• Teaching methodologies in the "Super-learning" class

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    “Super learning” (SL) is an accelerated learning technique and a fast-growing business, with varying results. Lessons usually last a whole day, and the course is often concentrated into a weekend. Some courses are based simply on suggestopedia, promising - but not always delivering - great results: “learn French in five days”. However, some successfully combine suggestopedia with other teaching methods to deliver good results.

    SL is designed to aid the learning process by removing learning barriers, stimulating both hemispheres of the brain simultaneously, as well as activating some of the intelligences not normally represented in a traditional course.

    The classroom environment is set up to facilitate subconscious learning, as well as the removal of learning barriers. A lot of attention is paid to the use of colour, the temperature in the room(s), the positioning of furniture, background music. Posters and displays are carefully selected with the aim of helping students to absorb vocabulary and ideas subconsciously. The emphasis is on making the student feel comfortable, relaxed and free from anxiety and stress. This usually involves an element of fun and a lot of encouragement from the teacher.

    While in the traditional classroom environment the verbal-linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences are often over-represented, SL attempts to redress this imbalance by including activities which allow for the activation of other intelligences (such as spatial and musical). Games which involve movement, use of colour on worksheets, mind maps, word cards, realia, songs and music are employed throughout the day to reinforce the learning point, keeps students interested and motivated.

    The Total Physical Response (TPR) method is used for memorizing vocabulary, or simple sentence structures at starter and elementary levels. Using body language imitates the way a child learns to speak (by association), and triggers the use of the brain’s right hemisphere (motor skills), thus intensifying the learning process. In the classroom, students and teacher stand in a circle. The teacher introduces a word or simple sentence while miming the activity. For example he says “I like reading” while opening his palms upwards to represent a book. The students then repeat what was said while miming the action of reading. After 6 or 8 actions are introduced and drilled, the teacher will mime the actions randomly and students mime and say the corresponding sentence: “I like sleeping”, “I like dancing” etc. The process usually involves a lot of laughter, and as students do everything in chorus, they are relaxed and not afraid of having to perform - and possibly fail - in front of their peers.

    Suggestopedia aims to make the classroom atmosphere comfortable and relaxed in order to lower students’ affective filters (learning blockages) and give them confidence. In SL classes this method is used during the second half of the day, after some more physically active learning (e.g. TPR) has already taken place. As the first step the teacher pre-teaches the vocabulary, eliciting where possible. After this s/he tells a story, using dramatization to increase the impact. Students are then asked to sit in a chair comfortably, and contract and relax various muscles to the teacher’s instructions, while quiet classical music is playing in the background. This will get students into a relaxed state, usually with their eyes closed. The teacher then reads the story slowly. S/he walks around in the classroom, so students hear his/her voice from various angles and distances. After a few seconds of silence the teacher reads the story again the same way. Some students vividly visualize the story, while others might drift off for a few seconds. Nevertheless, the story does sink in, and the language gets memorized fairly well. To reinforce the learning, students will then walk around the room and read the story in chorus. The expression of emotion is encouraged to aid dramatization.

    While some task-based exercises will be used to facilitate writing skills (write a letter to your friend), the emphasis is on verbal communication. Therefore it is best used at starter to pre-intermediate levels, and may not be effective in preparing students for certificate exams. However, despite its limitations SL is an effective and increasingly popular method used successfully by language teachers across the world.

    Julia Davison

  • Comparative Teaching Methodologies

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    There are a number of methods and approaches for teaching language to non-native speakers. This paper will attempt to compare four popular methodologies: The Grammar-Translation Approach, The Direct Approach, The Audio-lingual Method, and PPP (with ESA as an alternative to PPP).

    The Grammar-Translation Approach was historically used to teach Greek and Latin. Classes using this approach are taught in the student’s mother tongue, with little active use of the target language. Vocabulary is taught in the form of isolated word lists.
    Grammar instruction provides the rules for putting words together. Study involves the reading of texts, which are treated as exercises in grammatical analysis; little or no attention is given to pronunciation.

