Lesson 4: Input to Output

Traditional Grammar Practice

Throughout this vocabulary module, we have referred to the two pedagogical progressions of the materials in Français interactif, decontextualized vocabulary lists to richly contextualized speech samples, and input to output. In this lesson, we discuss the type of input activities used in the program, namely structured input. But first, let's take a look at the problems associated with traditional grammar practice.

According to Lee and VanPatten (2003), traditional approaches to teaching grammar are problematic, as they require students to produce output immediately, as demonstrated in the following diagram:

Traditional Practice in Grammar

InputIntakeDeveloping SystemOutput
Focused Practice

(Lee and VanPatten (2003: 133))

While they do agree that production can help with fluency and accuracy, it is not the means by which the grammar develops in the internal system. Early production is problematic, they argue, because "acquisition involves the creation of an implicit linguistic system, one that exists outside of awareness" (2003:132). This developing system is dependent upon input, and happens when learners receive and process a significant amount of input that is both comprehensible and meaningful.

As opposed to traditional grammar teaching which emphasizes production, Lee and VanPatten propose a new kind of grammar instruction called processing instruction that focuses on input and how learners process input.

Diagram of Processing-Oriented Grammar Instruction

InputIntakeDeveloping SystemOutput
Processing Mechanisms
Focused Practice

(Lee and VanPatten (2003: 142))

In this diagram, learners are first given information about a particular linguistic structure or form. They are then provided with information about how a particular processing strategy might negatively affect their learning of the form or structure. Finally, learners are encouraged to process the form or structure using structured input activities. Only after this phase will learners be required to produce output. This is the model we follow in Français interactif.