Matts Fernandes

My teaching approach

During the course of the last 2 weeks we have been exposed to what is known as the communicative approach to teaching a language, at the same time we have had the opportunity to observe what the learning process looks like. Having taught some activities ourselves has given us the opportunity to put practise into play and really experience exactly how this unique method works and why it is so popular. This week we have briefly also reviewed some other methods of teaching, I can assume that some having been more popular than the others will have stood the test of time and have maybe developed and evolved with the years. whilst some approaches to teaching and learning may almost completely contradict each other, I have no doubt that each have their own set of pro’s and con’s. I would like to weigh up a few of the methods and draw to some kind of conclusion as to which ones seem to be the most effective with respect to the characteristics affecting them.

One of the methods we looked at this week that I felt might have a great student success was the Direct method or the Berlitz method, from my understanding, it is one of the only methods that applies a total immersion rule, meaning that once the student enter the class there is to be no mother-tongue language used, the focus of the learning and teaching used in this method is on listening and speaking, the use of hand gestures and mime is a key characteristic exhibited by the teacher. Reading and writing is something that is addressed later by the teacher, once he feels that the students have a good enough grasp of the language. Grammar is not taught directly but rather inductively, students are presented with grammar patterns and in using this form of learning are able to work out grammar rules by themselves. Another key aspect to the Berlitz method success is that the classes are limited to very few students, allowing more talking time for the learners. The Berlitz approach is one that appeals the most to me, it seems that if someone wasn’t to learn a language the above points that are covered by Berlitz would be the best way to do that, the style of the Berlitz Method has the greatest resemblance to the communicative TEFL method that we have been exposed to at Oxbridge of the past 2 weeks.

Total physical Response is a method that i feel shadows that of the Berlitz quite closely, it too is communicative, however, there are some noticeable differences between this and the one we looked at before. With respect to the concept of using body movement we see some similarities, however, with the total physical response, students are given commands and then have to enact these commands, the teachers has the roll of giving and also acting out commands with his students. This approach to teachings is very positive because its gives their brains the opportunity to make direct associations between words, objects phrases and actions. This style to learning strives to achieve for a stress free, and from what I have seen, a very fun environment. In achieving this positive and fun atmosphere, it is believed to enhance the brains reception to learning and allows learners not to view the subject as a bore but rather as an enjoyment. With Total Physical response the first focus is placed on listening and the practice of speech normally comes a little later, this is because speaking is believed to induce stress and could possibly hinder ones acquisition if introduced too early into the learning process. It appears that this method is aimed more at students from about 5 or 6 years to those in their early twenties, although it is stated that this teaching method works with all students, I would assume that students closer to their thirties might not be as inclined to enjoy this process of learning as would a student in their teens. I also do not see how this

type of learning can go much further beyond basic commands before it will turn into something that is quite repetitious, with respect to this approach and the limited amount that can be taught besides vocabulary and basic commands I would assume this it can only be used for the very basics learning of the intended language before the students would have to move into studies including a more grammar based exercises.

Suggestopedia might be one of the methods that I found least appealing, however, it has some aspects to its teachings that one can only view as positive for the learners. We’re talking about the learning environment and the power of positive suggestion. Professor Lozanov intended his method be used in a very relaxed yet focused environment and that the students are spoken to by the teacher using positive and descriptive sentences. He believed that the environment was a very important factor, allowing the learner to be in a state of openness and in achieving this, increasing their receptivity to what was being read by the teacher. He also stresses that the relationship between the teacher and student be a good one, and compared it to a parent and their child. We can take some very positive aspects from this approach to teaching and learning but I haven’t found anywhere that the student even communicate with their teacher, nor read or write anything, this method involves a lot of heavy listening by the students but I fail to see how listening to descriptive text can help when a student needs to try and communicate in this language that they have been learning, of course if the sole purpose of this method is to understand, then maybe the students are achieving something more in this area as opposed to the total physical response approach to learning . The claims that were made about it being able to double and even triple learning capabilities have never been validated and it is probably seen as a rather dated approach to learning in this day and age.

The final method I would like to talk about is the Callan method, this method is one that has branched off from one of the much older methods, the Audio lingual Method. Its main focus is based on drilling, through sets questions and answers, which are initially given to the students by the teacher, the Callan method uses the simple repetition of set phrases without going into grammatical structure and the language vocabulary , the idea of this method is to get students talking as quickly as possible and although they might be able to speak some language with more fluency than a beginner of some of the other methods we looked at, I would think that the type of speech they can produce might be limited to the set phrases they have learned, possibly sounding slightly robotic. One of the criticisms that I have seen stated about this method over and over is that the classes are very boring and lack the communicative methodology needed in order to get students thinking for themselves, it is clear to me that there is nothing communicative about this method but like most of the methods we looked at over the past week, if it is intended to teach beginners then it certainly achieves something. In my opinion it is not one I would choose to learn any language by but it does serve a purpose and has succeeded in helping a lot of students get on their way with learning a new language, even if it was only the very beginning.

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