My teaching approach
TEACHING SKILLS ASSINGMENT
“The object of teaching a child is to enable him to get along without a teacher” (Finch, 2003). This quote by Elbert Hubbard surely stands true when it comes to teaching English to our students; it is a tool of empowerment.
For this reason, we will consider two approaches to teaching English that flowed from the Direct Method. The basic principles of this method, and consequently the two to be discussed, are that “[a]ll teaching is done in the target language, grammar is taught inductively, there is a focus on speaking and listening, and only useful ‘everyday' language is taught” (British Council, 2013).
In the first section we will deliberate the Berlitz and the Callan Method. We will then contrast these approaches in order to finally formulate an alternative approach to teaching English.
Let us begin by looking at the Berlitz Method.
2.1. The Berlitz Method
Maximilian Berlitz pioneered the Direct Method in 1878 by letting the traditional learning method to give way to an animated process of discovery (Berlitz, 2013b).
The above mentioned is achieved through three stages, namely Presentation, Practice, and Performance (the PPP in short). The idea is to go from a very controlled, accuracy-orientated situation to a very relaxed, fluency-orientated environment.
The PPP is outlined in the following subsections in accordance to Berlitz (2013a).
New vocabulary or grammar is introduced by using vocabulary or grammar that students are already familiar with and move towards the new target language through techniques such substitution, contrasting and elimination. The definition of a specific concept is never explicitly given, but rather conveyed through a build-up of examples. Audio clips and texts are also used.
The next step is to practice the language point introduced firstly through controlled question-answer drills to ensure that there is sufficient practice with the new target language. Especially with beginners, questions are used in the following “ANOK” order (ibid.):
- “Or” questions
- “Key” questions
For higher levels, more open-ended questions are used.
The second part of this stage is to provide “safe” practice through activities such as short skits, chain stories and students asking each other questions.
The final stage focuses purely on fluency where students get “free” practice and the teacher “steps back” to let students use the new language combined with prior knowledge (ibid.).
This step could involve a whole range of activities including discussions, debates, role-plays, summaries, presentations, interviews and games.
It is important to note that classes follow a specific theme based on day-to-day activities (e.g. going to the airport, dining). Thus, all language structures and vocabulary taught are within a specific context.
Furthermore, no translation of any kind is allowed, correct pronunciation is enforced as well as positive reinforcement from the teacher (e.g. teachers are approachable while giving praise).
Many other teaching styles have a similar approach. One of these is the Callan Method.
2.2. The Callan Method
In 1959 Robin Callan invented his method after teaching in a Berlitz school in Italy (A2Z, 2013). According to ABC (2013), the Callan Method is a direct method created specifically to enhance ones “comprehension and speaking abilities in a pleasant but intensive atmosphere.” It uses a question-answer format of the lesson ensures that students are actively involved in hearing and using the language to a maximum (ibid.).
The majority of each class consists out of a quick firing dialogue between the teacher and student and so the lessons are taught at a fast pace (JET, 2013). There is no time for students to think in their native language and then translate their response. By doing this the classes stay engaging and that students are focused on the subject matter. This goes hand-in-hand with instant correction from the teacher and the lessons are taught through constant repetition and revision of grammatically correct sentences (ABC, 2013).
The activities that are applied will be discussed under the following subsections as outlined by Konecná (2011).
2.2.1. Question-answer drill
Students are drilled based on using a language construct they already know (a grammar tense or lexeme) and incorporating a new aspect of the target language (be it a new grammar point or vocabulary). All questions are closed-ended to ensure that students produce an exact response.
Reading is conducted only aloud by the students while the teacher corrects their pronunciation errors immediately. Thus, the objective of reading exercises is to practice pronunciation.
The teacher reads a text out loud and the students must then write down what they hear. This is deemed the best yardstick for judging a student’s ability and level of English, as it shows how much the student understands of what she / he hears. (Callan Method Organisation, 2004).
2.2.4. Vocabulary Translation
The Direct Method does not allow any kind of translation; however, with for the Callan Method this would mean spending undesirable extra time learning. This is why the acquisition of vocabulary is mainly done through translating words from the target language into the students’ native language.
We have seen that this method prides itself in the fact that their students can obtain the Cambridge English First Certificate in a quarter of the standard time. This could justify why their approach is fast paced and condensed leading to quick results for beginners; though, this method is rather stinted for higher levels.
It is for this reason important to compare these methods discussed to which aspects are most appropriate for an optimal learning environment.
2.3. Contrasting the Different Methods
Classroom Structure Role of Teacher
Medium: Gives instructions and allows students to develop own examples and promotes self-correction
(Following the PPPs going from strict control to allowing students to freely express themselves)
High: Directs commands, responses and all corrections
Strict correction with presenting / practice activities, less so with “less controlled” activities, almost no correction with performance activities
(could be dated and not applied to students’ immediate environment / interest)
Set (outdated) syllabus
Little homework (maximum of 20 minutes)
Makes use of pre-recorded dialogues used for introducing the theme, vocabulary and grammar
Teacher dictates and students write responses down
Often uses (overly) long articles and texts used for discussion / comprehension as well as vocabulary and grammar.
Students read articles out loud or by themselves.
