Grace Swordy

My teaching approach

Grace Swordy                        



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


            In order to create a teaching, and subsequently a learning style, that facilitates language acquisition in the most efficient and beneficial way, there have been various researches and adaptations of methodologies in search of the production of a perfect,  conducive, language lesson. These include studies on the ways in which the human brain acquires knowledge, the anthropology of language learning, and scientific studies of techniques to train language knowledge. The results of these can be seen the plethora of approaches to language teaching but as in many theoretical arenas, the question of their success is available for dispute. Despite this, in general what is known as a communicative lesson has been widely agreed as the superior method for language learning. For the purposes of this essay is such; it is seen as the method which provides the greatest access to the practise of the second language and therefore closer the desired ability to use it in real life. Therefore in this essay I will be assessing three teaching methodologies, The Silent Way, The Total Physical Response and The Berlitz in terms of their ability to create a communicative lesson. Their ability to create a communicative lesson will award my comparison a point upon which to be judged by, as each method carries it’s own merits for different reasons.


            Primarily, a communicative lesson is one in which the goal is considered to be the learner achieving the ability to communicate in a target language. It is assumed that the content of a language course will include linguistic structures, semantic notions, and social functions. A communicative lesson uses the teacher as a facilitator rather than the superior presence in the classroom and most significantly regards the functions of language as more important than form, and the appropriateness of language as more important than pronunciation and grammar. In questioning where the The Silent Way, The Total Physical Response and the Berlitz method are contrastable I will therefore question if each appears to give students skills to do something successful with the language they have acquired and whether the accumulation of language is creating the ability for coherent discourse, a la the ultimate aim of a communicative lesson.


            The Total Physical Response (TPR) method was created upon the same notion that forms the basis for number of methodologies; that learning a second language could hold the most success if it follows the same pattern that the first language is learned by. It is also based upon the idea children have a sharper ability for picking up language than adults. The physical response that is key to the method, draws on the use of movement, drama and gesture for the input of second language. TPR suggests that as use of internalisation and code breaking are used in first language acquisition they can be applied to learning a second. The approach is a physical, largely teacher-led dynamic wherein students pick up a language by copying movements or gestures before speaking, on the premise that understanding of the words is paramount. It is only later in the syllabus when language is used by the students themselves. An example of an exercise may be that a teacher will say ‘sit down’ and sit down themselves to show what this phrase means and ask students to copy. The goal of the students is to form an association between the words and real-life movements. Although this approach is successful with children it is also considered as applicable to adult learning, on the theory that connecting words to a physical response could side-track many of the adult difficulties found when attempting to accept a second language, and allow a faster pace of learning. The organisation of the syllabus is largely dependent on the speed upon which learners pick up the language and is very open in terms of what needs to be learned first. The idea is that vocabulary and grammar will both be picked up when the codes are ingrained and therefore the teacher has a lot of choice of what to include in a lesson.

            Although the Total Physical Response has certain advantages as a communicative lesson, using only the target language and using real life situations that when ingrained can be drawn from, it also has significant drawbacks. It is not possible to create physical response for every word beyond a certain point, so a limited syllabus exists. Equally as the personality of the teacher is paramount, there is room for error in ensuring that codes are being broken; with the student use of language only appearing later in the course, learners may not attempt the language until after it has been incorrectly ingrained. There are clear advantages in accepting a code which could be applied to various situations, as if successful would give students confidence to use language. Additionally, for many students practising a language alongside a body movement or an action is superior to seeing words written down on a page, and the real life context certainly exists. Thus the TPR method clearly stimulates the beginning stages of language learning but in terms of a successful communicative lesson it cannot open up enough opportunities for student speaking and practice which is necessary for personal language building.


            One method that appears vastly removed from the aim of achieving a communicative lesson, is known as The Silent Way. The Silent Way, as the name suggests, allows for extended periods of silence within a classroom, and very little input of the target language from the teacher. The student is the central figure in the class and student-led learning and self correction is considered paramount. This methodology is again based on theories of how the first language is accumulated, but this time specifically on an acknowledgment that we learn as a subsequence of receiving a positive response when correct language is used. Within the classroom therefore the teacher gives the student time to comprehend their own mistakes within all activities and the focus is the development of exercises that ‘foster progress.’ The theory is that this method is replaces the linear pattern of the acquisition of language by a an exponential one. The goal of the students is subsequently supposed to begin beyond the vernacular. As with TPR, The Silent Way approach again suggests the superiority of internalising a code and the aspect of real life association is the element of the positive response.

