Bertie Wrench





My teaching approach

TEFL FUNDAMENTALS ESSAY 

 

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: 

? 

  • Approach to learning 

  • Approach to teaching 

  • Goals of the students 

  • Organisation of the syllabus 

  • Teacher’s attitude and behaviour 

  • Personal opinion 

 

 

When comparing the effectiveness of these teaching methods, in creating a communicative lesson, we have to consider what a communicative lesson is. There are four communicative skills: writing, reading, listening and speaking. Which to emphasize, and how to do so, are the real questions, and therein lie the differences between the methods.  

 

Why these methods differ, is essentially that they value one communicative skill more than an other, which is normally the result of the context in which the student is learning the language. Hundreds of years ago, when there was little globalization, minimal travelling opportunities, and less mediums of communication, one of the most popular methods was the Grammar Translation Method, that as you’d expect emphasizes grammar translation, a deductive process using logical thought. Back then a much larger proportion of the population was learning classical languages, Greek, Latin etc. ancient languages that aren’t practiced any more. Therefore they had little to no need for speaking, listening and writing, it was all about translating, the communicative skill being reading. Any other method, one that would be considered better these days, would simply be inefficient, there is no need to speak and hear it, so there is no need for interactive activities, so there is no need for small classrooms sitting in a circle and so on. So contextually, this method was effective in creating a communicative lesson, even though it was mindlessly boring reading, translating and dissecting words algebraically, that was the language they were learning and that was the only communicative skill they needed. 

 

However these days people travel all over the world, globalization is massive, the country you were born in has little bearing on the country you live in when you grow up, there is simply more need for modern languages. These modern languages will be used for communicating not just translating, thus there is a need to learn all 4 communicative skills, in a practical context.  

 

In these circumstances, the grammar translation method, would perhaps be the worst choice of method, a better one would be the Direct Method, a method that was actually developed in response to the grammar translation method, translation is actually banned in all shapes and forms, even dictionaries. The direct method aims to have the learner thinking in the language they are trying to learn. It’s a very immersive method, where the native language is never used, and the target language is taught in a practical context, through discussion and conversation. When learning reading, it isn’t disconnected sentences, it’s connected texts, again more practical and closer to real life. This method aims to get the learner to understand what he reads, hears and says, without referencing the mother tongue equivalence, a big step towards fluency.  This method requires a lot of practice and repetition and is most successful when the person is living in the country they are learning the language of, this makes it that much more immersive, and gives them plenty of opportunities for practice and repetition. Whether the classes are in the country of the language or not, this method does make for communicative lessons, and depending on the circumstances is one of the best methods for learning a language.  

The Direct Method is primarily orally focused however, and if one needed the language for more written correspondence, perhaps it wouldn’t be the best method, it’s really all dependent on the student’s goals, and under what conditions they learn best.  

 

There are some methods in which how they go about teaching, is really quite obscure but preferable with some students. Suggestopedia for example, very big in the eighties, emphasized learning through positive response, emotional meaning, and assimilation. It was founded by someone assessing learning scientifically, what factors increase long and short term memory. This method focuses primarily on the learning environment, how factors such as music, aesthetics and being comfortable increase some students’ learning potentials. They believe that retention is greatly enhanced by non verbal communication, and emotional context, which tailors for an unusual, but in many cases, incredibly successful, classroom experience. Their classes are interactive, participative, and are communicative but aren’t for everyone, in some cases people who have left the course prematurely, have said it was patronizing and silly, however they did say so in the target language. 

 

Total Physical Response is another method that isn’t for everyone and is most commonly used with children. It is based around the way children learn their first language, primarily listening and absorbing the language, and only responding to it physically, rather than orally reproducing it. Often exercises such as ‘Simon says’ could be used to fulfill this method, in that sense it is also child friendly, whilst being quite inappropriate for adults. Adults brains along with their maturity levels, are really too developed in most cases for this method to be effective, but a young child’s brain made great sense of this method once, and can do it again. It is a communicative method in a contextual sense, when teaching kids, but it’s only really affective at beginning levels.  

 

Another abstract method is the Silent Way Method, classes in which the teachers are completely silent, which is meant to encourage the students to talk more. Instead of responding verbally, they do so non verbally with actions and looks, and when the students are struggling with pronunciation, the teachers will mouth it with them, but still not speaking. With this method nothing is ever explained but through non verbal examples and hints the answer is drawn out from the student. When the students discover the answers for themselves, they can more easily recall the language in the future. This method is communicative but is lacking in the communicative departments of listening, writing and reading, which is it’s downside. Every action has a reaction and through speaking you are going to have understand what your listening to simultaneously, and this method leaves something to be desired in that department. 

 

The Audio Lingual Method arose at the time of World War II, out of the necessity for foreign language proficiency. Its system is reflective of its context and like the army is based on drilling and repetition of structures, with the goal being habit formation. It involved a lot of listening and repeating of short dialogues, emphasizing structure over vocab. Unfortunately this isn’t very communicative, communicative competence really involves innovation and forming new sentences, which this method fails to teach it’s students. What this method lacked, ultimately led to the creation of Communicative Language Teaching. 

 

The Communicative Approach is a very interesting method, where both the goal and the means of learning are interaction, essential for communication in real life. The exercises they do are real life situations and circumstances that students can relate to. This is of course added motivation, because the outcomes of the exercises are affected by their responses, and what they are talking about is meaningful. It’s quite similar to the direct method in that the students, with little of the teacher talking, drive the class with the teacher merely acting as a referee or devil’s advocate, depending on the flow of the class. It does however use the native tongue to explain certain things when necessary. 

 

At the end of the day with most things in life, teaching English is not black and white, there is no one right way to teach English, it is dependent on other factors. The students for example: how old they are, how they like to learn, what level they are at, for what purpose they are learning, how frequently they have classes and how big the classes areAlso some teachers may not be able to work with some methods, whilst excel in others, they may not be able to speak the target language perfectly them selves or they may not speak their students native language. I don’t think that for any student teacher combination, one methodology could be best from beginner to fluent. What would be best is, depending on the circumstances, to use different methods at different levels, emphasizing each communicative skill to the relative extent of what they are a capable of dealing with and what they need to improve on.  



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