Lesson 2: Elements of Grammar Instruction

Explicit Approach

What are the main findings from research on second language acquisition for the teaching of grammar in a second language class? Norris and Ortega (2000) conducted a meta-analysis of various research studies (published from 1980 to 1998) focused on determining the effectiveness of grammar teaching.

The following questions come from the Norris & Ortega article. Rank them in terms of how important they are in determining the main features of a pedagogical approach to teach grammar.

  1. Is an implicit or an explicit approach more effective for L2 instruction?
  2. Can raising learners' metalinguistic awareness of specific L2 forms facilitate acquisition?
  3. Is attention to forms in meaning-focused lessons more effective than an exclusive focus on meaning and content?
  4. Is negative feedback beneficial for L2 development?
  5. Is comprehension practice as effective as production practice?

Main Findings from Norris and Ortega

The research concluded that, by and large, the explicit analysis of grammar was more beneficial than the indirect, implicit treatment of grammar. More specifically, Norris and Ortega argued that:

  1. explicit types of instruction are more effective than implicit types and
  2. Focus on Form (exclusive focus on meaning and content) and Focus on Forms (attention to forms in meaning-focused lessons) approaches produced similar outcomes.

The first argument supports the direct teaching of grammar and the second one specifies further that a grammatical syllabus is not necessarily a negative factor. That is, the explicit analysis of grammar can be implemented (a) through the fixed and pre-determined structure of a grammatical lesson plan/syllabus, or (b) through the incidental analysis of grammar points as they arise in the context of communication or the analysis of language meaning in general.


A discussion on the explicit teaching of grammar in the context of communication or the analysis of language meaning.

Duration: 01:16

Caveats to the Findings on the Explicit Analysis of Grammar

The findings from Norris and Ortega's study, important as they are, need to be qualified given two important caveats that they mention in their analysis. Take note of these caveats as you watch the following segment.


A discussion of some caveats to the findings.

Duration: 01:30