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L2 input and characteristics of instructional techniques in early foreign language classrooms - Underlying theory and pedagogical practice
Abstract and Figures
Linguistic input is considered one of the most important prerequisites for the acquisition of a foreign language. In recent decades, theoretical approaches within a cognitive-interactionist framework (Long, 2015) have identified various aspects of L2 input and characteristics of instruction that predict learners’ L2 outcomes. Teaching principles relate (1) to characteristics of communicative activities in which the L2 is embedded and encountered by the learners, and (2) to the quality of L2 input, L2 interactions and learners’ L2 output (Ellis & Shintani, 2014). They are in line with task-based and content-based L2 teaching approaches. This chapter starts out with the theoretical underpinnings to L2 instructional principles (Gass et al., 2020, Kormos, 2011, Leow, 2015, Truscott & Sharwood Smith, 2019). Based on two graphical illustrations on characteristics and processes in ISLA and internal knowledge construction, it introduces the roles of sensory input and individual perception, the internal meaning-making process, prior knowledge and selective attention. Consequences of this type of information processing for instruction are discussed with respect to the instigation of noticing, salience, cognitive activation and depth of processing. The second part of the paper gives an overview of characteristics of teachers’ linguistic behavior which includes how teachers modify verbal input in the L2 both lexically, structurally and prosodically, how they shape communicative interactions in terms of authenticity, negotiation of meaning, feedback and focus on form, and how they create opportunities for productive L2 output of the learners. Linguistic input is typically supported by different types of non-verbal scaffolding techniques and is embedded in communicative-instructional activities that have the potential to facilitate L2 acquisition. Especially scaffolding techniques which foster comprehensible input are crucial in early stages of SLA. Instructional characteristics of activities comprise autonomous action-oriented problem-solving (construction of knowledge), the activation of learners’ prior experiences, the stimulation of multiple senses, and a positive learning environment. The goal of these instructional principles is to pro-vide comprehensibility and cognitive stimulation during the L2 acquisition process, induce wide-spread neural activity and ultimately facilitate long-term retention. All of these principles are derived from the above mentioned theoretical framework and operationalized as ‘teaching techniques’ in the Teacher Input Observation Scheme (TIOS, Kersten et al., 2018) which serves as a structuring matrix for the second part of the paper. Techniques are defined as “description of how a communicative behavior or activity is carried out in the classroom at a given moment as the actual point of contact with the learner/s”. This operationalization has specific measurement implications for research studies as it provides a systematic basis of multidimensional categories of L2 teaching techniques. In terms of teaching practice, the classification of these techniques allows for L2 classroom observation, teacher training and teachers’ self-evaluation. The paper closes with empirical and practical examples on the effect of such teaching techniques in preschool and primary school classrooms. The TIOS can be downloaded at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340096869_Teacher_Input_Observation_Scheme_TIOS_and_Manual. Revised, non-final version, to appear in: The European Journal of Applied Linguistics and TEFL, 2021 (2). (accepted)
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