Learning Grammar, GPA style (I/O flooding)

One of the key ways GPA provides for learning and improving your grammar is through the Input & Output Flooding activities.

As usual, the goal is to learn by listening lots and doing lots. The first step is input flooding – to flood yourself with lots of understandable input which uses the grammar pattern you want to focus on, by listening to your language helper. The second step is output flooding – you repeat the activity but try to produce the sentences yourself, and your language helper corrects you as needed.

An example ‘busy picture’. Sorry, I’m not sure what book this is…

The key tool to use for this activity, aside from a phone for recording, is a busy picture book. Basically, a book (or image) which has ‘busy’ pictures full of details (like Where’s Wally?). You can see an example on the right. They act as your communication tool to understand and create sentences.

Why busy pictures?

  1. You can avoid English completely. The pictures provide a simple prop for you to understand the sentences you’re hearing without translating. This helps you spend more time thinking and responding purely in your target language.
  2. They make it easy to quickly produce lots of different and interesting sentences, on the spot without lots of prep. In other words, they provide inspiration! And they make the activity engaging.

Input Flooding Activity

  1. Take your busy picture book along to class.
  2. Choose a page in the book & ask your teacher to make lots of sentences, all using the same grammar pattern. They should point at the pictures as they talk to help make clear who they are talking about.
  3. Record a 2-3 minute video, with your camera facing the book, of your teacher doing this.
  4. Homework — Watch the video a few times over the next day or two.

For example, here’s some of the dialogue (translated into English) from a recent video I recorded focusing on one of the [unless A, then B] patterns in Chinese:

Unless [chufei] you obey what these men say, [yaoburan] they will punish you.
Unless you meet this man, you won’t know who he is.
Unless you pay money, you can’t eat bread.
Unless he finds the lost sheep, the shepherd won’t come back.

And here’s the video, if you want to see it in action:

Output Flooding Activity

  1. First do the input flooding activity and listen a few times at home.
  2. Then, take your busy picture book to class once again.
  3. Choose a page in the book, and this time you make the sentences.
  4. Do this as often as you find helpful – it’s a nice quick gap filler activity.

Tip: As you encounter new grammar patterns, keep a list of the ones you find difficult, or frequently get wrong. Then whenever you have language class time, use these activities to work through the list (thanks to a friend for the idea).