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How to Present the Target Language

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The teacher has several options when presenting the target language. He can provide an explanation. He can use diagrams, colored pens on the whiteboard, and other visual aids. He can give examples using the new material. He can call for examples from the students.

No single choice proves better than another choice. In fact, all more or less work together to provide clear explanations that fosters comprehension among the class. Not all may be used in a single lesson, but more than one will likely be selected by the teacher.

Explicit Explanations
The teacher talks about the target language, no matter the focus. He may lecture for a minute or two as students listen and take notes. In addition, he would provide a similar lecture if he were to teach grammar, a thematic set of vocabulary words, a skill such as how to skim or how to scan, and so on.

When providing an explicit explanation, the teacher often provides the form and function of the target language. Form refers to the structure, such as the following:

    (subject) + auxiliary verb (will) + main verb + object/complement

Function refers to the use of the target language, meaning the hows and the whys. For example:

    The future tense with will is used for:

    1: When you predict the future but aren't sure.
    2: When there isn't a plan.
    3: When you have just made a decision.

Additional information on the proper usage may also be provided here.

Visual Aids
Visual aids lend support to an explicit explanation. This helps make the target language clearer, as most people benefit from a concept highlighted with diagrams, pictures, timelines, or whatever highlights the new language point.

Diagrams and timelines work especially well when introducing a grammar structure. Pictures work well to show the meaning of words, or even to express actions in conjunction with grammar. Flashcards can introduce new vocabulary, and even videos can demonstrate gestures, facial expressions, and body language linked with intonation.

This method is essential. Although the teacher may not always provide an explanation, or even may not provide visual aids, he should almost always provide examples. Examples clarify, thereby making an abstract idea become concrete. What's more, examples show how rather than why or when to use the target language.

For example:

    1: When you predict the future but aren't sure.

    Q: What's the weather like today?
    A: It will probably rain today.

    2: When there isn't a plan.

    Q: Do you have any plans for the weekend?
    A: I will probably see a movie, but I didn't check the movie schedule.

    3: When you have just made a decision.

    Q: What time do you want to go to the restaurant?
    A: I don't know. I will meet you at 7:00. Is that okay?

Students can now more readily see and understand the target language because of examples. They further can see how the target language fits into sentences and other structures.

...the teacher should provide the form and function

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Although examples provided by the teacher are helpful, too many can establish a teacher-centered classroom. The teacher always wants to achieve the opposite, empowering students to explore and experiment with the language. This creates a student-centered classroom. Examples allow this, and serves as the last option available to teachers.

Additional examples from the students allow more references in the early part of the lesson. If the students get stuck or need clarification in a practice activity, they can easily refer to the wealth of information written on the board. In addition, elicited examples allow the teacher to effectively assess if the students understand the material.

For example, the teacher elicits several examples from the class. He writes these on the board, after making some minor grammar corrections for articles and singular/plural.

    She will have a meeting with her boss tomorrow morning.
    I will study after this class because I always study then.
    I will take my vacation in Spain this year.

All of the sentences elicited from the class demonstrate that the structure is sound, but the meaning in two of the three sentences isn't quite there.  However, none of the sentences follow the three usage rules explained by the teacher. Therefore he realizes that additional examples and a clearer explanation are required before allowing the class to practice the target language.

Although no particular method works best, each method works in tandem to provide clear explanations. Looking through the examples provided, most teachers would use all of the above to ensure that the class clearly understands the form and function, and so are ready to begin practicing it.



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