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Input versus output

At one extreme, teachers who implicitly accept the Stephen Krashen style comprehension hypothesis try to make their lessons as full as possible with target language, whether it be in listening or reading form. They work under the assumption that by hearing and seeing lots of the foreign language, nature will take its course in time and comprehension, along with fluency, will develop. The emphasis is strongly on input.

At the other extreme, there are teachers who favour analysis of form and accuracy, conscious memorisation techniques, comparison with he native language, along with controlled speaking and writing practice. The focus is thus on output.

Most teachers, of course, fall somewhere in the middle and I have blogged previously here and here about how fluency and accuracy, grammar and comprehension, are not enemies.

I have to say, however, that my leaning, with the quite able students I taught, was more towards input i.e. supplying lots of target language in any form. I made the assumption (and it is little more than that) that natural acquisition would take place principally because of this, not because we had explained grammar, applied rules and memorised words. I was particularly keen to place the stress on natural acquisition the more advanced students became.

Now, having said that, on the whole, I was pretty much a pragmatist, but below I am going to list some activities which favour either INPUT or OUTPUT. All the activities have their value, but I would argue that the input activities will produce faster acquisition in the medium and long term.

Input tasks

Listening to recordings and doing comprehension tasks
Listening to the teacher while doing question-answer or drill style work
Watching and listening to a video
Reading an article or story and doing oral or written comprehension on it
Doing extensive reading
Using a picture for oral discussion led by the teacher
Doing a question-answer sequence when introducing new grammar or vocabulary
Doing a cloze task with the focus on meaning
Playing bingo
Doing a crossword from TL to English or with the focus on sentences in the TL

Output tasks

Doing a grammar-translation task (e.g. translating from English to French)
Writing a composition "cold", with little help from a source text
Memorising a talk or essay for a controlled assessment
Doing a cloze exercise with the focus on grammatical accuracy
Memorising a vocabulary list for a test
Playing hangman
Solving anagrams
Doing a crossword from English to TL
Practising learned conversations with a partner
Creating a grammar presentation 
Designing a poster

Neutral tasks?

Doing an information gap pair work task (focus on both listening and output)
General unscripted conversation
Teacher-led oral drills with a focus on accurate form (these also supply some input)


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