Students read material out loud to practice pronunciation and intonation.
Students are expected to dot down ideas for discussions and writing down answers for listening activities
Traditional dictation is used
Controlled speech through drills and a lot of free speech through fluency exercises
Short responses through drills
Group / Pair Work
3. The “Chieppa Method”
My personal approach to teaching would involve a combination of both the Berlitz and Callan methods as well as principles taken from the Oxbridge System. Preference to speaking is given over all other language skills and teacher talking time should be kept to a minimum based.
Oral participation should be promoted through classes that are structured around relaxing and fun activities. This is due to the fact that student might feel intimidated by learning a new language and afraid of looking stupid in front of classmates.
Competition will be incorporated in every activity which will contribute to positive tension (similar to when one is playing a console game). Humour should be incorporated as much as possible using examples that students would be able to identify with. Teachers are also responsible for creating a relaxing environment for students to express and explore themselves, allowing them to dare to make mistakes. Therefore, a teacher must always put on a friendly face, transmit to students that she / he is sincere, give appropriate constructive praise and, therefore, build rapport when implementing the syllabus in class.
Taking the idea from the Oxbridge System, there would be a set outline for the syllabus for all levels. The type of vocabulary, grammar and topic will be defined, but teachers will be responsible for developing their own material so that they are familiar with it and have the opportunity to add their own flair to their classes. The type of material (flashcards, slideshows, whiteboard etc.) used will depend purely on the teacher’s preference, but it is advised to keep it as simple as possible; a teacher should be able to walk in the classroom with only a pen and a piece of paper to teach.
As with Berlitz, each lesson will cover a specific everyday-life theme such as (directions, the environment etc.) incorporating the PPPs and putting it in a real-life context. Note that one theme could be divided into several lessons covering different aspects of the theme (e.g. “Food” could involve food preferences, dining experiences, doing groceries etc.) which will be prevalent in the lesson structure.
3.3. Lesson Structure
As a revision activity at the beginning of each activity Callan Method-type drills will be used to review the previous lesson. Every mistake will be immediately corrected at this stage.
The next step would be to briefly introduce a vocabulary / structure point through a casual conversation and eliciting the new target language. In the case of vocabulary, five to seven words will be elicited and then practiced through questions (as is done by both Berlitz and Oxbridge). At this point, all mistakes will still be corrected (as with the Callan Method).
The next step would be to allow students to practice the new target language and / or grammar through mini-performance activities (skits, storytelling etc.).
This section will be concluded with a final “fluency” activity such as a debate, discussion or role-play where only the most critical errors will be corrected immediately. Teachers should make notes of the mistakes students make and give them feedback after this activity.
This would be considered one cycle and should take roughly 30 minutes.
A second cycle can then begin again with another high-paced activity such as a quick firing round of homonyms, naming antonyms, but should more often practice the pronunciation of specific words.
Each class will be wrapped up with another Callan method-drill to review the work that has been done.
As with both Berlitz and Oxbridge, beginner classes will be more structured whereas classes will become more and more fluency-based as the level of the class increases.
Finally, homework should always be set – not at the end of a class as it might give the impression that it is an “after thought”.
Students will be required to read a specific text, article or story set by the teacher (this could either be given by the teacher or they might be asked to read something themselves). They will then be asked to write a summary, answer some questions or complete a specific activity based on what they have read. They will hand in their homework at the next lesson which the teacher will correct after class and give to them in the following class. The homework should be short, but condensed so that it focuses on the newly required target language and is not time intensive for the teachers to correct.
This is to address reading and listening that are not truly addressed in class and should be considered as completely supplementary.
In this assignment we have looked at two very influential methods of English teaching: the Berlitz Method and the Callan Method. We have briefly weighed them up against each other in order to propose a possible new system of teaching.
Though no approach to teaching is perfect, all of them – including the new one that has been proposed – should focus on the empowerment of students through self-realisation and –actualisation. May all teachers, then, strive towards the words of Thomas Carruthers (Greene, 2005): "A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary."
A2Z School of English. 2013. A Short History of the Direct Method. Available from: http://www.a2z-english.com/short-history-direct-method [Accessed: 14 April 2013].
Berlitz Corporation. 2013a. Berlitz Method Cheat Sheet. Princenton: Berlitz Corporation.
Berlitz Corporation. 2013b. History: The Berlitz History. Available from: http://www.berlitz.be/en/berlitz_company/tradition/history/ [Accessed: 14 April 2013].
British Council. 2013. Direct Method. Available from: http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/knowledge-database/direct-method [Accessed: 14 April 2013].
Callan, R. 2003. Callan Method: Teacher’s Book 1. Grandtchester: Orchard Publishing.
Finch, A. E. 2003. Teachers – Who Needs Them? Roles and Expectations in the Language Classroom. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Greene, M. J. 2005. Teacher as Counselor: Enhancing the Social, Emotional, and Career Development of Gifted and Talented Students in the Classroom. Bridgetown: Gifted Education International.
JET English College. 2013. What is the Callan Method. Available from: http://www.jetenglish.com/about/callan [Accessed: 14 April 2013].
Konecná, A. 2011. Callan Method under Scrutiny. Brno: Masaryk University.