ACTFL Quotes about Grammar

I had the pleasure of attending the NTRPS conference this year in Reno. At this conference, I attended a wonderful workshop presented by a Michelle Kindt called “Unpacking the ACTFL Standards from a CI perspective”.  In this workshop, Michelle drew my attention to ACTFL’s publications and their references to CI and explicit grammar teaching. I was blown away by what she showed us, so I decided to read through all of the ACTFL books I could in order to find out more. While I certainly cannot speak for ACTFL as an organization, I can share with you some quotes about grammar gathered from their literature.

Donna Clementi and Laura Terrill. “The Keys to Planning for Learning: Effective Curriculum, Unit, and Lesson Design.”

“The Standards give the profession a way of explaining that grammar and vocabulary are tools for learning a language, but that proficiency in another language requires the ability to communicate in meaningful and appropriate ways with other speakers of that language. Because of the Standards, language learning is no longer limited to what learners know about the language, but focuses on what they can do with the language.”

“Language learning should never be driven by grammar instruction alone, and language instruction must avoid manipulating grammatical structures out of context. Learners who only know grammar will struggle to be able to use the language in meaningful ways (Shrum & Glisan, 2010). ”

“(Grammar) is presented and addressed when it is needed for specific communicative purposes.”

Paul Sandrock. “The Keys to Assessing Language Performance: A Teacher’s Manual for Measuring Student Progress.” 

“Educators should match their expectations to the targeted level of proficiency as they evaluate students. A deficit model that counts errors does not realistically reflect what can be expected at the Novice, Intermediate, and even Advanced levels, where perfection does not occur in spontaneous performances.”

“The performance targets are a much more motivating set of goals for students than a syllabus of vocabulary and grammar items. ”

“When district language teachers identify the essential performances for each course or level, they have a stronger framework for connecting their courses than one based on a sequence of grammar topics. ”

“Such a curriculum leads to discrete achievement testing, substituting knowledge about the language for knowledge to use the language.”

National Standards in Foreign Language Education Project (NSFLEP). “World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages.” 

“Likewise, languages are not “acquired” when students learn an ordered set of facts about the language (e.g., grammar facts, vocabulary).”

“In the past, classroom instruction was often focused on the memorization of words and grammar rules; the forms of the language were the focus of objectives and instruction. The World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages require a much broader definition of the content of the language classroom. ”

“The study of the language system itself, while useful for some learners, does not automatically result in the development of the ability to process language in real situations and in the ability to respond meaningfully in appropriate ways.”

Hopefully, this small gathering of quotes will give you a stronger understanding of how ACTFL views the role of grammar. Of course, I also strongly recommend reading all of ACTFL’s publications in their entirety. The quotes presented here are just the tip of the iceberg.


One thought on “ACTFL Quotes about Grammar

  1. I loved this part: “because of the Standards, language learning is no longer limited to what learners know about the language, but focuses on what they can do with the language.”

    Definitely, we should rely on curriculum in terms of instruction with comprehensible messages and assessments of performances that show that kids can respond verbally and nonverbally to messages in L2.


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