Bo Gerretsen

My teaching approach

“Making English grammar conform to Latin rules is like asking people to play baseball using the rules of football.”

Bill Bryson, author.


Modern English  is generally dated from about 1550, and when the United Kingdom became a colonial power, English served as the lingua franca (a language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a mother tongue) of the colonies of the British Empire. A significant number of English words are constructed based on roots from Latin, because Latin in some form was the lingua franca of the Christian Church and of the European intellectual life.

English is the third most natively spoken language in the world, after Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. While it is not an official language in most countries, it is currently the language most often taught as a foreign language; it is most often studied as a foreign language in the European Union by 89% of schoolchildren.

There are different approaches to teach a target language, called teaching methodology. A teaching method comprises the principles and methods used for instruction. All these methodologies have their own basis, structures, rules and goals. The choice of an appropriate teaching method depends on the information or skill that is being taught, and it may also be influenced by the aptitude and enthusiasm of the students. In which way are the teaching methods taught and what are their goals? What are the advantages and disadvantages? What is the best methodology to teach a target language?


·        The grammar translation method

         The Grammar translation method set the pace for many classrooms for many decades. The method is derived from the classical method of teaching Greek and Latin. The method´s focus is on grammar; communicating in the target language is not a primer goal. Grammar tests as well gap fill activities are used to learn the target language. The emphasize lays on reading and writing, which can be a disadvantage for the student as a proper conversation will be difficult. The advantage of the method is that students are capable to read and literally translate, which is the goal of the grammar translation method.

·        The direct method

The direct method was an answer to the dissatisfaction with the grammar translation method. The focus with this method is teaching vocabulary through pantomiming, real-life objects and other visual materials. The basic rule is that no translation is allowed. Objects like pictures can help and the teacher should demonstrate objects and actions; not explain or translate. With this method the vocabulary is emphasized over grammar and the pronunciation is very important. The grammar should be taught within the communication, learning of the target language is based on topics and the goal of the direct method is to reach a high level of communication, which is the advantage of this method. Tough the disadvantage is that writing and reading skills will probably be at lower-level.




·        The audio-lingual method

The audio-lingual method is similar to the direct method. Like the direct method, it advises that students are taught a language directly, without using the students' native language to explain new words or grammar. The students overcome habits of their native language and learn habits of the learning language. However, unlike the direct method, the audio-lingual method doesn´t focus on teaching vocabulary. Rather, the teacher drills students in the use of grammar, based on oral approach.  Lessons in the classroom are focused on the correct imitation of the teacher by the students. Not only are the students expected to produce the correct output; attention is also paid to correct pronunciation.  Furthermore, the target language is the only language to be used in the classroom; the goal is for the students to practice the particular construct until they can use it spontaneously.  Also for this method counts that students will find more difficulties reading or writing a text, while communication should be on a high level.

·        The Vaughan method

The Vaughan method implies an emphasis on the oral aspect of language learning. Like the audio-lingual method this method is based on oral approach by drilling the students the use of grammar. However, with the Vaughan method, use of the native language in the class is aloud; translation from native language into the target language is used to understand the grammar. The use of projectors, electronic whiteboards, text books, grammar worksheets, PowerPoint displays, songs, movies or even a dictionary in class is avoided. The students are depending on the caliber of the teachers and their ability to inspire students and encourage their development with the target language. As the focus is on oral approach students will have a high level of communication; reading and writing skills will be on a lower level.

·        The Callan method

The Callan method is focused on teaching students the basic grammar of English and the most essential vocabulary by listening and speaking. Question, answer and repetition is the basis of the method; students are asked a series of questions which they must answer, and repetition of the questions and the answers engages the memory. The pace of classes immerses students in the language. Rare or complicated vocabulary is not used in the class; students must concentrate on picking up the basics of the language. Students increase their knowledge of grammar and vocabulary step by step and the aim of the Callan method is to get students to speak, which also means that writing and reading skills will be on a low level.

·        The silent way method

The silent way method is a teaching method that makes use of silence in the classroom as a teaching technique. The method emphasizes the autonomy of the student; the teacher's role is to observe the students' efforts, and the students are encouraged to have an active role in learning the target language. Criticism is avoided by the teacher as it can discourage students from developing self-reliance; students need to develop their own inner creativity and correct their own errors. Group cooperation is stimulated in order to let students help each other learning and understanding the target language.  With this method the  pronunciation is seen as fundamental; beginning students start their study with the  pronunciation, and much time is spent practicing it each lesson. These principles situate the silent way in the tradition of learning, which sees learning as a creative problem-solving activity. The goal of the silent way method is to help beginning-level students gain basic fluency in the learning language, with the ultimate goal being near-native language proficiency and good pronunciation. Students should be able to express their thoughts, feelings, and needs in the target language which means that communicating will be on a better level than writing and reading skills.

·        The total physical response method (TPR)

The total physical response method relies on the learning of a language trough observing and performing actions; students respond to commands that require physical movement. In the classroom the teacher and students take on roles similar to that of the parent and child. Students must respond physically to the words of the teacher. The method can be used to practice and teach various objects and various tenses and aspects. It is being used to teach classroom language and other vocabulary connected with actions. It is a method that can be useful for story-telling, as actions from the story can be expressed. Because of its participatory approach, the method may also be a useful as an alternative teaching strategy for students with dyslexia or related learning disabilities, who typically experience difficulty learning languages with traditional classroom instruction (the grammar translation method). The students are taught by following directions after instructions and learning trough observing and performing actions. The goal of the total physical method is that students enjoy the experience, associated with fun learning.


For effective teaching, a good method must be adopted by a teacher. A teacher has many options when choosing a style by which to teach. When deciding what teaching method to use, a teacher needs to consider students' background knowledge, environment and learning goals.

As any good teacher knows, all students do not learn in the same way. In addition, it is common for a class of students to be at a variety of levels in any particular subject. Teachers need to use different teaching methods in order to reach all students effectively. A variety of teaching strategies, knowledge of student levels and an implementation of which strategies are best for particular students, can help teachers to know which teaching methods will be most effective for their class.

If the teacher finds the best teaching method for a particular group of students, the students are likely to learn more quickly and be more engaged. Moreover it is important that the teacher feels confident with the methodology in order to teach with enthusiasm and with the capability to motivate the student wanting to learn more every day!


Bo Gerretsen                                                                                                                 Oxbridge TEFL October 2011






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