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Death to High School English
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2011 2:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Teacher in Rome wrote:
Quote:
As kids, we speak improperly despite years of "experience" listening to Mom and Dad. It is only after they enter school and are shown how to spell and use the grammar properly that they actually learn it.


Actually Glenski, Chomsky would say it's the opposite.

We "know" what the rules are DESPITE hearing inaccuracies from our parents! All native speakers make mistakes - whether slips of the tongue or non-standard, or otherwise. But we know when they are mistakes.
I'm sorry to disagree with Chomsky, but my son does not know when he is making mistakes. At 7, is he just anti-Chomskian in behavior, or is something else at play here? I use him as an example only because the article in question is about HS kids, and despite being older than 7, they often don't use English properly and don't know it.

[quoe]The other thing you allude to (inaccuracies despite correction / correct modelling) are evidence of the order in which children learn language. So you can model "he goeS" as many times as you like, but a child (or ESL student) won't pick it up until he's good and ready to.[/quote]How do you define "good and ready"? What actually sparks the ready? What doesn't? This is becoming a can of worms here.
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Teacher in Rome



Joined: 09 Jul 2003
Posts: 1286

PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2011 4:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I'm sorry to disagree with Chomsky, but my son does not know when he is making mistakes. At 7, is he just anti-Chomskian in behavior, or is something else at play here? I use him as an example only because the article in question is about HS kids, and despite being older than 7, they often don't use English properly and don't know it.

The other thing you allude to (inaccuracies despite correction / correct modelling) are evidence of the order in which children learn language. So you can model "he goeS" as many times as you like, but a child (or ESL student) won't pick it up until he's good and ready to.

How do you define "good and ready"? What actually sparks the ready? What doesn't? This is becoming a can of worms here.


1. No, your child wouldn't necessarily "know" why he's making mistakes (or why adults around him are). He understands that something doesn't sound right (or does sound right) but couldn't articulate why.

An example: we form compound nouns with singular forms:
mouse-trap; rat-catcher. Try telling a child that it's a mice-trap or rats-catcher, and they should be able to say "no". (But without explaining why.)

Of course, now I tell you that, your son will probably confound my example!

2. I'm not sure what the "good and ready" is. What I understood was that there's an order in what we learn. So if we try and teach something to someone before they're able to understand it, it won't work. So NS kids learn grammar in a particular order, as do ESL students. An example of this is quite high level students still not getting the s third person singular. (Though they're quite able to change active into passive forms, for example.)
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 13859
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2011 4:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Teacher in Rome,

"So if we try and teach something to someone before they're able to understand it, it won't work. So NS kids learn grammar in a particular order, as do ESL students. An example of this is quite high level students still not getting the s third person singular. (Though they're quite able to change active into passive forms, for example.)"

So, do you mean that we're teaching the "the s third person singular" too early? And how would a student "understand" that rule?

In ESL, I know that the hardest part of teaching is NOT "the new stuff." It's trying to get rid of the many "embedded errors" that students come into the classroom with (the result, I guess, of too many years of "bad modeling.")

Regards,
John
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Ariadne



Joined: 16 Jul 2004
Posts: 960

PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2011 4:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are plenty of folks on Dave's who make some rather glaring mistakes in grammar/usage and don't appear to know it. I'm not referring to typos or slips, but to mistakes that show up repeatedly in their posts. Why can't these people 'hear' their own mistakes, and are they able to hear those mistakes when others are speaking?

.
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Teacher in Rome



Joined: 09 Jul 2003
Posts: 1286

PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2011 6:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
So, do you mean that we're teaching the "the s third person singular" too early? And how would a student "understand" that rule?

In ESL, I know that the hardest part of teaching is NOT "the new stuff." It's trying to get rid of the many "embedded errors" that students come into the classroom with (the result, I guess, of too many years of "bad modeling.")


No, I'm not saying that we teach it too early. I'm saying that it's almost pointless to keep expecting students to "get it" until they're ready to. I've seen teachers get really frustrated at students not being able to produce it correctly, despite the "I've told him so many times". The student will acquire that ability, but possibly not until after he / she's acquired the future perfect continuous.

