Episode Transcript
Ixchell Reyes 0:00
What’s the best way to teach grammar, explicitly laying out the rules for students or giving them opportunities to discover it as they go? The research is clear, but it’s probably not what you were taught in your teaching program. Today we’re exploring deductive versus inductive grammar teaching.

Brent Warner 0:32
Welcome to the DIESOL podcast where we focus on developing innovation in English as a second or other language. Hello, everybody. I’m Brent Warner, a professor of ESL at Irvine Valley College and blogger for Teasle and other things like that. And of course, I’m here with the wonderful Ixchell Reyes also teacher trainer and some of the some of that conversation is going to come right into everything today. So So Ixchell, today we’re looking we haven’t done a like core core competencies conversation in a while we’re like, right? We’re a TESOL / ESOL podcast, and we haven’t really…

Ixchell Reyes 1:13
But we’ve done AI. So I mean, yeah, that’s like the latest.

Brent Warner 1:16
Yeah, we’re always circling it, right? It’s always on. But like, we haven’t done it, like, hey, let’s talk about grammar. Let’s talk about reading. The last one we did was almost a year ago, which was idioms, I think. But today, we’re talking about how to teach grammar. And you’ve been working with some of your own students on this recently, kind of going through courses and the processes and everything like that. So let’s “delve in” (laughter) that’s what we’re not supposed to say anymore, because AI says it’s so much that now humans are accused of becoming AI if they say delve in so we’ll say what I would normally say which is jump or dive in. (laughter) Okay, Ixchell let’s get started to hear a little bit about Krashen. Right, we can’t we can’t crash without talking about Krashen. So. So what do we know about Stephen Krashen? What are we taught?

Ixchell Reyes 2:15
Well, we are, he teaches that or he’s known for teaching that grammar is best acquired implicitly through comprehensible input. That’s the i plus one. But a lot of research pushes back or flat out rejects questions claims.

Brent Warner 2:32
Let’s let’s pause here on the i plus one, just in case someone’s going wait a second remind me of that, right? What is comprehensible input? i plus one, right? If you’re if you’ve been in your programs, this definitely has come up and I still like the i plus one. And so that is actually still a valuable technique that informs a lot of my teaching. But the idea here is what he is calling is inquired implicitly through comprehensible input. So comprehensible input, i plus one, that basically means a little bit harder than what you’re currently capable of doing. Is that how how you would explain that?

Ixchell Reyes 3:11

Brent Warner 3:11
The “i” is the information that you already have, or the input, the input, and then the plus one is a little bit harder. So just just push a little outside of your comfort zone is the idea here, okay. But crash ins idea is that it’s best acquired implicitly, and we’ll get into this in depth, but, you know, essentially, not being taught directly, but you would just learn it through the nature of being exposed to it. Okay, so what are these methods? Let’s look at into it. You, take over.

Ixchell Reyes 3:42
Yeah, so the two methods that we have are the inductive method, and the deductive method? And I guess, do you want me to explain them now?

Brent Warner 3:53
Briefly, yeah,

Ixchell Reyes 3:53
Let me break it down. Okay, so the, the inductive method is where the language examples are presented first, and learners are encouraged to detect patterns or look at similarities and differences within the patterns and work out rules for themselves. So they’re sort of discovering the rule arriving at a rule on their own. And the deductive method, learners are given explicit rules by the teacher, and then they’re giving corresponding example. So I would, you know, it’s just provided for them. They’re not discovering it, they’re just applying the rule to different examples.

