Newsletter

The Value of Repetition August 6, 2020
Stacy Hagen
By Stacy Hagen

As teachers, we are trained to focus on activities that are communicative and task-based. Grammar practice, particularly at the sentence level, often brings associations of rote drills and repetition. However, Zoltan Dornyei (2009) points out that communicative language teaching is based on learning by doing and does not look at how people actually learn. Some second language researchers have turned to cognitive science to look at what is happening in the adult brain as we learn, and findings related to memory and skill acquisition have important implications for how we practice the skills.

This article explains the value of repetition in the grammar class.

For a long time, we were taught that repetition was a bad word.  This goes back to the audio-lingual era of drill and kill.  But research from cognitive science tells us that repetition has value. 

First, brain scans show that repetition causes the brain to physically change.  New connections are formed between neurons (think of neurons as information messengers).  And the connections between neurons are thicker, stronger, and more hard-wired.

This helps students retain and solidify what they have learned.  Without a lot of repetition or review, students are less likely to recall what they have learned. 

The trick is to make repetition interesting.  I’m sure you know all these techniques for repetition:

role play

drama techniques

story-telling

pairworks

strip stories

songs/chants

Let me show you another technique to make repetition interesting:  4/3/2.  It works well for the re-telling of a story or an event.   In this exercise from the new edition of the Fundamentals of English Grammar, there are two fables.  Half the class has story A and half the class has story B.

Give students time to learn their story well enough to retell it.  Partner A then tells Partner B the story in 4 minutes.  Next, Partner A tells another student the same story in 3 minutes.  Finally, Partner A has 2 minutes to tell a final person.

Often during the first telling, students voices are very low and the language is halting.  The second time it’s better, but by the third time, the class can become very animated.  It’s a wonderful way to work in repetition and encourage fluency at the same time.

References:

Nation, I.S.P & Jonathan Newton. 2008. Teaching ESL/EFL Listening and Speaking. New York: Routhledge.


Stacy Hagen is a teacher, a teacher trainer, and the co-author of the best-selling Azar-Hagen Grammar Series. The most recent edition of Fundamentals of English Grammar is now available. pearsoneltusa.com/azar

Cover of Fundamentals of English Grammar 5E
Grammar on the Go and Beyond!: Pearson Modular Grammar Powered By Nearpod July 10, 2020
By Christina Cavage

Today we are challenged in ways we have never been before. We are preparing to deliver classes both online and face-to-face. In our online classes, we are constantly seeking out tools that are accessible to our students as well as looking for ways to do those quick, formative checks in a digital environment. While in our face-to-face classes, we are often seeking out ways to deeper engage the iGeneration, and make lessons more appealing, yet just as effective. To complicate matters even more, costly texts often do not address all our student learning outcomes, leaving us to seek out additional materials.  These challenges can be overcome. The Pearson Modular Grammar Course Powered by Nearpod was developed to meet and address these challenges. So, what exactly is it?

What is the Pearson Modular Grammar Course Powered by Nearpod?

Pearson Modular Grammar Powered by Nearpod is a library of grammar lessons built on Nearpod’s student engagement platform. Teachers can select the lessons they want to deliver in their classroom by adding them to their library. Once in your library, you can customize the lesson. By adding, deleting, or modifying the content you can give your students a truly tailored learning experience.

The Pearson Modular Grammar Course Powered by Nearpod is organized by units. Within a unit there are several lessons. For example, the present time. This unit is organized around the theme of ‘Here and Now.’ There are four lessons within the unit, and every unit opens up with a section opener, and ends with a section closer. Take a look at the graphic below.

Structure of a unit

Once again, any of the content can be added to, or modified to meet the needs of your learners.

Activities and tasks are engaging. They include Collaborate!, a collaborative discussion board, matching, fill-ins, polls, open-ended tasks, draw-it activities, games, and more.  In summary, the flexibility and adaptability make the Pearson Grammar Modular Course Powered by Nearpod an excellent tool to supplement your current instruction, both in a face-to-face class and online.

Collaborate! board

You can learn more here.

