Friday, November 30, 2007

It took me 15 mins to find the "new post" button

The validity of the structured input / output activities rests entirely on the conceptualization of a process whereby form is unconsciously mapped to function (described as intake for input, access for output) and the belief that having students engaged in this process is the most effective way for them to learn, and maintain a working knowledge of, the grammar of a foreign language.

The studies presented in the article quite convincingly demonstrate this validity, though I would have liked to have known what (if anything) the students being examined were doing at home. For it seems to me that, as far as students’ ability to work on their own is concerned, the benefits of paradigmatic grammar instruction actually go beyond the realm of mere affect. What of the manner in which paradigms (made usable by traditional classroom grammar instruction) provide students with a way of experimenting with a foreign language during content-driven writing exercises completed outside of the classroom? What of the manner in which they impose upon students a (somewhat) transparent horizon of correctness/incorrectness that forces them to go about their writing with a specific type of self-monitoring and, as such, rigor?

Ultimately, I am suspicious of the rather non-interactive understanding of the process of mapping form to function that the article presents. It seems to me that there is more going on here than the mere unconscious intaking / accessing of the “correct” form, and that the apparent agency of out students’ conscious cognitive / hermeneutic activity in this process speaks quite strongly for the continued importance of paradigmatic grammar instruction, or at least of finding ways to make paradigms accessible to students in an clear and compelling manner, grammar videos featuring Darth Vader, heartbroken instructors, and canned meat, for example :-).

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Structured Input is confuuuuuusing!

Okay, so this is a little redundant considering the discussions we had in class today. But I wrote it before class, so here it is.

The chapter on structured input was a somewhat baffling one for me. Through a great deal of the chapter I was very confused about what structured input meant. I didn’t really understand why the activities that they were saying were “good” structured input were better than other activities, or even how they were that different. I grappled with this chapter a lot, and I think that I’ve come to terms with the fact that this could have been said a lot more simply and been much clearer. I think what I was supposed to take away from the information we were given on structured input is that it is better to make students learn a grammatical point through the processing and meaning making of understand the words. As in, if the students can do the grammar seeking activity without actually paying attention to the words being used they are not learning as much as if they have to actually pay attention to the meaning of the words. This interpretation may be incorrect, but I really think that is the “point”.

That “point”, if it is the actual point, is one I’m not sure I fully agree with. It does make sense that if the learner is working with the actual words in addition to the grammatical structure they are getting something like twice as much out of it. However, sometimes I feel like it is necessary for student to acquire the plain grammatical knowledge and know how to apply it in any situation rather than learning it with reference to one situation. I do understand that if you have a standard example that you memorize it helps you to retain the grammatical form, but I don’t think that’s what structured input is advocating. Again, I may be interpreting this completely incorrectly. As a student I wanted to know the rule explicitly, like subject, verb, direct object, indirect object. Subject is in nominative, verb is conjugated to match the subject, direct object is in accusative, etc. I liked having that knowledge to be able to fill in anything I wanted in any of those places, if I had to just read sentences to “figure out” those rules I would have been very frustrated by it. I think this is probably an extreme example and there are many ways in which structured input can be utilized to better results, but I was a little frustrated by the confusing nature of the text.

Marianna Reading Journal -- Teil 1

Obwohl ich jetzt keine Zeit fuer eine richtige "Reading Journal" zu schreiben habe, wollte ich meine Meinung zu dem "Structured Input" Tekst kurz aufschreiben.


Grammar activities from HS are always associated for me with the extremely easy, highly structured fill in-the-blanks worksheets that we are all familiar with. While I don't quite ever remember the actual moment of understanding a grammar point [which speaks to the idea that we teach from our own learning experiences -- these should/should not be sometimes changed to better meet the needs of our students], I know that I somehow did manage to absorb it.

What was memorable were the tedious worksheets; the benefit of the worksheets is that the main point was the only point. This made it pretty easy to ace the exams. And, perhaps, easy to remember while in Germany/speaking with natives.

Grammar patterns elaborated through these tedious worksheets, then, were most likely in the minds of their inventors, intended brain "muscle memory" exercises -- creativity not necessarily promoted, but tools readily given.

How much learning are we trying to put into every moment of teaching/facilitating instruction?

Assuming the communicative framework, as much focus on meaning and intention. Which was, I guess, redefined by VanPatten and Lee. Stay tuned for Teil 2. More summary, more thought (?).

Making Communicative Language Teaching Happen

The aspect of the reading which particularly struck me this week was the idea of the "culture of institutionalized education" and how it affects the teaching and learning of a foreign language. I had never thought about this before because I grew up in "institutionalized education" and was, therefore, never exposed to anything different. The reading made me reflect on three specific aspects of teaching and learning: teachers' propensity to teach how they have been taught, the difficulty of breaking the cycle of "institutionalized learning", and the complexity of analyzing my own experiences learning a FL in a non-institutionalized setting (way) and applying them to my teaching.