Brent Warner 4:31
Yeah, so the way I kind of think about this, I’m not sure if this is quite right. But I kind of think of it in the terms of like putting together a puzzle, where with the inductive method, it’s just like, go figure it out, and you’ll and the puzzle will become clearer as you build it and as you as you keep putting the pieces together, right? Whereas the deductive method is kind of like look at the picture on the box of the cover, and then find the puzzle pieces that match up with those to help you align and figure out how that how it will how it will come together. And It’s kind of my little brain version of it. But yeah. Okay, so if we’re looking at these, then we’ve got inductive and deductive and we’ll get into them pretty in depth in a minute here. But But I think before we get into it, I, I would say that the push back on crashes and part of this comes in from this research like from Norris and Ortega that basically says, you know, they’ve interviewed students, they’ve interviewed teachers, they kind of got information, and they’ve seen that students who get some explicit instruction in grammar tend to perform better, right? So they’re taking a look at that information. And then the second party shell and I’d be interested in your thoughts on this as well, especially, you know, just your own experiences. When we look at like children learning their first language, I know you’re paying a lot of attention to your your nephews, as they’re as they’re growing up and learning language. You know, I think a lot of people who like to support Krashen say, hey, well, we watch children, and they just pick up stuff. And it’s magic and amazing, but, and they say, well, and we don’t really explicitly teach, but I think that we do teach children over and over and over how to say things correctly, right? We correct them. So that you know, like, the children says, Pasghetti. And like, they’re not going to stop saying that unless we say like, no, it’s Oh, you mean spaghetti, right? Or, you know, grammar when they’re using a verb forms, incorrectly, we will say, Oh, you mean this, right. And we just repeat it to them until they start processing it. So I don’t. So that is not just exposure that is being taught, a lot of it is figured out, right, but also a lot of it is taught,

Ixchell Reyes 6:41
Mmhmm. And particularly with children. And this is what I told my teacher trainees is that children just gets so much of this explicit examples, because their nurturers, whoever’s with them, or their caretaker, will have so much more patience than we have with like, let’s say, an adult learner, right? Like how many times I have to tell you, it’s opportunity, the word is opportunity. But with children, we tend to really even you know, children may not even pronounce those words correctly, or put the syllables in the correct order until much later, but they’re constantly hearing it right. Yeah, possibly hearing a correction and getting the correction.

Brent Warner 7:27
Yeah, and adults don’t get the adult learners or you know, even you know, young adult, or teenage learners don’t get that constant repetition of like, being told over and over again, so much. Right. And so it’s a little bit of a different setting. And we have to, we have to be aware of that.

Ixchell Reyes 7:46
Yeah, I was gonna say even if you think about research that has been on how instructors approach the different genders, females tend to get more feedback, right? So again, as you get older, what’s going to happen to our, our male learners. So I often think about these things, these things actually do come up in my mind all the time. So also, if you are a, you know, a male teacher versus a female teacher, and how that you know, how that plays into the classroom.

Brent Warner 8:21
Yeah, well, it’s also I mean, just to get into a little bit of that side conversation that’s kind of destructive for males, too, because I know I’m so guilty of like, oh, I should just be able to figure this stuff out for myself, instead of getting a little help. And it’s like, Oh, my God, like, it’s.. y’know.

Ixchell Reyes 8:37
You’ve been programmed! (laughter)

Brent Warner 8:38
I have! That – it’s a bummer. Like when I think when I really think about it on that level. But anyways, let’s jump into specifically let’s let’s go into the deductive approach, because I know you’ve talked quite a bit about that.

Ixchell Reyes 8:51
So the data approach, or the explicit approach is the one again, where we said the, the teacher presents a grammar rule, right, a ground rule, or a grammar paradigm, and the students analyze it to understand how it works. So you’ll have examples right after it. And the emphasis is really on accuracy. So the teacher will present a general rule up front, then they have the examples with the rule, then the learners practice using the rule and the exercises. And this is your, the type of method that our grammar textbooks often have. I don’t know if you like, these are witches is a bad right is used everywhere.

Brent Warner 9:36
Yeah, that’s the thing. It’s the part of the conversation we want to be careful about, right? It’s like it’s not to say that like, hey, just because this is partially disproven or not totally accurate. It doesn’t mean that what we’ve done is wrong. It means that we need to think carefully as we’re continuing to go through our teaching processes, right. And so because, for example, Azar I have loved a lot Have Azar you know, content. And it’s so clear and you know, as as an adult learner, we have that conversation about like, for in andragogy. And as compared to pedagogy, adults want to know why they’re doing something and and the process of doing it, whereas children more are likely to say not, you know, not really care about why they’re just told to do it. So they do, and they figure those things out, right. So, so those processes can be a little bit different here. But I want to make sure that we’re kind of stepping through it all. Sure.

