Lesson 4: Input to Output

Structured Output Activities

Language learners must have opportunities to produce output in order to gain fluency and accuracy. Lee and VanPatten state that structured output "is a concept that can be applied to the development of activities that encourage learners to use newly learned vocabulary in a productive manner" (2003: 179). In terms of progression, structured output activities should follow structured input activities.

Lee and VanPatten define structured output as "a special type of form-focused activity that is communicative in nature" (2003: 168). They provide two major characteristics of structured output activities:

  1. They involve the exchange of previously unknown information.
  2. They require learners to access a particular form or structure in order to express meaning.

The guidelines established by Lee and Van Patten for developing structured output activities include:

  • Present one thing at a time.
  • Keep meaning in focus.
  • Move from sentences to connected discourse.
  • Use both oral and written ouput.
  • Others must respond to the content of the output.
  • The learner must have some knowledge of the form or structure.

Keep in mind that, as with structured input activities, structured output activities are never disconnected from meaning.

Browse through a beginning language textbook. When do output exercises appear in the progression of the chapter? Are students required to produce output right away, or is the output preceded by any structured input activities?

Types of Responses to Output

As mentioned above, one of the guidelines of structured output activities is for learners to respond to the output. This acknowledges that the output has a purpose and contains a message. Lee and VanPatten suggest the following responses to the output:

  • Comparing with someone else
  • Taking notes, then writing a paragraph about what was said
  • Making a list of follow-up questions and interviewing a partner to get the new information
  • Filling out a grid or chart based on what was said
  • Signing something
  • Indicating agreement or disagreement
  • Determining veracity of the statement
  • Responding using any of several scales
  • Drawing something
  • Answering a question

Structured Output Activities in Français interactif


Culminating task: structured output activity.

Duration: 01:03

This exercise is an example of a structured output activity from Chapter 2.

Structured Output Activity (original) Structured Output Activity (English translation)


What characteristics qualify this as a structured output activity?