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Structured production and expansion phase (G. Conti E.P.I Methodology)

 For the past two years, my colleagues and I have been applying the E.P.I. Methodology designed by Dr. Gianfranco Conti which provides a detailed lesson progression sequence. As a modelling tool for presenting of the new target language chunks, we have been using sentence builders followed by a variety of tasks supporting learning and long-term retention of L2. 

I have already written more detailed posts on the M.A.R. phases of the sequence:

  • MODELLING – core chunks are presented and modelled in context through listening and reading aloud using 98% comprehensible input. Students are gaining familiarity with the new language.

  • AWARENESS RAISINGsensitises the students to the patterns/rules governing the target chunks formation and use. Grammar is recognised, but not taught explicitly. To read more about these two phase, please click here.

  • RECEPTIVE PROCESSING – practising of the core phrases until students are absolutely receptively confident before moving on to producing them. The more exposure students have to the chunks, the more likely they are to retain the language. Intensive recycling through flooded input, controlled input, thorough processing. To read more about this phase, please click here.     

Structured production stage is the S in the Conti MARS EARS lesson sequence. It follows the Modelling / Awareness raising and Receptive Processing phase of the sequence. During this phase, my students carry out a lot of highly structured and controlled output tasks which recycle every chunk from the sentence builder as well as older chunks learnt and acquired from previous lessons or units.

  • STRUCTURED PRODUCTION – application of intensively scaffolded and highly controlled production practice (Pushed Output). More ‘thinking’ and cognitive load is introduced, making students think back to what they have learnt so they can start to use it, but still with support of the sentence builder. Pop-up Grammar is included.

  • EXPANSION – structures are learnt in greater depth and practised with old and new vocabulary. Explicit work on grammar and generative processing is introduced – students start to expand to language patterns. Less use of sentence builders, students are encouraged to really think! Interleaving is powerful here as we learn best through associative learning, by hooking the new to the old, by activating the prior knowledge. The core structures are practised with old and new vocabulary overtime through systematic recycling – some students might still need scaffolding. After plenty of semi-implicit practice, through deductive teaching or inductive learning, students learn the rules governing the target items in greater depth (i.e. verb paradigms etc.)

This is the stage when I work on weaning my students off the sentence builder! As G.Conti amplifies, this is extremely important phase which mustn’t be neglected if we want to attain fluency and spontaneity. 

Activities that we use during this stage are:

  • Mini WB activities (now include translations into German)

  • Initial letters – rebuild the sentences in TL

  • Dictations (running, delayed, mad)

  • Mosaic translation

  • Disappearing text translations

  •             Translation pyramid into TL

  •             Sentence chaos slides

  •             1 pen 1 dice (more difficult translations L1 to L2)

  • More challenging narrow reading / listening or comprehension tasks

  • Missing letter, gap fills, short translations, word recall, short writing – modelled – guided to independent practice

  • No snakes no ladders

  •             Oral Ping Pong translations

  •             Battleships

  •             Dictogloss

  •             Find someone who…

  •             Guess who/where

  •             Noughts and crosses

For more ideas and activities, the Breaking the Sound Barrier book by Conti and Smith is a great resource and explains the rationale of this approach in great detail. You can also click on my resource page and you will be able to view some of these activities and download free templates which you can adapt to any language you teach.



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