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Introduction: Many believe that teaching language structure to young learners is important for the development of language in the future. Language structuralists and cognitive psychologists have considerably revealed on the aspects that can help young learners of second language in their language structure learning in classroom.
Discussion of aspects in reading
Cameroon (2001) in her book mentioned about the learner-centered approach to teaching grammar which comprises teaching grammar as explicit rules, communicative approaches and focuses on form. The traditional method of Grammar-Translation approach aim learners to study grammar through deduction that is through the study of the rules of grammar. The knowledge on meta-linguistic enables the learners to structure sentences correctly. Grammar-translation method in a way maintains the mother tongue of the learners as the reference particularly in the process of learning the second languages. Theoretically, Cameron claimed that young learners learn language structure by chunking the words to get the meaning across, hence they tend to make hypothesis regarding the rules in constructing sentences. Nevertheless, they face difficulties due to the influence from their first language. They might get confuse or tend to omit rules that they have in the second language but not in the first language. These aspects of grammar learning should always be concerned; therefore, form-focused learning should take place.
Issues have aroused due to the lacking of competency in using language for communication by second language speakers. They might be ease to communicate accurately in different contexts since they have the language structures but they probably having no explicit rules to construct the structures. Therefore, Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) is introduced as a method of teaching that aims at using language for communicative purpose proficiently. Although the main learning focus in this approach is communicative language which might downgrade the structure part, this method still can be adapted to teach grammar. There is correlation on knowledge of structure that helps learners to accurately utter the language so that they can deliver the messages successfully. Furthermore, Wilson (2005) proposed covert approach in teaching grammar, which the teacher get the pupils involved in using the structure without drawing their attention to grammar rules. They focus on the activity but they have ample of opportunity to practice the form. As they produce the language, they tend to construct hypotheses, automaticity and noticing the holes in their second language competence. This covert teaching practice suggests that both language competence and language performance can be emphasized in CLT method. In variation, Total Physical Response (TPR) will a basis form of teaching when listening involved in the teaching and learning, therefore attains the important role of structure learning in CLT approach. I believe this notion can be applied in grammar teaching in classroom that comes across the sequence of grammar learning such as noticing, structuralizing and proceduralizing as basic ways of focus on form learning.
STRUCTURES IN PRIMARY SCHOOL
Description of participants
My preposition lesson is specially designed for the young learners of second language speakers in primary school. This language structure is suitable for 8 years old pupils with intermediate level of language proficiency. The activity is basically can be done in a class size of 20 pupils. Besides, the pupils are expected to have basic vocabulary on things around us so speaking and listening can be the main focus in this lesson. At the end of the lesson, pupils are able to identify and define preposition of place as well as demonstrate the correct usage of these preposition.
Part A: Matching the structure
Teacher gives pupils a set of pictures and paper fringes printed with various phrases (noun phrase + prepositional phrase).
The pupils are required to rearrange the jumbled up phrases and put them into complete sentences. The sentences must be matched with the description of situations in the pictures.
After finish, the teacher checks on the built up sentences by go through each sentences with the pupils.
The pupils read aloud the correct sentences.
The pupils are asked to identify function words in the sentences that show position. These words are highlighted to be memorised. The teacher explains the function of these words.
Part B: Describe where the things are?
The pupils are divided into group of four.
In each group, a pupil volunteers or assigned to read up a task on preposition. This pupil needs to identify the situation in the task sheet and construct instructions that describe this situation by using prepositions which have been learnt.
This pupil can only read and repeat the reading if there are requests without showing the situation (task sheet) task to others.
The rest of pupils in each group need to draw objects based on the instruction. Focus is given to the position of the objects. They could only listen to the instructions and imagine the positions before they can draw it in the given worksheet.
The drawings later be compared and corrected.
The person who constructs the instruction can be rotated within the group members
Justification of choice for structure
With respect to the notion above, I believe preposition should be taught to the young learners. This is because preposition is part of speech which is important to be used in purposeful communication. In short, preposition has become a vital link that can avoid people from omitting their messages by providing details.
This preposition lesson comprises two parts of activity. Focus has been given to particular sequence in grammar learning, which is noticing, structuring and procuderalizing. In the first part of activity, students will draw attention to the form. With reference to the given pictures, the students will notice the position of the objects so as the function words needed to show the position. Therefore, the students become aware of the connection between form and its meaning. As they had recognized the structures lexis, these learners are moving to learn about the grammar which is the preposition. In the jigsaw activity, they will develop the internal grammar by chunking the sentences. For example, they tend to chunk these words together,' on the table'. Even though this chunking of words paid little attention to the grammar, at this stage however aims the students to notice on the pattern only. Once those chunks are well recognized, they will draw full attention to the grammar part later on.
In the second part of the activity, lexico-grammar learning takes place when structuring and proceduralizing comes together in sequence. The students tend to manipulate the new learnt grammar in order to express the meaning. Student who works on drawing make use of the new learnt lexis to build up complete sentences structure meaningfully. In this part, listening is the focal skill which requires the students to manipulate the language structures through drawing. Basically, TPR teaching method implies the students to respond on the learning through their actions. Theoretically in this method, grammar learning play reduced role. However, since the students struggle to interpret the form and its meaning, preposition becomes the main focus while they encoding and decoding the language structures. Thus, this exciting structuring learning process provides the students unique experience that can help the development of their internal grammar effectively. On the other hand, the student who volunteers to construct the sentence structures tends to make use of the new grammar ready to convey precise meaning. As they need to describe the situation to others, attention has been given to both grammar and communicative language so that their peers receive the delivered messages correctly. This proceduralising learning sequence requires the learner to manipulate the language fluently and accurately. The cognitivist. I believe that both of these grammar learning sequences enable the students to make adjustment on their meta-language knowledge by assimilating and accommodating the information so that the language competence can develop effectively.
With respect to humanism theory of learning in CLT, Cameron (2001) noted that young learners learn language structure best through social learning. In this lesson, co-operative learning implies through the group work activity whereas students communicate with peers to acquire the structure learning. In the 'Describing where the things are?' activity, the students try their best to encode and decode the messages correctly which basically provide them practices on the grammar learning for communicative purpose. In this co-operative learning, the students help each other to acquire grammar accurately therefore correct any misconceptions in their internal grammar development. In addition to this task-based activity, the students will actively involve in the learning while the teacher can monitor the learning. Thus, I believe that this suggested preposition learning activity is tremendously suitable to be implemented in classroom practice.
Both grammar and communicative language learning are important for young learners being able to use the language proficiently. I believe that young learners of second language may develop their internal grammar effectively with the consideration on the underlying theories of grammar learning and its application, hence to increase the language competence. Finally, teacher must be flexible in varying the teaching method and apply the theories successfully.
Cameron, L. (2001). 'Teaching Languages to Young Learners'. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wilson, H. (2005). 'Testing the Covert Method of Grammar Teaching: A Pilot Study'. Proceedings of the CATESOL State Conference. California: Alliant International University