Category: Lanaguage Teaching Approaches

Five ELT Approaches Working From the 20th Century Up Till Now

Approach is a broad term that reflects a certain model based on a research or theory (e.g. Communicative approach) while a method is a set of procedures compatible with an approach (e.g. Silent way method). A method is more specific than an approach, but a technique is the narrowest term which refers to learning activities in the classroom used in one or more methods (e.g. Using cooperative leaning activity).

Here are the five English language teaching approaches that prevailed in the 20th century and are still working up till nowadays.

1. Grammar Translation Approach:

  • Instructions are given in native language.
  • Using English is little.
  • Focusing on grammar rather than English language functions.
  • Setting difficult texts for reading from the beginning.
  • Doing translation from English into mother tongue is frequent.
  • Using English for communication is not encouraged.
  • English is not spoken by the teacher in the classroom.

2. Comprehension Based Approach:

  • English acquisition appears when learner comprehends meaningful input.
  • Listening comprehension is very important besides speaking, reading and writing.
  • Listening to meaningful speech is very important.
  • Speaking is postponed until students are ready.
  • Error correction is unnecessary, understanding is most important.
  • Native teachers are preferable in teaching.
  • Audiotapes and videotapes are also used in the classroom.

3. Cognitive Approach:

  • English is rule governed not habit formation.
  • Individualized instruction is done.
  • Grammar taught both deductively (rules first, practice later) and inductively (rules after practice).
  • Pronunciation isn’t emphasized.
  • Reading and writing are developed as well as listening and speaking.
  • Vocabulary instruction is important especially in intermediate and advanced levels.
  • Errors are inevitable and useful for learning.
  • Teacher must have general ability and proficiency of English language.

4. Situational Approach:

  • Spoken language is primary.
  • English is practiced orally. After an oral base in lexical and grammatical forms reading and writing comes.
  • English should be used in situations.
  • Most general and useful lexical items are to be ensured.
  • Grammatical structures are graded from simple to difficult.
  • Lexical and grammatical items should be given in situations.

5. Communicative Approach:

  • The goal is learner ability to communicate.
  • purpose of language is communication.
  • Content of language and social functions are mainly focused not just linguistic structures.
  • Transferring meaning in pairs and groups.
  • Adjusting the use of English in different social contexts by role plays and dramatizations.
  • Authentic materials are used.
  • All skills from the beginning are developed.
  • Teacher primarily facilitate the communication secondarily correct errors.
  • Teacher uses the target language fluently and appropriately.

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Teaching Listening to ESL/EFL Learners

Teaching Grammar to ESL/EFL Learners

Teaching Beginning Reading to ESL/EFL Learners

Teaching Reading Comprehension to ESL/EFL Learners

Useful Printables to ESL/EFL Teachers

ESL vs. EFL in Learning and Teaching

There’s a difference when learning & teaching English as a second language (ESL), and learning & teaching English as a foreign language (EFL).

Learning ESL versus learning EFL:

In learning ESL, the learner is learning English within an English environment. In this case, English is spoken outside the classroom. The learner here learns English to understand and speak it outside the classroom. The situation is different in EFL learning, the learner learns English inside a classroom, but continues to speak her/his own language when leaving the classroom.

An example of an ESL situation is a Japanese boy who immigrates with his family to America; he speaks Japanese at home with his parents, but during the rest of the day and at school, he must speak English. He needs to learn enough English to be able to keep up with his schoolwork and communicate well with his schoolmates.

On the other hand, the Egyptian girl learning English in an Egyptian school learns English as a foreign language. She must understand and speak English only during her English lessons – perhaps 3 times a week. The rest of her day in school and at home, she will speak her own language. It doesn’t matter if she doesn’t know much English or if she learns slowly; this will not affect her day-to-day life in and out of school as it would for the Japanese boy.

Teaching ESL versus teaching EFL:

Teaching ESL is different from teaching EFL. This difference influences the content and methods used to teach English language.

At ESL Schools, students learn:

* General English that helps them feel comfortable in school and communicate well with their new friends.

* Most importantly, they are also taught the kind of English language and skills that will help them to be successful in their other classes, history, mathematics etc. which are all in English. This is typical of most programs in ESL situations.

In many EFL classes on the other hand:

* English is often taught in a traditional way; i.e. based on step-by-step learning of a number of grammatical structures in a graded order of difficulty.

* As the learner has to master the language in his class and has no chances to practice English outside his class, the methods and techniques chosen should allow him/her to use the language both fluently and accurately. These techniques should ensure maximum exposure to the language

ESL teacher versus EFL teacher:

The difference mentioned above between teaching (ESL) and (EFL) requires the teacher to approach English classes differently.

* In ESL setting, the teacher should focus on personal reasons to learn English. Whether students want to learn English to communicate with a variety of people from other countries or they want to learn the language for professional reasons, perhaps to get a better job. The teacher, then, can choose the suitable approach to teach the language according to each reason.