I don't think students make errors because of bad modeling. They make errors because they're not yet far enough along the language learning curve to have acquired the grammar. Sure, some students make "lazy mistakes", but I'm not referring to these. I'm talking about errors that they make because they haven't fully absorbed / acquired the grammar.
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Teacher in Rome



Joined: 09 Jul 2003
Posts: 1286

PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2011 6:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry, just to clarify, meant to say "not before she's acquired the future perfect continuous FOR EXAMPLE". I'm not sure what the exact learning sequence is, but I do know that the s third person singular is pretty far down the line - surprisingly for something that appears so simple a thing to get.
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Jbhughes



Joined: 01 Jul 2010
Posts: 254

PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2011 6:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm just looking in from the sidelines here, but -

Would your discussion regarding grammar being taught to NS be better if the proponents laid out what aspects of grammar should be taught? (Perhaps this has been done and I missed it.)

and

According the language learning curve theory Teacher in Rome et al advocate - is there one explicit learning curve or (my feeling) would each learner have their individual learning curve that we as teachers can cultivate and nurture?
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 13859
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2011 7:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Bad Grammar Who Cares vs. the Grammar Police


The Battle Lines on English Grammar Have Been Drawn

If you Google “bad grammar,” you’ll see that there are two camps on this topic: the frustrated readers and writers who can’t tolerate the bad grammar all around them, and those who claim that bad grammar is unimportant. Their argument can be summed up as follows: “It’s the thought that counts, and it isn’t reasonable to expect people to stop and put their words into proper English before speaking or writing.”

Online communication seems to have had both a positive and a negative influence on the use of proper grammar. My guess is that the introduction of email caused most people to write a lot more than before email was introduced. That was a positive influence when the writer took time to think about the words before sending them to someone else. In addition, blogging has millions of people writing every day, and I believe most bloggers take pride in their blogs and are careful about what they say and how they say it. Perhaps that’s why there has been more attention paid to grammar lately. I’ve seen several articles about grammar in the media lately.

However, chatting online – which is by its very nature a fast, unedited outpouring of thoughts – began to change that, and after awhile some emails started sounding as informal as chat room conversations. With the onset of texting and its length limits, abbreviations have been formed for online chatting, and these have crept into emailing and other forms of written language. [Yesterday I sent an email with a “Happy New Year” greeting at the end, and I received a reply that said, “u 2”. That was the whole email. Not even an upper case u or a period at the end.] It’s obvious to me that most people dash off emails quickly, thinking that they’re an informal form of communication, and they don’t stop to think about whether they’ve made spelling or grammar mistakes.

Despite the recent focus on grammar by some writers, there’s been an increase in grammatical errors in newspapers, magazines, on blogs, even on signs.

The classic grammatical error in advertising from my youth was, “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.” While English teachers and grammarians were quick to point out that “Like” should be “as,” the ad industry’s defense was that using “like” as a conjunction was popular usage. That ad ran for many years, and probably influenced the use of “like” as a conjunction! Finally, Winston developed an ad showing a little old lady saying, “Winston tastes good, as a cigarette should.” The ad copy read, “What do you want, good grammar or good taste?”

I read a best-seller over the holidays on my new Kindle from a nationally known publisher by a “promising new author” who wrote: “Me, my sister and Grandma decided not to go.” In the book’s prologue, the author thanked all who supported her while she wrote it, including the foundation that had given her a grant. Is the use of good grammar really so unimportant that a foundation is willing to dole out grant money to a writer who blatantly ignores the rules of grammar? A writer who doesn’t know enough to say to herself, “I wouldn’t say ‘me decided,’ so I shouldn’t say ‘me, my sister and Grandma decided”?

Sometimes the rules of grammar are necessary so we can understand what a writer intends to say. Not following the rules can cause confusion. The placement of one comma can make the difference in what a sentence means: “Stay away from smoking, dope.” “Stay away from smoking dope.”

http://bridgebuzz.bridgeny.com/2011/01/04/its-bad-grammar-who-cares-vs-the-grammar-police/

Regards,
John
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 13859
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2011 7:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Regarding "bad modeling," my own experience teaching ESL to young children would seem to show that children who come from homes (and neighborhoods) in which poor grammar is commonly used are a lot more likely to use poor grammar whereas those who come from homes (and neighborhoods) in which (relatively) good grammar is usually used are much more likely to use (relatively) good grammar.

If that doesn't come from the modeling in their environments, where the heck DOES it come from?

