Irina Blagojevic





My teaching approach

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

 

 

 

Methods and approaches of teaching a foreign language to students all have the same goal: making the other person understand, write, speak and read a second language the most correct way in the less possible time.

 

The different methods and approaches that have been used –some of them with little or no success at all - since the nineteenth century until our days; give us a perspective that there is no “right or wrong” method or approach.  There are just methods that imply greater effort and a longer way to go from part of the student and there are other methods that are simply shorter or that would simply adapt better to someone’s personal way of studying or understanding new concepts and ideas.

 

Talking about different methods of teaching one of the most interesting ones is the Direct Method.  By using the Direct Method students are exposed to receive instructions only in the target language, they are giving everyday vocabulary and easy sentences when they are starting with the  method and on further sessions they are introduced to reading and writing. Grammar is taught inductively and the emphasis is made on correct pronunciation.

 

 

 

Student should be speaking at least 80 % of the time during the lesson.

The teacher uses a lot of visual aids, realia and demonstrations to explain new vocabulary to the students.

 

The good thing about this method is that teacher emphasizes always on correct pronunciation. Students learn how to pronounce “on the spot”.  Also students learn by using examples real life objects, pictures and other visual materials. Other good things of this method are that it pays a lot of attention to speaking, and there is a lot of interaction between teacher and students.

The Direct Method is also called the Natural Method because is the “most natural” way of learning a language

 

The main disadvantage of this method is that it does not focus a lot on writing, reading and comprehension which makes the students unconfident with these abilities.

 

Other method that has been extensively used and is still been used is the Grammar Translation. This one is probably the most traditional method being used, when it comes to teaching a foreign language.  It was used to teach Latin and Greek and it was thought that it could as well be used to teach other languages that were not “dead”.  This method focuses on a 100% on written work, and excludes nearly all speaking activities. Students are given texts that they have to translate and by doing so, they learn the rules of grammar and their application by translating different passages or paragraphs from the target language to their native language and vice versa.

 

No need to go any further to clarify the main strong and weak points of this method, as they clearly speak for themselves. If you give a student only written work he will develop only written abilities, but there will be no one to control how the student pronounces the words, no one to correct his or her mistakes when he speaks, because there is no speaking at all. 

The students learn language that is used mainly in a written and literary, and not in real conversations.

On the other hand the advantage or strong points of the system are that it focuses on writing and reading, so students learn a lot of grammar by translating. They learn how to apply the rules; therefore they end up learning the grammar.

 

Focusing our attention in another method, we have the Audio-lingual Method. This method had its biggest success in the 60’s and 70’s when it became very popular. It had its roots in the Direct Method, as it is similar to that one, in the sense that, both methods advise students to be taught a foreign language, without using the students’ native language when it comes to explain new words or grammar.  The main difference with the Direct Method is that in this particular method, students are drilled by teacher in the use of grammar.

 

Repetition in the Audio-lingual Method plays a key role, as is probably one of the basic instruments the students have, if they want to learn.

Drills and pattern practices are given to students and they have to repeat them, until they get them right.

The purpose of drills and repetition is that there will be a moment when the answers to the questions will come automatically.

It is not important that students make mistakes when it comes to pronunciation, on the contrary. It is expected that errors will be produced during the lesson, but there will be decreasing as the number of repetitions increases.

 

The Audio-lingual Method gives importance to listening and speaking competences over writing and reading and defendants’ believe that the development of language skills is a matter of habit formulation.

 

The disadvantages of this method are that repetition and drill practices can create a habit; the method does not pay attention to comprehension, reading nor writing.  There is no grammar explanation at all, as everything is memorized, so it is not really a very “creative” method. It does not allow students to think by them. All they have to do is listen and repeat. Once they have memorized, they will repeat the sentence or word in a similar situation.

 

The Communicative Approach refers to the way teachers focus the teaching of a foreign language, in such a way that their students can communicate in a conscious way, and taking into consideration their real life experiences. Some instructors, teachers and educators that were not happy with the Audio-lingual method and the Grammar Translation method, started to develop a new approach to language learning. They introduced some changes to make sure students who chosen this type of system will learn “realistic” English. Not the one that you can find in books or in Cassettes or Cd’s. They felt students did not know how to use appropriate social language, expressions, gestures, etc. In other words the above mentioned methods were not covering “real life”.

So basically, they engaged students by giving them the opportunity of using authentic language in real situations of every day life.  Students could interact with one another and live a much more “realistic” experience.

By using real life situations , students are encouraged to face this “in the lab” rather than on the streets, and use a foreign language to the best of their ability It is always best for them to do it first in a classroom and then in the street!!  It is highly likely that they will come across one of these situations in their future.

Students are motivated towards this method because it gives them the opportunity to think by themselves, they need to be prepared for any situation that could arise them. They are truly motivated because they want to communicate “meaningful” ideas either with their peers or with the teacher – although the teacher is the one that does less speaking in this type of method!

 

The great advantage of the Communicative Approach is that there is a lot of interaction between students, they get to experience real-life situations, they socialize, and that the method itself can be very creative – depending on the teacher of course –. On the other hand, some of the main disadvantages are that the approach focuses on speaking and listening, leaving reading and writing a bit behind. Grammar is not explicitly taught, and that is a main drawback.

 

There are other methods and approaches that I have not mentioned in this brief essay, such as the Silent Way, the Functional Approach, Task Based Learning, etc.  Not because they are not mentioned I feel they are of no importance. I do believe, all them contribute to achieve the goal I mentioned when I first started writing. The important thing is to learn to speak a foreign language. All this methods and approaches are simply the different paths that the society has developed to make easier for someone to reach their target.

 

My personal opinion about all this different methods, systems and approaches, is that there is no right or wrong. No black or white!!

 If the purpose is to create a communicative lesson, that will depend entirely on the audience – that is to say the students – that you have in front of you as a teacher.

Again, someone can be very “visual” and he would love to receive all the information using the Audio-lingual method. Someone else might be an enthusiastic reader and he/she is very good with texts, so for him/her the best thing would be a Grammar Translation method, because for that person, by the use of this method he/she feels they are receiving all the information they need.

Other students will simply enjoy the task based method, because they like challenges and little tasks…..


So as I said before, this is a very personal option. If I had to choose which one would be the ideal one, I would say a combination of all of them, and I would explain why and how it should be done, but I guess that is another story…..

 

 

Irina

 



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