Ixchell Reyes 10:32
And then some of the pros, for example, are that this approach provides clear structure and guidance, particularly for students who are, you know, just learning or exploring what the language it’s efficient for introducing new concepts. So if you’re, you know, if you’re tight in time, and you have on time, and you have to cover a lot of material, you could still efficiently finish a lesson by simply cutting to the chase, right? Having that paradigm and then having students practice. And also, when we think of our students who might come from places where they they’re taught, particularly in this style, it might be suitable for those learners, right? They prefer explicit instruction. Yeah, there are cons.

Brent Warner 11:23
Let me pause, let me jump into these these pros here. Because, you know, for sure, these are really powerful ideas, right. And so I’m thinking about this, and maybe I need to combine these a little bit later. But, but I’m thinking about this, in terms of my own learning, is like, I like just opening up a grammar. I mean, of course, you know, obviously, as a linguist, I like opening a grammar book. But by but you know, to really see and going, okay, that’s the nuance that comes along with this, or here’s the, here’s kind of the hidden meaning underneath it, or the thing that’s not said, and this happens a lot in Japanese, you know, and it’s like, oh, and really know that that part, you know, that was being communicated. And so to me to see that explicit thing, and then recognize it and start working with it from there is really powerful. So there are definitely pros sides to that.

Ixchell Reyes 12:14
I think I agree with you, as well, when I’m learning or trying to, you know, explore another language, I like to see the rule. And because it helps me, it’s almost like a shortcut, to start to feel like I understand some of it faster. But as I said, there are cons, it may not encourage deep understanding or critical thinking, because you’re basically just repeating, right, and then it’s very easy to get into that whole drill and kill. approach as well, is especially also, if you’re trying to hurry up and have the students accomplish several exercises in the book, and then call it today. The other con, which for me, I tend to notice a lot is that some learners may memorize the rules without grasping the underlying patterns. And then what happens is they think, Oh, I’ve got this down, I’ve got this down. But then they tried to they generalize that rule with into other areas, and then they find out that wait a minute, why isn’t this working here? How come this is not working, and then they get frustrated. And then they start thinking they get, they just start hating English. And I’ve heard that over and over, but I know everything about models, I know all the rules, I can tell you all the rules, but then they’re not thinking critically about what that relationship of the clauses or what the verbs within a sentence are trying to convey.

Brent Warner 13:35
Yeah, and I want to get just touch back on the the drill and the drill and kill. Part of it is sometimes if you see like, this is part of the problems with worksheets in general, right? But it’s like, you’ll see like, Hey, here’s the list of all the grammar and here’s what you’re expected to do. And so let’s say it’s a close exercise, right? And it’s like, Hey, here’s the here is the verb that we’re talking about. And you’re gonna put it in, in the past tense, for example, right? And so then what’s in it will be 15 questions on a page or whatever document you’re working on. And the students just look at the word and then write the past tense word, right? They don’t look at the sentence.

Ixchell Reyes 14:15
Yes, they don’t look holistically.

Brent Warner 14:17
Yeah, it’s just a zip right through. And so it’s like, Well, okay, being able to convert the verbs is part of it, but it’s not understanding and it’s not sending the spending the time to allow your brain to process it, so that it becomes a productive skill for you in the future. Right. And that’s part of where the problem lies.

Ixchell Reyes 14:35
Right. And then of course, it’s like, but I’ve studied so much, and I remember I saw these rules, and it’s like, well, it doesn’t really work that way.

Brent Warner 14:43
Yeah. Okay, so. So that’s kind of the overview of deductive approach. Let’s take a quick break and then we’ll come into inductive.

Ixchell Reyes 14:54
If you haven’t checked out our latest YouTube video, we uploaded a panel discussion on it. features experiences in the age of AI. We sat down with Denise Meduli-Williams friend of the show. Dayamudra Dennehey and Eric Roth – friends of the show, to hear the ups and downs of what’s actually happening in classes and campuses with a new understanding of education and AI.

Brent Warner 15:19
And only on YouTube, it’s not on the podcasts.

Ixchell Reyes 15:22
Yeah, that’s right.

Brent Warner 15:25
Okay, so we talked about the deductive approach. Ixchell, let’s shift over and talk a little bit about the inductive approach, or the discovery method. So how, what do we need to know about this?

