This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
DIFFERENT APPROACHES TO TEACHING GRAMMAR: A CASE STUDY 1.0 INTRODUCTION For a few decades, there have been so many disputes on different approaches to teaching grammar. To date, teachers of English as a Second Language (ESL) are still confronted with the crucial issue of choosing the best approach to improve their students' grammatical accuracy. Through experience as an ESL teacher in a government school, the researcher found out that many of her students always struggle with their grammar especially in their writing compositions. They are form three students and they can be categorized into groups of high intermediate to low proficiency in English. The level of proficiency in English is determined from their semester exam's results whereby they only managed to obtain scores below eighty percent. Based on their narrative compositions, it was apparent that these students are very weak in using Simple Past Tense and Past Continuous Tense. It is believed that, with the years of learning English language in ESL classrooms, they should have some basic knowledge on grammar. In the English syllabuses of Kurikulum Baru Sekolah Rendah (KBSR) and Kurikulum Bersepadu Sekolah Menengah (KBSM) grammar is not taught in isolation. Instead, in Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) approach, which is adopted by KBSR and KBSM, grammar is taught implicitly through meaningful contexts. Presently, CLT is considered to be the main stream in English as Second Language classrooms. According to Williams (1995), CLT has met with great success; second language learners who study in CLT classroom are generally successful communicators. Unfortunately, now many researchers and teachers have begun to wonder if it is enough to provide students with rich, varied, and interesting input alone. Williams also highlighted that there have been concerns regarding the grammatical competence of second language learners; that in focusing solely on meaning, we have forsaken all concern for form. This phenomenon took place because many CLT classrooms share the same features. Some of the features are:i) ii) iii) the emphasis on tasks that encourages the negotiation of meaning between students and teachers, the emphasis on successful communication and minimal focus on form which includes lack of emphasis on error correction and little explicit instruction on language rules.
on the one hand. explicit teaching of the rules and concepts of grammatical items. posits two possible approaches: first.1 Background to the Study The notion that grammar can be learnt implicitly through exposure is in accordance with what Krashen (1985) believes. it is difficult to replicate the natural first language acquisition environment in the actual ESL classrooms. ESL students are seldom capable of acquiring grammar naturally and automatically. He proposed that given extensive opportunities for meaningful communication in the classroom. This is because they do not have enough comprehensible input outside the English classroom. in Malaysian real situation. However. Seedhouse proposes a 'dual' focus approach. grammar would be learnt naturally and automatically. These students are not adequately exposed to the English environment. that is.2 1. Van Lier (1988) reports that an extreme focus in each direction will produce either 'fossilphobia' or 'pidgin-breeding'. They seldom have or find the opportunity to listen to English language or to speak the language at home. is comprehensible input alone enough to ensure second language (L2) learners' grammatical competence in writing compositions? Or do teachers of ESL need to revert to the traditional way of teaching grammar. Seedhouse (1997) declares that the relative merits of focusing on accuracy and form (grammar instruction) as opposed to focusing on fluency and meaning (CLT) has been a prolonged debate in language teaching. In conjunction with that. To accomplish this dual approach. activities can be devised that require learners to communicate while also . Ellis (1994). Furthermore. the researcher also faced another crucial issue. He firmly believes in comprehensible input. Thus it is very difficult for them to acquire the language in terms of grammatical accuracy and communicative competence simultaneously. on form and meaning simultaneously. is explicit teaching of grammar effective in developing learner's grammatical accuracy? Krashen (1999) refutes any claims that grammar or formal instruction works and studies that attempt to demonstrate the effectiveness of direct instruction in grammar showed only that grammar teaching has a marginal effect. a means of focusing on accuracy and fluency. Besides that.
ii) to determine which of these approaches would produce the highest marginal score or the highest margin of improvement. the Simple Past Tense and the Past Continuous Tense are chosen as the target grammatical rules. 1. While Widdowson (1990). 1. on the other hand. traditional explicit teaching of grammar. Thus.3 focusing their attention on specific formal properties.2 Statement of the Problem To date. with its necessary focus on meaning. teachers can elect to provide feedback on learners' errors during the course of communication activities. Both tenses are selected because they play a very dominant part in narrative writing particularly in describing past events. and non-linguistic purpose. teachers of ESL classrooms are still confronted with crucial issue of choosing the best approach to improve their students' grammatical competence. 1. with its necessary focus on form. discusses communicative grammar activities which aim to reconcile and combine 'linguistic repetition'. second. it would be very useful to examine the effect of these disparate approaches on the students' performance in writing narrative compositions.4 Research Questions The questions that form the basis for this study are: i) Does practicing different approach to teaching grammar show different effects on students' performance in writing narrative compositions? . It would also be interesting to discover which approaches will produce a higher margin of improvement in terms of the students' grammatical accuracy. which is used to draw the learners' attention to language form either implicitly or explicitly that occur within meaningbased approaches. and FFI). that is formfocussed instruction (FFI). For this study. FFI refers to any pedagogical effort. However Spada (1997) uses another term to refer to the dual approach.3 Objectives of the Study This study attempts to achieve the following objectives:i) to examine the effects of the traditional explicit teaching of grammar and form-focussed instruction on students' performance in writing narrative compositions compared to CLT approach. in light of these three different approaches to teaching grammar (implicit teaching of grammar in CLT.
