Skip to main content

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)

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Delayed dictation

What is “delayed dictation”?

Instead of getting students to transcribe immediately what you say, or what a partner says, you can enforce a 10 second delay so that students have to keep running over in their heads what they have heard. Some teachers have even used the delay time to try to distract students with music.

It’s an added challenge for students but has significant value, I think. It reminds me of a phenomenon in music called audiation. I use it frequently as a singer and I bet you do too.

Audiation is thought to be the foundation of musicianship. It takes place when we hear and comprehend music for which the sound is no longer or may never have been present. You can audiate when listening to music, performing from notation, playing “by ear,” improvising, composing, or notating music. When we have a song going round in our mind we are audiating. When we are deliberately learning a song we are audiating.

In our language teaching case, though, the earworm is a word, chunk of l…

Sentence Stealers with a twist

Sentence Stealers is a reading aloud game invented by Gianfranco Conti. I'll describe the game to you, then suggest an extension of it which goes a bit further than reading aloud. By the way, I shouldn't need to justify the usefulness of reading aloud, but just in case, we are talking here about matching sounds to spellings, practising listening, pronunciation and intonation and repeating/recycling high frequency language patterns.

This is how it works:

Display around 15 sentences on the board, preferably ones which show language patterns you have been working on recently or some time ago.Hand out four cards or slips of paper to each student.On each card students must secretly write a sentence from the displayed list.Students then circulate around the class, approaching their classmates and reading a sentence from the displayed list. If the other person has that sentence on one of their cards, they must hand over the card. The other person then does the same, choosing a sentenc…

Have a repertoire, lighten your workload (part one)

The next four blogs I'm going to post are the equivalent of one of those TV clip shows - you know, the ones where they need to fill a weekly slot by showing the best bits, or deleted scenes, from the series. But these four blogs have a theme. The clue is in the title. Like you, I worked hard when I was teaching, but I was pretty good at keeping things in proportion using a combination of economical planning, rapid marking and experience. The extra time those things created even allowed me to stay relaxed and have fun (most of the time) and to come up with the occasional innovative idea.

So, what I'm going to suggest here is that, if you have a little repertoire of go-to classroom activities, you can save yourself a lot of time and stress, and, what's more, all for the benefit of your classes. You see, I think (actually, I know) pupils like routines, but they also appreciate a bit of variety. So if you apply your repertoire of lesson/activity types sensibly you can satisfy b…

"Ask and move" task

This is a lesson plan using an idea from our book Breaking the Sound Barrier (Conti and Smith, 2019). It's a task-based lesson adapted from an idea from Paul Nation and Jonathan Newton. It is aimed at Y10-11 pupils aiming at Higher Tier GCSE, but is easily adaptable to other levels and languages, including A-level. This has been posted as a resource on frenchteacher.net.

This type of lesson plan excites me more than many, because if it runs well, you get a classroom of busy communication when you can step back, monitor and occasionally intervene as students get on with listening, speaking and writing.

Curriculum planning

Many MFL departments are talking about planning in response to whole school initiatives related to Ofsted's latest emphasis: CURRICULUM. This post is about how a department might respond to such an initiative. It's fairly broad-brush, given the nature of the issue, but not too airy-fairy, I hope.

Here is Ofsted's definition of the curriculum:

“The curriculum is a framework for setting out the aims of a programme of education, including the knowledge and understanding to be gained at each stage (intent); for translating that framework over time into a structure and narrative, within an institutional context (implementation) and for evaluating what knowledge and understanding pupils have gained against expectations (impact/achievement).” (My highlighting.)

So Ofsted wants schools to:

• know their curriculum – design and intent;
• know how their curriculum is being implemented;
• know what impact their curriculum is having on pupils’ knowledge and understanding.

(I'…