My teaching approach
Compare and contrast several teaching methods
and approaches by considering their effectiveness in creating a communicative
The first step into analysing teaching methods
and approaches is to understand what a teaching method is, and what its
objectives are. Merriam Webster’s Dictionary
defines method as “a systematic plan followed in presenting material for
instruction”. We can therefore define “teaching method” as a particular plan or
system used to teach. In order to create
a teaching method, it is important to understand what the objectives are. The
following essay will analyse the teaching methods in terms of their
effectiveness in achieving effective communication.
At the end of the sixties, a new teaching
perspective that believed in the importance of the communicative approach or
communicative language teaching was born. One of its major influences came from
the Council of Europe that set a range of competences. A number of experts such
as C. Candlin and H.Widdowson determined that the principal objective for
students learning a second language was to develop a “communicative
competence”. This new approach to learning a language started focusing on achieving
effective communication instead of a perfect linguistic ability.
Before analysing the effectiveness of teaching
methods, I would like to summarise recent perceptions on the main
characteristics of communicative method centred approach when creating
According to Johnson & Morrow, the main characteristics of the communicative
1- To create activities comprising extra linguistic
Example: In the following examples of a listening
exercise, a) focuses on extra linguistic objectives and b) doesn’t
a) Tomorrow we want to go to the beach. Listen to
the weather forecast and decide whether to go or not.
b) Listen to the recording and answer the questions.
2- The ability to manage all the components of a
language (pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, functions) simultaneously and
with a real rhythm as you would do in real life.
3- Communication processes are as important as
dominating the forms that are being used.
4- In order to learn something, practice actively.
Learn to communicate by communicating
It’s not about teaching, it’s about learning
Only the student can learn, it’s his/her responsibility
5- Making mistakes is not necessarily negative.
The Direct Method, was born at the end of the
19th century from a will to achieve “natural learning”. The aim was
to develop an active oral interaction in the language that was being learned.
Berlitz used it in schools and named it Berlitz Method. Its main
characteristics are the emphasis on active oral interaction, very little
grammatical analysis, learning of new vocabulary and sentences orally
introduced through examples, oral communication structures created from an
exchange of questions and answers between teachers and students, teaching how
to speak and auditory comprehension, emphasis on correcting students’
pronunciation and grammar, small groups of students and individualised
The main objective of the Direct Method is to gain abilities for
conversation and to end-up thinking in the language that students are learning.
The method was created under the belief that in order to learn language, the
language needs to be used. The Direct Method has undoubtedly some very positive
aspects that can encourage communication and that follow the principal of
learning to communicate by communicating. Low teacher speaking time is one of
the key elements of this method as it encourages students to use the L2. The
vocabulary students learn through drilling is always introduced in real
contexts, using realia or pictures, and it is generally vocabulary that
students can use in everyday situations. I believe this is important for
students’ motivation as they will easily recognise the need to know particular
words or structures. Small attention is paid to grammar rules as the main focus
of this method is to get students to communicate in the target language. This is
why, being able to ask questions, is as important as answering them. One of the
golden rules of the Direct Method is never to use translation or L1 but to
demonstrate instead, and to act out instead of explaining concepts, vocabulary,
or meanings. In theory this should help students to associate meaning with the
target language, directly providing them the opportunity to acquire the
language naturally avoiding translation.
No exams are used and the way of evaluating a student’s progress is for
them to show that they are able to communicate and not to demonstrate their
knowledge about the language. The interaction taking place between teachers and
students happens mostly through questions and answers. Teachers have to speak
at the students’ pace, as naturally as possible, and never give a speech as the
main focus is to activate students’ need for communication. Books are not used
and lesson planning is essential in order to secure a natural rhythm/flow
during the lesson.
One of my main criticisms about this method of teaching is the lack of
affective factors. The interaction between students and teachers is somehow
forced and unnatural (although that was supposed to be one of the aims of this
method). Students might learn how to
create certain structures almost by heart and with a great pronunciation. They
might also be able to respond quickly to set sentences, but it seems to me that
there is little encouragement for them to initiate a conversation, and little
room for free expression. Having said, I
do believe that including some Direct Method in teaching practice can be useful
in order to get used to simple structures, and that it is certainly more
effective for communication than the audio lingual method.
As its name indicates, the Audio lingual method combines listening and
talking (audio- lingual). It is based on
the repetition and memorisation of structures of the language. The idea is to
form and consolidate linguistic habits through drilling specific sentences.
Grammatical structure because more important than vocabulary is not seen as
important. Moulton defines five principles: 1) language is oral, not written; 2)
language is a result of a set of habits; 3) language needs to be taught, rather
than teaching something about language; 4) language is what native speakers
speak, not what somebody thinks it should be; 5) languages are different. The
syllabus includes different levels unities (phonology, morphology, syntax and
vocabulary) selected depending on a frequency of use criteria, going from easy
to more complex and grouped depending on particular communicative situations.
The activities used for this particular method aim at teaching grammatical
norms in an inductive manner, without explaining or translating them. The oral
communication taking place is solely based on the form/structures that students
repeat after the teacher, errors are corrected immediately and constantly, and
much importance is given to intonation and pronunciation. This method might
practice speaking but there the role of the students is completely passive and
they take even less initiative than in the Direct Method. Although the role of
the teacher is certainly active, the interaction that takes place is mostly
based on a dialogue that is memorised without allowing students to actively
find ways to create their own communicative strategies. I believe this method
of teaching goes pretty much against all of what the communicative method is
about, as much importance is given to the form, no extra linguistic objectives
are aimed, students won’t learn to manage all the components of the language,
and students do not participate actively. Having said that, the role play activities
commonly used in this teaching method, can easily be used as a base for a more
motivating activity that could encourage students to speak and to find ways to
The third method we will be looking at is called Total Physical
Response. The incorporation of physical activities is in my opinion the most
interesting factor about this method. It is based on the believe that memory
increases when repetition is combined with physical movement. As in the Direct
Method and the Audio lingual method, grammar is learned inductively. Once again, students have little influence in
the content of what they are learning and the role of the teacher is a lot more
active than the role of the students. Students are given little opportunity to
improvise or to find their way into creating effective communication, and their
contribution to the lesson is mostly based on repeating teachers’ orders. The
interaction taking place is almost nonexistent, and no communication takes place
as students are not encouraged to communicate to the teacher or among
themselves. Having said that, I can see how using this method can be very
useful when working with young learners whose attention span is short and who
need physical stimuli in order to concentrate and to be motivated. I do think
that combining Total physical response with other methods can be very effective
in certain situations and that there are always ways to combine movement and
action with a more communicative approach.
Teaching methods can be used as a base that can be easily adapted to
particular goals. Today’s tendency in language learning is to use a more
communicative method but in my opinion no past method should be discarded as
they all provide useful tools for teaching languages. Instead, methods can
easily be adapted to the needs of particular goals or students.
-Raquel Criado Sánchez, Patrones de secuenciación de actividades en la
enseñanza de inglés como lengua extranjera y su incidencia en el aprendizaje:
studio cuadi-experimental, Universidad de Murcia
-C. Candlin, H. Widdowson, Hymes). European Common Market. 1980: Van Ek and Alexander (the Threshold
level), Wilkins, Brumfit (functional-notional categories).
-Johnson, K., & Morrow, K. (1981). Communication in the classroom.
Harlow, England: Longman.