4 ii) If there is an effect. it seems that although the communicative language teaching (CLT) resulted in high level of fluency. the findings of the study may not reflect the actual effects of the approaches on the students' writing performance over a longer period of time. Therefore. only sixty students. The whole experiment took about two months to complete. iii) Another limitation of the study is the time factor. the following limitations should be taken into consideration: i) The number of subjects used in this research is very small. The findings of the study will give the researchers and other ESL teachers an insight as to which approach is more suitable to further improve their students' grammatical competence especially in terms of using Simple Past Tense and Past Continuous Tense in writing narrative compositions. Thus. any conclusions regarding the effect of any of the three approaches cannot be generalized from the findings of the study. that is. which approach is responsible for the most improved performance of the students' writing compositions? 1. the focus is on two grammatical items which are the Simple Past and the Past Continuous Tense because these two items normally occur concurrently. ii) In this study. from the pretest to the delayed posttest. any conclusions derived from the findings of the study cannot be the basis to presume the same results for other grammatical items. it left the L2 learners linguistically incompetent. Hence. Thus the present study will apply other approaches to teaching grammar so as to improve the students' grammatical competence. The duration of the treatment itself was conducted in only two weeks time.5 Significance of the Study Despite Krashen's belief in comprehensible input. 1.6 Limitations of the Study In conducting the study. .
2. Thus. The number of students in each class is between 35 to 37 and they have different levels of English Language proficiency.5 2. for each class. The researcher had randomly assigned three classes to be taught with three different approaches to teaching grammar. Therefore. The final number of subjects was 57. Both pretesting and recurrent absenteeism in the two posttesting phases eliminated subjects in each group. the researcher selected the first top twenty students from the class register list after eliminating those who did not meet the requirements of the study as below:i) ii) iii) Students who scored above 80% in the pretest. 2. In this research. Students who wrote less than 100 words for the narrative composition in the pretest.1 Research Design The design of the study was a quasi-experiment with pre. They were identified through a short interview session about the language used at home. students were already grouped into different classrooms. this study was quasi-experimental in nature because the researcher formed the groups to be studied by randomly assigning classrooms rather than individual persons. This is to ensure that subjects have only minimum contact with English outside the classroom.and posttests and a control group. distributed in the following manner: ET Group (N = 20). the data for the study were collected from the scores of the pretest and the two posttests and then the data were analysed and evaluated using the ANOVA (Analysis of Variance) in order to answer the research questions.1.0 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY As the study was conducted in a school setting. three out of seven form three classes of Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Seri Perling Johor Bahru were randomly selected by way of a lucky-draw to be assigned with one of the different approaches to teaching grammar. However.1 Requirements of The Study To avoid any bias in the study. . FFI Group (N = 20). only twenty students were selected from each class for the purpose of this study after excluding those who did not meet the requirements of the study. Students who came from English-speaking homes were also excluded from the study. and CLT Group (N = 17).
and the delayed posttest. In order to find a significant main effect for the tests. posttest. all the essays were collected. To find the margin of improvement. To obtain the margin of improvement. of correct use X 100 = score (%) No.6 iv) Those who were absent during the treatments or during the posttests. After obtaining the mean and the standard deviation for each group. . the Scheffé test was used. the focus on grammatical accuracy is contextualised and more advanced than the sentence level. The margin of improvement of the delayed posttest was calculated by finding the mean score differences between the pretest and the delayed posttest. 2. 2.3 Scoring Procedures After the pretest and the two posttests. the difference between the mean of the pretest and the mean of the first posttest was calculated. In this procedure. the researcher calculated the margin of improvement for each group. the number of correct use of the simple past tense and past continuous tense verbs is divided upon the number of obligatory occurrence.2 The Instrument The main sources of data for this study were the narrative compositions written by the subjects in the pretest. the researcher used an obligatory count procedure to analyze the data. the researcher looked at the difference of the mean score between the first posttest and the pretest. She did not correct any other mistakes (especially on subject-verb agreements and articles) made by the subjects. Raw scores were then submitted to one-way analyses of variance (ANOVA) to find if there are any differences between the groups before and after the treatments. The formula used for the obligatory count procedure: No. The writing of short narrative compositions was used as the instrument in this study because during the narrative writing activity. In order to measure the performance of the subjects. her only focus was on the use of past tense and the past continuous tense verbs. Then the scores were tabulated. of obligatory occurrence It is necessary to clarify here that when the researcher checked the subjects' compositions.
