.Focused practice is designed to students can refine and shape their communicative output toconform to target language norms. It can be beneficial as students’ skills are developing.
 Higgs & Clifford 
concluded that if accuracy is a goal of instruction, students must pass through meaningful, structured ormonitored practice, to open-ended communication.
expressed the language learning involvesthe gradual shift from controlled to automatic processing. At first, a learner searches consciously for wordsbecause of his lower-level processes are not enough automatic. Gradually, he increases the number of situations he can perform without consciously attending. He becomes more capable of devoting hisconscious decision-making processes to the level of meaning. (
) He also suggests that classroom
activities be designed to follow a sequence in which meaning plays a role: 1) focus on form, 2) focus onform + meaning, 3) focus on meaning + form, and 4) focus meaning. Type 1 keeps a minimum proficiency-oriented instruction. Type 2 constitutes pre-communicative practice. Type 3 & 4 develop proficiency.Content-based instruction and immersion are experiential, and offer full contextualization of instruction.
The importance of context and background knowledge in thecomprehension process: some theoretical considerations
Learning and practicing language in meaningful context is more appealing to students and teachersthan learning isolated bits of language through memorization. The rationale for contextualizing andpersonalizing classroom activities not rest upon intuition. Additional support is found for the use of authentic input in listening and reading, as well as meaningful and contextualized materials for languageproduction.
The role of background knowledge
Cognitive psychologists emphasized it.
said that learning must bee meaningful to beeffective and permanent. It must be relatable to prior knowledge, and existing knowledge must beorganized in a way that new information be assimilated or attached to learner’s cognitive structure.Teachers need to provide
advance organizers
(devices that activate background knowledge) to facilitatelearning and retention.There are 3 types of background knowledge potentially activated:1. Linguistic information: knowledge of target code.2. Knowledge of the world: including store of concepts and expectations based on prior experience.3. Knowledge of discourse structure: understanding of how various discourses (conversations, radiobroadcasts, literary text, political speeches, newspapers, magazines) are organized.Language practice limited to the use of form, only the first type of background knowledge isinvolved.The hypothesis that the need for activating knowledge is greatest for lower proficiency levels, issupported by
who separate this factors in the reading process:1. Knowledge of the language: the code.2. Ability to predict and make correct choices.3. Ability to remember previous cues.4. Ability to associate between different cues selected.In reading a second language appear new elements:1. Reader’s knowledge of foreign language differs from native speaker’s.2. Predicting ability is hindered by reader’s imperfect knowledge.3. Wrong choices make association more difficult.4. Memory span is reduced making more difficult to remember cues.5. There is interference from the native language.
concludes that second language learners are in disadvantage because:
1. They are forced to recall cues that they don’t know well, and they forget them much faster.2. They predict future cues and make association with past cues simultaneously. “If theypredict what is coming, they forget past cues; if they concentrate on the past cues,prediction is impaired.”Novice or intermediate students often try to process language in a word-for-word fashion. If students use other cues such as knowledge of the world, understanding should be facilitated. Teachers canhelp students by drawing the three types of background knowledge.They view that various types of background knowledge are used to comprehend written and oraltexts was proposed by some theorists such as
, they addressed first-language readingcomprehension had a strong influence on second language theories about the nature of listening andreading process. Readers select elements of the text rather than use all the visual cues (reduction of uncertainty) Reading is a psycholinguistic guessing game (
). The ability to anticipate which hasnot been seen, is vital in reading. Readers sample the textual cues, use redundancies, and formulate theirhypotheses about what the text is going to say. The sampling process helps readers confirm o reject thehypotheses as they process the information in the text (Barnett). Readers don’t process words; they work onthe semantic or logical relations of the material. Top down theories of comprehension are replaced inpopularity by more interactive models of reading, which suggest that comprehension involves an interactiveprocess between the reader and the text that moves in a cyclical way.
Schema theory: Using background knowledge to enhance the language-comprehension process
Carrell & Eisterhold 
) Any given text doesn’t carry meaning itself. It provides direction to listenersor readers can construct meaning from their cognitive structure, called
(the plural of 
).Other similar but not quite synonymous are
scripts, plans, goals, frames, expectations, and events chains
.Rumelhart defines a schema as an abstract representation of a generic concept for an object, eventor situation. For example, the individual abstract concept “
”, may be altered by adjectives like elegantor squalid. Cultural differences also alter the abstract representation for a concept. Misunderstandinghappens when we find the wrong schema for a given concept.When a schema represents a whole situation, a chain of stereotypic events or features is called upin mind in association with the situation. Schank & Abelson defined the term “
” as a structure thatdescribes in a predetermined fashion, appropriate sequences of events in a particular context.
refers to the selection of a particular form of a schema as “
”. Comprehendinga story depends on the schema that is instantiated as the listener who needs to construct a correspondencebetween the schema he had activated and the actual information. If both sources match, the message isunderstood. Comprehension involves fitting the meaning of the message to the schema in mind. Personalhistory, interests, preconceived ideas, and cultural background influence “Interpretation”.Schema theorists describe an interactive model of comprehension. They posit two modes:
bottom-up and top-down processing
Carrell and Eisterhold 
differ these two operations in the type of informationused in comprehending the message and the way that information enters to the system. Schemata areorganized hierarchically: most abstract schemata at the top, and most specific at the bottom.
 Bottom-up processing
: The message is interpreted by paying attention to specific details, andattempting to instantiate the fitting lower-level schema for the incoming data. (
 Data-driven moving from

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