Teaching language in context has been one of the major premises of the FL profession in the last two decades. Researchers (Walz, 1989; Omaggio Hadley, 1993; Savignon, 1997; Shrum and Glissan, 2000) have stressed the importance of context in the learning and acquisition process. Context is defined as the situation or theme within which students work with linguistic elements finding coherent and meaningful relationships. Context provides a framework that allows students to practice language in authentic, real-life scenarios.
Contextualizing the teaching of grammar and vocabulary has become an essential practice in the profession. However, not all approaches used respond to that call. The three most common approaches to the teaching of grammar are traditional, whole language, and input processing. In the traditional approach, students learn grammar rules and later practice using them in communication. This approach uses skill-building activities first (mechanical drills to focus students' attention on correct forms without requiring them to attend to the meaning itself). Then, once the forms have been mastered, skill-using activities are employed. In this phase, students use the learned structures in communicative activities designed to focus their attention on meaning and interaction. The main criticism of the traditional approach is its lack of contextualized practice during the skill-building phase and the disintegration of the language in small parts or sections. Comprehensible input is lacking and the teacher remains the authoritative figure without the participation and contribution of the students in the exploration of grammar rules and linguistic patterns.
An alternative to the traditional approach to teaching grammar is that
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Publication information: Book title: On Teaching Foreign Languages: Linking Theory to Practice. Contributors: Marcela T. Ruiz-Funes - Author. Publisher: Bergin & Garvey. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 2002. Page number: 29.
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