it is possible to find the margin of improvement for each group as shown in the following table.58 Looking at the margin of improvement for each group.43 43. All approaches show positive effects with varying degrees of improvement. the answer to the first research question is yes.49 Implicit Teaching 39.74%.7 3. the mean scores are displayed graphically in Figure 3. different approaches to teaching grammar show different effects on the students' performance in writing narrative compositions. The answer to the second question can be determined from the margin of improvement shown by each group.1: Margin of improvement for each group in the post-test Group Score (%) Pretest Posttest Margin of Improvement Explicit Teaching 26.94 67. it is very clear that the formfocussed instruction group has achieved the highest margin of improvement. Table 3.1 Comparison of the mean scores For each group.20 59. 43.08 26.0 RESULTS AND DISCUSSION From the findings of the data. 26.1 70 60 Mean scores 50 40 30 20 10 0 Explicit Formfocussed Group Implicit Pretest Posttest Delayed Posttest Figure 3.1: Mean scores for the three tests obtained by each group From the data above.74 Form-focussed 23. The implicit teaching of grammar in CLT .78 20. 3.49% followed by the explicit teaching group.34 53.
in this instance. 9.13%.2.30%). subjects were taught using methods derived from both opposing approaches. an acquired competence and a learned competence.8 group only managed to increase by 20.69%. The explicit teaching group registered the highest decrease. Subjects were presented with the rules of the target grammatical items.1%. He claimed that traditional instruction or explicit teaching of grammar results in learned competence and he argues that the learners' internal system can only develop by getting comprehensible input. This is in accordance with what Krashen (1982) has posited that learners may develop two systems.2 Discussion of the results The results presented in the previous section showed that the significant improvement achieved by the form-focussed instruction group is due to the methods used in the treatment given. The implicit teaching group showed the least decrease in performance that is only 2. All groups showed a slight decrease in their delayed posttest which was carried out a month after the treatment. the past tense and the past continuous which is similar to what the explicit teaching group had received. 3. 3.68%) is still less than the mean score for the form-focussed instruction group (59.1 The Importance of Comprehensible Input One of the possible explanations as to why the traditional explicit teaching of grammar had shown only moderate effects on students' writing performance when compared to form-focussed instruction group is because the subjects in this group have learnt the rules of the tenses but they did not acquire the language. that is the form-focussed instruction group showed the most improved performance of the students' writing compositions when compared to explicit teaching group and the implicit teaching group. 8. However the mean score (57. they were unable to apply the rules learnt in the writing tests given. The passages and newspaper reports were about past events which enabled the subjects to learn the rules of the target tenses in context through meaning-based activities. These figures answer the second research question. This is because they had learnt the rules of the past tense and past continuous .58%. followed by form-focussed instruction group. In form-focussed approach. Although the subjects in the explicit group had learnt the rules and they could do well in the discrete point tests given. Then they were given comprehensible input in a form of passages and newspaper reports to be read similar to what the students in the implicit teaching group received during their normal lessons.
