Student Response to Input Processing Tasks in Introductory Russian

Lynne deBenedette, Brown University

In Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) explicit classroom focus on (grammatical) forms and mechanical practice of same is assumed to be reduced in quantity or eliminated entirely. However, there is disagreement about the types and extent of focus on form best suited to CLT and, in the case of Russian, little evidence tracking how students respond to one or another sort of encounter with grammatical form.

This paper continues an examination of the interaction between CLT and focus on form in Russian, in particular the classroom consequences of adopting input processing tasks as the primary approach to focus on grammatical form. Using task types formulated by Lee (2000) and VanPatten (1995), the action research to be reported on seeks to document and analyze student response to input processing tasks in first-semester Russian. The basis for task design is the Input Processing model, which posits that since a learner confronting language input will attend to meaning before form, we must "alter the processing strategies that learners take to the task of comprehension and encourage them to make better form-meaning connections than they would if left to their own devices." (VanPatten, 60)

Students' initial encounter with targeted forms/meanings will occur during communicative classroom tasks with an implicit focus on form; language input will be enhanced to encourage focus on the targeted forms. To complete tasks successfully students must process the meanings conveyed by the targeted forms. Class meetings will be audio taped, with a special focus on student pair and small group work, and student interactions will be transcribed and analyzed. The paper will discuss three targeted issues of language structure that are introduced during the semester: kuda v. gde; genitive of negation; and use of dative to express age. The presentation will: 1) deal with the rationale for choice and sequence of tasks; 2) track, compare and analyze students' responses to tasks; and 3) report on students' own analysis of targeted grammatical phenomena as they work through classroom tasks.


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Gass, S. & Madden, C. (Eds.). (1985). Input and Second Language Acquisition. Cambridge, MA: Newbury House.

Krashen, S. (1985). The Input Hypothesis: Issues and Implications. London: Longman.

Lee, J. F. (2000). Tasks and Communicating in Langugae Classrooms. Boston: McGraw-Hill.

Van Patten, B. 1995. Making Communicative Language Teaching Happen. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Van Patten, B. 1996. Input Processing and Grammar Instruction in Second Language Acquisition. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.