The Value of Repetition

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

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.

Transform your grammar instruction with the Pearson Modular Grammar Course Powered by Nearpod

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

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.

How do we design programs that lead to measurable progress?

By Sara Davila

In institutions around the world there is increasing pressure to demonstrate how program design will lead to demonstrable progress in English for learners. It raises a key question: how do we design programs that lead to measurable progress. Over the last three years, numerous schools have begun to work on how they can address this challenge using the Global Scale of English (GSE). This year, at TESOL 2019, it will be my pleasure to facilitate a discussion between two administrators who have worked through this process. For me, it’s an opportunity to share some of the best practices I’ve seen developed by experienced educators in the field. For my colleagues, it’s a chance to talk about what they learned during the process, the benefits to their learners, and their future plans.

Salem State University

 Shawn Wolfe, the Associate Director of English Language Programs and International Enrollment Management at Salem State University, will be the first to share his insight into applying the GSE in an institutional environment. At the institution—located in Salem, Massachusetts—Shawn began to explore how the GSE could help to address a greater need for insight into progress given the time ELLs had to prepare in order to enter their degree courses. How much time was required to achieve success in English? How could progress be measured in a way that was tangible to professors and students? These are just a few of the questions that lead Shawn to begin to explore the Global Scale of English.

While the process has been slow and steady, Shawn can provide first hand experience from his use of the GSE, including how he is working to secure facility buy-in by embedding professor views in the curriculum alignment process.

Sacred Hearts University

 Alla Schlate, Academic Director at Sacred Heart University based in Connecticut, will be our second speaker, sharing her process of curriculum review and alignment for her various English programs. At Sacred Hearts, like Salem State and other schools that enroll international learners, there is a significant challenge with both the diversity of language ability and degree interest areas demonstrated by students. In order to address these challenges, Alla has developed a four pillar approach to support learner development. Her long-term goal is to create a curriculum that can be easily adapt over time to the changes in learner needs, instructor needs, and available materials and content. At her institution, like Shawn, she faced similar challenges with aligning the program to the GSE: from gaining faculty buy-in to addressing the challenging and changing needs of the student population.

How did Shawn and Alla achieve success in their institutions using the GSE? What can other schools learn from their experiences? At our TESOL 2019 panel discussion session (on Friday, March 15 at 2pm, Room A407) we intend to explore answers to these questions, and more. We look forward to seeing you in March, and sharing our experiences with you.


Shawn Wolfe is an associate director of the Center for International Education at Salem State University in Massachusetts, where he oversees student recruitment and the core academic components of the center’s English language programs, including accreditation preparation, curriculum and student assessment, instructional coaching, and professional development for English language specialists. Shawn has more than 11 years of EFL/ESL teaching and administrative experience in Japan, Mexico, and the United States. Prior to working at Salem State, Shawn oversaw a community-based English language program for adults and was a recognized state leader and advocate for adult language learners in West Virginia. Shawn holds an MAT-TESOL from the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education and has research interests in teaching English for Specific Purposes (ESP), second language Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT), and E-learning.

Alla Schlate is the Academic Director of the English Language Institute at Sacred Heart University. Professor Schlate is responsible for academic oversight of the ELI. She is in charge of the content of the Intensive English Program: curriculum, instructors, books, etc., as well as makes sure that the curriculum meets the rigorous requirements of higher education accreditation organizations. She leads Professional Development meetings providing the instructors with the best opportunities to keep abreast with the latest research in Language Acquisition Methodology. Her goal also is to ensure that international students are actively engaged in meaningful language learning process exploring all opportunities offered by numerous Departments at SHU. Prior to working at Sacred Heart, Professor Schlate worked at the Institute of International Relations, Yekaterinburg, Russia, and was an acknowledged leader in Education in the Ural Area of Russia. Professor Schlate holds an M.A. in Linguistics and an M.A.T in Teaching EFL/ESL and Literature from Udmurt State University in Russia (Evaluated by WES); an M.A. in Educational Leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University, New York; and a CELTA in Teacher Training and Material Design, from Cambridge University, UK.