pp. they also showed a slight improvement in the posttest. learners in CLT continue to have difficulty with the basic structures of the language as pointed out by Lightbown and Spada (1993. it is clear that these students did not realize that those words are irregular verbs and they do not follow the same rules applied for the regular verbs. Some of the words the subjects used to show past tense verbs are as follows: i) ii) iii) iv) v) vi) vii) viii) ix) x) blowed (blew) catched (caught) drinked (drank) falled (fell) heared (heard) hitted (hit) sended (sent) shooted (shot) sleeped (slept) taked (took) From the examples above. there are 21 errors made in this category. Without form-focussed instructions. it was obvious that the little input they have through singing and watching movies is not enough to help them apply the rules learnt in writing compositions. 103). However there is an instance which need to be highlighted. . The truth is the students did not have enough input and they faced a lot of problems in writing essays. This is one of the weaknesses in Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) whereby grammar is taught implicitly.2. They do however sing popular English songs and watch English movies. From the two posttests analysed. they follow the same rules to form past tense for regular verbs.2 Over-Generalization of Rules Based on the performance of the subjects in the implicit teaching group. 3. It is the over-generalization of the past tense rules. Nevertheless. they admitted that they seldom speak English and they do not read any English materials except when they are asked by the teacher. listening and speaking activities and process writing. Their improvement can be due to the input from activities carried out in the classroom such as reading comprehension.9 tense in isolation whereas writing involves cognitive skills that needs acquired knowledge to express intended meaning. however. is not a common occurrence in the other groups. from the result of the study. Thus. Through the discussion with the subjects. In this case subjects were not aware of the different types of verbs and verb forms. This over-generalization of the rules.
waked and felled. she used present tense to describe past events. In terms of the decline in performance of each group in the delayed posttest. there are two cases that deserved to be brought to light. the explicit teaching group was not exposed to any meaning.focussed activities which can provide the means for them to identify and use the rules in real-life situations. The wrong words are shooted. 3. She has the ability to write a narrative composition since she has a wide range of vocabulary and a flair for writing. a few of the subjects were confused about . This suggests that "the 'language' has to be 'learnt' before it can be used" (Gray.3 The Advantage of Form-focussed Instruction From the analysis of the subjects' narrative compositions. In the delayed posttest. it can be learnt through identifying a rule from many meaningful examples of the language followed by extensive opportunities to apply the rule in actual communication.10 For the explicit teaching group and form-focussed. She also showed confusion in using present continuous tense and present perfect tense. there are only 7 and 4 mistakes found respectively. The other similar case happened to one of the subjects in the form-focussed instruction group. However. During the treatment. She assumed that when she wanted to describe what happened 'today' she has to use simple present tense.3% in her posttest. 1999).e. After she was told about the rules of past tense and past continuous tense. that is from 6. one of the subjects in implicit teaching of grammar in CLT group had started her composition using the word 'Today …' and continued to write using the simple present tense. When asked about it. in this case the use of past tense and past continuous tense. the grammar of the language. after the presentation of rules.2. Instead. one obvious explanation is that conscious learning on rules of the past tense and past continuous tense has only a short-term effect on the second-language learners. but due to her unawareness of the rules of tenses. they were still not varied enough input to enable them to identify and use all the rules learnt. These two cases revealed that although both subjects have received input that enable them to write a narrative composition. she improved significantly. although they received comprehensible input in the form of reading passages. For the form-focussed group. she confessed that she was not sure when to use simple past and why she should use past tense in her essay. As for the implicit teaching group. they lack the basic structure of the language i. she is convinced that the application of grammar cannot be learnt by only memorizing the lists of rules.5% in the pretest to 90.
to fully implement the form-focussed approach in our secondary schools with limited and ever decreasing time available is difficult. parents. However. Gray (1999) elucidates a few factors that can impede the success of form-focussed approach in meaning-based context: i) ii) iii) iv) v) reduction in the time allowance. 3. the need to cater for an extremely wide range of ability.3 The Implication of the Findings The findings of the study brought to light that second language learners would benefit more from the combination of approaches which is adopted by form-focussed approach. explicit teaching of grammar rules may be viewed as a necessary 'short cut' to learning the rules and structures of the target language (Wright. the huge variety in both motivation and general linguistic competence. Thus. Furthermore. the past tense and the past continuous tense. the focal point is still on the examination. the implication of the findings is that it may convince language teachers and practitioners to adopt the form-focussed approach to teaching grammar particularly in teaching the target grammatical items. school's administration and the government's expectations. limited comprehensible input in language classrooms is not adequate to help learners to acquire the target language. the mounting pressure to focus on examination results rather than on the teaching and learning processes which should be the first priority in teaching profession. Although it is stated that the aim of the English Language Curriculum is to equip the students with positive communication skills and knowledge of English .11 tenses as they did not know exactly on what occasion they are supposed to use the correct tenses. Since it is difficult to replicate the natural first language environment in the second language learning classroom. larger and more mixed ability classes. Nevertheless. 1999). Thus it is a real task to provide students with rich-input and repeated opportunities to enable the students to put the rules of grammar learnt into action in authentic communication. The last factor stated by Gray is actually the foremost in teachers' minds because they have to prepare the students for the examinations to fulfill the students. Gray (1999) proposes that millennial formula for language development may well be a mixture of opportunities both for acquisition through .
