It’s a pretty common goal among teachers to make sure that their language classes are beneficial for students and result-oriented. We look for different methodologies, activities, strategies, and approaches to help our learners develop their learning strategies and enrich their knowledge. We do that by trying to apply different teaching approaches that are out there and see which ones work better in our context.
In this article, we’ll be talking about different teaching approaches and strategies that can help to improve and develop learners’ language knowledge. It is necessary for us to know the difference between these approaches and strategies so that we can make use of them more efficiently, not just by our gut feeling, but also by basing our choice on some theoretical knowledge.
At first, let’s understand what we mean by Teaching Approaches. Well, we can mention four general categories:
- Structural Approach — advocates of this view believe that language learning equals to learning separate ‘portions’ of a language in bits and pieces, e.g. learning rules and memorizing them to use later in higher-level contexts.
- Cognitive Approach — advocates of this view put forward the idea that language learning is a cognitive process, it is a natural process and the learner should be able to create an association with rules of the language and its usage, to learn in a way so that it is embedded in one’s long-term memory.
- Psychological Approach — this has to do with how much the person is motivated to learn, how encouraging the teacher and the classroom environment are.
- Communicative Approach — this is the one that focuses on the communicative aspect of the language, how it can be used on a day-to-day basis.
We can go deeper and look into more methods and approaches used to teach a foreign language and help the learners develop.
- The Oral Approach considers the target language as the language of the classroom. New language points are introduced and practiced situationally with different simulations.
- The Grammar-Translation Method, focusing on developing students’ understanding of the language structurally where students are presented with target-language reading passages and answer questions that follow.
- The Audio Lingual Method, based on the belief that language learning is the acquisition of a set of correct language habits when the learner repeats patterns until he/she is able to produce them on his/her own, in unpredicted situations.
- Communicative Language Teaching emphasizes the need to teach communicative competence rather than linguistic competence which means that functional language is given more priority to, etc.
As for the strategies used in supporting our learners to develop their language skills, we can mention several ones.
First of all, we need to make sure that our lessons are oriented at not only practicing students’ active language skills but also giving them a chance to increase their word-stock by learning more words and phrases that they can use converse at a higher level of language competency.
Secondly, it’s important that students have a chance to communicate and collaborate by using the target language either actively or passively. They need to be put to work in groups or pairs, learn to learn from each other, improve their 4 language skills through a variety of tasks and exercises which help to improve interaction skills in the target language.
Thirdly, it’s important that students’ learning experience is based on real-life situations to which they can relate to. This can be done with different types of activities, starting from bringing objects to the classroom to teach vocabulary to place the students in simulation activities where they need to play some roles, e.g. customer/waiter.
Consider the Learner Types
Another important aspect to consider is the type of learner. As we know, there are 4 types of learners — visual, auditory, kinesthetic, reading/writing. To make sure all your students’ needs are met, you need to consider their learning peculiarities and adjust the lesson in a way so as to have a variety of tasks and activities to help them learn faster and easier.
Integrate the Approaches
By integration, we mean that there is no single ‘right’ way of teaching. It should be adapted to the context you teach is, to the people who partake, to their background both culturally and linguistically, etc. Integration means combining different ways and approaches to get the maximum result for each learner by defining their strengths and weaknesses as well as targets.
All of the points mentioned above have been tried and tested through time, however, when choosing an approach to help your students improve their skills, it’s important to focus on the peculiarities of their learning styles and habits. You can read more about learning strategies and approaches here and in the study “Language Teaching Strategies and Techniques Used to Support Students Learning in a Language other than Their Mother Tongue” by Natascha Thomson, Kongsberg International School, 2012, to get more academic insight into the topic.