Know what my biggest mistake as a teacher was?
I was married to only one teaching methodology.
And just like any marriage, I needed to spice things up after a while.
When I started teaching some 20 years ago, my toolbox consisted of primarily the Audiolingual Method, otherwise known as the “Army Method.” I think the name speaks for itself.
It wasn’t until I learned more about all the great teaching methods out there, that I was able to make my classes more engaging and attractive to my students. And lesson planning became a lot easier.
While traditional methods are perfectly valid, they can quickly become outdated and lead to a lot of language-learning problems in the classroom. That’s why it’s important for second-language teachers to mix up their bags of tricks and add some flavor to the teaching methodology.
5 New Approaches to Spice up Your Methodology of Teaching English
With new research leading to the development of the Humanistic Approach to Education, English teaching methods have become more intuitive and focus on a holistic view of language learning—going beyond the mere cognitive functions of the learner. This places greater value on external factors when compared to traditional methods, like allowing students to learn by applying language outside the classroom or building lessons based on students’ strengths and interests.
Interesting, right? Let’s jump right in and learn more about these humanistic methods.
Suggestopedia has caught on quite a bit over the last few years.
This method is based on memorization of language “chunks.” For example, students read dialogues and texts aloud, usually to the rhythm of some type of music. The music is generally classical music, or some other genre suitable to target structure. This is known as “concert reading.”
The use of concert reading fosters a comfortable learning environment, particularly for those students who feel shy and apprehensive.
The Suggestopedia method is suitable for all levels and allows for lots of creativity and fun. Even advanced students can get a kick out of “singing” through their dialogues. For example, if the focus of the lesson is prepositions, you can sing out the following sentence: “Joe went ___ the supermarket ___ the street.” Then, students will shout back, “to” and “across” to fill in the blanks.
This type of reading makes for a great controlled practice following a grammar presentation.
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2. Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL)
CLIL has been widely discussed in recent years, and for good reason.
This method focuses on content more than language itself. In fact, language is seen as an enabler that allows students to use target structures within a given context.
This type of methodology is perfect for schools where teachers teach subjects in English, while the rest of the curriculum is taught in another language. As such, science, social studies and math can all be taught in this way. The language needed to comprehend the materials is integrated into the content in such a way where teachers don’t cover grammar and vocabulary extensively.
One clear advantage of this method is that it allows lessons to be tailored to suit students’ interests and preferences. CLIL is perfect for teaching language in a meaningful way so that students can see the real-life application of language, even as a means for cultural expression, seeing as CLIL lets you teach students language in its cultural context.
Want to teach with CLIL but you’re running low on ideas? Check out OER Commons. There, you can browse free lesson plans and materials which you can customize to suit your students and your curriculum.
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The advantage of teaching with FluentU is that it enables students to learn language in its context. Teaching students using material made for English speakers, by English speakers, means that they become more exposed to American and British culture, learning to communicate more naturally as a result.
And best of all, FluentU comes with a range of helpful teaching tools that allow you to monitor the progress of your students, both as individuals and as a class.
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3. The Natural Approach
Also known as the “silent way,” the Natural Approach is a teaching method based on the way babies and infants acquire native language.
When teaching with the Natural Approach, students initially receive nothing but input from the teacher—they’re not asked to produce anything. Students may be asked to listen and repeat dialogues and conversations, but nothing more.
Over time, students are asked to produce so long as they comfortable doing so—based on the target structures taught. They start off with relaying the language taught while they build up their linguistic skills.
This method is perfect for true beginners particularly due to the intensive use of visuals and physical cues used to convey meaning. Since students are not asked to produce initially, this reduces learner stress.
A great way to put the natural approach into practice is by performing the activity, “the king wants.”
For this activity, simply ask students for an item and start the sentence with “The king wants… (or the queen wants…)” For example, if you say, “The king wants a pencil,” students must give you a pencil.
Don’t have too many items in the class? Flashcards can work just fine. A fun twist to this activity is playing it with a timer. I am sure you will see everyone scrambling to please the king!
4. Total Physical Response
Speaking of physical cues, Total Physical Response or TPR, is another great method based on the silent way. TPR requires students to demonstrate understanding through a physical response rather than a verbal one.
As with the Natural Approach, students are not asked to produce any language until they are ready to do so. That’s because TPR is all about acting out language, be it through mimicking or simply responding to visual and audio cues.
The game, “Simon Says” is a great TPR activity for beginners. Plus, it’s a classic most everyone is familiar with. If you don’t know how to play the game, read this guide on our favorite grammar games to learn how, while learning about other exciting games as well!
Got higher level students? Try playing charades! All you need is a few index cards or flashcards. Students are then given cards with words or pictures on them, and must act out the card until their classmates guess the correct word. Imagine the card says, “baseball,” the student must use their imagination to help their classmates yell out “baseball!” Charades can be done competitively in teams.
In addition to being perfect for beginners, TPR can be utilized throughout instruction across all levels, focusing specifically on kinesthetic learners. This is a great way to get students to stand and shake it up.
5. Task-based Learning
This approach is my personal favorite.
The Task-based Learning approach focuses on communication rather than structure. That means that language is an enabler, just like in CLIL, in which each task must be relevant to students’ lives and interests. This leads to meaningful learning as students will see where they can actually put their learning to use.
Grammar and vocabulary are essentially taught “on the fly” with this approach. Now, this doesn’t mean we’re winging it, but rather, language is taught within the context of the task, thus avoiding a teacher-centered grammar explanation.
This approach is student-intensive and is heavy on content. Its focus should be on what students are able to do based on their linguistic level. This approach can be used across all levels, but care needs to be taken in making sure that all tasks are level-appropriate.
The big difference between CLIL and Task-based Learning, is that CLIL is more about an entire subject whereas Task-based Learning is about focusing on individual tasks such as checking into a hotel, or even defending views on a given subject.
Don’t know where to start? Check out this lesson template. It will certainly help you find your bearings while the sample lesson plan will give you a great starting point. It’s a lot easier than you think!
Making Sense of It All
While traditional methods such as the Audiolingual and the Grammar Translation methods are still perfectly valid and useful, using newer methods can certainly spice things up in the classroom.
What’s more, adding variety in your teaching method is important for creating a holistic teaching approach that connects with all types of learners.
So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to get your feet wet and try something new an exciting!
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