Processing and Acquisitional Foci for Level IV

Processing and acquisitional foci at Level IV

Explicit attention to features of oral and written discourse, particularly the dialogic and situated nature of meaning, as these manifest themselves in different genres in various forms of language use, including literary language. Students’ attention is drawn to these features that inextricably link content and language form (e.g., through author stance and communicative intention, audience, and thematic focus) and to the possibilities and consequences of choices.

Further stabilization of discourse level processing in terms of accuracy and fluency, now deliberately expanded to attend to the complexity and increasingly differentiated vocabulary. Performance variation among the learners in a class is likely to increase even further, so personalized teaching is critical. Students are encouraged to take full responsibility for their own learning progress. Through careful observation and feedback, teachers can guide them in that effort by helping them to establish their own individualized learning trajectory and to identify those learning strategies that will allow them to continue progressing toward target language norms.

I. Complexity takes place on different levels

  • Discourse-organizational and genre-appropriate complexity/variation. This includes expanded consideration of information and argument structure: Backgrounding — foregrounding; discourse markers and particles
  • Syntactic complexity/variation
  • Lexical complexity/variation, particularly topic-specific vocabulary (e.g., politics, history, business, literary theorizing)

For all three areas particular emphasis will have to be placed on

  • noticing the gap between students’ (often surprisingly “fluent” and convincing) performance and the demands of sophisticated language use. This heavy use of noticing, individual task- and goal-setting, and self-monitoring to arrive at this accuracy will have to be modeled and instantiated over and over again;
  • a wide range of texts arranged thematically within a unit and throughout the course; the importance of a “slope” within each unit (e.g., from narrative to abstract, from private to public);
  • the special characteristics of literary language.

II. Discourse-level processing is likely to mean a de-emphasis of syntax and the increasing importance of a lexical grammar. This development extends for the remainder of students’ undergraduate career.

Exploration of aspects of coherence and cohesion

III. Interpretation of texts and discerning the significance of parts of the text for motivating an interpretation are increasingly central

  • Exploration of the cultural embeddedness of interpretive frames of reference and their linguistic expression.
  • Assumptions, conventions, and procedures in a discourse community
  • Text matrix and precis-writing as a way of getting at argument structure, speaker/author stance, assumptions, style, register, social conventions, intentionality, audience sensitivity
  • “Talking about” author stance, plot, the significance of action/state/event

IV. Chaining intensive and extensive reading, writing, and oral performance are critical to getting at literate language use:

  • For speaking, in particular, advanced-level performance is a matter of emulating literate behaviors of the speech community.
  • Establishing tasks with planned vs. unplanned discourse, private vs. public discourse, individual vs. group/collaborative language behavior (e.g., report, discussion groups, individual and group projects)
  • Chunking and formulaic behavior — toward creativity and students’ own voice in German.