CiC - Communication in Context
Teachers and students come in a range of shapes and sizes with a range of motivations, abilities and backgrounds. When considering a particular style of teaching, it is fundamental to adopt a huge degree of flexibility in approach. Situational assessment, cultural and generational relevance can be summed up as context. For both student and teacher, context is everything.
While traditional teaching methods, including The Grammar Translation Method, focus heavily on a structured, rule-based and prescriptive style of teaching, modern TEFL methodology promotes significantly higher engagement via relevance and appropriate context. Positioning functional aspects of a language at the heart of a teaching style prioritise macro skills of listening and speaking. Examples of this focus are evident in methodologies such as The Communicative Method or The Direct Method. The virtue of these styles is unquestionable. However, their introduction, between the 1960s and 1970s, and their subsequent success were arguably due to a world where oral conversation, in person and by telephone, was the bedrock of international business and travel. Communication has moved on again. While oral conversation is by no means irrelevant; 205 billion emails are sent every day and tweets, text messages and other digital correspondence are fast becoming the dominant form of communication. With this in mind, teaching methodologies which fail to embrace components of modern, digital, written communications are ill-equipping learners for the future, particularly children and teens.
My proposed method, Communication in Context (CiC), adopts many of the fundamental aspects of the aforementioned methodologies, including exclusive use of target language and a priority on speaking and listening macro skills. The method incorporates many of the excellent components of prevalent methodology encouraging a high percentage of student talking time, use of realia and online materials and leans towards fluency over accuracy. The methodology incorporates a digital communication method encouraging the use of written word on a platform that is contextually relevant to the student core group or demographic. While some adults may be most appropriately engaged by a platform like WhatsApp, teens may benefit from a dedicated Instagram channel allowing them to express their thoughts within a platform they regularly utilise. Similarly, ESP students in business, for instance, could benefit from blank copying their teacher/group into emails they send or receive in English to bring attention to specific vocabulary. As this dedicated platform forms part of the learning style, the teacher can not only use it to correct written errors, immediately or in class, but the expression of ideas can influence the selection of context relevant learning in the next lesson.
While the syllabus of the CiC approach is flexible, allowing for direction changes based on teachers’ assessment of contextual relevance, complete beginners would be supported through an intensive “essential grasp” module with a much more structured, less personalised syllabus. A key feature of CiC is a comprehensive analysis of a students motivation and objectives for learning the target language. This is assessed both during the initial assessment of level and forms part of a profile used by teacher to refer selected target language to a students motivations, highlighting the context focus of learning. Students motivations are reassessed regularly using reviews of learning to both cement learning via revisiting it and to see if their objectives have changed and assess how far a student has moved toward these goals. Placing student motivations at the heart of engagement using this heavily tailored, frequent review approach, has the additional benefit of encouraging a receptive attitude toward error correction since students are more likely to use target vocabulary in their daily life.
CiC is predominantly focused on assessment of student goals and their priorities. When considering the method and how it should be adapted for children and adults, the primary consideration remains contextual. This has a significant impact on the content of a lesson and the structure of activities, yet the communication, fluency focus is maintained.
Similarly to how the platform chosen for a learning group is based on context, the structure of activities are assessed based on the age, maturity and ability of the students.
The natural enthusiasm of children and their desire to participate in group-based, fun games is harnessed and encouragement is utilised more ardently, particularly when corrections are required. Young students engage in dialogue with the teacher and with other students via structured, upbeat activities with significantly more physical engagement and use of realia, as per the Total Physical Response approach. Use of songs and music in children’s lessons is also more prevalent. The digital writing hub for outside of lessons is also games focused, however, parents are encouraged to support their children in using it. Effective discipline, rules and expectations need to be woven into, particularly, earlier lessons.
The specifics of when a child becomes a teenager and when an adult is not expressly laid out in CiC. Instead, the context seeking assessment is carried out when a teacher feels the maturity and ability of a student warrants it. What engages one adult may not engage another. What resonates with a teenager may also effectively engage adults. Or not. Flexibility and adaptability remain at the centre of selected activities and lesson content for adults. The focus on fluency, improving conversational English, and speaking and listening, however, remain the bedrock for teen/adult learning in CiC. Digital writing platform is student-driven and use is actively encouraged by the teacher. Occasional prompts from the teacher, are recommended, introducing controversial or fun topics if utilisation of the platform is low.
While my proposed method of teaching attempts to assimilate some of the best aspects of modern TEFL methodology and incorporate an element of relevant and socially contextual writing ability, it’s clear that, like all methodologies, it is not a one size fits all. It is fundamental to understand that this methodology should be used in conjunction with others.
As contextual relevances change, as technology and communication advance, the CiC structure, approach and execution will inevitably change too.
Communication gives Context.
Example Lesson Plan
P3/P4 gradable adults
SS to explore vocabulary relating to personal preferences.
Evenly split classroom into groups of 3 or 2.
Ask students to discuss their best memory, in their groups.
Themes include travel, dreams, sleep, special occasions, relationships.
Students asked to repost back on their findings from peers after 5 min discussion.
Explore preferences based on outcomes of previous task.
Using TL; would rather, better, sooner, prefer to express a preference.
SS to look at realia showing music acts, weekend activities; luxury foods
use the structures given to compare music artists or live consorts vs streaming etc.
Refer to content brought up in digital writing platform and excuse understanding of concepts raised.
Verbal discussion encouraging use of vocabulary utilised in context.
All students take out their phone. Structure of the sentence introduced verbally.
Kevin prefers x more than x
First student to write the correct sentence on the platform receives a point on progression chart or prize.