06 April 2009

Useless grammar I used to teach

There are a couple of grammar issues I used to teach and I've since decided such explicit instruction on these points is a waste of time. By this, I mean that given the time we have with our students, and what they're really capable of using in fluent speech/writing, explaining the grammatical terms and issues to them isn't going to help their fluency.

One is the personal a. In my experience, you can tell a student all you want that you have to put an a before an object that is a person, but the student will still say veo mi mamá unless they have an overactive monitor, à la Krashen.

The other one is on my radar right now because I'm supposed to be teaching it now, following the sequence in the textbook I loosely use as a guideline, EMC's En sus marcas. It's indirect object pronouns. Or direct ones, for that matter. Again, from my experience, I can tell my students what the difference is (because many of them can't define those in English), which ones are which in Spanish, when they go in front, when they go on the end, when they can go either place, which verbs take one or the other, and they'll still look at something like te veo and read it "you see." There's just too much English background to overcome. So, I opt to include both types of pronouns in all sorts of situations in their vocabulary phrases, so that hopefully their brain will figure out what's going on with all this me/te/etc stuff as they review their vocabulary. Also, when we look at songs, I'm constantly pointing out pronoun/verb sequences and asking what they mean. Yes, I'm asking for an English translation, which isn't what I like, but it's a quick way for me to find out if they know what's going on. And, in increasing numbers, they really do.

If they know that nos ama means he loves us, what do I care if they can define a direct object pronoun? I'll leave that up to their English teacher.


Rebecca said...

I completely agree with the comment on object pronouns. This year with my Spanish I class I am experimenting not officially talking about them but instead just pointing out what they mean when they see them and using them ALOT. And my advanced students are already starting to use them or at least ask about them when they think they should use them.

In addition, when they came up again in Spanish II, I didn't call them object pronouns. Instead I just talked about how le means to him/her/you(for) and les means to them/you all(for). There really is no reason to differentiate between direct and indirect when you are using me, te, nos, and os. So instead I'm focusing on meaning. And right now they are actually getting them.

Sometimes I wonder if we sometimes get too caught up in the special names for grammar that we miss focusing on the meaning.

Diane said...

DOPs . . . ugh. Taught 'em in French II. I've noticed that my students these days don't even know what object pronouns are in English. I just can't sacrifice a day to teach grammar. (BTW, I actually love grammar. How come it's not stressed as much in English classes anymore????)

I worked really hard on getting my students to use object pronouns in some sort of context. Blogged about one of my activities here: http://foreignlanguagefun.com/2009/03/learn-languages-with-highlights-hidden-pictures/

Also did a little vocab game where students had to generate lists of words in various categories. Then they'd give their partner a word & the partner would have to respond w/a sentence like: You eat it, you wear it, you study it, you drink it, etc. Later we made it a speedier competition style game.

So, the indirect object pronouns are waiting for me next month. Any good ideas?

La profesora Sarita said...

Diane, I love grammar too. :-) I actually double-majored in English and Spanish Ed and grammar was my favorite. Then I went to grad school and became a descriptive linguist, but what can you do, haha.

I like the vocab game idea!!

Like Rebecca said, there's no reason to say anything different about me, te, nos in Spanish. I don't know what they're like in French. In Spanish 1 we've been practicing using le/les with their most common partners--say and tell. I've used the EMC Symtalk cards with it, too.

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