Tuesday, June 21, 2022

CBI-style grammar book?

Content-based instruction (CBI) is based on the idea that, when kids naturally acquire a language, they do so without regard to things like "levels of difficulty/complexity" and such. Kids might hear simple sentences and then find themselves faced with complex sentences. Young children are, as a result, capable of surprisingly sophisticated utterances. Grouping grammar points and vocabulary into "levels" is, according to the CBI way of thinking, unnatural. What's more natural is simply to expose students to natural language and to deal with that language as it arrives in the student's consciousness.

An example of CBI might be the textbooks we create at our office. The first thing the kids are exposed to, in each chapter, is a reading passage with highlighted vocab words. They learn the words as they appear in the text, and each successive chapter follows this same method. Some words in the vocab list might be considered "high level" in a different company's textbook, but with the CBI philosophy, the teacher trusts that the kids will internalize the words no matter what the level. Of course, all of this is within reason: we do "level" our textbooks such that lower-level reading passages have shorter sentences and a smaller word count, but beyond that, there's almost no leveling going on.

So, what if I were to make a grammar book based on the CBI philosophy? I can immediately see one big disadvantage: the book would be a random, disorganized hodgepodge. But there are plenty of people out there who learn paratactically, i.e., without necessarily logical connections between one item and the next. Such people are fine learning things "out of order," and they can pick up grammar organically by learning in this way. The problem, of course, becomes what to do when you want to use such a grammar book as a reference. How do you look anything up? I guess you can organize the book's grammar points with an index that groups those points into topics listed in order of complexity.

I was pondering this as I thought about all the atrocious memes out there. There are a lot of linguistically idiotic liberals and conservatives generating these memes, vomiting out typos all over the place, and I've long contended that, when you get your language wrong, you suck the dignity and seriousness out of whatever point it is that you're trying to make. So there might be a market for a grammar book (or, well, a language book) that corrects the the various grammatical, mechanical, and diction-related errors I see all the time as well-meaning but obviously stupid people strain to express themselves wittily despite their low IQ.

Or, here's a thought: I could write a more standard grammar/mechanics/diction book, then include memes in the back of the book as projects for the student to work on. The practical question, though, is whether I can use these memes at all: they are, technically, copyrighted the moment they're created. Posting memes on my blog is a case of "fair use" because I'm not making any money off what I'm doing, and memes are meant to be spread, anyway. But in a textbook where I'd be making money, I don't think I have the right simply to appropriate other people's work. Hmmm. Much to think about.

1 comment:

John Mac said...

My first thought was, would there be a market for the book? My impression is that the sloppy meme-makers don't care enough to even try and get it right. Some of the errors are so obvious it appears they can't be bothered to simply proofread before publishing, so I doubt they'd buy a book for improved quality control.

And yes, I know I'm the proverbial pot calling the kettle black, but still...