Regards,
John
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2011 10:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Teacher in Rome wrote:
Quote:
I'm sorry to disagree with Chomsky, but my son does not know when he is making mistakes. At 7, is he just anti-Chomskian in behavior, or is something else at play here? I use him as an example only because the article in question is about HS kids, and despite being older than 7, they often don't use English properly and don't know it.

The other thing you allude to (inaccuracies despite correction / correct modelling) are evidence of the order in which children learn language. So you can model "he goeS" as many times as you like, but a child (or ESL student) won't pick it up until he's good and ready to.

How do you define "good and ready"? What actually sparks the ready? What doesn't? This is becoming a can of worms here.


1. No, your child wouldn't necessarily "know" why he's making mistakes (or why adults around him are). He understands that something doesn't sound right (or does sound right) but couldn't articulate why.
But my point here is that my son doesn't understand that something sounds wrong!


Quote:
2. I'm not sure what the "good and ready" is. What I understood was that there's an order in what we learn. So if we try and teach something to someone before they're able to understand it, it won't work. So NS kids learn grammar in a particular order, as do ESL students.
I don't think it's a matter of age all the time. Clarity of teaching, repetition in experience, a certain level of awareness and caring all contribute. You wrote "if we try and teach", but earlier the message was that they will learn not by teaching but by experience alone. Big difference.

From the latest article from johnslat:
Quote:
I believe most bloggers take pride in their blogs and are careful about what they say and how they say it.
Most? Maybe. I've seen plenty who don't give a whit.

As for the grammar police, I usually try to avoid coming down on people on forums for grammar (or spelling) for various reasons. However, I am behind the thought that seeing mistakes from adults surface all the time shows how little they learned. (Yes, that includes some people near and dear to me, but such is life. I cringe at most of Mom's emails...)
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Teacher in Rome



Joined: 09 Jul 2003
Posts: 1286

PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2011 7:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
According the language learning curve theory Teacher in Rome et al advocate - is there one explicit learning curve or (my feeling) would each learner have their individual learning curve that we as teachers can cultivate and nurture?


I'm sorry, but I don't know. My feeling is that it's partly individual, and partly to do with L1, but it's a long time since I studied linguistics!

Maybe someone else knows?
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Teacher in Rome



Joined: 09 Jul 2003
Posts: 1286

PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2011 8:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I don't think it's a matter of age all the time. Clarity of teaching, repetition in experience, a certain level of awareness and caring all contribute. You wrote "if we try and teach", but earlier the message was that they will learn not by teaching but by experience alone. Big difference.


No, my message wasn't that they learn by experience alone. Sorry if I gave that impression.

Their experience will expose them to both standard and non-standard forms of the language, plus native speaker errors. Yet despite this, they still unconsciously know what's correct and what's incorrect - but only progressively. It's not like they "know" all the rules right from word go.

Exposure to language is vitally important. There was the case of a girl who'd been locked in a room at an age where exposure to language is crucial in order to "activate" the knowledge. In later life, she never got beyond a very infantile knowledge and use of language, because she was missing that early exposure to language.

--------------------------------------

In response to John Slat's post, some would argue that the amount of writing (blogging, email, twitter) and reading is far greater than in previous non-internet generations. And an entire generation of people have grown up to do different things with the information. So instead of reading long texts and answering comp questions (pretty much most reading / writing a generation did only at school) we're now synthesisng and processing information from different sources, rehashing and rewriting, commenting and publishing for different audiences. Whenever before did friends communicate so frequently with their friends in writing? Or publish their own content for peers and colleagues?

I think we're seeing a change in style (perhaps more informal text-speak) but also a change in purpose.

Although I agree that good grammar and good punctuation are what helps you not just avoid misunderstanding but also play with the language for effect, I also think that what most people complain about (abbreviated textspeak and "sloppy spelling") is only really possible when you know what the rules are to begin with! (i.e. you can only abbreviate successfully if you know what the entire word is.)

Views?
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artemisia



Joined: 04 Nov 2008
Posts: 875
Location: the world

PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2011 9:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Although I agree that good grammar and good punctuation are what helps you not just avoid misunderstanding but also play with the language for effect, I also think that what most people complain about (abbreviated textspeak and "sloppy spelling") is only really possible when you know what the rules are to begin with! (i.e. you can only abbreviate successfully if you know what the entire word is.)