To experience the Pearson Modular Grammar Course Powered by Nearpod yourself, contact your sales specialist and ask for a demo. Find your rep here.

Reducing Cognitive Load July 2, 2020
Stacy Hagen
By Stacy Hagen

As teachers, we are trained to focus on activities that are communicative and task-based. Grammar practice, particularly at the sentence level, often brings associations of rote drills and repetition. However, Zoltan Dornyei (2009) points out that communicative language teaching is based on learning by doing and does not look at how people actually learn. Some second language researchers have turned to cognitive science to look at what is happening in the adult brain as we learn, and findings related to memory and skill acquisition have important implications for how we practice the skills.

This article discusses the concept of cognitive load.

Our working memory (think of this as our immediate memory) has capacity limits.  Basically, we can’t handle as much information as had previously been believed.  New research on learning tells us that students benefit if we can reduce the cognitive load.

Scientist used to think that 5-7 chunks* of information could be held in our working memory.  But new research tells us that two to four chunks are more realistic.  The implication for teachers is that we need to break our explanations into more manageable chunks for our students. In practical terms, one of the things we can do is to introduce less information at one time.  You’ll see this in the fifth edition of the Azar-Hagen Grammar Series.  Long charts have been broken up into smaller ones.  Here’s an example from the Fundamentals of English Grammar, Fifth Edition:

example of a grammar chart with information in manageable chunks

Previously, this introduction to articles was in a two-page chart.  Now there are two new charts, and we have simplified the explanations.  We also use pictures to illustrate the concept of specific and non-specific. This is more manageable and user-friendly for students.

As you will see in the new editions of the Fundamentals of English Grammar and Understanding and Using English Grammar, the presentation of material in the grammar charts helps reduce the cognitive load. Breaking down explanations and exercises into shorter pieces or sub-tasks helps reduce the working memory load, allowing learners to absorb material better.

*A chunk is a single unit.  Think of a phone number.  There are 10 digits or 10 unrelated numbers.  But we can group phone numbers into 3 chunks to make it easier to remember.

References:

Dornyei, Zoltan. 2009. The Psychology of Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Stacy Hagen is a teacher, a teacher trainer, and the co-author of the best-selling Azar-Hagen Grammar Series. The most recent edition of Fundamentals of English Grammar is now available. pearsoneltusa.com/azar

Transform your grammar instruction with the Pearson Modular Grammar Course Powered by Nearpod June 23, 2020
Pearson and Nearpod

Pearson is excited to announce a new partnership with Nearpod, a student engagement platform built to make teaching with technology easy. Using Nearpod’s student-centric, mobile-friendly platform, we are releasing the first level of Pearson Modular Grammar Course Powered by Nearpod, a customizable supplementary grammar course.

The Pearson Modular Grammar Course Powered by Nearpod offers high-quality curated grammar content developed by grammar subject matter experts. The structure of the course offers more targeted content that will allow programs to not only create the “playlist” of grammar learning objects that meet their course student learning outcomes but also a course that aims at meeting the personalized needs of students and institutions.

The Pearson Modular Grammar Course Powered by Nearpod can be used as a supplement to any grammar, integrated skills or test prep course. The first (intermediate) level has just been released, and more levels are planned for release later this year.

Nearpod’s user-friendly, interactive design enables faculty to connect with learners and deliver highly interactive experiences, improving participation and academic effectiveness. Nearpod allows instructors to reach and engage learners in more compelling ways in any learning environment—in classroom and at home, both synchronously and asynchronously.

The winning features of the Pearson Modular Grammar Course Powered by Nearpod

Customized grammar curriculum with compelling content

High-quality curated grammar content created by Pearson grammar subject matter experts is organized into grammar modules that can be easily accessed and combined for a unique curriculum that meets students learning outcomes. Instructors can also easily add their own content with interactive features.

Student engagement like you’ve never seen before

With the Pearson Modular Grammar Course Powered by Nearpod, students engage with content, using their own devices in a dynamic and interactive way. Instructors can monitor learning, observe activities, and personalize content based on students’ needs.

The Nearpod platform delivers a rich collaborative experience and content that captures students’ attention, keeping them engaged and focused, and minimizing off-task behavior.

