My teaching approach
Alicia Garrido Domínguez
Compare and constrast at least three teaching methods and approaches considering their effectiveness in creating a communicative lesson.
Provided the preceeding, I will beggin by defining what is essential in order to construct lessons which aim is to facilitate to the student a good base for communicating.
Then, from my point if view, the question highlighted here, is:
What does the student need to be able communicate effectively?
First, he/she needs to feel confident. In order to do that, we need to:
- Allow him to connect with the language, so that he drops any feeling of fear or shame. "Breaking the ice".
- Know very well what his/her level is, so that he will not feel discouraged or unable to accomplish the tasks provided.
- Set on a good atmosphere, so that he does not feel under pressure. Being dimly aware of his inner state (if he is at his lunch break, for instance) will help us choosing the right tone to communicate. We need to get the student to talk comphortably.
-Not punishing the errors is good in order to maintain his level of self-confidence. In exchange, positive reinforcement will push him to gain a good mindframe for communicating.
-Making out of learning a fun activity, is something that will help the student free up his knowledge.
-Having the lesson splitted up in small units of content will make him more confident and will contribute to achieve a good communicational attidude. Comprehensible input= productive output
-Exemplifying before he performs is good way of easing into the activity. Patience and gentleness are key to get him into speaking, but if he gets blocked up, we must move on to something with which he feels more relaxed.
Taking all the above in account, we can find that in some methods, awareness is brought primarily on the estudent´s learning process, and in the development of his/her communicational aptitudes, while in others, there´s more importance given to the actual content, following certain guidelines which are more theory-based.
In general, we can say that old methods focus their teaching on literacy and accuracy, while the modern ones focus on the learning process of the students and also on having them to gain fluency above literacy.
For that reason, I wish to compare the two in between which I found important differences , which are the Grammar Translation Method (as from now GTM) and the Communicative Language Teaching Method (CLT).
I will also highlight this compare and contrast exercise with tips and techniques which I found of special interest from the Suggestopediae Method.
It seems ovbious to me, that regarding the communicative skills we want to encourage, the CLT is the method that has studied the communicative process more thoroughly, and their main purpose has been to develope a set of techniques and activities in the most practical way, in order to bring in the wanted flow of language interexchange.
There is one point in their method that I find of much interest, and this is the chategorizing the skills that the student needs to develope in two groups:
-Productive (speaking and writing)
-Receptive (listening and reading)
We can use this in order to be aware of how the flow of the communicative act/lesson works. If we want the student to speak, we need to measure our and their speaking time, and also use it as a guideline to acknowledge when will he/she need a bit of input in order to keep his/her speech flowing. Flow always has to work in two ways. We can´t give the student too much input because this would overwhelm him, nor can we keep silent if we see he´s getting lost.
The receptive skills are equally important for the student to settle down certain structures, sounds and vocabulary, and the rythm and tone during those activities must be in accord with the difficulty of such, and the ability of the student. Slow, well pronounciated and punctuated speaking is primordial when the student practices listening in order to get him to comprehend fully.
The GMT, however, has a totally different way to approach the learning skills, as they priorize literacy over fluency. Their main focus in on writing and reading, and the speaking act has little or none relevance to this method. So they don´t think in terms of producing output or receiving input, aswhere they focus mainly on adquiring and analyzing the language theories.
Another feature of the GTM that I consider of little use to enhacing the communicative process, is their attitude to errors, it is of special importance to answer correctly, and I believe this could keep the student from feeling relaxed enough to carry on with the lesson. Besides, they basicly do not have the improving of communicative skills as one of their goals, so, in any manner, this would be a good method towards creating a communicative lesson.
On the other hand, in the CLT, the errors are tolerated, and they are seen as part of the learning process, and, what is more important, is the overall improvement. They believe that being able to communicate requires more than linguistic competence, which is the main base for the GTM.
For the CLT researchers, communicating competence has to do with not only the linguistic , but other competences, as knowing the culture, the expresions, the forms, and the levels of formality used in real life. That is why they propose activities that resemble real contexts, so that the students learn how the language is used in real life, and don´t constrict it to grammar based teaching only. Writing tests and text analysis (as in the GTM) can lead the student to feel the goals to be achieved are far too high, because of the strictness of the outcome they need to produce, while in CLT, they use tasks with a concrete goal, which are very functional in order to engage the student´s attention and get him to ellaborate his output in a ludic and relaxed manner.
In this sense, the Suggestopedia method proposes a focus on the experience of the student, helping him to feel relaxed, and never try too hard. It is very important that we help them overcome the feeling of being unable to learn or speak. We do that by providing a good environment for the lesson, aswell as using indirect possitive suggestion, let´s say, to encourage them in a subtle way, and translation is allowed, so that they don´t get stuck on a single term.
Using Fine Arts material, as music, drama plays, paintings, etc... are used as base for topics, and I think this can be very useful, as they will help students learning while having fun, and it is said that this kind of input could enable positive suggestion, as the arts tap on the subconscious, so they learn both attending consciously to the language use while at a subconscious plane some learning is ocurring.
Going back to the task oriented method proposed by the CLT, for those goals to be achiveved, they introduce some sort of input that works as a platform for both the goal and the activity. I think using fine arts material for such tasks could be of extreme help.
Other points in which those approaches differ, are the usage of Target Language. While in the GTM the language is the object of study in it self, in the CLT, the language in only a medium for the learning unit, and the goal is to be able to use it in a context, by having the student to give an example of its use.
Games are excellent ways of having the students to interact. Interactions allow the students to share their knowledge so that they may benefit from each other´s experience, while they change the focus from the teacher to a figureless activity in which they can receive feedback from their partners, and I think this shift, from my experince, makes them more mind free, because they are not depending on the teacher´s answer for a while.
Those two methods also differ in that, GTM uses grammar learning as their base, but CLT induces grammar learning inside the activities, never giving any specific rule for the students to learn; instead, they are urged to practice the correct form, as in Suggestopedia.
Focusing on the functions of the Language is a more productive approach. The learner becomes more aware of the correct use in their speech, and this is what CLT does in their activities. I agree in giving little importance to errors, and I think it is good to priorize the structure mistakes above the pronnunciation ones in the beggining, so that they acquire a good comprehension of the structures. The form and the meaning are equally important for a good acquisition of the language. If we only give importance to the form, students may end up having a lot of useless data in their minds, because they have a lack of practice. By repeating the same patterns, they may do well in a written exam, but they will not talk the language. So chances have to be given to students to put into action the input they´re receiving.
By doing this, we will provide a posibility to integrate the different factors which are basic for communication, and that may affect every interlocutor. Practice makes students simulate real life situations, and gets them to be aware and deal with those factors involved in communication, such as communication strategies, social and cultural contexts, personal features or states which may affect the communicative act.