a few research findings had proven that the singleminded focus on meaning approach has disadvantages. The limited number of subjects chosen in the study made it unreliable to generalize the findings. 4. Other limitations are due to the short duration of the treatment and the delayed posttest carried out only one month after the treatment.12 communicative interaction and for form-focussed instruction. a few limitations should be kept in mind when discussing about the results. According to White et al. (1991) the target language input 'enhanced' by specific focussed on form does lead to improved learning. thus the present study cannot make any claims on the long-term effect of form-focussed instructions. in a balance which takes into account the individuality of the learners and the classroom environment variables. Nevertheless. Lastly the limitation on the target grammatical item used. Findings of the present study revealed that there is a clear disadvantage to an extreme focus in either direction. 4. pp.1 Recommendations There are many aspects of the form-focussed approach that are in need of research.136) deduces that "… implicit and explicit modes of operation interact in interesting ways … [and] …demonstrate that a blend of explicit instruction and implicit learning can be superior to either just explicit instruction or implicit learning alone". The form-focussed instruction group showed the most improved performance in the narrative writing compared to the other two groups. Below are a few suggestions for future research: . Gray (1999) proposes that we must never go back to learning grammar for its own sake but the emphasis is upon working within an interesting and relevant context to provide maximum practice in different formats of activities.0 CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS Although Krashen (1982) and Prabhu (1987) have suggested that efforts to teach grammar should be abandoned because learners will develop their interlanguages naturally by engaging in communication in the L2. Ellis (1995. The improved performance of the form-focussed instruction group cannot be guaranteed with other grammatical items.
Hence a bigger sample should be used for a more extensive study. it should be given more credence and opportunity to be practiced in the classrooms. future studies should allow for longer periods of time for exposure especially since shortterm studies are likely to underestimate the impact of treatments particularly that of focus on meaning and focus on form. Since this study was a small-scale study. more studies need to be done in order to determine appropriate form-focussed activities in which learners' attention can be drawn to identify difficult forms. ii) The short duration in which the study was carried out does not provide any long-term effects of the form-focussed approach. and at what point it is ineffective or even harmful. that is to identify which forms to focus on. iii) More studies are needed to determine which grammatical items and linguistic features benefit more from form-focussed instruction than others do.13 i) As the findings of the present study revealed the advantages of formfocussed approach. v) Since different learners may have different abilities to grasp the grammatical aspects of the language. at what instances is a form-focussed beneficial. iv) Another aspect that is useful for teachers to know is. the conclusion on the improved performance of the students in writing narrative composition cannot be generalized. . Ideally.
(1995). (1998). "Seeking a role for Grammar: A review of some recent studies. (1997). Lightbown. Seedhouse." Kementerian Pendidikan Malaysia Krashen." Combining form and meaning". S. "The Study of Second Language Acquisition.14 References Ellis. 1. 4. TESOL Quarterly. N. "How Languages are Learned. "Interpretation tasks for grammar teaching". "In defence of the secondary teacher? A PGCE tutor's reaction to the great grammar debate. and Spada. "Consciousness in second language learning: Review of field studies and laboratory experiments". 40 . Krashen. Prabhu.45." Language Learning Journal. S. 336 . C. 245-257. (1987). P." London: Longman. 87101. (1993).344. S. Language awareness. 32. 3. ELT Journal. (1982)." Oxford: Oxford University Press. P.Edisi Sekolah Bestari. "Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. N. "Huraian Sukatan Pelajaran Bahasa Inggeris KBSM . 4. (1995). Ellis. 123 ." Oxford: Pergamon. Krashen." Foreign Language Annal. Pusat Perkembangan Kurikulum. Ellis. "The Input Hypothesis. R. (1999). Gray. S. 4. 26." Oxford: Oxford University Press. "Second Language Pedagogy. 51. N. R. 19. (1985). . (1994).46. (1999)." Oxford: Oxford University Press.
"Aspects of Language Teaching". J. Widdowson. (1990).15 Spada. G. "Focus on form in communicative language teaching: Research findings and the classroom teacher. M. N. Prospect 3. "Form-focussed instruction and second language acquisition: A review of classroom and laboratory research". 4. 4. L. Williams. "Grammar in the languages classroom: findings from research". (1997). (1995). 2. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Language Learning Journal. (1988)." TESOL Journal. 3. 30. . "What's wrong with Classroom Talk?". 12-16. Van Lier. Wright. 19. (1999). 73-87. 267-283. Language Teaching. H. 33-39.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.