    The Direct Approach was developed as a reaction to the grammar translation approach in an attempt to integrate more use of the target language. Lessons begin with a dialogue using modern conversational style in the target language. Material is first presented orally with actions or pictures. The mother tongue is never used. There is no translation. The preferred type of exercise is a series of questions in the target language based on the dialogue or an anecdotal narrative. Questions are answered in the target language. Grammar is taught inductively-rules are generalized from the practice and experience with the target language. The culture associated with the target language is also taught inductively. Culture is considered an important aspect of learning the language.

    The Audio-lingual Method is based on the principles of behavior psychology, which states that conditioning is the result of a three-stage procedure; stimulus, response, and reinforcement.

    With this method new material is presented in the form of a dialogue, fostering dependence on mimicry, memorization of set phrases and over-learning. Structural patterns are taught using repetitive drills. Little or no grammatical explanations are 
    provided. Skills are sequenced: listening, speaking, reading and writing are developed in order. There is abundant use of language laboratories, tapes, and visual aids. Use of the mother tongue by the teacher is permitted, but discouraged among and by the students. Successful responses are reinforced; great care is taken to prevent learner errors.

    By doing its best to banish mistakes, this method runs counter to a belief among many theorists that learning from errors is a key part of the process of language acquisition; yet Audio-lingualism is still in use today and retains popularity among teachers who feel insecure with the relative freedoms of some more recent methods.

    A variation on Audio-lingualism is the procedure referred to as PPP, which stands for Presentation, Practice and Production. In this method the teacher introduces a situation which contextualizes the language to be taught. Then the language is presented. The students practice the language using accurate reproduction techniques such as choral repetition (where the students repeat a word or phrase all together after the teacher), individual repetition (where individual students repeat a word or phrase after the teacher), and cue-response drills (where the teacher gives a cue such as “work”, points at a student and that student makes the desired response, e.g. “I work at a florist’s shop.”) The students later make sentences of their own, which is referred to as production. The cue- response drills used in PPP are similar to the drills used in Audio-lingualism, but because they are contextualized by the situation that has been presented, they carry more meaning than a simple substitution drill.

    The PPP method came under attack in the 1990’s. Its critics argued that it was teacher-centered, that it only described one kind of lesson, and that it failed to describe the many ways in which teachers can work when using course books or when adopting a task-based approach. In response to these criticisms, many people have offered variations on PPP and alternatives to it.

    One alternative to PPP is the ESA model, in which three components will usually be present in any teaching sequence.
    “E” stands for Engage. The point is that unless students are engaged emotionally with what is going on, their learning will be less effective.

    “S” stands for Study, and describes any teaching and learning element where the focus is on how something is constructed, whether it is relative clauses, specific intonation patterns, the construction of a paragraph or text, the way a lexical phrase is made and used, or the collocation possibilities of a particular word.

    “A” stands for Activate and this means any stage at which students are encouraged to use all and/or any of the language they know. Communicative activities, for example, are designed to activate the students’ language knowledge.

    ESA allows for three basic lesson procedures. In the first, ‘straight arrows,’ the sequence is ESA, much like PPP. A ‘boomerang’ procedure, on the other hand, follows a more task-based approach. Here the order is EAS, so that the teacher gets the students engaged before asking them to do something like a written task, a communication game, or role play. Based on what happens there the students will then, after the activity has finished, study some aspect of language which they lacked or which they used incorrectly. ‘Patchwork” lessons, on the other hand, may follow a variety of sequences such as ones

    where engaged students are encouraged to activate their knowledge before studying one and then another language element, and then returning to more active tasks, after which the teacher re-engages them before doing some more study, etc. 
    What this model demonstrates is a desire to put PPP firmly in its place as one of a number of teaching procedures for the teacher to employ-rather than the central plank of good teaching. The goal is flexibility, not rigidity.

    Harmer, Jeremy, The Practice of English Language Teaching, 3rd Edition, Pearson 
    Education Limited, 2001. 
    Harmer, ibid.

    Susie Lord


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