EN1: Reflections

31st of January

Pre- and post-modifiers for noun groups

My reflections on nouns in Chapter 2 in A New Grammar Companion for Teachers by Beverly Derawianka.

In this part of the chapter, we are introduced to a lot of different categories or participants that nouns can belong to, like living or non-living, human or non-human, named or unnamed, particular or general, everyday or technical, concrete or abstract, and literal or metaphorical. The nouns can be in several categories at once, but not both human and non-human, because they are opposite categories.

To find the noun we can use the probe question Who/what is taking part? A noun is a single word but sometimes we have pre- and post-modifiers that relates to the noun. An example of this is the sentence from the book. “I felt like throttling those two scruffy alley cats on the roof that were yowling all night.” In this sentence, the noun is the word cats, but the noun group is “those two scruffy alley cats on the roof that were yowling all night.”

The pre-modifiers for this sentence are the words before cats that describe the cats, “those two scruffy alley cats” these words all describe the cats and therefore they are pre-modifiers. The post-modifiers in this sentence are the words after cats that describes the cats “cats on the on the roof that were yowling all night.” these words give us information about the cats and are thus post-modifiers.

The reason I wanted to make a reflection on this is because I think it is a good tool to help me think in form groups. I have a difficult time separating the different form groups from each other, but I hope this is a tool I can use in working with my own grammar. Regarding my own students I don’t know if I want to explain pre- and post-modifiers so explicitly. I think that looking at the form groups can be helpful, but it can also become too technical for my taste. It all depends on how the class learn Danish grammar, and maybe if they have a very explicit knowledge in Danish grammar I would draw some more explicit parallels to the English language.


25th of January

Probe questions

My reflections on verbs in Chapter 2 in A New Grammar Companion for Teachers by Beverly Derawianka.

In this chapter we are introduced to the terms and definitions of different verb types like: action verbs, saying verbs, sensing verbs, relating verbs, and existing verbs. We are also introduced to some verb groups like the simple present tense, the simple past tense, other aspects of time, other auxiliaries, multi-verb groups, and negatives. But in this reflection, I will look at probe questions.

A probe question is a question which answer is a specific grammatical feature. It is good for helping students noticing the grammatical feature and the meaning or function of the feature. A probe question does not just make the students aware of the grammatical feature but also makes them thinks in ‘chunks of meaning’. Chunks of meaning are the idea that some words go together like, the red bike or a little cat.

Some examples of probe questions are; what is happening? This question finds the verb group.  To find the noun group you can ask; who or what is taking part? To find the prepositional phrase you simply ask Where? and to find the adverb you ask How? This might seem a bit complicated so underneath I have made an example.

“A mouse was jumping up and down joyfully in its house.”


Who/what is taking part? What’s happening? How? Where?
A mouse was jumping up and down joyfully in its house.
noun group verb group adverb prepositional phrase

With these probe questions it is much easier to dissect the sentences into grammatical features.

The reason way I chose to write about probe questions is because it is such a simple solution to a difficult problem. I have always had problems with finding the grammatical features, but this really helps.

Usually for I prefer a more a more non-interventionist position, but this tool gives an understanding of grammar so you can go out and check if it is right. I know how to speak and use grammar in my everyday life, but I got most of my grammar knowledge from input, so if I am in doubt with some think I can’t test it.  I do think I will use this in my classroom, especially if the class already knows the method from there Danish classes.

 


14th of February

Functional grammar

My reflections Chapter 1 in A New Grammar Companion for Teachers by Beverly Derawianka.

Chapter 1 is an introduction to the book A New Grammar Companion for Teachers by Beverly Derawianka that gives us 3 angels to look at grammar. There is the first one where we are looking at meaning, by focusing on the how linguistic choices create certain meanings. Secondly, there is a focus on form. Here we look at how various grammatical features are structured and provide the students with knowledge that helps them to deal with grammar in a more structured and rule-based way.  Thirdly there is a focus on the relationship between meaning and form. This is where you look at both meaning and form and their relationship like how can the choice of a noun affect the meaning of a text? This third option is what the book focus on.