Many of the readings we have done for the School of Education state that, "A teacher is most likely to teach the way he/she has been taught." Although this sentence has had meaning for me for a while now, I do not think I fully comprehended that the approach of "institutionalized education" to FL teaching could be irrelevant. I had always assumed that the statement referred more to specific techniques a teacher implemented in his/her classroom to elicit student responses. However, from having read Lee and VanPatten's chapters, I now realize that the statement insinuates that a teacher not only needs to rethink his/her teaching techniques, but also his/her whole approach to the subject matter and goals for student learning outcomes.

This is a particularly daunting task when one considers that most educational material has been created around the idea of "institutionalized education". Most FL textbooks and classroom material teach grammar, which is set in a "culturally relevant" context. Breaking out of this cycle is inherently difficult as the "institutionalized" learning outcomes (mastery of grammar) are not in alignment with the goals of communicative language learning. In essence, the curriculum would have to undergo radical changes, much of the current teaching material would have to be disregarded and replaced, and teachers themselves would need extensive professional development. I do not believe the difficulty is only the expense; the change would also mean a time-consuming effort on the part of a district and its employees.

Each teacher would be implicitly required to reflect on how he/she learned a FL in a non-institutional way and to translate these methods into techniques used in the classroom. When I think about my own non-institutionalized FL learning, I believe I made significant strides reading for a purpose (whether for enjoyment or academic presentation) and discussing various issues with native speakers. In both cases, there was a specific context (or content), which surrounded either the reading or the discussion. This narrowed the scope of vocabulary as well as elements of grammar, enabling me to focus on the ones at hand. These experiences also provided me with streamed "authentic" input, which I could take in and then regurgitate as I felt comfortable. Now as a future FL teacher, it is my responsibility to formulate ways for my students to have similar "experiences" in my classroom. I suppose that will be my challenge this year in school...

"Issues in Learning and Teaching Grammar" - Reading Journal

The misconceptions section of “Issues in Learning and Teaching Grammar” are interesting, but hard to implement I believe. The first misconception (That’s the way I learned….) misses what I believe to be an important point: not only do teachers instruct in the way that they learned because they think it works but also because that is the way they know how to teach. The section underestimates how well teachers understand the impact of outside experiences. Misconception 2 (Drills are effective tolls for learning grammar) also over-estimates the uselessness of drills. For the most part, I agree, drills become busy work and students can very easily fill in answers without actually understanding what is going on. However, for some students, myself included, drills are effective ways to learn a new grammar method, or to review an old one. If the student makes an honest effort to use the drill to practice and check understanding, they can be effective. They are over-used and learning grammar through communication obviously is more beneficial, however I believe that, for certain students at least, drills have their place. Misconception 3 (Explicit Explanation is necessary) falls under the same argument. Without an environment in which students can be immersed in the language, it would take far too long for students’ natural language acquisition to kick in. Explicit explanation speeds up the process for the sort of environment we have developed for our foreign language students. On the other hand, there are certain rules which are far too complicated to explain; words such as doch, eigentlich, and other flavoring words. The final two Misconceptions I agree with much more fully. The first language is most certainly not the source of all errors and paradigms are not key to acquisition. Language acquisition involves error and those errors will be the same sort of errors one made when learning one’s own native language. Language development is the same across cultures and tongues so error comes from learning language not from the native language.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Beth's Reading Journal

Reading Journal: Structured Input and Issues with teaching Grammar

The logic behind these three chapters was very interesting, and it addressed an issue I’ve always had with linguistic instruction – GRAMMAR! I liked the premise, “that people learned languages before institutionalized education existed. “ I believe that institutionalized education can maximize our learning capacity more effectively than incidental learning. However – the idea that structured grammar drills are creations of that institution and are not necessarily required for acquiring fluency creates a more open-minded approach to classroom grammar.

It was a long article and I’m just going to move chronologically through it and mention some of my marginalia. A reason behind teachers perpetuating the methods of their teachers (page 118 book/280 CP) is logically explained – that they learned things through certain means, and, since they’re fluent, those means must have worked – and the book correctly notes the possibility of misplaced cause-and-effect labels. This allows us to consider their proposed method of grammar instruction, despite it being different from the widely-accepted route.

Chapter Seven addressed an issue with grammar drills, that “if meaning can be retrieved elsewhere and not just from the form itself, then the communicative value of the form are diminished.” If, in grammar drills, students can identify past tense through other markers, they don’t process the past-tense form of the verb. That makes a lot of sense to me, and it makes students realize a meaning and importance to grammar, and not just view it as necessary rules to follow by rote.

Great outline for their school of thought:

· Present one thing at a time

· Keep meaning in focus

· Move from sentences to connected discourse

· Use both oral and written input

· Have the learner do something with the input

· Keep the learner’s processing strategies in mind

They make grammar lessons relevant to the language itself. Content is important, speaking, interaction, and grammar isn’t simply a list of rules to follow; it imparts meaning. Keeping the learner’s processing strategies in mind allows me to reshape their method to my individual students – as opposed to some schools of thought which have rather strict structures.

I like their alternatives to the traditional grammar drills, particularly the worksheets in which the student must understand the content of both their answer and the question in order to answer (and yet the focus of the worksheet is still a specific aspect of grammar). Despite having studied German for years, I still struggled with the grammar until I went to Germany, heard and identified the grammar forms being used there, and then learned by copying my German friends. I’m willing to try a system of teaching that bypasses the busywork, fill-in-the-ending worksheets.

