My teaching approach
me and I forget
Teach me and I remember
Involve me and I learn
Comparison of teaching methods
English is an international language, spoken in many countries
both as a native and as a second or foreign language. It is taught in schools
in almost every country on earth. It is a living and vibrant language spoken by
over 300 million people as their native language. Millions more speak it as an
English is learned everywhere because people have found out that
knowledge of English is a passport for a better career, better pay, advanced
knowledge, and for communication with the entire world. English is also learned
for the literature it possesses, and for the variety and rich experience it
provides. English has replaced French as the language of diplomacy. In this
computer age, English is bound to expand its domains of use everywhere. Everyone
wants to speak English as their own language.
Along the years, many different
teaching methods have been developed whether to meet students’ needs or to
match the requirements of a new administration, all of them claiming to be the
best way to teach English.
There are many methods of
teaching languages. Some have had their heyday and have fallen into relative obscurity;
others are widely used now; still others have a small following, but contribute
insights that may be absorbed into the generally accepted mix.
There are 10 well-known methods:
· The Grammar
Physical Response TPR
· The Silent
· The Lexical
But I am going to compare just
three of them: The Grammar Translation, The Silent Way and Suggestopedia.
The Grammar Translation Method
The Classical Method (Grammar translation Method) was originally
associated with the teaching of Latin and – to a much lesser extent – ancient
The aim of teaching Latin and Greek was (and is) obviously not so
that learners would be able to speak them. The aims were/are rather to develop: logical
thinking, intellectual capacities to attain a generally educational
and civilizing effect and an ability to read original texts in the
languages concerned, at least in the better
The grammar translation method instructs students in grammar, and
provides vocabulary with direct translations to memorise. Most instructors now
acknowledge that this method is ineffective by itself. It is now most commonly
used in the traditional instruction of the classical languages.
The key features of the Grammar Translation Method are as
1) Classes are taught in the mother tongue, with little
active use of the target language.
2) Much vocabulary is taught in the form of lists of
3) Long elaborate explanations of the intricacies of grammar
4) Grammar provides the rules for putting words together,
and instruction often focuses on the form and inflection of words.
5) Reading of difficult classical texts is begun
6) Little attention is paid to the content of texts, which
are treated as exercises in grammatical analysis.
7) Often the only drills are exercises in translating
disconnected sentences from the target language into the mother
8) Little or no attention is given to
The Grammar Translation Method is still common in many countries –
even popular. This method requires few specialized skills on the part of
teachers also grammar rules and translation tests are easy to construct and can
be objectively scored moreover many standardized tests of foreign languages
still do not attempt to test communicative abilities, so students have little
motivation to go beyond grammar analogies, translations and other written
At my first university I was taught with this
method and I can say that it may make the language learning experience
uninspiring and boring. The Grammar Translation Method may also leave the
students with a sense of frustration when they travel to countries where the
studied language is used, they cannot understand what people say and have to
struggle mightily to express themselves at the most basic level (I still
remember my first trip to London, when I was even afraid to go to the
supermarket, because I did not understand the man on the till, even though I
had been studying English for a few years). This method neither approaches nor
encourages the students’ communicative competence.
The Grammar Translation Method was developed for the study of
“dead” languages and to facilitate access to those languages’ classical
literature. That is the way it should stay. English is certainly
not a dead or dying language, so any teacher that takes “an approach for dead
language study” into an English language classroom should perhaps think about
taking up Maths or Science instead. Rules, universals and memorized
principles apply to those disciplines – pedagogy and communicative principles
The Silent way was introduced in the early 1970s and was the
brainchild of the late Caleb Gattegno. The last line of Benjamin Franklin’s
famous quote about teaching and learning can be said to lie at the heart of
Silent Way. The three basic principles of the approach are that learning is
facilitated if the learner discovers rather than remembers or repeats, that
learning is aided by physical objects, and that problem-solving is central to
learning. The use of the word "silent" is also significant, as Silent
Way is based on the premise that the teacher should be as silent as possible in
the classroom in order to encourage the learner to produce as much language as
The key features of the Silent Way Method are as
a problem-solving, creative and discovering activity in which the learner is a
very important and principle actor rather than a passive listener.
will be more motivating and permanent if physical objects such as rods and
wall-charts are used. These objects gather students’ attention and create
memorable images for student to recall.
At the beginning,
the teacher needs to look for progress, not perfection. Learning takes time.
Students learn at different rates.
learner can do the learning.
should be silent as much as possible in the classroom to encourage the
learner to produce as much language as possible.
is expected to create an environment that encourages students’ risk-taking and facilitates
should give only what help is necessary. In other words, the teacher makes use
of what students already know. The more the teacher does for the students what
they can do for themselves, the less they will do for themselves
is expected to become ‘independent, autonomous, and responsible’ in
expected to interact with each other and suggest alternatives to each other.
They must learn to work cooperatively rather than competitively. The teacher’s
silence encourages group cooperation.
In order not
to miss what the teacher says, learners must give the teacher their attention.
Learner-attention is a key to learning.
