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GRAMMAR PLAYS

 

What is a grammar play. It is a short play with 2 or 3 characters in which a particular grammar aspect has been almost absurdly emphasised, for the sake of gouging a deeper track in the perception of regularity and memory

 

What is the aim and justification here?

 

Much misuse has been made of the term "acquire naturally" in school language teaching. In a few hours a week and the usual chaos of class and with at least a ratio of 24 pupils to one informed speaker (the teacher), there is no similarity to the conditions and context in which we learnt out mother tongue, so naturalistic text books won't bring us "acquire". We need activities and material that is highly focused; cleverly artifical, - NOT using the key of CEF's domains of "daily routines", "talking about your plans" etc but focused on the categories of grammar. How terribly incorrect that sounds!

Grammar! Yes, Grammar is regularity. It is a code, a mnemonic. It lays bare the logic of a language and the secret of its combinations. But of course grammar remains central even if never a "rule" were explained. This is especially true of our grammar plays where the "penny can drop" unconsciously.

Let us think a minute what "natural acquisition" means. It alludes to the way that as children we learnt the language without any abstraction of rules being necessary. We just seemed to "get it", to get the hang of it", to "absorb it".. We learnt by some magic of intuition, and above all by CONSTANT USE. How laborious school learning seems by comparison. Thus it was thought if we could import that unthinking "acquisition" of our first years……!!! But school is utterly different; Too different. Too UNnatural. We need the help of artificial activities , games and grammar plays. Repetition and memory need the facilitation that grammar in the mind of the teacher and the study material gives. Look at this grammar play for example, and remember it is meant to be more entertaining than text books with their "REAL" "daily routines" or "going on holiday". Being entertaining the plays are worth learning by heart and acting. Learning by heart a grammar play is an artificial trick that brings us a little nearer to those "natural" language experiences of childhood, and their genuine "communication", which has so much repetition behind it. (not to speak of what Chomsky called the Language acquisition device LAD, which we are probably not accessing at school). A part learnt by heart is an aid to whole phrase fluency, to "chunking", to an unconscious intuition about regularity. (grammar!)

EXAMPLE OF A GRAMMAR PLAY

"Something unpleasant"  (grammar of something, someone anywhere combinations)

 

A     Listen! Everyone be quiet!

B     I can't hear anything.

A No, LISTEN. There IS something

B   I can hear nothing

A     No, listen. There's something in the cellar

B     Oh there is something. There's a funny sound.

A     Can you hear? It's a crunching sound. -

       like someone eating celery!                                              

B Could it be anything...... anything unpleasant?                 

A     No, it's probably nothing to worry about.

       It's probably just some mice..

B     Mice! But listen to the noise, if that's a mouse,

       it's some mouse: it's huge.                                               

A     Is everyone upstairs.                                                        

B     I think so. Is anyone missing?

A     No, Let's go to bed. There's no one missing

B      No! Listen! I can hear it. It's crunching something. Is it eating cauliflowers? 

A     Are you sure it's not eating something else? Something wet and soft. Oh no!

Something .....OR ! oh my God someone!

A Is anybody missing?                                                            

B I haven't seen Billy this evening. Has no one seen him?

A     Oh no! Has anyone seen Billy!

B Oh my God, there's something in the cellar and it's eating Billy!

A Quick, we'll have to wake everyone else up... A and B run off shouting...         

Everyone wake up! Everybody wake up!                       

A Wake up everybody!

B There's something in the cellar!

A It's eating Billy! Oh my God! Something terrible is happening.

 

An advantage in this sort of material is that it gives a pattern for creative open writing. This play exemplifies an area of linguistic symmetry, which by the way is another cause for doubting the logic of CEF's geography of language. The fact is that say, English, German and French have a vast number of differences which are obviously therefore the stuff of difficulty! How can a generalised language scheme serve anyone but tidy minded Brussels bureaucrats?

         If we look at the history of the last 30 years, (which is in fact a rerun of the various Eureka moments of the last 300 years), all the phases CA, CEF, PEL, CLIL have in common a naturalistic theory of "acquisition",(but condemned to take shape in unnatural text books). This naturalism has caused an enormous blockage in the invention of alternatives. For lack of an oprn minded eclecticism, we are condemned to swinging from one partiality to another.Empty