Teaching Styles and Methods
Teaching styles can vary drastically and no one style is king. Over time and in different parts of the world different styles have risen to prominence while others lose favor. The effectiveness of a teaching style depends on the students, their need, the language they are being taught, the language they are being taught in, and many other factors. Effective teachers will be familiar with different styles and the various methods introduced in each style. They will be capable of creating their own unique style based on what is most effective for their situation. The following methodologies of teaching all have their strengths and weaknesses, most are found to be outdated or overly flawed but we can still learn and adapt using elements of these styles.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Jeff M. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Grammar Translation Method
Grammar translation is a bedrock method of teaching languages and has been for a long time. It requires a teacher to be highly proficient in the students’ native language and is often found to be used in public school language programs. For American students such as myself who had Spanish class from 1st grade and up but never really learned more than the basics, it was most likely Grammar translation style of teaching. Students taught this way often learn about the language, memorizing vocabulary, but don’t learn the language itself fluently. It’s a very unnatural way to learn a language. It often has students simply taking a sentence in their native language and translating it to the learning language, this works best with similar languages such as French to Spanish or other languages with similar roots and structures. However, it is very ineffective when teaching languages such as English to Chinese where direct translation can be impossible.
Audio bilingualism is mostly a style of repetition, repeating and drilling the language to form habits. Conditioning students to use a language correctly. This is a less effective way to process language than those who truly learn it. While this school of teaching as largely gone the way of the dodo, it can still be found incorporated into other methodologies for teaching low-level students.
Presentation, Practice, and Production is a style well suited for teaching low-level students as it provides an excellent base of knowledge to build from. It does have the faults of lessons being overly focused on the teacher and the style is lacking if flexibility. Using this method of teaching, teachers provide context for a language while explaining and demonstrating both the meaning and use of a new language. The main drawback of this method is for higher-level students who already have a high degree of familiarity with the language and do not need such production for every new element of the language.
Task-based learning focuses on the completion of a task using the language with the teacher only helping after completion. This is far from a comprehensive method and has many inherent issues. It is however relatable to real-world situations where someone is a foreign nation may be required to active simple task such as shopping or taking a taxi. Task-based learning is not well suited for teaching language but may have a place in teaching travelers’ survival phrases and necessary base words.
Communicative Language Teaching
Communicative language teaching focuses on the functions of language over grammar and vocab. Exposure to a language is key to this method as they believe the learning will come naturally with exposure. While I no doubt believe this to be true, it does not make it an effective classroom method of teaching.
Community language learning is a student focuses method that doesn’t revolve around a lesson but is entirely dictated by the students’ conversations. In my albeit limited experience, this method is a recipe for disaster in all but a few circumstances. Shyness to use a new language is something many students have and it will limit conversation. I have seen great uses of this method succeed when the class is made of students with a variety of native languages all using a common language to commuensures even then the students must be genuinely curious and self-motivated to learn and discover.
The Lexical approach stresses that words and phrases are more important building blocks for learning a language that grammatical structure. Many students find learning words and phrases simpler than the potentially complex grammar rules of a language. This method becomes less sustainable the more a student learns and inhibits them from becoming fluent.
Engage, Study, Activate is a highly flexible method of teaching that is great for new teachers. It allows the incorporation of elements of many other styles and can be tailored to fit any situation. It can be used to teach small groups or large groups, children or adults. It consists of ‘three’ parts to complete a lesson. I use ‘’ as a lesson is not strictly confined to three parts as long as it has one of each of the three core parts, nor is the order of these parts confined to a single order. This flexibility in structure insures that ensures can be tailored to the materials and the students properly without becoming overly stale or repetitive. An ESA lesson could be an EASA or EAASAESA lesson depending on the need.
Other methods such as the silent way and suggestopedia are more fringe methods and I believe no applicable to teachers today. All of the above methods have strengths and weaknesses. The ESA method of teaching taught by this TEFL program incorporates many of the strengths of the other various styles while providing the flexibility to avoid their inherent flaws. Understanding the student’s needs, their culture, your own personality, and ability all factor into how best to teach and understanding the pros and cons of the older methodologies is an important foundation or any teacher.
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