Functional grammar is based on Systemic Functional Linguistics by Professor Michael Halliday. It is a grammar approach that is built upon assumptions about the way the language works. The idea behind functional grammar is the students need to be aware of grammar so they can participate in school and other social or official contexts successfully.

I think there is a beauty to functional grammar. I’m happy that that is the approach we are taking because it focuses more on the meaning and how I can improve. Therefore, it is a good teacher’s tool, but I am not sure that I will use it in my classroom. In the Danish school system they don’t learn functional grammar in their Danish classes, and to me it makes much more sense to use their pre-knowledge from Danish class and work with that. I would love if they started learning functional grammar in Danish class because I think it is a more fun and useful approach.

 


22nd of Marts

Conjunctions

My reflections on paragraph 510 and 511 in Practical English usage, third edition by Michael Swan.

These paragraphs, 510 and 511, are about conjunctions and some of the common problems with conjunctions. A conjunction in Danish is a bindeord. The purpose of a conjunction is to join clauses together and to point us in the direction of how the clauses are relating. There are different categories a conjunction that relating can be in:

  • An addition like and
  • A contrast like but
  • An alternative like or
  • A cause like because
  • A time like when

One of the common problems students have is to have two conjunctions in a sentence only with two clauses so they cancel each other out, and doesn’t make sense like “Although I like swimming but I’m not in the mood.” This doesn’t make sense but you can say “I like swimming, but I’m not in the mood.” Or “Although I like swimming, I’m not in the mood.”

When working with my presentation for my EN1 class about conjunction I wondered how I could use it in my teaching. I figured out that it very much depends on what age group I am going to work with. In the third and fourth grade, I would advise my students to leave out the conjunctions and keep the sentences short. I often see student texts that are very confusing, because of their long sentences. I would try to keep the written exercises to descriptions and fiction texts, so conjunctions aren’t important. In fifth grade I would introduce conjunctions to some students depending on their level and from sixth grade and up all students should be able to use it. In fifth grade, I would introduce text where the students have to wright their opinions and in those text conjunctions are necessary. Conjunctions are also great at making the students language more interesting and it is good to have a big vocabulary of conjunctions because we use it so often in texts.

 


28th of March

Connecting ideas with conjunctions

 My reflections Chapter 3 in A New Grammar Companion for Teachers by Beverly Derawianka.

In the beginning of this chapter, we are introduced to conjunctions and the different kind of sentences. We have a simple sentence and when we combine clauses there are three kinds: a compound sentence, a complex sentence and compound – complex sentences.

A simple sentence contains a single independent clause. An independent clause can also be called main clause or principal clauses. A simple sentence will often only have one message and it can stand on its own like “Add the sugar to the blow.”

A combined clause incorporates more than one clause in a sentence. As I said before there are three kinds of a combined clause. In a compound sentence, there are two or more independent clauses. Both of the clauses in a compound sentence had a message and can stand on its own, for example, “Hedwig walked to the party, but her friends took the car.” Here the sentence could be independent clauses. “Hedwig walked to the party” and “Her friends took the car.” If you are in doubt you can reverse the order of clauses in a compound sentence, so our sentence can be “Her friends took the car, but Hedwig walked to the party”.

The function of complex sentences is to make connections between ideas, the conjunction between the clauses are pointed us towards a reason, a purpose, a condition, a concession or to link two ideas in terms of various time relations. Often a complex sentence consists an independent clause and a dependent clause, typically connected by a subordinating conjunction. A dependent clause as the phrase in tales cannot stand alone and are dependent on an independent clause. It is also known as a ‘subordinate clauses’ or an ‘adverbial clauses’ because they are similar to other adverbials, provided more information about how, when, where and why an activity takes place. The last kind of combine clauses is a compound – complex sentences and that is a combination of the two combine clauses compound sentence and complex sentence.

In this part of the chapter I also read about quoting and reporting, non-finite-, interrupting-, and relative clauses, but I won’t talk about that in this reflection.

I still have a hard time understanding how I, as a teacher, can use functional grammar in my classroom. Functional grammar looks at the language as building blokes, which I really like, but it is still very confusing to me. I do hope that it will become easier when I get an exercise book for functional grammar and can practice like my students often will. Maybe then I will be a full-blooded functional gramma teacher, who knows?