            In terms of the goals of the student The Silent Way seems to focus on instilling the understanding of the language in order to get what is required or follow commands as required. In this sense it provides a ‘real life’ situation in which learning becomes a necessity; as the teacher takes the role of a person who cannot understand the native tongue. However, once the basic code breaking is achieved there is little opportunity to learn new language or approach new topics as the teacher does not lead the class, and does little presentaion of wider vocabulary. The use of phonetic script and pointers to allow students to try out new language may be encouraging for speech use in basic forms  but is not being applied to any real life context and therefore does not benefit from the learning of a language through a personal relevance. This suggests that for adult learners, The Silent Way may be less effectual than with younger learners. Despite this, there are certain advantages of The Silent Way in producing a communicative lesson, as on a basic level, it is only through an interaction between the speaker and listener that meaning becomes clear.

            Lessons are left relatively free in terms of structure as they can be adapted to taste, relevance or personal philosophy (much like the approach that gears a conversation to stretch vocabulary when students are interested in it.) It again reaches the same pitfall in terms of syllabus and success as TPR, as although the opportunity to experiment and be creative with language exists, it is not fostered in the early stages as it is difficult to be experimental when little language has been presented. Little input and immersion exists in either of these approaches. Although communication is encouraged, The Silent Way does not use the teacher as facilitator role and in some senses they become redundant apart from being a presence for a negative or positive response.


            Finally the Berlitz method, an approach used widely which covers sections of the previously assess methods. The Berlitz method was one of the first methods to veer away from the traditional grammar and vocabulary lists and learning, focusing on the four pillars of language learning; understanding, speaking reading and writing. This method encourages and fosters speaking from the very beginning and herein exists the first difference to the two methods above. The choice to focus on speaking first is not because it is considered easier to obtain, but significantly it is considered superior. Not only is speaking considered of primary importance, often writing is not touched upon unless it is needed for specific purposes or given as a tool for pronunciation or understanding. Reading English skills are considered to become developed as the speaking ability is developed. Therefore main features of the Berlitz or Direct methods can be compared directly to the two approaches above in terms of enforcing student led speaking from the beginning and assessed in terms of it’s communicative strength more easily than either.

            Similarities that exist in Berlitz to the previous two approaches includes that lessons are led purely in the target language. The fact that all three, though largely different, have used this approach suggests it is largely effective. The choice of little or no translation is here reminiscent of the approaches above as it too is based on a positive response to ingrain the correct usauge of lanuage but contrastingly, within Berlitz a teacher will point out when a student is wrong. In terms of how the method is applied, their tends to be smaller classes and there are aids such as regalia and pictures and games which although allow writing, the focus is getting students to talk. The goals of the learner are centred around accumulating enough language that will aid the application of what has been learned to real life understanding. Thus, a lot of personal context is used. The Berlitz method will tend to teach one grammar structure at a time and then build upon it with different vocabulary, mainly done as the students insert the new language themselves. This encourages the structure or grammar to become ingrained, though not through teacher led repition or personal correction instead, within a relevant context. This not only stimulates interest for learners but allows them learn as they see significant opportunities for their own language skills to be applied. Therefore in terms of syllabus the Berlitz method is relatively open; and although the personality of the teacher is important, the classes are not dependent upon it. As context leads the classes, the language taught can vary depending on the needs and interests of learners. Overall the he advantages Berlitz can be seen when directly compared to the Silent Way and the TPR methods. Although the concept of ingraining a code within either a Kinaesthetic or a positive response-based system holds obvious virtues it feels like the ‘quick fix’ to acquiring the beginning stages of language learning. Although the Berlitz method does not necessarily foster every student’s personal learning style and leave the greatest room for personal creativity, it creates an environment within which these can exist. In concluding on the three methodologies it is obvious that the Berlitz or Direct method in their enforcement of the use of the language from the very beginning provides the foundation for wider language learning, and although codes may not be ingrained; understanding how to use language in real life context has clear superiority.

            The upshot of the disparity of methodologies and the inconclusive nature of the relative success of approaches is that the personality of a teacher and teaching style can find and experiment within the various methods, and has the ability to adapt to different learners and situations.





Asher, Jj and Price, Bs (1967)The Learning Strategy of the Total Physical Response: Some AgeDifferences Child Development, Vol. 38, No. 4  Published by: Blackwell Publishing URL:


Gattegno, C (1963) Teaching Foreign Languages in Schools, The Silent Way Education Solutions Worldwide Inc USA

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