This method fosters cooperative learning between individuals. It also
embodies a new approach to education in general, a respect for the individual
and an awareness of the individual’s extraordinary cognitive powers. If teaching
the language by using the rods and without repeating too much is achieved, it
will really save time and energy for both teachers and students. The advocates of the Silent Way
claim that the short-term memory is used artificially but well. The self-esteem
of the students will be increased and this will enhance learning. By this way
students will say ‘I learned’ instead of ‘I was taught well’.
can be benefited by the teacher only in small groups of students. The teacher can
gain ability in this method by trying. The teacher is expected to enrich the
materials on his/her own.
teachers, the rigidity of the system (no repetitions by the teacher, no answers
by the teacher etc.) may be meaningless.
learners, one limitation is the approach to language basics. Students’
expectations and need for immediately relevant language learning may force
teachers to abandon the approach.
How such a
method would work in the average classroom situation, or how successfully it
might be used at more advanced levels is a question mark left in our minds
separated from its social context and taught through artificial situations.
Depending on my own teaching and learning experience, too much
repetition does not help students. If the students are familiar with their
teachers’ technique, they know that the teacher will repeat the subject-matter
once again. Thus, they do not pay enough attention to their teachers’ talk. On
the other hand, if the students know that their teacher will not repeat
anymore, they will listen to him/her carefully. Another principle that I agree
with is less teacher interference. If the teacher helps only when they are
asked then that help will be more valuable. Sometimes teachers like me tend to
give extra information when students ask something and of course this tires us
too much. As I have observed in my own institution, some female teachers are
too mother-like. What I mean by mother-like is that teachers take most of the
responsibility and nothing is left for the students. Therefore, students do not
make any effort to take the responsibility of their learning. Advocates of the
Silent Way feel that, more important than the techniques and more important
even than the language learning results, is the process, the change that occurs
in individuals. This includes understanding and tolerance of another and
acceptance of others as contributors to one’s own life.
Often considered to be the strangest of
the so-called "humanistic approaches", suggestopedia was originally
developed in the 1970s by the Bulgarian educator Georgi Lozanov. Extravagant
claims were initially made for the approach, with Lozanov himself declaring
that memorisation in learning through suggestopedia would be accelerated by up
to 25 times compared with conventional learning methods. The name Suggestopedia
comes from the words “suggestion” and “pedagogy.” The method
draws on insights from yoga and the Soviet psychology. From yoga it takes the
importance of relaxation of mind for maximum retention of material. From Soviet
psychology Lozanov took the idea that all students can be taught a given
subject matter at the same level of skill.
- The use
of music to relax learners.
- The furniture,
decoration and the arrangement of the classroom.
authority. The teacher plays a central role and he/she is the source
of all information.
The arrangements and the physical atmosphere in the classroom
are paramount for making sure that the students feel comfortable and confident.
The use of various techniques including art and music, are used by the trained
teachers. In the beginning, the lesson based on Suggestopedia used to consist
of three phases: deciphering, concert session (memorization séance), and
elaboration. Later, it has developed into four phases as lots of
experiments were done: introduction, concert session, elaboration, and
- It is
not a practical method as teachers face the problem of the availability
of music and comfortable chairs.
refers in a number of occasions to the importance of memorization,
excluding any reference to comprehension and creative problem solving. In
fact language is not only about the power of the mind to memorize. It’s
about understanding, interacting and producing novel utterances in
different unpredictable situations.
In spite of all these disadvantages, some principles
of Suggestopedia have been accepted and adapted by teachers worldwide. Through Suggetopedia
we can learn to trust the power of the mind. We also learn that deliberately
induced states of relaxation can be valuable at times in the classroom and we can
benefit from the use of music to get students to sit back and relax.
While suggestopedia has many
disadvantages, this is not to say, however, that certain elements of the approach
cannot be taken and incorporated into the more eclectic approach to language
teaching widely in evidence today. The use of music both in the background and
as an accompaniment to certain activities can be motivating and relaxing.
Attention to factors such as décor, lighting and furniture is surely not a bad
thing. Dialogues too have their uses. Perhaps most importantly of all the
ideas, creating conditions in which learners are alert and receptive can only
have a positive effect on motivation. Whether these conditions are best created
by the use of classical music and the reading of dialogues is open to questions
but there is no doubt that suggestopedia has raised some interesting questions
in the areas of both learning and memory.
All in all, no one method is the solution to the problems of
language learning. Each teaching method is suited to different situations to
different students’ needs. For this reasons, it would not be effective to use
only one method in an English class. Rather it would be better for us to take
fruitful techniques from each method depending on our students’ level, age and
needs. Variety and flexibility are the most important features to implement in
a class in order to maximise the students’ learning experience. Teachers should
provide useful and interesting lessons, guide students, support them, build
their confidence and give feedback.
1. M.E.S. Elizabeth,
Methods of Teaching English, Discovery Publishing House, 2010
2. Jack C. Richards, Theodore Stephen Rodgers, Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching, Cambridge University
Judith L. Shrum, Eileen W. Glisan, Teacher's
Language Instruction, Cengage Learning, 2009
H. Douglas Brown,
Principles of language learning and teaching, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey,
Prentice Hall, 1987