I wasn’t in class today because I had a meeting with all the other FSL department heads in my board. I missed being with my class, but it was nice to catch up with colleagues I hadn’t seen in a while.
The major theme of the meeting was the importance of students being able communicate in French in authentic contexts. This has been the message that we have been receiving over the last little while, and hence, my decision to start this blog with a focus on increasing oral fluency in FSL students. I am still a believer in grammar and I do believe that it has its place. I have never been one to adopt extremes in any facet of my life, and this is no exception. I also do not believe that endless worksheets will automatically translate into oral fluency. In Lightbown and Spada’s book How Languages are Learned, they state that “supporters of communicative language teaching have argued that language is not learned by the gradual accumulation of one item after another. They suggest that errors are a natural and valuable part of the language learning process” (119). In that same chapter, the authors describe a study which was conducted in 1985 by Montgomery and Eisenstein that compared two adult ESL classes. The one class received only grammar instruction and the other class received the grammar instruction, in addition to a communicative component. The students who were in the class that included the communicative component “made greater improvements in accent, vocabulary, grammar and comprehension than did the learners who received only the required grammar course” (121). I believe that the grammar will only “click” or “come together” for students if they are given the opportunity to use it.
I highly recommend Lightbown and Spada’s book if you are interested in a clearly written reference that will help you in your teaching practice. I have the second edition, but the third edition is now available.