5 Methods of ESL, Which is right for you?

5 Methods of English Teaching,

Which is Right for You?

If there is one thing that every classroom needs, it’s consistency. Students cannot learn if they don’t know what to expect. History teachers have dates and locations to display. Math teachers have complex formulations to go through. Gym teachers have to make sure no one gets seriously injured. It’s all pretty standard until you get to the Linguistics department. Languages are different. Your language is your main way of expressing yourself. The language speaks directly to your core. Each ESL teaching method is unique. Teaching someone English is different than all other subjects because you are teaching someone a new way to express a different part of themselves.

For a long time, teaching a language was treated exactly the same as teaching other subjects. This was met with varied results. Some were positive, some were negative, and some were a disaster. In its current form, ESL has dozens of different theories and ideas. Over the next weeks, I’ll write about a few parts of the Methods “Family. Today is the first in the series, a brief overview of 5 methods of teaching ESL. Each has their good points and bad, but any Drunken Teacher should know when to use each of them.

#5) The Grammar Translation Teaching Method

The Grandfather


The Grammar translation method of ESL teaching is one of the oldest methods of teaching a language. From the renaissance forward, this method was used to translate ancient Greek and Latin texts. Teachers would explain the theory, and students would translate texts from one language into their native language. Beginners would translate short texts, and more advanced students would work on longer passages. The best of the best would translate entire books. Because it was so relient on text translation, this method only worked for reading and writing. As Latin was only spoken in the church, It didn’t make sense to teach listening or speaking.

When it works: Reading is the backbone of any language. If you cannot understand what is on the page, you cannot hope to speak. If you want to use Grammar Translation in your classroom, you’re looking for a huge improvement in reading ability.

When it doesn’t: Reading and writing aren’t everything. Grammar translation makes a lot of assumptions about how language works. One of the main issues is that no two languages work the same way. What is correct in one language isn’t necessarily in another.

4) The Direct Teaching Method:

The rebel son

Methods for Teaching ESL

The grammar translation method of teaching ruled supreme for centuries. It serves its place in history, and continues to be useful. But its flaws became increasingly apparent as the world became connected. Reading and writing are both useful, but people needed to be able to communicate in person as well. The Direct method tried to fill in the gaps. Focused almost exclusively on speaking and listening, this method is geared towards intuition.

The Berlitz School uses the Direct method of teaching. Constant repetition of vocabulary and grammar helped students learn. They also utilize the audio-lingual school of thought.

When it works: The Direct method takes the student back to basics. There is almost no discussion in the native language. Anyone learning is immediately thrown into the deep end, and learns to swim quickly. Through cooperation with the other students, students learn to guess meanings quickly.

When it doesn’t: Because it focuses on speaking and listening, reading, and writing are ignored. To effectively learn a language and be able to use it, all four areas must be addressed. It is effective to learn set phrases in a short time. However, as situations get more complex, this method can be challenging.

3) The Silent Way Teaching Method

The Distant Cousin

The silent way is the creation of Calen Gattegno, during the early 1960s. He believed that the best way to teach a language is with as little teacher input as possible. Teachers in this method use a lot of props. Specifically, Cuisenaire rods were used to demonstrate different parts of speech, but anything will work. The idea behind the Silent Way is similar to many other methods. The student needs to be involved, and the Silent Way blows open the door to that opportunity. This method can be very effective in advanced classes. However, as it is a bit extreme, it needs to be used carefully and in short bursts.

When it works: The Silent Way has its fans and its foes. The Silent Way makes the students earn every last inch of progress that they make. It is also a proving ground, where students can experiment with new ideas, minus outside interference.

When it doesn’t: The Silent way can be easily misused. When that happens, students can become confused and irritated. If there is too much silence, classes can become intimidating. Teachers who should be warm and friendly can become cold and unapproachable.

2) Total Physical Response Teaching Method:

The Hands-on Toddler

teaching method

The 1970s was an interesting time, and ESL was no exception. James Asher, a psychology professor at San José State University, noticed something interesting. While studying how children learn, he noted that children rarely had to deal with words alone. He saw children reacting to adult actions as well as words. He developed a method of teaching, Total Physical Response(TPR), to aid in teaching languages. TPR works by teaching direct commands, and demonstrating the meaning of that phrase.

When it works: The TPR teaching method makes it easy for the teacher to gauge how well students are learning. If you say, “do this,” and 80% of your class does, then you know who understood your teaching and who didn’t. TPR is very effective with children. These “Eager-to-please” mini-humans are excited to learn new words, actions, and games.

When it doesn’t: The TPR teaching method really only works here and now. It is difficult to teach abstract concepts such as “Yesterday”, “What if”, or “do/do not”. TPR works extremely well for children, but can have less positive results when working with adults. Simon says is every child’s dream, but less so for the average businessman.

1)   Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) Teaching Method:

The Harmonious Daughter

CLT is an interesting concept in teaching. It’s one of the newest concepts to come out of academia. Unlike the Grammar Translation Method, CLT focuses on all parts of the daily language use. Students aren’t forced to reenact stale scenarios from a century ago. Rather, ESL learners are presented with current, daily scenarios to play with. The texts that students use are not written for learning purposes. Rather, they are everyday pieces from newspapers, books, or magazines.

When it works: The CLT teaching method gives a unique confidence in the target language. Since students have been real life examples from the start, they are less intimidated by the outside world.

When it doesn’t: CLT does not usually have a set syllabus. This means that a teacher can easily lose track of where they should be in the class. Some have said that the CLT method is too focused on the function of the language, and ignores grammar and structure.

This is just a brief overview. In the following weeks, we will take a more in depth look at each of these methods. We will be exposing the good, the bad, and the ugly about each of these methods.

Last week: ESL History 101

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