Alternatives to Mechanical Drills for the Early Stages of Language Practice in Foreign Language Textbooks


  • Janice M. Aski

    1. The Ohio State University
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      Janice M. Aski (PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison) is Assistant Professor of the Italian Language Program at The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio


Abstract: There is a growing body of research indicating that mechanical drills do not facilitate the development of explicit or implicit knowledge. This study identifies the inadequate aspects of mechanical drills and offers alternative activities for the early stages of language practice, whose formats and features comply with recent research in the learning and acquisition of foreign languages. Wong and VanPatten's (2003) referential structured input activities are suggested as substitutes to practice grammatical features that contribute meaningfully to the utterance. However, for allophonic or allomorphic alternations that are governed by the phonetic, stress, or grammatical context and that do not convey meaning, a new type of activity (form-form activities) is introduced, which promotes noticing by directing learners to actively operationalize their understanding of grammatical rules. Production activities for the later stages of practice are briefly discussed, and this study concludes with advice for instructors regarding their expectations of students' performance.