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A Deep Dive into TEFL Methodologies
What do you need to know about language teaching methods?
There is no one best lesson methodology for teaching English.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have any methodology at all. If you leap out from behind the photocopier, grab a teacher and demand they explain their activity selection and sequencing, they usually can’t (but they sometimes question your sanity for hiding behind photocopiers).
Most claim to use an ‘eclectic’ or a ‘post-methods approach’—what rubbish (mostly).
What’s happening is that these teachers are using fun activities that require minimal planning and that fill time.
Most don’t know that different methodologies are suited to different types of learners or that they’re different tools for different occasions. Tools that can make your classes smoother, more enjoyable, and more valuable to your students (and easier for you).
Once you know that, you can start adapting them — you have to know the rules before breaking them.
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Lesson Methodology Example
Same question, two different responses:
“So why have you decided to do these activities here and here?”
Teacher 1: “Er, well, they’re good activities that get them talking a lot.”
Teacher 2: “Well, the activities force the students to use the target lexis in small groups, which gives me time to assess what the students can and can’t use at the beginning and the end of the class. It’s basically a Test-Teach-Test approach, as they’re quite a weak class with some discipline issues. Doing it this way allows me to ensure they’re learning whilst still having a communicative class with fewer classroom management problems. Also, if there is a problem with weaker students not keeping pace, it gets highlighted straight away, not just when we have a formal test at the end of each unit.”
Would you pass the photocopier test?
Different Lesson Methodologies, Different Tools
Now, the following is just from my experience. Your experience may differ (and please tell me in the comments!)
Good for beginning teachers. It gets lots of criticism from ELT authors but does the job. Good for younger and lower-level students that need lots of structure and support.
Engage-Study-Activate (ESA) / Authentic Use-Restrictive Use-Clarification (ARC)
Basically, these are Present-Practice-Produce v2.0. Promising general all-around approaches for all levels and ages.
Good for weaker classes that need structure and classes with classroom management issues. Gets old fast with higher-level classes.
Task-Based Learning (TBL)
Some academics don’t consider this a ‘method’, but they can get lost. One of the best ways to structure an activity and a class. Harder to do for lower levels and very young learners (but highly rewarding when you do).
Good all-rounder, and good to have context featured upfront and explicitly referred to.
Dogme Comes in ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ flavours. An incredible way to build connections and motivation with students. No materials are needed. Burn the coursebook. Experienced teachers only (just an excuse to slack off for newer teachers).
The Lexical Approach
OK, so this one isn’t a method. But it’s good to use some of the principles for all levels of teaching lexis — remember to teach lovely chunks of language in context, not just individual words.
The Silent Approach
If you need more information about each methodology, ask your peers, academic manager, or Google it.
So what has this got to do with lesson planning?
OK, all that was a long way of saying; choose the proper method for each class—that simple.
See you again in two weeks.
Whenever you're ready, there are three ways I can help you:
1. Learn how to plan better, faster and stress-free with my book Lesson Planning for Language Teachers (90 ratings, 4.5⭐ on Amazon).
2. Develop calm students, a relaxed mind and a classroom full of learning with my book Essential Classroom Management (16 ratings, 4.5⭐ on Amazon).
3. Improve your teaching in five minutes daily with my Reflective Teaching Practice Journal (4 ratings, 4.5⭐ on Amazon).