19th of April

The table of active verb forms  

My reflections on paragraph 10.5 in Practical English usage, third edition by Michael Swan.

Paragraph 10.5 is a table with the different tenses. The table only works with the ordinary English verbs, but there is a list of irregular verb on page 282 to 284, paragraph 304. In this reflection I will go through the different tenses and explain them, because I have found this table to be very helpful and I would like to be better at knowing the grammar behind.

Simple future is often constructed of will and the verb in an infinitive form, an example of this is “It will get better” (A verb in an infinitive form is for example to write or to stand. In Danish we would call infinitive for bydeformen or stamen af et ord.) A simple future sentence can also be I/we shall like “We shall travel more”

Future progressive is most likely build up by will be and the verb in an -ing form, like “This time tomorrow I will be dancing in Scotland” (All the tenses with progressive in the name include an -ing) Also in this tens we can also use I/we shall, in a sentence like “I shall have a lot of drinks tonight”

Future prefect sentences mostly contains will have and a past participle, like “I will have finished my paper by tomorrow”. (A past participle often the –ed form). In this form we can again also use I/we shall.

Future perfect progressive is constructed of will have been and because it is a progressive we have an –ing, so an example of this could be “In August I will have been studying for a year” In this tens it is also possible to use I/we shall.

Simple present sentences is usually the same as infinitive, but we add an –s if it is a third person singular. For example “I/you/we/they work” or “He/she works”. Often you will use this tens for ‘general’ time, like “It always rains in Ballerup”

Present progressive is something that is happening at the moment that we are speaking. It contains am, are or is plus a –ing. A sentens in this form can sound like “He is sleeping”

Present perfect sentences has a past action that has some connection to the present, an example of this is “I have washed the dishes so now we can relax”. A present perfect sentence are build up with have or has and a –ed past participle.

Present perfect progressive purpose is to relate a past event that continues to the present. This tens construction contains have or has been and a verb using –ing. An example of this is “It has bee snowing all morning”

Simple past reference to past evens. For regular verbs it is the infinitive form plus –ed or just –d, for example “I danced all night” or “He jumped off the car”

Past progressive sentences use the elements was or were plus the progressive –ing. A sentence like this is “I saw Jane when I was coming out of the shop”. The purpose of this structure is telling about an action that are continuing at a particular past time.

Past perfect tens is constructed of had and a past participle. An example of this is “I couldn’t walk, because I had worn high heels the night before”. This sentence references something that happen before a particular past time.

Past perfect progressive sentences contains had been and an –ing. In this sentence structure there is no action but it still telling us about something that are continuing at a particular past time, like “My feed hurt because I had been dancing all night”

 


2nd of May

Modality

My reflections Chapter 3 in A New Grammar Companion for Teachers by Beverly Derawianka.

In this chapter we learn about how we use the language to boost or lover the intensity of a message with the help of force and focus. And in general the finer nuances in the English language.

Modality or modal verber in Danish is a tool we can use when we wand to open up or close down the discourse of possibilities. A modal auxiliary tells us something about the degree of a statement.  Modal auxiliary can explain something about how likely something is, for example “I must go to the dance”, “I will go to the dance” or “I may go to the dance” here are three examples where there are three different types of likelihood. It is most likely that the first statement with must is coming to the dance, where we are not as sure with the last statement with might.  It can also tell us about the obligation that could sound something like “I should do the dishes” and that is very different from “I could do the dishes” or “I ought to do the dishes”

The reason I chose to write about modality and modal auxiliaries is because my sister and I have been talking about the use of them at the end of folkeskolen in comparison to the use at the end of gymnasie in Denmark. My sister was at a presentation about this and it showed that the Danish students get better at this even though they aren’t explicitly taught.

In my one classroom I am not going to explain this in a structured way and by using gramma terms. If my students ask what the difference is between should or could I would explain it to them and talk about it, but only with that student because that student shows that it is ready to see the finer nuances in the English language. I do believe that a lot of the students will get a lot of these modality tools from input from their everyday life, by watching films or listening to the radio, therefor I don’t think it is important in my classroom.


10th of May

Analyzing student texts

 My reflections Chapter 6 in A New Grammar Companion for Teachers by Beverly Derawianka.