Ixchell Reyes 15:39
So the inductive approach is where language examples are presented first. And then learners are encouraged to detect patterns and work out rules for themselves. And then together, they arrive where they quote, unquote, discover that grammar rule. So again, it’s observing patterns, the teacher is not giving it to them, the teacher is maybe guiding them toward it if necessary, but it’s the students who come up with the with the rule themselves. The emphasis here is on fluency.

Brent Warner 16:14
So we talked about this for a second. Yeah. So so when you’re saying that a teacher is not is guiding them, but not telling them what it is? Are the students aware at this point that they should be looking for something? Or are you just, you know, reading something with a bunch of, you know, present progressive examples in it? And not even? Like, how much does that guidance well needed for them to recognize what they’re looking for.

Ixchell Reyes 16:40
Right. So of course, I think that it’s necessary for the teacher to set up an discovery method, grammar activity, by eliciting, maybe perhaps, language from the students first and then writing out that language, whatever that target grammar structure is, writing several things down, or several examples down, and then asking students to notice, and I use the word notice, because that’s the key word I asked my students, I usually say after they’ve given me, you know, of course, I’m coming up with a question, the question that’s going to arrive at the target language I want them to produce or to get to produce to get closer to producing, I might say, take a look at what you just gave me. Do you notice something? What do you notice? And as well, it’s a lot of open ended questions. Because now and I usually tell them put on your put on your I know, in kindergarten, we say put on your thinking hats, but I tell them put on put on your smart glasses on and take a look carefully. And I do I do it with adults. And then they start really thinking critically, some might mention things patterns that are not that I’m not focusing on. They might say they all the sentences have a period. And I say yes, you’re right. Absolutely. Because I’m counting all the positives. Yes, yeah. What else do you notice? So again, but it reinforces the fact that they’re analyzing, they’re not just giving you a word in a pattern, right? They’re really thinking about it. Again, it’s like, with a detective sigh, is what I like to say.

Brent Warner 18:16
Yeah, so you might be kind of saying, hey, there’s a, there is a goal, you can you can kind of choose for yourself with this method, right about, like how clear you want to be with them. And there’s a trade off here, which is time in the class. Right. And I think we’ll talk about that a little bit later. But but you know, the less direct you are, the more conductive you are, the more time it actually takes, right. And that’s part of the that’s part of the process. But it also allows for that thinking, right, that processing that is going to solidify ideas a little bit more. Clearly, later. Okay. So, yeah, yeah.

Ixchell Reyes 18:56
And I think, again, when you’re eliciting the language from the students, then the learners are playing with the language, naturally engaging in communication. And I think that oftentimes, when we’re doing when, let’s say, we’re doing something, the duck in the deductive approach, we’re skipping that, that aspect of it, we’re not letting the students have that time to negotiate because it does take time, it does take patience, and you can’t necessarily do it in a class of 30 all the time, and for every concept, but again, there are particular grammar points that might lend themselves very well to the discovery approach. And the students are able again, I’m always of the school of thought that if you’re speaking about it, if you’re using it, then you’re going to internalize it if you repeat it, if you’re hearing it and it’s not coming from the teacher, then you’re more likely to more likely to help another learner which means you’re again repeating something and you’re creating your own. You’re, you’re internalizing faster than if you’re just repeating. Right? Yeah. Also, if the teacher is eliciting the language from the students, then it’s very much likely to be function based lesson that follows where students are able to use the language in a real words world situation, which is again, creating an authentic language experience. Right?

Brent Warner 20:26
Yeah, yeah. And I think that part is, you know, I mean, that’s kind of the part that that makes it a lot of fun for for it, you know, which is like, because when you discover something, right, you know, when you when you, when you feel like you have found something out by your own volition, there’s a lot of power and the emotional connection to it makes a lot stronger.

Ixchell Reyes 20:49
Chemically, in the brain, there’s a release of a chemical when you solve a puzzle, right? So if you are constantly or throughout your lessons, or throughout your teaching, if you’re weaving this approach in there, then students begin to learn to be curious, rather than to be fit the answer because they want to discover it, right? It’s kind of like when you don’t want spoilers for something, right. And, and students are coming are finding these things out without, you know, unless you see them really, really struggle and totally lost. And you you guide them through, because you also don’t want to want them to be frustrated to the point of giving up.

