Elle Brenecki





My teaching approach

Compare and contrast several different teaching methods and approaches by considering their effectiveness in creating a communicative lesson. (1500 words) In your essay you can consider:

 

 

 

The type of teaching method one chooses to use, whilst teaching a foreign language, solely depends on the primary goals of the student and the main reasons for learning that target language. Over time, there have been numerous methods developed that focus on specific aspects of learning and which strive to achieve specific results. This essay is going to compare and contrast four different teaching methods in reference to: approaches to learning and teaching, goals of the students and teacher’s attitude and behaviour. The four teaching methods that will be discussed include: The Direct Method (Berlitz Method), Grammar Translation Method, Suggestopedia and the Communicative Approach. While some of these methods may seem more effective or relevant than others, each has its own strengths and weaknesses that will be looked at more closely throughout this discussion.

 

The Direct Method is regarded as one of the communicative approaches to learning whereby students learn primarily through listening and speaking and where vocabulary is more important than correct grammar. The teacher uses lots of pictures as well as realia in order for students to take on new words without the use of translation. Teachers also put a strong emphasis on pronunciation from the beginning of the teaching course and try initiate oral communication as much as possible. While the main focus is speaking and listening, these aspects are supported by reading and writing as well in the course in order to develop all four language skills (speaking, listening, reading and writing) simultaneously.

 

The Grammar Translation Method is, by far, the most traditional of the methods being discussed in this essay. This method, as the name suggests, focuses on mainly grammar and the literary side of the language where communication is not the primary goal. The teacher is seen as a figure of authority and may use tools such as blackboards and other written visual cues in order to drill the grammatical side of the language. Students are taught more reading and writing skills and little attention is given to speaking and listening or real-life communicative situations. This specific method is rarely used in the classroom today however there are aspects of this methods that still appear within other methodologies.

 

Suggestopedia, a method developed by the Bulgarian psychotherapist, Georgi Lozanov, has been said to allow students to learn a language three to five times quicker than if they were being taught by traditional or conventional methods. There is a strong psychological focus in that students are led and encouraged to believe that they can learn the language, in turn, allowing them to learn at a faster pace. The teacher in Suggestopedia puts a strong focus on making students feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible, creating a positive atmosphere for the learning space. Often music, artwork and lighting is used to create a relaxed environment and to eliminate any negative, psychological barriers. Native translation is used here in order to give the dialogue being used, a clearer meaning.

 

The Communicative Method integrates all four language skills and focuses primarily on communication in real-life settings. The language skills are divided into input and output methods where input (reading and listening) and output (speaking and writing) are focused on interchangeably.  The teacher here uses the target language only and no translation is involved. The main focus here, as the name suggests, is communication which is more important than linguistic competence. Errors are tolerated in order to improve students’ fluency and confident in speaking in real-life or situational contexts. Grammar and vocab are focused on secondarily.

 

The type of teaching method a teacher chooses to use is often based on what the specific goals of the student are. In terms of learning English, some of the reasons students choose to study the language are for work, social, travel or academic purposes. For example, a student that might want to learn English for social reasons would probably benefit most from the Communicative Method. A student learning for academic reasons such as writing for an English subject in University might benefit the most from the Grammar Translation method which focuses more on literary competence rather than communicative skills. Reasons a teacher might choose to use a certain methods over another might also be based on student motivation levels. Teachers will deal with all kinds of students, from students that are really eager to learn to students that are being forced to learn by their parents, for example, or other external influences. When motivation levels are low, teachers might focus more on fun, communicative activities like games and role-plays to allow the student to forget they’re in a classroom setting. For students that are really eager to perfect their grammar, more intense grammar drills might be used rather than fluency exercises that excuse errors more frequently.

 

The teacher’s attitude and behaviour is obviously a very important part of student learning and development. In the Direct Method, the teacher works at fast pace with pictures, flash cards and repetition of words in order to increase students’ vocabularies. In a Youtube video example of The Direct Method (Kids lesson (direct method), 2010), the teacher has a very positive and encouraging attitude. The kids in the class, as a result, seem to be eager and excited to learn the new words and seem to thoroughly enjoy the class. In the Grammar Translation Method, the teacher has a much stricter role and must represent a sense of authority to the class. Students are more likely to work under pressurized environments perhaps rather than excelling out of comfort and enjoyment. The attitude of the teacher in Suggestopedia is perhaps the most unique of the group where the main focus is on positivity and relaxation. The teacher’s behaviour is calm, supportive and encouraging and there is a group-feel rather than an authoritative divide. The way the teacher behaves obviously depends a great deal on the age of the group as well as the goals of the students, with a more serious nature being much more prevalent in adult classes compared to children’s classes.

 

In my opinion, the effectiveness of each method also depends on a number of things, external to the style of the method itself. People learn in many different ways so for example, one particular activity might work well for one student and be completely nonsense to another student. The three main types of learning styles are Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic (both internal and external). People that learn better visually might benefit the best from flash card exercises used in the Direct Method as well as written verb lists in the Grammar Translation Method. Auditory learners might develop their skills quicker in Communicative lessons where listening and speaking is very important while Kinesthetic learners might get a lot of out a lesson in the Suggestopedia style. While there is truly no right or wrong method, as they each have their own positive and negative aspects, I would have to say that one of the most effective factors, in my opinion, is the no-translation factor. Complete immersion into another language prevents students from always trying to translate words back into the native language and also initiates students to start thinking in the target language. Thinking in the target language is one of the most difficult steps to overcome in learning a new language but is made much easier if focused on from the beginning.

 

What I also believe is very important, for any method to have, is a positive teacher attitude. The strict nature of the authoritative teaching style in the grammar translation method, for me, is the least effective attitude-style especially if the goal is communicative. People are more inclined to try new things and are less afraid of making mistakes when they receive positive feedback in a relaxed environment. A friendly, smiling and encouraging teacher is the best attitude to have in order to see student development and enjoyment. Another important aspect about the teacher’s behaviour is for the teacher to be as flexible as possible to meet the students’ needs. As some students function very differently and react to certain activities better than others, teachers must be aware that improvisation is a key skill to have in order to change a lesson plan swiftly without having to endure uncomfortable silences during such a transition. Being flexible and extra prepared allows a teacher to tailor a lesson according to the specific needs of the students to get most out of a lesson and avoid boredom and de-motivation.

 

In summary, it is quite evident that there are so many factors to consider when trying to get the most out of a lesson to allow students to learn at the best rate possible. All four teaching methodologies have their strengths and weaknesses and some might be more effective than others sometimes simply due to different student’s needs and goals. No method is right or wrong but the style a teacher chooses to use is obviously crucial for student learning and development and should be tailored to the students’ needs as best as possible. 



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