Rosanna Shand





My teaching approach

There are several different approaches to teaching a foreign language, I will discuss and compare five different approaches - The Communicative Approach, Berlitz Method, Grammar Translation Method (GTM), The Silent Way and Total Physical Response (TPR). I will look at how each approach works and discuss the positive and negative points of the different methods. I will look at how the students and teacher respond to each approach, and I will give my own opinion on whether I think the approach works or not.

 

The Communicative Approach is used in a real context with authentic material, such as a newspaper article to engage the student and require communication.

Teachers using the Communicative Approach will find themselves talking less and listening more; becoming helpers of their students' learning. The teacher sets up the exercise, but because the students' performance is the goal, the teacher must step back and observe, allowing errors to be tolerated or solved by the students themselves. The students do most of the speaking, and frequently the classroom during a communicative exercise is dynamic, with the students interacting and having conversations with each other. This allows the students’ to learn from each other, offering support when it is needed.

Because of the increased responsibility to participate, students may find they gain confidence in using the target language in general. Students are more responsible of their own learning and they can practice this in real life situations.

One rule of the Communicative Approach is that meaning is given priority over form. Allowing the student to focus on communicating before learning grammar and vocabulary helps them get their pronunciation and fluency correct, before moving into sentence structure. The communicative approach’s idea is that grammar skills and vocabulary are not enough to enable students to operate efficiently in the target language, they believe that to be able to use the language correctly it must relate back to the communication that we see in real life.

 

The Berlitz Method or otherwise known as The Direct Method puts its main focus on vocabulary over grammar.

 

The objective of the Direct Method is the aim of understanding, speaking, reading, and writing, with emphasis on speaking from the very beginning. The primary objective of the method is communication linking with audio understanding; its secondary objectives are reading and writing. This method believes that an active (speaking) knowledge is considered more difficult to attain than a passive (reading) knowledge. So the attention of the method is focused on speaking from the very start.

 

The Direct Method is all about repetition of the vocabulary so that it sticks in your mind. The teacher does all the demonstrating with only common vocabulary and sentences taught. Communication skills are built up in a sequence organized around question and answer exchanges between the teacher and students.

 

I think that this method works well in the beginning – as learning vocabulary is important, but it doesn't link it back to forming full sentences and looking at the structure of each sentence until later in the process. There is not a lot of interaction with the other students in the class, it is very focused on teacher-student interaction and it moves at a very fast pace.

Total Physical Response (TPR) is a language teaching method built around the coordination of speech and action, it attempts to teach a foreign language through physical activity.

The approach works in the way that the students follow the actions of the teacher and this will give memory association to each word or sentence, then the student is more likely to recall the word or sentence if they remember the action that is linked to it. The goal of this approach is for the student to enjoy the experience. It is a method that involves game-like movements and is a less stressful way to encourage understanding of the language and creates a positive mood for the student.

It sounds like this approach would more suit children of a younger age but it can also be very effective with adults, where they can learn to respond to physical responses before they begin to produce verbal responses.

The Grammar Translation Method (GTM) is another approach to teaching. It is the most traditional method involving little or no spoken communication or listening comprehension.

There is a focus on learning the rules of grammar and their application in translation from one language into another. This approach is more of a structural method; the primary skills learnt are reading and writing.

This can frustrate the student learning a language in this way because they find it hard to see an improvement in their learning and they don't learn the full meaning of sentences, whereas if a more communicative approach was taken then they could practice putting the grammar into context, using the correct pronunciation and have a lot more fun.

The teacher is the authority in this method with most vocabulary taught in the form of lists or isolated forms. This gives the student the wrong idea of what language is and of the relationship between the words rather than putting them into full sentences that makes sense to the student.

The GTM is the easiest for a teacher to employ. It doesn't require a teacher to speak English well or to prepare a good lesson. Little or no attention is given to pronunciation; its focus is on accuracy and not fluency.

The Silent Way is another teaching approach, it is based on the principle that the teacher should be silent as much as possible in the classroom and the learner should be encouraged to produce as much language as possible.

The teachers attitude is a key factor in this method, they must help the students get insight into the functioning of the language whilst saying very little. The student is left to work as an independent learner, rather than receiving encouragement or criticism from the teacher.

The teacher uses certain materials to encourage the student to learn – a pointer is a key material, this aids in the development of proper pronunciation of words in the target language by tapping on the syllables that need to be stressed.

 

Certain methods such as the Communicative approach and the Total Physical Response Method both use a task based focus in their methodology, it is a highly practical approach that reflects how the language is really used in everyday life.

Unlike the Silent Way method of language teaching, which relies on repetition and drills, the Communicative Approach can leave students in suspense as to the outcome of a class exercise, which will vary according to their reactions and responses. The students' motivation to learn comes from their desire to communicate about meaningful topics.

The role of the teacher in the Communicative approach is to facilitate rather than dominate and the students are active participants rather than passive learners as in, say, the grammar translation method or the silent way method.

The Direct Method and the Communicative Approach are similar in that they both aim at teaching language for communication. They both have their own way to achieve this goal.  While the Direct Method tries to establish a direct link between the target language and meaning by immersing the students in the structural and vocabulary aspects, the Communicative Approach stands out with its emphasis not only on linguistic forms and meaning but also on functions.

The Grammar Translation Method believes that literary language is superior to the spoken language, that there is no need for students to master the four skills of English (listening, speaking, reading, and writing). Instead it focuses on two of the skills – reading and writing.

The Communicative Approach and the Direct Method are more of an interactive method with the focus on the speaking and listening skills, whereas the Grammar Translation Method is more of a structural method.

The Grammar Translation Method and the Total Physical Response Method have both similarities and differences. The students in the TPR method follow instructions from the teacher through action-based drills so the teacher has a very authoritative form in this method, like the Grammar Translation Method where the student follows as the teacher says. However the GTM operates from a grammar-based or structural view of the core elements of language, whereas TPR requires initial attention to meaning rather than to the form of items linking it to the Communicative approach.

 

There are several different approaches to teaching a language and each aspect of the approaches can have a positive or negative response from the student.

Each student has their own learning style, some students may be a more visual learner, another may react better to an audio approach and other students may learn in a kinesthetic way. So a teaching approach that may work for one student, may not work for another; the approach needs to be adapted to suit the student’s needs.

 

 

 

 

Written by Rosanna Shand

 

 



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