  • Nearpod VR immerses learners into the lesson with virtual field trips and is a perfect tool for presenting grammar in context.
  • Instructors can share content and assessments in real-time. Quizzes, interactive activities, slideshows, and videos allow for highly interactive and engaging practice.
  • Live group discussions and polls allow for collaborative experience, even in remote settings.
  • Formative assessments and instant feedback give students opportunities to demonstrate progress.
  • Detailed post-lesson reports allow for progress tracking and lesson planning.

Reaching every student on his/her learning journey

The flexibility of the Nearpod platform takes a lot of the stress and planning out of individualized and differentiated instruction. The program can be used in a lab, small group or whole instruction, for project-based learning, and more! Plus, it’s easy to duplicate and edit lessons for when instructors need to provide modified versions for some students.

Seamless integration

Learners can access their grammar course on most devices, operating systems, learning management systems, and web browsers. Nearpod easily integrates with Canvas, Blackboard, Google, Schoology, and Office 365.

Perfect tool for distance learning

The Pearson Modular Grammar Course Powered by Nearpod supports online teaching and learning, addressing both the issue of student engagement and the need for high quality content that instructs, engages, and informs.

Student-centered learning experience can be delivered in both live lessons and as a self-paced independent work. With the Pearson Modular Grammar Course Powered by Nearpod, learning is always collaborative and social, even while remote. Finally, the course can be delivered via many LMSs or with web-based conferencing tools for synchronous instruction. Learn more about the Pearson Modular Grammar Course Powered by Nearpod here.

View the brochure here.

Re-thinking the Purpose of Grammar June 9, 2020
Stacy Hagen
By Stacy Hagen

There is still controversy about whether or not to teach grammar, and some teachers are unsure of its purpose.  It’s helpful to look at this quote from Martha Pennington.

Grammar is “nothing more or less than the organizing principles of a linguistic or (broader) communicational system, without which, there is no system.”

Basically, explicit grammar instruction helps students organize the language.  It forms the BASE for the other skills we teach:  reading, writing, speaking, and listening.  It’s simply a base.  It’s not about teaching students terminology for the sake of terminology.  In fact, as a teacher, I try to avoid using terminology as much as possible.  Our students don’t need to be grammarians; that’s our role.

Explicit grammar instruction helps students see patterns.  This is critical because cognitive science tells us that the adult brain is a pattern-seeking organ.  Adult learners are looking for rules.  That’s why grammar charts work!  According to neuroeconomist Arkady Konovalov at the University of Zurich, humans try to detect patterns in their environment all the time because it makes learning easier.

As you know, other, another, and the other can be really confusing for students.  One way to show the pattern is by using circles, as in this new chart from the fifth edition of the Fundamentals of Using English Grammar:

Chart 6-15 from Fundamentals of English Grammar, 5E

While visuals work well, summaries, as in the green words in (c) and (d), are also helpful.  In other words, clear, uncluttered charts help students see patterns. 

We can also show patterns in exercises.  It’s very typical to tell students (via a chart) that the passive is formed with the verb be plus the past participle.  And then we expect students to begin forming passive sentences. But students can really be confused by the various forms of be and whether a verb is a past participle or not.  In the following exercise, students are asked to find the be verb and the “past participle” and then decide if it’s passive or not:

Exercise on the passive voice

In item 1, they will see there is no be verb and no past participle, so it can’t be passive.  But item 2 is passive because both the be verb and the past participle are present.

By going through several items like this, students begins to realize that they need BOTH the be verb and past participle necessary for the passive to be formed.

Seeing patterns makes learning more efficient.  Let’s help our students become aware of them.


References:

Grammar and Communication:  New Directions in Theory and Practice.  Pennington, M.   From:  New Perspectives on Grammar Teaching in Second Language Classrooms, edited by Eli Hinkel, Sandra Fotos, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates 2008.


Stacy Hagen is a teacher, teacher trainer, and co-author of the best-selling Azar-Hagen Grammar Series. The new, fifth edition of the intermediate level, Fundamentals of English Grammar, is available now. www.pearsoneltusa.com/azar.