✍️Other approaches and methods to teaching English: pros and cons

  1. 📗Grammar translation method VS Communicative Approach
  2. 📘Direct method VS Communicative Approach
  3. 🙋‍♂️Total Physical Response

Below we are going to review several popular ELT (English language teaching) methods and approaches. First of all we should note, that there are no “good” and “bad” methods, as each of them has its own advantages and

📗Grammar translation method VS Communicative Approach

Grammar translation method is one of the oldest in ELT and unfortunately still widely used at some schools. The main goal of this method is to enable a student to read texts in a foreign language, presuming that this might influence on other skills development in a magical way.

With all its disadvantages, the Grammar Translation method still exists at schools and even more – at the lessons of most teachers.

We consider that it is possible to use the elements of this method, i.e. some of its activities at our classes.

Let’s look into its main principles and activities to compare it with Communicative Approach:

Grammar Translation Method Communicative Approach
Reading and writing skills are focused while listening and speaking are practically ignored. All four skills are developed simultaneously with an emphasis on speaking.
Learning grammar rules and vocabulary lists is the priority. Grammar rules and vocabulary is presented in context.
Understanding the meaning of new words is realized through translation into mother language. The meaning of new words is presented in context or with pictures or gestures (especially for young learners).
Student’s native language is used to explain the rules and give instructions at the lesson. Student’s native language is practically avoided, but not prohibited in case of need.
Accuracy is more important than fluency. Fluency is as important as accuracy; trial and error is a natural part of learning.
Activities used at the lessons:
Text translation.
Answering the questions on the text. Can be used as an element of the lesson to check the level of comprehension. Should be presented as Teacher-Student communication.
Fill in the blanks. Can be used as an element of the lesson to develop grammar accuracy, but not more than 1 exercise per lesson.
Learning vocabulary lists with translation into native language by heart.
Learning grammar rules by heart.
Use words in sentences. Is normally used as a natural part of communication with an emphasis on full answers:
–        in question-answer activity
–        in guessing games
–        in quizzes
Writing a composition. Can be given as a homework for more advanced students.

📘Direct method VS Communicative Approach

The direct method is based on the idea that the student should think in the second language directly. The target language is taught to young learners in practically the same natural way as their native language.

This method is good for small groups or individual classes but requires excellent skills of the teacher in keeping the mother language of the students away from the class. It is practically impossible to use the direct method at schools where there are constraints of time, classroom size and teacher background (the method requires native fluency).

Let’s look into its main principles and activities to compare it with Communicative Approach (and see they have a lot in common):

Direct method Communicative Approach
Listening and speaking skills are focused, reading and writing are neglected. All four skills are developed simultaneously with an emphasis on speaking.
The meaning of the new vocabulary is taught through demonstration, action or real objects. Same.
Grammar is taught as constructions and is picked by students naturally. Nearly same. Grammar structures serve for solving communicative tasks: asking the way (prepositions of place), etc.
Student’s native language is prohibited. Student’s native language is avoided, but allowed to use in case of need.
Activities used at the lessons:
Variety of examples (in order to demonstrate the meaning of a word). Can be used successfully with young learners.
E.g. To demonstrate the meaning of “cat” a teacher can:
– show a picture/flashcard
– show a toy
– show a real cat
– mime a cat
– produce the sound of a cat
Storytelling (a teacher reads a text to students, preferably 3 times). Can be used successfully with young learners.
Reading aloud. Can be used as an element of the lesson, but not more than 1 exercise per class.
Question-answer exercises. One of the basic exercises.
Student self-correction (the teacher gives correct examples to demonstrate the student’s error). When a student performs a task for fluency development, the teacher won’t interfere to correct. The teacher will come back to the student’s error during the accuracy development exercise.
Conversation practice. One of the basic exercises.
Fill in the blanks. Can be used as an element of the lesson to develop grammar accuracy, but not more than 1 exercise per lesson.

🙋‍♂️Total Physical Response

Total Physical Response (TPR) is a method built around the coordination of speech and action.

When parents talk to their young child who is still unable to react verbally, the child would respond with gestures, gradually building association between the gesture and the words, pronounced by the parents. TPR implements this idea into the classroom, making this method perfectly effective for young learners.

The main idea of TPR is that new vocabulary is presented through gestures and miming.

Activities used at the lesson:

  • listen and mime
  • look at the miming and guess
  • mime and say
  • listen and do the action

TPR is easily combined with the Communicative Approach when teaching young learners. At AllRight we call this “Speaker method”.