I would also believe that those worksheets have their time and place. I believe they’d still be beneficial to older students, who are comfortable enough with the vocabulary and content of the language to be able to focus purely on the grammatical pieces.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Hipcast Moblog

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Hipcast Moblog

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Wenn ich ein Million Dollar haette

Wenn ich ein Million Dollar haette

MP3 File

Wenn ich ein Millionaer waere...

Ich wuerde gern ein Millionaer sein, aber nur fuer eine kurze Zeit!

MP3 File


Because I couldn't resist sharing this with youLearn to TANGO:

Reflect, reflect

What do you think they are saying about the "Denkmal"???
This is really fun, and with a little vocab help, even 101 students can understand much of it.
Click here!

54, 74, 90, 2010 Ja stimmen wir alle ein!

I was in the crowd while this is going on!

Mein Orchester!

Waehrend ich in Freiburg wohnte, spielte ich mit einem Orchester, das teilweise klassische Musik spielt, teilweise "Rock Symphony Orchestra" war. Ich habe fuer 4 Konzerte mitgespielt, und eins davon war "ORSO Rock Symphony 2006." Hier ist ein Interview mit dem Leiter, Wolfgang Roese.
A German explains life. Listen closely.

Marianna's Intriguing Picture

"In mathematics, the complexification of a real vector space V is a vector space VC over the complex number field obtained by formally extending scalar multiplication to include multiplication by complex numbers. Any basis for V over the real numbers serves as a basis for VC over the complex numbers." from Wikipedia

This image is created as a result of a complex mathematical algorithm. To WATCH it actually happen, click here and at the bottom of the page, under "LARGE" choose launch applet. What does this remind you of?


Unter den Linden

Herbst Bild

Obwohl es jetzt kalt draussen geworden ist, ist Herbst meine Lieblingsjahreszeit.

Is this your Germany?

When we think of Germany, we often think of pristine cities and green landscapes. Where do you think this photo was taken? Do you think this is representative of Germany? Why or why not?


Ihr könnt mir gern Fragen stellen, aber es kostet Geld.


Post your ideas / outline / draft of your grammar activity. If you want to link to an online draft, feel free. Read the ideas and drafts of your classmates and post a comment with your feedback. If you have any questions about this task/assignment, please ask it in Comments.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


Submit your reading journal as an original post to the blog (not a comment). Don't forget to include the READING JOURNAL label from the SHOW ALL link below.

IF I WON A MILLION $,$$$,$$$

What would you do if you won a million dollars? Using your Hipcast account, record an audio or video post on the web or your mobile phone and publish it to the blog.


Tell a story using only 5 images. Read posts from our class and write a comment/reaction for the author on your interpretation of the story.

MORE INFO about this Visual Story Telling technique: SEE Flickr group.


Find a German music video on YouTube, GoogleVideo or YahooVideo that you think the class would enjoy. Copy the EMBED code off the video website, click on the EDIT HTML tab above and paste it into the blog post. Then click on the COMPOSE tab and tell us why you chose the video, what you liked best about it. If you can find a website with the lyrics, please share that link as well.

I like this silly song and only wish one of our students had produced it!


Find an image that intrigues you, embed it into your post and write

a reflective post: What was your reaction upon seeing the image? Does the image provoke any feelings? conjure up any memories? Why is the image intriguing.

a story based on the image: Prompt questions here...


Find a blog in German on a topic of interest to you.
When you find a post that intrigues you, blog about it in our class blog. You can copy text from the original blog and paste it into your post. Be sure to include a link back to the original blog (trackback/permanent link). Finally, be sure to use the Blogs label at the bottom of this window (Click SHOW ALL link for a list).

Blog Search Engines include:
Technorati German Search

Sample FL Blogs

UM Italian 232 – Pop culture writing labs; individual and class

UM Hindi
Request Hindi speakers in the community to phone in their opinion of arranged vs love marriages. Students discuss perspectives in class. Identify vocab words in blog comment area. Post their own opionions.

UM Korean Third Year
Getting to know you …
honorifics (indirect speech reporting interview)

UM Swedish – collaboration with Gymnasium Campeon in Sweden

UM French Internships – journal reflections

Blogging the World - Middlebury Study Abroad

Reflections on blogs in classroom Barbara Ganley - Middlebury

Blogs for Teaching and Learning

Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking, Grammar, Culture

Communcations, Cultures, Conections, Comparisons, Communities

Multiple media: text, image, audio, video
Student publication – digital storytelling – fiction blogs -
Course Content Management

Blogging vs Required blogging
Dialog Journals
Topics of individual interest vs assigned topics
individual vs class blog

What is a blog?

chronological journal = web log
form-based web publishing tool
private, protected, public
individual, community
integrates with other social software tools
community of bloggers; subscribe and comment
syndicated – rss, mp3 itunes, podcast
rss reader bloglines - to keep up with blog postings
writing for audience

connections: students connect with the content, with each other, with public...