What Drilling Is and How This Method Can be Used in TEFL Teaching
Drilling is a simple yet effective teaching technique used to practice and master language skills. The teacher models a word or a sentence, and the learners repeat it. It is a way of developing a standard pronunciation of the language and introducing a language easily. Drilling started about 70 years ago when the armed forces used it to teaching language.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Sunita T. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
The Army Method
Drilling was called the Audio-Lingual Method or the Army method, where soldiers were taught language in the same way they were taught to march, by constant repetition. A sports coach or a music teacher's competence would be questioned if they did not include drill and practice as a vital component of their teaching. Nobody would question a sports coach's insistence on his players repeating hundreds of moves every day or a music teacher insisting on her students playing the music notes over and over again—the educators of these skills value drill and practice for the systematic development and achievement of fluency. "Wiring" of the human brain means the formation of connections or synapses between the brain cells. Repeated experiences form key synapses. If these synapses are not strengthened and reinforced by repeated use, they will die and be forgotten. Research has shown that without connections, the brain cells are like batteries removed from a torch. Only when the batteries and torch are connected will the light shine. In the same way, repeated experiences help the brain cells remember.
Why It's Effective
Research has also proven that drilling and practice, when properly exercised, is an effective teaching technique. The principle of drilling is that if a person does something repeatedly, he or she will learn and be able to do it automatically. Drilling is effective only for certain kinds of practices. Drilling is suitable for fixed and specific functions of the language skills to be learned, like mastering vocabulary and rules of grammar. Caution and care should be exercised to ensure that drilling does not become boring or repetitive.
Teachers and learners benefit from drilling. For the learners, drilling provides an opportunity to get feedback on accuracy, helps memorization, focuses on accuracy, and notices the correct form or pronunciation of a word or phrase. For the teacher, drilling helps in classroom management, gets all the learners involved, and allows the teacher to vary the lesson's pace.
Drilling of vocabulary and chunks of language should be done at all levels of learning. At base levels, drilling can be used to practice consonant clusters and other sounds of the language. At the phrase and higher levels, drilling can be used to practice intonation patterns and useful chunks and phrases. At all times, the purpose of drilling should be made aware to the learners. The meaning and purpose of the language that is being drilled must be made aware of and understood by the learner. Drilling can be incorporated effectively into the lesson at any stage of the lesson. There are many ways in which drilling can be made interesting and varied. The use of different voices, poetic chants, back chaining, substitution, transformation, and choosing random students to chant are some of how drilling can be practiced.
Drilling helps to develop the competencies of listening and speaking skills in the learners. Effective drilling helps learners learn at their own pace. Proper use of drilling depends upon the skill that is being developed. The teacher must provide ample practice opportunities to the students and ensure that the learning objective is fulfilled. When all the requirements are in a proper place, drilling becomes an effective and efficient teaching method.
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