Using a Textbook to Teach the English Present Perfect to Second Language Learners
Despite the existing body of research on language pedagogy, there have been relatively few studies that have explored communicative approaches to teaching the English present perfect. Second language teachers may notice that learners can encounter several challenges when attempting to acquire this skill. In response to this mounting problem, educators need to carefully consider how effective communicative approaches facilitate the acquisition of grammatical forms (Nassaji and Fotos, 2011, p.136). In consideration of the reviewed literature, the inquiry of the present study evaluates how the present perfect is displayed in the textbook New Cutting Edge: Elementary. To explore this issue, it is important, first and foremost, to acknowledge the participants of the study.
Section One: Background and focus on the selected grammar item
The participants of this study included XX students at XXXX School in Brisbane, Queensland. The subjects were of mixed language backgrounds (Chinese and Korean) and all had exposure to the English language outside of the classroom. One-hour grammar lessons were taught on four consecutive mornings by the regular classroom teacher. Whilst completing Module 14 in the textbook (see Appendix One), students worked towards applying the present perfect to written sentences as they encountered difficulties with this skill. The sheltered English curricular model has been incorporated into this course. It aims to provide a systematic and incremental programme for mainstreaming ESL students into a secondary high school setting (Blanton, 1998, p.286). Within this model, students only come into contact with other ESL students in the class and do not academically compete against native English speakers (Blanton, 1998, p.286).
Section Two: Textbook analysis and critique
As most researchers have acknowledged (e.g., Mullen, 1997; Novakov, 2009), the English present perfect stands out as one of the most complex verb forms for second language learners to acquire. Novakov (2009) argues that this is because “its specific temporal structure (situation starting in the past, continuing to the point of speech and possibly after it)” (p.281). There is a compelling need to develop a clearer understanding on the semantic varieties of the present perfect. This can be achieved by applying one of the most influential models in grammar pedagogy. According to Larsen-Freeman’s framework, grammatical structures consist of three interacting dimensions: form or structure (how is meaning formed?), semantics or meaning (what is the meaning?), and function or pragmatics (when or why is this used?) (Mullen, 1997, p.34).
In the first dimension of structure, one can form the present perfect with …. When considering the second dimension of semantics the following concepts are normally accepted: 1) “a time period lasting up to the present” and 2) …
The English present perfect, Novakov (2009) proposes, can be divided into four basic types which include: the perfect of …. while the perfect of recent past is “where the present relevance of the past situation referred to is simply one of temporal closeness” (Harre, 1991, p.7).
Mullen (1997) observes that the “rules accompanying the present perfect in most textbooks often lack clarity and examples are …
In the pedagogical literature, there is considerable support for communicative approaches to language teaching. Communicative language teaching, Galloway (as cited in Krashen, 2008, pp.181-182) proposes, is an instructional approach that “makes use of real-life situations that necessitate communication. The teacher sets up a situation that students are likely to encounter in real life.” The Focus on Form (FonF) and Focus on Forms (FonFS) approach has been widely discussed and reviewed on several occasions since it was first proposed by Long. While FonFS is best understood as teaching specific grammatical features (R. Ellis, 2002, p.225), Long (as cited in Nassaji and Fotos, p.11) explains that FonF “overtly draws students’ attention to linguistic elements as they arise incidentally in a lesson whose overriding focus is on meaning or communication.” In a recent article deliberating upon FonF, Revesz (2009) points out that this particular definition has three essential characteristics; attention to form occurs in discourse, is mainly meaning based and takes place incidentally in response to the linguistic needs of the learner (p.431).
Structure-based focused tasks is an instructional technique that is based on communicative approaches to language teaching. Ellis (as cited in Nassaji and Fotos, 2011, p. 89) explains that structure-based focused tasks …
… Consciousness-raising tasks are characterised by presenting grammar structures implicitly in communicative contexts … What type of tasks are offered in New Cutting Edge: Elementary? On page…
The present perfect has been introduced using a variety of listening and speaking activities. This textbook has purposefully and successfully incorporated real-life situations to enable students to practice simple communication tasks. For instance, the eventual aim of ‘Telephoning’ exercise (see Cunningham, Moor, & Eales, 2005, p.125) is for students to able to replicate similar key phrases (e.g., ‘Can you call me back?’) when speaking to another person on the phone. The oral introduction of the present perfect allows students to hear how verbs forms of the present perfect are pronounced in a natural, informal conversation. In order to internalise the rules of the present perfect, students would have to frequently apply this concept in a variety of social situations. The teacher would have to provide supplementary activities so the students could continue to practice this skill. ….
Section Three: Critique of the textbook grammar pedagogy
In a recent study, Ahmed and Alamin (2012) considered the benefits of the FonF approach. The research conducted by Camhi and Ebsworth (as cited in Ahmed and Alamin, 2012, p.6) revealed that different FonF techniques promoted accuracy when using the target language. In any teaching context, it is important …
Previous studies, such as those conducted by ….
In a similar vein, Lightbrown and Sprada (as cited in Zallocco, 2011, p.2) explain that structure-based approaches do not produce high levels of accuracy and linguistic knowledge, because …
With these studies in mind, I refer back to the grammar pedagogy contained in New Cutting Edge: Elementary to look at some noticeable weak points….
