Does output lead to acquisition?

A more amplified and significant question is this:

Why include output if research shows it doesn’t aid much in acquisition?

What?  Aren’t students supposed to produce the language?  Isn’t that why they are in our classes, to learn to speak and write French, Spanish, German or Chinese?

Yes and no. There is a place and time for encouraging output and students clearly do WANT to use what they are acquiring.  Yet….

Output does not lead to acquisition.  Output is a byproduct of acquisition, but as Professor Emeritus Stephen Krashen has researched and published:

Input is the only way to acquire

So why do I schedule output activities?

To make peace.

What do I mean by that?  Four years ago, I moved to a new state and new school where I teach French to middle-schoolers. The culture was different than my previous school. That’s to be expected, but what WAS a challenge was that this school prided itself in group projects.  The students enjoyed the interaction with their peers and the administration encouraged this kind of ‘get the sage off the stage’ approach.

So I chose to compromise in order to please my ‘customers’ and my supervisors. Periodically I invest class time in peer projects, time which could better be spent providing rich comprehensible input (CI) to my students.

My 8th grade French class worked on just this sort of project last week. We had created a back-story for the two main characters in Jacques Prévert’s poem, ‘Déjeuner du Matin‘.  In four stanzas the poet describes a tense breakfast scene between a man and a woman who say not a word to each other during the morning coffee/cigarette ritual (this is France!). He departs without a word and the poem ends with her putting her face in her hands and crying. (typical French movie ending)

The story creation resulted from previous comprehensible input (CI) gained from me ‘asking’ the story through questioning in French. Students then chose different aspects of the story within their small groups.  Each cluster of 3 or 4 students staged the breakfast scene, weaving these story elements around the 4 stanzas of the poem, recited by one group member as the couple performed the motions.

Here is one of the short group videos:

Déjeuner du Matin – interpretation

So, to answer the question posed by the title: Does output lead to acquisition?  No, but there may be other reasons a teacher chooses to include periodic output projects in his or her lesson planning. Life is a tradeoff of benefits, as the proverbial axiom goes.




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