Here is a description of a game played in fl class to learn how to form verbs:
“You can do this sort of thing as a team game in class with an IWB . It’s a 3 minute soccer game practising verb conjugation. Players have a time limit to answer the questions; if they run out of time or get the question wrong, the ball passes to the other team. Passes / shots are not always accurate. Short passes / shots are more likely to be accurate than longer ones. You can’t shoot from kick-off or from a goal kick…: You can make it a timed game or a first to x goals game, and it can be played as a 1 player or 2 player game, but the links above have been fixed to set it as a 3 min 2 player game. Textivate makes all sorts of games automatically based on your own texts or matching items, so it’s easy to make grammar and conjugation practice activities.)”
Where in all of this is there a path to acquisition?
Here’s another from the same thread:
“You can also use a Battleship type of template: make a grid and label the
top columns with infinitives, and list the subject pronouns down the left
side. Students mark off blocks (1, 2, 3, and 4-block ‘ships’) on their grid
without showing their partner. To make a guess of where their partner put
their ships, they have to pick a subject/verb combo from the grid that
associates with a specific square space and conjugate it properly. The
partner reveals if they hit a ship or not (Touche if hit, or Dans l’eau if
miss) and they take turns asking each other and conjugating verbs. You can
use any set of verbs or verb tenses along the top, and I even mix up the
subjects down the left side with “mes soeurs” or “Mon ami et moi” to get
them thinking of which form to use when there is not a specific subject
pronoun in the sentence. Lots of possibilities.”
Again, you can see the idea behind this: if a learner can match a subject with a verb in the corresponding shape e.g. He with -s as in he writes, then the learner should be able to do this when he goes to say something in L2. Note also this is all output rather than recognition b/c, as VanPatten has shown, there are certain universal strategies learners use (subject first, analytic/periphrastic constructions, etc.), and these often conflict with norms of L2, but they often are paradigms that work for basic comprehension. Knowing verb endings is not one of these strategies but word order is.
These exercises also conflict with the manner in which L2 learning progresses, as shown in Ellis’ SLA, where learners acquire but then backslide, reverting to earlier strategies. If you have a building block concept of L2 acquisition, as these exercises assume (first present tense, then imperfective, then perfective, etc.), it makes sense to see if students can match verb endings to subjects of those verbs. This begs the question whether the data for this matching is stored in the brain in the same place subjects, verbs, adjectives, etc. are stored, I. e. when the learner is reaching for a phrase that means “I’m going now”, does the process for matching I with am (and making the contraction) get pulled out from the same place and in the same way it gets pulled out for playing the game.
Steven Pinker’s The Language Instinct has a good example of this involving irregular plurals which involves regular plural endings [s] being put on the noun after it has been retrieved from storage but irregular plurals like feet are stored as words just like foot and window. So the way the brain does this matching is not well understood. What we do know is that hundreds of thousands of school children have been taught how to match and combine grammatical features for games and tests without a concomitant capacity to use these forms in real communication.