Brent Warner 21:28
Well, I like that I think it’s worth worth repeating is that students learn to become curious and value that right. I mean, that’s such a powerful thing. That, you know, a lot of times we might skip over as language teachers and go well, that’s not content, but it’s like, no,

Ixchell Reyes 21:43
“We don’t have time.”

Brent Warner 21:44
Yeah, right. Okay.

Ixchell Reyes 21:48
So, we also do have some pros and cons. Again, this one does encourage active engagement and critical thinking. And that’s the part that takes time. It develops the learners ability to discover language patterns independently, which means that if they’re going home, and they’re trying to study or the come up on some new grammar point, they might attempt to uncover it on their own without the teacher there. And just that in itself, that’s, that’s so that’s so powerful. As a whole, this just promotes deeper understanding.

Brent Warner 22:24
I’ll also say to the like, when I do inductive lessons, for example, and some grammar point comes out of it. Those are the times when I’m more likely to get an email from a student or a message and say, Hey, I saw this language on a billboard or something like that, right? And I find that those are a little less common when we do something explicitly, right? explicitly. They’re like, okay, that exists, right. And I see it, it’s out there, but like when they think, you know, when they feel that they’ve discovered it, and then they see it in the real world in action, they get more excited about it, too. So I think that’s also a real pro in connection.

Ixchell Reyes 23:03
Right. And as for the cons, as we said earlier, it does take more time, especially since they are discovering, and they’re analyzing, it might take the teacher a while to get them to where, you know, they’re producing that language. And so you might have to plan out carefully which concepts you’re going to teach inductively it also means that some learners may struggle with this kind of approach, because they may be so used to like no, just telling me the rule, I just want to know, and they’re just not used to it. So they just, again, they struggle without clear guidance. And I think it’s worth also trying to help those students to recognize that no, there are other ways of looking at grammar, and you can use the one you prefer. But here’s another way.

Brent Warner 23:52
Well, this is the one actually I think is quite important because it gets into the problem with just being exposed to the language is that. So for example, here, I’m living in Japan right now. And when I watch Japanese television, if I don’t know what they’re saying, or I don’t understand it, I’m not just gonna sit there long enough and figure it out. Like, I can just imagine my own meanings for it, and I go, maybe it means this. And it’s like, yeah, but maybe it has nothing to do. Like maybe that structure is. And so I know, you know, that is not an example of a taught lesson with this. But it is to say that just the exposure alone doesn’t quite cut it, right? And so it doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll get the information correct.

Ixchell Reyes 24:35
Yeah, you still need the teacher to guide I’ve taught many lessons inductively where at the end of eliciting language, my students didn’t get to where I wanted them to get and I might erase a couple of sentences and start with one they gave me and then follow with another one to sort of push them along, because I also don’t want them to feel like we lost time where we wasted time or whatever they gave me wasn’t connected. at all, I still want them to, you know, call it like my recovery from an inductive teaching, not failure, because it just again, it depends on what what my students come with. Right?

Brent Warner 25:12
Yeah, yeah. Okay, so we’re we’ve got the two approaches. We’ve kind of hinted at the answer to this, but the best way to teach grammar is…

Ixchell Reyes 25:24
Combining both of them!! (laughter).

Brent Warner 25:29
Yeah, so I just, I think it’s worth saying, you know, it’s like, we’re kind of joking about it. But the truth is, there’s a lot of teachers out there who haven’t really taken that, you know, they’ve, for example, have taken the inductive side, so to heart and not, you know, because they really think, Oh, this is the best way to do it. And we totally understand it. And we spend so much time studying Krashen, for example, in the beginning, but the truth is, we do need to combine these things, right? We need to be actually conscious and proactive and saying, hey, there are times to teach, and there are times to discover and and the real trick in teaching is balancing those salutely.

Ixchell Reyes 26:08
Absolutely. I think, again, I’ll always tell my teacher trainees that initially, when they start teaching, they may feel the most comfortable with deductive just because they can just give the rule and not worry about whether the students are going to get it quote, unquote, or not. And then just give them the examples and then have them circle or underline or fill in the blank. But I also encouraged them not to get stuck with that approach, because there is so much value in bringing them. To me, the inductive method brings it to life. And so you don’t want to rob the students have that opportunity if you’re able to do that within your lessons.

