Heather Buchanan

My teaching approach

Compare and contrast several different teaching methods and approaches by considering their differences in creating a communicating lesson

Approaches to teaching differ depending on methods and technique. The various teaching methods are adapted in order to teach a language in the most effective way possible. Although no two methods are the same, they each have a similar goal: to teach students listening, speaking, reading and writing in a foreign language. However, the teaching methods that are put into practice present both benefits and drawbacks to learning a new language. In order to analyze and compare these methods, we must study the approaches to learning and teaching, the teacher’s role in the class, as well as the structure of the syllabus, and finally the ultimate goal for the student.

The Grammar Translation Method is a particularly academic approach to teaching a language, in which it is taught through focusing on the literature and grammar. The approach to learning this method is by translating from the mother tongue. With this learning technique there is little focus on listening and speaking, limiting the practicality of the language. However, the method of learning may be an advantage when it is used for document translation as the students gain skills in writing and reading in the foreign language.

The Grammar Translation Method view’s learning a language as a discipline. With this, the organization of the syllabus consists or reading text and rewriting. This particular syllabus can be considered old-fashioned as it also consists of regular exams and tests. It can be argued that the rigidness of the syllabus is an advantage for some students, yet other students may not respond well to this approach. With this in mind, the method is not varied, and does not offer access to the foreign language for all students.

The attitude and behaviour of the teacher is particularly important in the Grammar Translation Method as their role in the learning process is very much the authoritative figure. The teachers are considered the knowledge of the classroom, while the students are expected to have the correct answers; there is no room for mistakes. With this, the relationship between teacher and student is limited as their role in the classroom is inflexible and formal. This can be considered a hindrance as the students can only learn from the teachers rather than practical situations. The fact that the approach to learning is very much academic based means there is little room for improving the student’s communication skills. The learning is solely in the classroom, and there is little focus on speaking and listening. Therefore, the method does not assist the practicality of the language, causing difficulty for the students when the language is required.

The Audio Lingual Method presents an alternate process of learning to that of the Grammar Translation Method. Unlike the Grammar Translation, the Audio Lingual Method focuses on communication, particularly pronunciation, rather than concentrating on the reading and writing skills. The organization of the syllabus focuses firstly on listening, followed by speaking, and finally reading and writing. With this, interacting with others is a significant part of the method’s teaching process. The method involves a structural syllabus where there is a large focus of habit formation.

            The approach to learning is to advance on language skills. This is presented orally first, and then the written form. In doing this, the students are able to grasp the correct pronunciation of the words before reading them. This process is unlike the Grammar Translation’s approach to learning where by it is ultimately based on writing and rewriting. This method can be considered an advantage for students, as they will gain a communicative skill. The meanings of words are learnt through a linguistic and cultural context, offering a more functional use of the language.

            The method does not teach through translation of the language from the mother tongue, offering a faster learning process. The teacher’s behaviour in the classroom is shown through this method, as their role is to enforce drills in order for the students to master the correct pronunciation and structure of a sentence or phrase. With this, students are discouraged from making mistakes as this leads to bad habits. This aspect of teaching is also seen in the Grammar Translation Method.

            Another aspect of Audio Lingual is the focus on grammar, which is taught implicitly. This is seen through repetition of sentences, structures and phrases. With this process, the students learn specific phrases, causing limited amount of sentences that can be adapted. The ultimate goal for the students is to learn to communicate and to gain accurate pronunciation and grammar. With this, the method can be adjusted to practical situations as apposed to the Grammar Translation Method. However, the method is not varied, and so it is limited to particular students.

The Silent Way Method moves away from the typical classroom teaching seen with Audio Lingual and Grammar Translation methods, as it bases teaching on the behaviour and attitude of the teacher. This aspect of the method is prominent as the teacher talk time is restricted. The teacher is silent as they observe the student’s progress. This encourages the student to produce as much language as possible without relying on the teacher to inform them of the correct manner of speaking. The teacher does not give the students the answer, but rather encourages them to find the answer themselves. Along with this, the teacher does not praise, nor criticize the students. In doing this, the students do not rely on the reaction to the teacher. This is not seen in the Audio Lingual or Grammar Translation method. It can be argued that, by avoiding praise and criticism, the students have more difficulty discovering the correct answers, and so the learning process is prolonged.

            The approach to learning is through the use of objects. The teacher produces an object and repeats the name of the object, colour, the size etc. This use of repetition allows the students to correctly pronounce the words and sentences. Only after the students have a full grasp of the meaning of the sentence does the teacher move onto a different object. In doing this, the students are able to understand the meaning of the sentences used, and are soon able to manipulate the sentence. This contrasts with the Audio Lingual method, as its approach to learning sentences is less flexible and more difficult to manipulate. The organization of the syllabus also contrasts with other methods of teaching, as there is no fixed structure. With this, the length of time spent on a particular moment in the syllabus can be adapted according to the student’s own pace. This said, it can be argued that the Silent Way is more versatile in its teaching method as all students are able to reach their goal at their own pace, and only until they understand are they able to move on.

The Total Physical Response method approaches learning in a manner similar to the way in which infants learn their mother language. The students follow directions of the teacher’s utterance. With this, students slowly master the language through understanding the language and reacting to the teacher.  This strategy contrasts with other methods previously mentioned as the students gain an understanding of the target language through natural progression and physicality: they are not limited to the conventional classroom methods. The process involved is through listening and developing comprehension prior to production. With this, the students can gain an understanding of the language before progressing onto speaking, after which, communication becomes fluid.

            The behaviour of the teacher is to give commands quickly while the students react. This is particularly used through role-play in which the students respond physically to the words of the teacher. It can be argued that this encourages the students to learn from observing the teacher and physically respond, allowing a faster approach to learning. This method can also be considered less stressful for the students as it does not involve exams or correct and incorrect answers. Therefore, the goal for the students is to master the foreign language at their own pace; they will learn to speak when they are ready. It may be considered that this method offers access to a second language for all types of learners, as it is the most natural of progressions.

            In conclusion, all of the methods mentioned have aspects that can contribute to learning a new language, however there are many disadvantages to the methods that obstruct the student’s progress. For instance, the Grammar Translation method is very much old fashioned and academic based, meaning there is little opportunity to improve their communicative skills. However, the goal for the students is to learn to read and write in an additional language which is beneficial when translating documents, as well as reading the Classics, yet it is not appropriate for modern languages. Whereas, the Audio Lingual method moves away from this and focuses on communication, however, the teacher’s role in the classroom still remains old fashioned. The Silent Way, is somewhat a drastic maneuver away from the classroom as the radical method is ultimately based on the behaviour of the teacher. They do not impart knowledge as such, but rather guides the students. This may be a hindrance for the students, yet the use of visual props encourages a more accessible process of learning as it moves away from the study of books. Finally, it can be argued that the Total Physical Response method is the most successful out of the four mentioned as it is based on the most natural process of learning. Therefore, it can be said that each method has successful aspects, which can be taken and molded together to maximize the learning process.













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