My teaching approach
Compare and contrast several different teaching methods and approaches by considering their effectiveness in creating an environment where a language can be acquired
There are a myriad of different teaching styles, all with their own advantages and disadvantages. Obviously the goal/s when teaching a language can vary according to the pupil (what reason the pupil wants to learn the language e.g. for work) but generally the aim should for the pupil/s to ‘acquire’ an understanding in each of the four different skills; reading, writing, listening and speaking.
The Grammar Translation Method embraces a wide variety of approaches but broadly speaking it focuses on learning a foreign language as a mental discipline the goal of which may be to read literature in its original form or even simply to be a form of intellectual development. the basic teaching approach is to analyse and study the grammatical rules of a language, usually in an order roughly matching the grammar of Latin, and then to practise manipulating grammatical structures both into and from the mother tongue.
This very is very much based on the written word and texts are widely in evidence. A typical approach would be to present the rules of a particular item of grammar, illustrate its use by by highlighting it several times in a text and practise using the item by writing in several different sentences and by translating into the mother tongue. The text is often accompanied by a vocabulary list consisting of different lexical forms and a translation into the mother tongue.
This method, in my opinion, can be a decent way to learn certain aspects of a language (reading and writing) but for the vast majority of leaners it is not engaging because of the dictatorial nature of the teaching; there is a high proportion of teacher talking time and copying from text books is the norm.
The Commnicative Approach to language teaching arose as the emphasis switched from mechanical learning exercises, to learning through interaction between pupils. To this end lasses are predominately made of of group or paired activities with the emphasis on completeing the exercises through communication and interaction with other pupils, the teacher role to faciltate this and then to monitor; observing the discussions with little or no interruptions and then giving feedback on the success (or otherwise) of the pupils communication. In terms of the organisation of the lesson the classic present, practise and perform model where careful input of a particular structure is followed by controlled, less controlled and feer practise is likely to be replaced by a more task based approach, possibly along the lines of test, teach, test. Another feature will probably be that the traditional grammar approach of starting the beginner’s syllabus with the present tense of the verb ‘to be’ will have been replaced by a more communicative focus with more emphasis on introductions, requests greetings etc. enabling the pupils to communicate in english from the very first lesson.
This type of approach can give the impression of a syllabus without direction, comunnication for the sake of communicating rather than leraning the practical rules of a language. I believe however that just as the grammar translation method, whick is heavily skewed towards reading and wiriting, has its uses and can conversely provide a good working knowledge of speaking and listeing it is not a balanced approach to learning. i like the focus more on pupil participation, however, as i believe that this engages with students and encourages them to learn far more than the grammar translation method.
The natural method, or direct method is a name given to the approach of learning a language by trying to replicate learning our native language. Translation and grammar explanations are rejected, learners are exposed to sequences of actions and the spoken word it taught befor the written form. Learners are intially exposed to meaningful language and not forcd to speak before they feel ready to, and not corrected or given specific grammar instructions. the method is characterised by lots of teacher talking time made intelligible through the use of visual aids and actions. The level of the class is a big factor in implementing these principles- at beginner level learners simpley respond to instructions by perfroming physical actions such as pointing, handing each other objects, standing up, sitting down and drawing. At higher levels the emphasis is still on providing comprehensible input in the form of listening or reading tasks, where learners order pictures, fill in grids follow maps and so on.
This teaching method in my opinion is good in the sense that by performing actions the class is engaged by the teacher and the lessons are more likely to be remebered by the pupil as they have a physical resonance. However i also believe that because of the high amount of teacher talking time and the almost voluntary participation of pupils in verbal exercises it would be quite difficult to teach an class and not have some pupils that get left behind, or leave it to those more confident/ more adept at the language take responsibilty for answering questions.
Overall i believe that the most effective way of teaching is a blend of these three methods, it is important to learn the grammar of a language, there is no substitute for learning the rules and forms that a language takes and although on a practical level, for conversations and other verbal communication it may not seem as important, for acquiring a language to any decent level i believe it is. The teaching method commonly associated with the grammar translation method however i believe is the least effective of all those mentioned, students are not engaged at all and because of the high proportion of language spoke in the pupil’s mother tongue, learning the language takes on a highly hypothetical approach as if the pupil were learning a dead language such as latin and just as with latin there is a danger of not being able to apply lessons learnt through this method in a practical, real environment.
The communicative approach however is the opposite and it could be argued that as the syllabus seems to lack any kind of structure it can be a bit daunting to students to not be taught grammatical rules. I however think that the teaching method associated with this style of learning is the best, the entire class is required to particiapte in a practical manner with each other, this has many benefits; it encourages co-operation amonst peers, it also encourages students to explain their own understanding of what has been taught, classes operate on conversational terms which incorporates (for me anyway) the most important skills in learning a language: listening and speaking. I also believe that the idea of the teacher as a facilitator enabling/ helping the students to learn is the most enlightened view because it seems to me an acceptance that a teacher is not the sum of a class.
And finally the direct method is similar to communicative approach in the sense that it also is good at engaging pupils and getting them to participate in lesson but as with communicative approach i believe that the lessons cold be in danger of lacking a coherent direction. I also believe that there is too much focus on the teacher in these lessons.