Brent Warner 26:53
That’s right. Yeah. I think the other kind of, we’ve talked about it right is the time that goes into it. And sometimes teachers feel like they’re wasting time by you know, by doing an inductive approach. And so if they’re more pro, if they’re more prone to doing the, the deductive style, they’ll be like, Oh, that’s faster, right? It gets everything through, and they’re gonna end up with the same information. It’s like, yeah, it’s not processed at the same level, right? It’s a difference between, you know, making your own meal, enjoying that process versus just going out and buying some fast food, right, like, well, they will both nourish you in one way, but there’s value sometimes.

Ixchell Reyes 27:36
There’s so much value in that process.

Brent Warner 27:40
Alright, so I hope that kind of helps people as they’re kind of thinking through to me I’m glad we talked about this seashell because these type these types of conversations kind of back and back to school conversation back back to grad school conversation, right? revisiting these things and really making sure that we’re still executing best practices is tricky, right? Because sometimes we start getting into our own habits and maybe we say oh, yeah, I learned this but I forgotten so I just kind of leaned towards one side or the other instead of really continually reinforcing for ourselves that we need to be proactive and making sure that we’re teaching the best way that helps our students

Ixchell Reyes 28:22
All right, it is time for our fun finds. And this time around I have the Roxy minnow slip on shoes. Do you remember the Roxy brand, Brent?

Brent Warner 28:33
Oh yeah, sure. Big southern California thing.

Ixchell Reyes 28:35
They don’t know what Roxy is here. Here in Texas – they don’t know Roxy I’ve told everyone. Anyway, surfer brand. But this is my sixth pair of Roxy minnows slip on shoes and they’re just so comfy and they haven’t stopped making them they’re affordable and again for you know sometimes I still want to look a little dressy when I’m when I’m working and but also be comfortable and these are just the right kind of shoes so the Roxy minnow slip on shoes,

Brent Warner 29:07
Six pairs – that’s not like in a short time. I mean, these are not you know,

Ixchell Reyes 29:11
I don’t I don’t have six pairs. I’ve gone through six pairs

Brent Warner 29:16
Dang. You’re walking!

Ixchell Reyes 29:20
I love these shoes, like it’s been 10 years with them.

Brent Warner 29:22
Awesome. Awesome. So mine is this is for the coffee nerds out there. This is called the 4:6 method. I did not know about the 4:6 method before and I just learned about it the other day and I’ve been testing it out and it is awesome. So if you want to fine tune your, your coffee game and really be able to say like hey, with the same beans, I can choose whether I want this coffee to be a little bit more sweet or a little bit more floral. I can choose whether I want it to be light or a little bit more full bodied, just in the way that you pour your water – you know, I’ve been a coffee nerd for a while and I did not know this. So I learned this thing. It’s called it’s called the 4:6 method. I’ll put a link up but it’s really great if you want to get a little bit more nerdy and get a little bit better taste out of your coffee. All right, so for show notes, you can find the episode and other episodes at DIESOL.org/106. We are on YouTube and Instagram at DIESOLpod. And you can go find this out there on the internet. I am at @BrentG Warner and

Ixchell Reyes 30:39
I’m at @Ixy_pixy that’s I X Y underscore p i x y

Brent Warner 30:46
Ixchell, we still have not come up with a good way to say this but our mystery language global phrase is

Ixchell Reyes 30:54

Brent Warner 30:57
OK, so if you can figure out what that means send us a message on the socials or send us an email. And I think we’re sending people stickers or something if they if they get these so, so go ahead and send us a message. I’m sure that there’s at least one or two of you out there who knows what that means. That’s it for today, everybody. Thank you so much for listening to the DIESOL podcast and we will see you soon. Thank you

What’s the best way to teach grammar, explicitly laying out the rules for students or giving them opportunities to discover it as they go? The research is clear, but it’s probably not what you were taught in your teaching program. In this episode Brent and Ixchell explore deductive versus inductive grammar teaching.


Fun Finds 

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