True but there’s the possibility – I’d say risk – that teenagers will adopt ‘textspeak’ as a reduced vocabulary without knowing or remembering the source it comes from. When I taught in various high schools, I was sometimes surprised at the words I had to explain the meaning of to NS teenagers who seemed to have a limited vocabulary. I think this comes from a lack of reading but maybe my expectation of NS kids’ knowledge was too high.

I discourage language students from using slang or writing in a casual way (eg. ‘gonna’ or ‘coz’ ) in essays. I think it’s fine that they know and understand these forms but they’re not going to be acceptable in a university essay or formal business letter and I don't know if they always realise this.

Quote:
I'm not sure what the exact learning sequence is, but I do know that the s third person singular is pretty far down the line - surprisingly for something that appears so simple a thing to get.

Perhaps because the use of the third person ‘s’ is redundant in terms of conveying meaning.
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 13859
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2011 12:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Teacher in Rome,

"Although I agree that good grammar and good punctuation are what helps you not just avoid misunderstanding but also play with the language for effect, . . . "

I know this is naughty of me, but I can't resist: compound subject = plural verb (i.e. "help".)


OK, I've had my fun, now to be serious - regarding this statement:

" . . . they still unconsciously know what's correct and what's incorrect . . ."

I have to wonder how you (or anyone else) can know what "they . . . unconsciously know . . . ."

And while I agree that it may well be the case that " . . . the amount of writing (blogging, email, twitter) and reading is far greater than in previous non-internet generations," I found this article, with a different point of view, worth consideration:

"The Death of the Written Word

omg! mah bff is totes mad at meee
idk wut hr prob isss
lol idc tho she cn b maddd
lyk whatevs its hr probbb

Is that unintelligible to you? God, I hope so. Unfortunately, it makes perfect sense to me, and not just because I wrote it. As a teacher, the fight to get kids to write correctly has been an uphill battle. Between texting and the internet, kids do most of their reading and writing with their peers. I had the internet in school. Texting became popular toward the end of my high school career, but I still text in grammatically correct sentences. My kids think I'm lame for this. My students, obviously, do not text in perfect English.

But should they? It's not formal writing. It's for their eyes only. I have no problem with textspeak as long as the people in the conversation can understand each other. The problem I have is that the majority of my students are not getting a variety of reading experiences. We draw from what we read to create what we write. Since students mainly read what other students write, this creates a circular experience for their linguistic development.

The very frustrating part is that they can speak just fine. Of course there are technical grammar errors, but my students can be quite concise and, dare I say it, eloquent when speaking. Speaking is not the problem. Their language ability is fine. The issue is that they have created their own insular world of imperfect, nigh unintelligible gibberish when it comes to reading and writing.

The effects of this are obvious. Actual novels are difficult for them. There are actual novels built around the concept that texting and internet IMing is easier for them to read, like Lauren Myracle's TTYL. Writing can be challenging and frustrating for both teachers and students. Informal writing is slowly seeping into formal writing scenarios, furthering frustration for both educator and pupil.

There's no easy way to fix it. Kids need more reading and more writing. They need more model texts to draw from when it comes to writing rather than their own text messages. And frankly, we need to hold kids to higher expectations than letting them write in such an informal manner while at school. It's important that a student know a right answer. However, school is about preparing students for the real world. In the real world, it doesn't matter if I know the right answer when I present it in a wholly inappropriate manner. School shouldn't be about the bare minimum (knowing the fact), but about bettering yourself and working as hard as you can."

http://teachingaintforheroes.blogspot.com/

Regards,
John
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MarkM



Joined: 28 Apr 2011
Posts: 55
Location: Lianyungang, China

PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2011 1:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Most of my students have been studying English for 10+ years, since their first year of school. And most of them still have difficulty stringing a basic sentence together. And that includes tertiary English major students.

I am pretty sure it is not because of inadequate grammar tuition. They have had lots of that, for what it is worth. The problem is partly because they don't get enough opportunities to speak with English speakers. It is also because they don't read English material.

The available authentic materials are all too difficult. Lots of idiomatic expressions and symbolism. They also struggle with the vocab, which is not surprising. I discovered that they don't understand d the basic structure of English words, in terms of syllables, word roots, prefixes and suffixes.

I have tried to get them to read children's books on the web, but they don't seem to want to do that. They don't seem to want to use some of the other free resources I have directed them too either. It is all rather discouraging.
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