In the context of this classroom, the language learners have not benefited from the communicative approaches adopted in the textbook. The students did not significantly improve in their speaking skills and are not proficient enough to become immediately aware of a concept after a consciousness-raising task. The students had numerous difficulties recalling the various rules of usage after the completion of the activity. Due to their limited understanding on the English language, the students needed to develop their abilities at a gradual pace where the rules and uses of the present perfect are more explicit…
The research conducted by Lim (2007) revealed that numerous participants had difficulty acquiring the present perfect. Using a combination of elicitation procedures … . The discussion by Lim is incredibly insightful as it provides an informative analysis on present perfect errors…
As a result from his earlier findings, Lim (2007) provides a range of possible strategies for teachers to incorporate into their educational settings. One problematic issue that arises from learning the present perfect is that some students may experience…
In another comprehensive study, Nakatsuhara offers some strategies to suit the varying abilities of language learners. Nakatsuhara (2004) observes that …
In conclusion, second language teachers are continually faced with complex classroom contexts and must choose the most appropriate approach for their language learners. They are often left with the challenging task of studying numerous theories and approaches to grammar instruction to ensure that their students succeed in developing their grammatical abilities. The English Present Perfect can create numerous dilemmas for students and teachers. It should be emphasised that the teacher does not always have to rely on the activities and communicative approaches that are presented in a textbook. Teachers should consider using other alternative or a combination of teaching methods to effectively teach the English Present Perfect.
Ahmed, S., & Alamin, A. (2012). The Communicative Approaches Revisited and the Relevance of Teaching Grammar. English Language Teaching, 5(1), 2–9. doi: 10.5539/elt.v5n1p2
Blanton, L.L. (1998). A holistic approach to college ESL: integrating language and content. ELT Journal, 46(3) 285-293. Retrieved from Queensland University of Technology Course Materials Database.
Callies, M. (2006). Why Money Can’t Buy you Anything in German: A Functional-Typological approach to the Mapping of Semantic Roles to Syntactic Functions in SLA. In J. Arabski (Ed.), Cross-Linguistic Influences in the Second Language Lexicon (pp. 111–129). United Kingdom: Multilingual Matters.
Cunningham, S., Moor, P., & Eales, F. (2005). New Cutting Edge: Elementary. Essex, England: Pearson Education Limited.
Davydova, J. (2011). The Present Perfect in Non-Native Englishes: a corpus-based study of variation. [EBL version]. Retrieved from http://site.ebrary.com/lib/qut/docDetail.action?docID=10502407 ………
Foohs, M. (1996). Present Perfect: A semantic framework. (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database.
Fotos, S., & Nassaji, H. (2011). Teaching Grammar in Second Language Classrooms: Integrating Form-Focused Instruction in Communicative Context. New York, NY: Routledge.
Gass, S. M., & Selinker, L. (2008). Second Language Acquisition: An Introductory Course. New York, NY: Routledge.
Harre, C. E. (1991). Tener + past participle. New Fetter Lane, London: Routledge
Hasselgard, H. (2010). Adjunct Adverbials in English. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Krashen, S. (2008). Language Education: Past, Present and Future. RELC Journal, 39(2), 178–187. Retrieved from Queensland University of Technology Course Materials Database.
Larsen-Freeman, D. (2003). Teaching Grammar. Retrieved from http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:moAtR148GskJ:www.uibk.ac.at/ anglistik/staff/freeman/course-documents/tesfl_-_teaching_grammar.pdf+Larsen Freeman+teaching+grammar+pdf&cd=3&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=au
Lim, J. (2010). Interference in the Acquisition of the Present Perfect Continuous: Implications of a Grammaticality Judgment Test. The Open Applied Linguistics Journal, 3(1), 24–37. doi: 10.2174/ 1874913501003010024
Lim, J. (2007). Crosslinguistic influence versus intralingual interference: A pedagogically motivated investigation into the acquisition of the present perfect. System, 35(3), 368–387. doi:10.1016/ j.system.2007.03.002
Nitta, R. & Gardner, S. (2005). Consciousness-raising and practice in ELT coursebooks. ELT Journal, 59(1), doi: 10.1093/elt/cci001
Nishiyama, A. (2006). The semantics and pragmatics of the perfect in English and Japanese (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database.
Novakov, P. 2009. “Semantic Features of Verbs and Types of Present Perfect in English.” Paper presented at the 18th International Symposium on Theoretical & Applied Linguistics, Thessaloniki, Greece, May 4-6. my.enl.auth.gr/18thSymposium/29_Novakov.pdf
Nakatsuhara, F. (2004). What May Teachers Need to Take into Consideration, When Teaching the Present Perfect with Coursebooks, (ed. R. Husted). Essex Graduate Student Papers in Language & Linguistics, 6, 1–20. Retrieved from http://www.essex.ac.uk/linguistics/pg_research/EGSPLL/volume_6/index.aspx
Mullen, A. (1997). Context-based instruction of the present perfect tense in English second language classrooms (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database.
Olden, T. (2003). Cross-Linguistic Influence. In C. J. Doughty & M. H. Long (Eds.), The Handbook of Second Language Acquisition (pp.436-486) [EBL version]. Retrieved from http://www.qut.eblib.com.au.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/patron/FullRecord.aspx?p=243543&echo=1&userid=6jmJd8QZTuGzKki5l0p1hg%3d%3d&tstamp=1365746774&id=ECE560C84178578E12D90075615FEE1E27782331
Revesz, A. (2009). Task complexity, focus on form, and second language development. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 31(3), 437-470.
Savage, K. L., Bitterlin, G., & Price, D. (2010).Teaching Grammar in Adult ESL Programs. Retrieved from http://www.cambridge.org/other_files/downloads/esl/booklets/Savage-Grammar-Matters.pdf
Zallocco, R. (2011). Communication and Language Learning (Masters dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database.
Appendix Two: Time Lines
Retrieved from Lim, 2007, p.384.