Elemental Linguistics

The Essential Elements of Linguistics

Algorithms for Communicative Activities
When language learners fail to communicate, their messages create problems. When they communicate successfully, their messages solve problems. As language teachers, we want to help learners solve the problem of getting and sending messages. To do this, in our classes, we need clear goals that produce clear outcomes that... Read more
1 – The Dictation Algorithm
The Dictation Algorithm (Meaningful Input & Output) Dictation is a simple activity, but it is algorithmic because we can base dictation on meaningful themes, and because it employs the following communicative principles: The messenger (a) gives a new message to a listener, and the listener must (b) transfer this... Read more
3 – The Cloze Algorithm
Cloze Gaps (Meaningful Input) Cloze tests are generally considered a simple and reliable way to measure language proficiency. But cloze-type activities also employ the “generation effect” (Brown, et. Al., 2014). That is, when learners make the extra effort to generate the answer for the blank, they tend to have... Read more
4 – The Problem Solver Algorithm
The Problem-Solver (Meaningful Output) After part one of the John Wooden story, we can do a speaking activity. Nation (2013) recommends the problem-solver, and after making and doing many problem-solvers myself, I can strongly recommend the activity because it is genuinely algorithmic. With problem-solvers we use clear principles, which... Read more
5 – Story Gap Algorithm
Story Gaps (Meaningful Input, Language Focus, Fluency) Many controlled activities are not communicative. For example, with pair dialogs, students practice fake conversations about other people, which may have a functional purpose, such asking permission, stating the time of day, or apologizing. But students are not communicating real messages to... Read more
6 – Picture Gap Algorithm
Picture Gaps (Meaningful Output & Input) Picture gaps are like story gaps. Pair sit in gap position. The speaker faces the screen, and the listener (and drawer) faces the speaker. If there is no projector, the speaker can hold picture and talk about it. The speaker just needs to... Read more
7 – Story and Song Algorithm
Introduction Almost everyone enjoys listening to songs, but often English language learners in Japan are not acquainted with many of the most well-known English songs, and if they do listen, they may find these songs difficult to understand and talk about. The Solution We can solve this problem by... Read more
8 – 4-3-2 Algorithm
Fluency Activities For fluency activities to work, we need to follow some basic principles. When practicing fluency, we are practicing language that we already have studied, that we already know, not language that we don’t know or have just started to learn. The goal: become fluent with known language.... Read more
9 – Paired Speed Algorithm
Paired Speed Algorithm Besides the 4-3-2, we can build fluency with the Paired Speed Read Aloud or Paired Speed Algorithm. In this meaningful input and output activity, students can see clear fluency improvement just after 2 minutes of work. As always with fluency activities, the key communicative principle is... Read more
10 – Listen Faster Algorithm
Listen Faster Algorithm With this activity, for fluency and meaningful input, we can use the same text “Don’t Quit; Get Grit.” This time the teacher reads the text aloud to students at a slow pace. Then the teacher reads it again at normal native speaker pace. Next the teacher... Read more