Pop-Up Grammar

How have we traditionally taught grammar?
In the most traditional language classes teachers implement the PPP model of grammar instruction. Students are Presented with a grammar structure, they Practice the formation of the structure, and then try to Produce the structure in meaningful ways. In languages that have verb conjugations students would get the infinitive form of the verb, learn how to remove the infinitive ending, and add a new ending to change the meaning of the verb for person and/or time frame. Students would then practice these conjugations with charts, fill in the blank activities, or other mechanical drills. The same could be done with practice of object pronouns, noun agreement, etc.

What’s the problem with that?
In my classroom, I want to make sure that a vast majority of class time is spent on communicating and using meaningful language, if we focus only on getting students to practice grammar, we are robbing them of the opportunity to process loads of input. Furthermore, according to Bill VanPatten (2019), paradigms (like verb charts) are NOT what end up in students’ heads, and the way we store vocabulary isn’t by stems and endings, but whole, meaning carrying words/phrases. If you’re teaching linguistics, I say go for the PPP model, but if our focus is on helping students to communicate, we should first focus on meaning, not grammar rules.

What is pop-up grammar?
Pop-up grammar is a term credited to Carol Gaab and Kristy Placido, though the technique has been around for ages, and I have experienced it first-hand as a student from Dr. Terry Waltz. In a nutshell, pop-up grammar is quick grammar explanations that assist students in making form-meaning connections. That is, we focus on the meaning first, and draw some attention to form to support that meaning.

How should I use pop-up grammar?
Pop-up grammar can be used at any time with any lesson. Rather than planning a lesson around a grammar point, lead with interesting content. As you and students work with the content, you can draw attention to whatever grammatical feature you want that may be preventing students from fully comprehending a text. A pop-up should last no more than about 30 seconds to make sure you can get back to the input! You can also do pop-ups in the language you teach, or your shared language with students. Whichever will most quickly and effectively help YOUR students make form-meaning connections.

Checking for understanding
It’s always important to check for understanding because in using pop-up grammar, we aren’t teaching a grammar lesson, we are using grammar to support comprehension.  You can ask scaffolded questions such as yes or no, either/or, or wh? questions to check that students know who, or what you’re talking about. This also provides more robust exposure to the language, which will help build students’ linguistic system.

Take a look at how I frame Pop-Up Grammar in my class here: Pop-Up Grammar

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