Natasha Ermakova





My teaching approach

Tell me and I forget
Teach me and I remember
Involve me and I learn


Benjamin Franklin

Comparison of teaching methods

Introduction

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 additional language.

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 Translation

·      Total Physical Response TPR

·      The Silent Way

·      Community Language Learning

·      Suggestopedia

·      Whole Language

·      Multiple Intelligences

·      Neurolinguistic Programming

·      The Lexical Approach

·      Competency-Based Language Teaching

·      Direct method

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 Greek.            

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 learners.           

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.

Key features 

The key features of the Grammar Translation Method are as follows:  

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 isolated words. 

3)  Long elaborate explanations of the intricacies of grammar are given.  

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 early. 

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 tongue.  

8)  Little or no attention is given to pronunciation.         

 Advantages

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  exercises.

Disadvantages  

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.

 

Conclusion 

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 do not.  

 

The Silent Way method

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 possible.

 Key features 

The key features of the Silent Way Method are as follows:  

·       Learning is a problem-solving, creative and discovering activity in which the learner is a very important and principle actor rather than a passive listener.

·       Learning 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.    

·       Only the learner can do the learning.

·       The teacher should be silent as much as possible in the classroom to encourage the learner to produce as much language as possible.

·       The teacher is expected to create an environment that encourages students’ risk-taking and facilitates learning.

·       The teacher 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 (Larsen-Freeman 1986).

·       The learner is expected to become ‘independent, autonomous, and responsible’ in language.

·       Learners are 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.

Advantages

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’.

  Disadvantages

·       This method 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.

·       For some teachers, the rigidity of the system (no repetitions by the teacher, no answers by the teacher etc.) may be meaningless.

·       For some 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

·       Language is separated from its social context and taught through artificial situations.

 

Conclusion

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.

 

Suggestopedia method

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.

Key features 

  • The use of music to relax learners.
  • The furniture, decoration and the arrangement of the classroom.
  • Teacher’s 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 production.

  Disadvantages

  • It is not a practical method as teachers face the problem of the availability of music and comfortable chairs.
  • Lozanov 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.

 

Advantages

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.

 

Conclusion

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.

 

Conclusion

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.

References

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 Press, 2001

3.    Judith L. Shrum, Eileen W. Glisan, Teacher's Handbook: Contextualized Language Instruction, Cengage Learning, 2009

4.    H. Douglas Brown, Principles of language learning and teaching, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 1987

5.    www.ialf.edu

6.    www.teachingenglish.org.uk

 



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