Saturday, January 19, 2013

Back to SI (Structured Input)

There would have been no hope, in Potwari, of doing those Session 8 activities described in the previous post, had not a moderate amount of SI (Structured Input) prepared us for it. We are pretty much abandoning what are called, in the Phase 1 guide, "Here-and-now descriptions of us" in favour of photographs in which various combinations of us, the nurturer and others are engaging in actions. The nurturer asks questions such as, "In which picture am I running? In which picture are we lying down? In which picture are they jumping?" etc. This version is described in the Phase 1 guide as an option, but that was before digital pictures made it so easy. So it is really the way to go.

As we point out, these activities need to be developed anew for each languaculture. We are getting better at it as time goes on. If you are able to develop these in your situation and haven't, please get going on it, as you'll improve with experience.

Andrew Farley, in Structured Input: Grammar Instruction for the Acquisition-Oriented Classroom, has as his first "pitfall", "not presenting one thing at a time." We would say "one contrast at a time". To use English as a (bit of a strained) example, we might be emphasising the forms of auxiliary be, as in

"Show me the picture in which...
you are running
I am walking
he is jumping
they are walking
etc."

Now as you know, if you've been in recent LLA Courses, the problem here is that GPs hear the you, I, he, they, etc. in the sentences, and also have to pay attention to the verb-- running, walking, jumping, reading, etc. in order to point at the correct picture. The auxiliary be, is for reasons that no one understands (and some people claim they do) is cognitively far more demanding, and it just goes by in the sentence lifelessly, as though it isn't there. So we must force ourselves to pay attention to it by omitting the pronoun you, I, he, they, etc.

"Show me the picture in which...
are running
am running
is jumping
are walking

Now if the auxiliary be form is am, the person will point at pictures in which "I" ( the speaker--the nurturer) am dong the action. If the form is are, he could point at pictures in which, they, you and we are doing the same action referred to in the sentence. We've done things like that.

However, this is not presenting one thing at a time. So let's start without any main verb, taking advantage of the fact that copula be has the same forms as auxiliary be. Then we have sentences such as "Show me the picture in which I am," "...you are" etc.. Then, omitting the pronouns, the nurture just says

"Show me the picture in which
am
is
are

And the GP points to the picture of the speaker (nurture) for am, and some third person for his. We wouldn't use the are form for all three functions of second person (you are) third person plural (they are) and first person plural (we are). We would limit it to you at first. Now, once the GP can readily point correctly upon hearing am, is and are, we can go back to auxiliary be, but always using the same action, such as

am running
is running
are running

Once that is easy, continue using multiple actions

am running
is walking
are walking
am reading
etc.

Finally, all three functions of the are form are included, so that when the GP hears are running s/he has three pictures to point at.

Do you see how we gradually built up to this, rather than starting with it?

Now the GP is easily hearing and understanding auxiliary be with all it's forms. This auxiliary no longer "goes by in the sentence lifelessly as though it isn't there". Now it has taken on meaning. It is noticeable. It has been activated for the processor. It will still require considerable experience with it, but the experience can happen now, since the auxiliary is not simply filtered out by the listening comprehension process.