This reflexion is going to be a bit different form the other once, given that this is going to be a reflection on a concept more than the chapter. I just read chapter 6 in A New Grammar Companion and looked through the interlanguage analysis again, and in doing that I asked myself how to give good feedback to my student, with the limited time I am going to get as a school teacher. In chapter 6: Revisiting the functions of language we go through all that we have learned throughout the year and apply it to the text “The Image Of The Lost Soul” by Saki. In doing so there at many different ways of looking at the text there is the clause structure, the sentence structure, looking at processes, circumstances, and participants and there is also looking at attitude, graduation, and engagement.

I am familiar with separating an analysis of a student text in to text level, sentence level, clause level, and word level. I find that an analysis of all the levels is very time consuming to do this with every student text and I don’t think the students benefit from such a thorough analysis. Therefore, I will not be doing a full interlanguage analysis of my students text, but that gives us a new dilemma, what should you as a teacher be looking at?

I don’t have the answer, but I hope that I can differentiate in correcting student’s text and have the students help me set golds for them. In my classroom I hope that we are going to work a lot with rewriting and correcting there student texts. As I said I don’t have the answer but I hope to give feedback on what the students want and with the student set a goal for the next text.


17th of May

Oral and written feedback

My reflections on Feedback by Susana S. Fernåndez from Aarhus Universitet

Throughout history there has been many ways of looking at errors and mistakes when it comes to teaching English. Three of the main viewpoints in the text are:

  1. To correct all mistakes as soon as it happens
  2. Correcting mistakes does not work
  3. To correct mistakes supports the students hypothesis testing

The first one is also the oldest one and it believes that all mistakes needs to be corrected so that the students doesn’t get in to a bad habit of miss using the words or grammar structure. The second one believes that the students do not learn from being corrected all the time and that you should learn your second language as your mother tongue. The third and last one is the most common belief now a day’s, it is seen as a positive thing that the students are making some mistakes, because that means that they are trying out their hypothesis.

When we are giving feedback we also have to consider the media in which we are doing it. There is a big difference between written and oral feedback, because the students can be more or less ready for the correction. A lot of teachers do not like to interrupt a conversation with a student and therefor only correct implicit and not explicit. In both oral and especially in written feedback you have to consider what you correct and how you do it.

Personally I think that feedback is really interesting and I like that the students can get there personal feedback and work form their own level. In the text Susana S. Fernåndez mentioned something that I had never thought about before and I find really clever. The author suggested that the teacher pre-record oral feedback so that the student can watch it on a computer and afterwards ask the teacher if there were something they didn’t understand. This would give the teacher more time in the classroom with all the students and still provide with some personal feedback there is not just there some red lines on a piece of paper.  The down side to this is that the teacher might lose some one-on-one-time with the students and therefor may lose touch of the student’s levels.


26th of May

Practical English usage

My reflections on Practical English usage, third edition by Michael Swan.

For my last reflection of this semester I would like to make a reflection on a very helpful tool we have been working with the entire module. This book almost works as a dictionary where you can look up difficult grammar rules in the English language and find the rule and the way that it is actually being used by native speakers, and it can also help you if there is a difference between American and British English.

A good example of native speakers miss using the grammar is § 623 about who and whom. In § 623 we can see that the paragraph start out by saying “Whom is unusual in informal modern English” and continues to explain were it is grammatically correct, but often very formal. It is very nice to have an authority on the language that also is not afraid to say that there are some areas were the rule is not used by the native speakers and therefor it might be good not to use it correctly.

I have been using this book a lot during this semester when I have been in doubt about something grammatical for instants; during my teacher practise my group and I had a teaching sequence about historical heroes and how to wright a biography. In this teaching sequence the students had to work a lot with dates and we hadn’t properly scaffold the students so when we got there biographies back there were a lot of mistakes with using dates. When I were home and corrected the students papers I started doubting myself and my English grammar knowledge, and didn’t know how to explain the proper way of using dates in English so I looked it up in Practical English usage witch helped me a lot. It actually made me want to make a follow up teaching sequence with the students, but it was the end of the teaching practise so we didn’t have the time. Luckily we have to  wright a teaching sequence for this class so I made it for EN1-class instead.