Grammar-based instruction and English as a second language (ESL) learning: a retrospective account of an action research project
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This action-research case study examines the potential benefits of explicit formfocused instruction (FFI) on the English learning of Mexican-origin adolescent students attending a middle school designated as low-performing. During the first year of the study I taught two sections of English as a second language to students beginning their second or third year in U.S. schools. At the beginning of the year I administered a pretest to 20 students, and throughout the year I documented and reflected on my teaching and my students’ learning through written and recorded notes. At the end of the year I administered a posttest to my students. During the second year of the study, I collected tests results using the same grammar test from students whom I had not taught and who had attended U.S. schools from two to eight years. I reported the results and analysis of the study through a retrospective narrative format. The findings suggest that grammar— as the abstract system it is—is difficult to teach and challenging to learn for adolescent immigrant students with varying degrees of prior knowledge. The findings also suggest that immigrant youngsters appear to benefit in diverse ways from being taught through a grammar-based approach. The retrospective narrative provides a description of research process, the contexts of the study, the students, the teaching and learning that went on in my classroom, and the results of the grammar test. Although the results of the grammar test favored the students exposed to FFI, these findings cannot be generalized to other students in other FFI classrooms. Limitations of the study are provided along with suggestion for future research and implications for teachers.