The Functional-Notional Approach: What’s the Buzz About?

For multiple reasons, the 2020-2021 school year has left many of us with our heads spinning AND with our hearts and souls ready for a bit of rest and rejuvenation! And while the challenges educators faced were certainly nothing that any of us would’ve ever asked for, we sure did learn a lot. We learned a lot about thinking creatively, about technology, and about grit & stamina. We also learned about our students’ areas of strength and where they may need even more support. Many EL teachers across the country were beyond impressed with their students’ insatiable desire to learn, yet keenly aware of the need for more effective, worthwhile strategies and frameworks for worthwhile EL instruction. This is where the Functional-Notional Approach comes in, and there’s lots of positive buzz around the topic! 

Like all quality educators, your desire is to meet the needs of your English Language Learners in a way that makes acquiring English not only attainable, but also inspiring— dare I say FUN— for your students! But here’s the issue: When it comes to propelling your students forward as they acquire language (such as phonemic and phonological awareness, phonics, proper syntax, situational dialogue, correct use of tenses, proper use of irregular verbs—the list seems endless!), it can sometimes feel as though meeting these scholarly goals in an environment that is also engaging for our youngest learners is simply impossible to balance. But with the Functional-Notional Approach, which is one of GrapeSEED’s seamlessly integrated Five Platforms, all of this is, in fact, very achievable! We value this joy-filled, natural, high impact method to English language instruction and have woven it into each of our lessons.

GrapeSEED’s Functional-Notional Approach not only assures a newfound communicative ability for your girls and boys, but does so in a way that fosters an environment where multiple objectives are learned. You see, language acquisition through the Functional-Notional Approach is a simple process that utilizes the very same methods by which infants acquire their first language. Children begin by listening to the expressions of language and associate a sound or a series of sounds with its function (that is, what it accomplishes). They then begin to actively participate as their confidence builds, trying out those new words and expressions themselves until they learn to reproduce the most basic of necessary functions. They add new notions (meanings/ideas) as they understand them and find opportunities to use them and apply them in a personal way. 

Five Children Smiling While Doing Peace Hand Sign

Check out this example: 

Example of a language function for expressing feelings of fondness: 
I like… 

Example of a language function combined with general notions: 
I like my family and friends. 

Example of a language function with specific notions: 
I like pineapple and chocolate on my ice cream. 

It’s difficult for children to become proficient in English oral language by memorizing lists of words and grammatically structured sentences. Instead, with GrapeSEED, students can learn language function “templates,” hear them used repeatedly in various and proper ways and develop the confidence to personally interchange notions within those templates to express different thoughts. How is all of this introduced to your students? Dull drills? NO! Worksheets? NEVER! All of this worthwhile language is introduced to your students in GrapeSEED Units, using catchy, age-appropriate, intentionally designed songs, chants, poems, big books, action activities, stories and more. 

As your students progress through our carefully designed GrapeSEED Units (which can be successfully taught face-to-face as well as through distance learning) they’ll be introduced to topics, language expressions, functions and notions that provide a powerful progression of language acquisition. Your students will be empowered to communicate well by asking and answering questions, expressing facts and feelings and so much more in a personally relevant, natural manner. 

Want more information about The Functional-Notional Method and GrapeSEED? Contact us!