"Teaching English Modals in an ESL Environment: Presenting Modals as a Single Syntactic Class of Verbs" Jay Myers MTESOL defense

Date & Time: 
Thursday, Nov. 15, 1:30 p.m.
Language and Literature 316 (LL 316) ASU
Tempe campus

Committee: Elly van Gelderen, Chair; Karen Adams; and Ruby Macksoud. :: ABSTRACT: The nine English modals are the second-most-used verb form in English, yet most major publishers’ integrated ESL programs do not teach them—if at all—as a single class. While some semantic and pragmatic information about some of the modals may be imparted to ESL learners in these programs, very little syntactic information is provided. In that the morphosyntax of English modals is very regular and can be summarized in six rules, this paper proposes that, for high-beginner ESL learners, instruction on modals be presented based on that morphosyntactic regularity. While it is recommended that the modal shall not be an object of instruction for this initial series on modals, it is recommended that the remaining eight modals be tabulated and presented in four semantically related pairings, with the first member of each pair shown as the “simple” or basic modal and the second member as the remote or “conditional” modal. The paper describes a complete instructional series on these eight modals comprised of four lessons, one review session, and one test. The paper evaluates a trial of this original instructional series and proposes, based on that trial, some changes and enhancements to the series. The paper concludes by considering this original instructional series in the light of current SLA theories and ESL pedagogic principles. The paper also recommends that modals—as a verb class—indeed be taught to high-beginner ESL learners.

More information: Sheila.Luna@asu.edu