Vicki Kuehnel





My teaching approach

Compare and contrast different teaching methods and approaches by considering their effectiveness in creating a communicative lesson.

 

The communicative approach, when teaching English as a foreign language, is only put into practise when the learner is given the opportunity to use that language through interactive communication with a purpose.  In the same way native speakers communicate in every day scenarios, this approach is only effective when the activities for the learner encourage, engage and activate the use of language in contextual and realistic situations that are useful and up-to-date.

According to Krashen’s acquisition of learning hypothesis “language acquisition is the product of a subconscious process very similar to the process children undergo when they acquire their first language. It requires meaningful interaction in the target language - natural communication - in which speakers are concentrated not in the form of their utterances, but in the communicative act”

 

"Acquisition requires meaningful interactions in the target language - natural communication - in which speakers are concerned not with the form of their utterances but with the messages they are conveying and understanding." Stephen Krashen

(Source: http://www.sk.com.br/sk-krash.html)

If you think that most people are either being forced to study, or are giving up their own precious time for learning English, it is even more important to provide learners with necessary and relevant activities that will prove useful in everyday life. Equally important, in a communicative lesson, is low TTT and high STT, so students gain as much as possible from the lesson. The more a lesson is based on the output, the more the learner will be able to practise and gain constructive feedback.  An effective communicative lesson will be set up so the teacher models the language, engages the learner, checks that they have an understanding of what is being asked of them and is able to move into the activate part of the lesson as quickly as possible. The main objective of the activate part of the lesson is to encourage students to use the target language introduced to them in a free and inventive way.

Although the communicative approach is a widely recognised and practised one, it is still not universally used. In more traditional methods of teaching, communication is not always central to the objectives of the learner, nor do these methods necessarily take into account the individual’s needs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Grammar Translation Method (GTM)

 

As one of the oldest methods of teaching, the GTM is probably the most conflicting with the communicative approach. Language is taught through translation methods, with an emphasis on correctness in reading and writing. The method also focuses on contrasting and comparing the speakers’ native tongue to the learned language. GTM focuses on sentence structure, grammar, vocabulary and direct translations of the native language to English. The teacher relies on textbooks and translated passages. As the emphasis is not on speaking but translations the learners are not able to practise using the language in a realistic, purposeful and communicative way.

 

Whilst this means there is minimal stress on the teacher owing to the heavy use of textbooks, it also means very little output from the students themselves, and virtually no interaction between learners.  This method places the teacher as the authoritarian figure, dictating entirely the structure of the lesson, restricting any free or inventive use of the language. Communication is not the goal.

 

The Direct Method (otherwise known as Berlitz Method)

 

Opposing GTM, the Direct Method focuses on the target language and uses no translation methods. Similar to the Oxbridge system, the DM approaches learning in a contextual and communicative manner, helping learners understand the meaning of language with emphasis on function rather than form. The teacher demonstrates the language and models it for the students, encouraging high amounts of STT, allowing them to use what they have been taught in an interactive and contextual way. Visual stimuli and gesticulation are incorporated in this style of teaching, reinforcing meaning in a more fun and engaging way, further assisting in communicative learning.

 

Another similarity to the Oxbridge approach is the way that pronunciation receives attention at the beginning of the lesson. This helps prevent learners fossilising errors, and provides them with a sense of confidence to later use the language themselves. 

 

Whilst this method of teaching creates a communicative lesson approach for the reasons previously explained (use of target language, emphasis on speaking and less on writing and spelling) the teacher is still the dictator of the lesson and the approach can sometimes seem slightly aggressive, with the use of repetition and drill like bahaviour

 

 

Audio Lingual Method (ALM)

 

The Audio-Lingual Method, or the Army Method, is a style of teaching based on the behaviourist theory that people can be trained through a system of reinforcement. The teacher therefore places a strong emphasis on accuracy and correction, working from the viewpoint that continual repetition of errors leads to the fixed acquisition of incorrect structures and non-standard pronunciation. Drilling, repetition, and habit-formation are central elements of this approach to teaching.

The teacher provides students with a set of stock scenarios (for example, language to use in a shop), with the intention of the learner reproducing exactly what they have learnt, deviating only marginally from the structure by exchanging specific vocabulary eg. ‘Can I buy some shoes?’ becomes ‘Can I buy some bread?’ with everything else remaining the same.

By learning set phrases, learners know where to use these phrases, and may even be able to swap the vocabulary, but this method of language acquisition is a very restricted one. They are not taught enough to know how to conjugate the words in order to use the language in other ways, and do not necessarily learn language beyond the sequenced scenarios they have been made to repeat to explicit accuracy. As Stephen Krashen argues, "Language acquisition does not require extensive use of conscious grammatical rules, and does not require tedious drill."

 

The Silent Way

The Silent Way method encourages the learners to dictate the structure of the lesson, whilst the teacher observes in complete silence. If effective, the lesson will be highly interactive with emphasis placed on group cooperation, the students are encouraged to help each other through correction and response. There is no criticism or praise, but instead the learners are encouraged to be self-reliant and play the role of the narrator. The teacher will use gestures to encourage a response.

Although this method allows high STT, the complete absence of TTT and the extreme levels of student output means there is no communication between the teacher and student.

There would also be a lack of natural rhythm in the lesson when there may be long silences when a student may struggle to answer or use the language correctly. This style of lesson would not be engaging for all the learners and would not work in larger groups as one person could end up talking for the whole time before another person had the confidence to interrupt and have a go.

Whilst it is important for learners to be self reliant and encouraged to find the answers themselves there has to be the right balance between student output and teacher input.

 

Conclusion

Learning a language should be about trial and error which is why practise through high interaction and communication is so important. Language is about meaning and through practise we can express meaning in a purposeful way.

 

It is true that to retain information you need to be exposed to a degree of repetition however if you are not learning the language in context then it is almost useless as you will not be able to reproduce the language in the right situation in real life.

To create an effective communication lesson the teacher must approach the lesson in a dynamic and engaging way. The classroom environment can help to create a creative and engaging space where both the teacher and the learner feel at ease but still focused on learning. Visual stimuli are always effective as support to the written or verbal explanations.

 There needs to be the right balance between the input from the teacher and the output from the learner. The teacher should model the language, provide examples and then allow the majority of the time to be dictated by the learner.

 

 



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