The Holistic Approach to Teaching Syntax

By Mardijono, Josefa J. | K@ta, June 2004 | Go to article overview

The Holistic Approach to Teaching Syntax


Mardijono, Josefa J., K@ta


Abstract: This paper is focused on the holistic approach and techniques applied in Syntax class. The students are assisted to learn not only the form but also the practical application, "from Syntax to Syntaxing", adopting Larsen-Freeman's term "from Grammar to Grammaring" (2003). Viewed from the students' written evaluation, the varied kinds of learning activities and care attending to the affective aspect of the students seem to have worked well.

Key words: holistic, affective, variety, application, evaluation.

The undergraduate core curriculum of the English Department Petra Christian University generally comprises four main types of courses: Skill courses - Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing, Structure -, Literature, Culture and Linguistics courses. Syntax as a branch of Linguistics is offered as one of the compulsory Linguistics subjects, dealing with "the organization of morphemic units into meaningful combinations larger than words" (Francis, 1958, p. 223), and "the rules governing the way words can be combined to form sentences" (Finch, 2000, p. 77).

Since it is a compulsory subject, every student in the English Department is obliged to take it. Accordingly, it may happen that students coming to the Syntax class are not internally motivated to learn it without realizing or trying to find out the course content and its application. In fact, when asked why they are in the Syntax class in the first meeting, students commonly reply that they have to take it since it is in the curriculum.

Considering that internal or intrinsic motivation plays a key role in the learning process, being "the powerful influences on learning" (William & Burden, 1997, p. 111), it is essential that students be internally motivated to do it. In particular in facing a formal study like Syntax, students need to have the will to learn it, to listen attentively to lectures dealing with concepts and theories, to read the textbooks and to identify syntactic constructions and do the syntactic analysis. It is also admitted that "few students sustain their enthusiasm for learning, when the lesson focuses on the parts of language", (Larsen-Freeman, 2003, p. 7), Similarly, it is not easy for them to have and maintain their enthusiasm for learning syntactic structures and syntactic rules. Thus, it is really a challenging job for the teacher to make his/her Syntax class interesting and motivating.

It has been my concern and interest to promote the students' interest in learning Syntax particularly related to the English language. The long term experience with the same subject has given me the opportunity to try out ways and shape my teaching approach and techniques. What has been applied in the Syntax class - the activities and learning experience provided for the students - follow the holistic approach to the teaching of Syntax. It involves the students' whole being, attending to their affective and cognitive sides.

THE HOLISTIC APPROACH

The whole process is geared towards the students' whole being, attending to both their cognitive and their affective sides. Considering that the students are the center of the learning process, it is crucial that they be properly motivated to learn, that they follow the course not because they have to take it due to some external factor, the curriculum, but also because they really want to. In fact, intrinsic motivation, coming from within the individual, is viewed as "especially important for encouraging success" (Harmer, 2003, p. 51). It was also added that "the chances of success will be greatly enhanced if the students come to love the process." (p. 51). This is supported by Covington that: "When education is concerned, things go better when intrinsic motives predominate" (1998, p. 135). In this case, the teacher as one of the "sources of motivation" (Harmer, 2003, p. 52), plays a very important role in the classroom to help enhance the students' intrinsic motivation by guiding them to see the benefit of learning Syntax, to arouse their curiosity to learn it and to put into practice what they have learned. …

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