* By contrast, many of EFL students lack the opportunity to experience English in their daily lives. They may be required to study English for a test or because it is a compulsory part of the curriculum. In addition, EFL settings often involve large classes and limited contact hours, which makes learning English a challenge for students.  And although they may want to learn English for the same reasons as those of ESL students, their motivation level can be low since English is not part of their daily lives and the English course simply does not offer enough exposure to the language. Consequently, the EFL teacher should try his/her best to overcome these challenges and expose students to as much authentic English as possible. In addition, he/she should create real-life situations for students to practice the items of English.

Selecting ESL classroom activities:

Information gap activities are ideal in ESL classroom as the students come from different countries. Some students have information that others miss. Information gap activities can be a variety of question-and-answer and discussion activities about the students’ countries. They can also do presentations to teach classmates about their culture. Students are often quite eager to participate in such presentations. In fluency practice activities, the teacher can rest assured that the students will not resort to their native language because they speak to students who do not understand their language. Task-based problem-solving activities are also useful in this case because they engage the learners linguistically and cognitively and require them to negotiate a solution entirely in English. This classroom scenario also gives the teacher an opportunity to sometimes focus more intensively on accuracy in speaking because many of the students have good opportunities for English fluency practice outside of the class.

Selecting EFL classroom activities:

In an EFL context, the teacher must deal with the fact that the students are probably not receiving any significant exposure to English outside of the classroom. Because of this lack of opportunity to speak English, teachers need to maximize fluency practice, getting the students to use the language as much as possible in class and reducing emphasis on accuracy. To achieve these goals, teachers need to select suitable speaking activities to ensure that students will use English. Activities that lack structure or which fail to generate student interest will lead most students to abandon English. Also, an activity that is interesting but too cognitively challenging to manage in English will cause most students to resort to their native language.

Criteria for selecting EFL classroom activities:

The best activities that encourage students in EFL classroom to produce English ought to:

  • have a clear, measurable and suitable objective.
  • achieve progress in English use.
  • easy to manage in English.
  • be interesting to the students.

EFL teachers should integrate fun with work by carefully designing activities to achieve the specified instructional objectives. This includes setting a time limit, clarifying the rules, sometimes giving prizes, and generating enthusiasm to play and use English in communicative situations.

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The Latest Trends in English Language Teaching & Learning

1. CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning):

It is one of the latest trends in ELT. This model pursues to make a link between language learning and content development. That is to say, English learning is more oriented around school subjects (History, Science, Geography … etc.). The underlying principle is that English should not be the end of a language program but the means through which learners will acquire knowledge in other fields.

I think that this is a more academic and scientific orientations for which teachers have to be well prepared. The approach demands not only the mastery of English and the management of ELT methods but certain degree of awareness of some disciplines.

2. e-learning applied to ELT:

It is one of the latest trends and how it can be applied to ELT is probably a good area for research as the internet becomes more available to an ever wider group of students. How students interact and how the systems used facilitate that interaction is a question which will need to be understood to increase the effectiveness of this medium.

3. Blended learning:

It is the approach that is at the cutting edge in education and with a wide range of possibilities for ELT. It helps teachers optimize language learning and teaching by using ICT (Information and Communication Technology) resources (internet, web-based tools, CD-Roms, etc.) in combination with face-to-face sessions. E-learning that encompasses the use of technological and electronic support for educational purposes embraces blended learning.

4. TBLT (Task-based language teaching):

It is among the latest trends in ELT nowadays where users can have varieties of learning experiences in life-like environments. It focuses on the use of authentic language and on asking students to do meaningful tasks using the target language. Such tasks can include visiting a doctor, conducting an interview, or calling customer service for help.

Assessment is primarily based on task outcome (in other words the appropriate completion of real world tasks) rather than on accuracy of prescribed language forms. This makes this approach popular for developing target language fluency and student confidence. As such TBLT can be considered a branch of communicative language teaching (CLT).

5. Situated Language Teaching:

In this approach learners involve actively in meaningful language learning situations and contextualized practices created by the teacher. Situated language learning focuses on   the contexts, situations and knowledge construction. Skills and knowledge are best acquired within realistic contexts and authentic settings, where students are engaged in experiential language learning tasks.

6. Edutainment

It is started to be heard most nowadays.  It refers to using online games and games in ELT and self-language learning. Learners should be so engaged that they should forget even they are learning something. In this approach learning and entertainment are two words used together.

Seven Kinds of CLT Activities to Build up Students’ Communicative Competence

Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) is based on the main goal of involving students in meaningful communication using the target language. There are many activity types that can be used in the classroom to achieve that goal. The following are the main ones of them.

  1. Communicative activities:

In these activities students should use the language in real-life communicative situations where real information is exchanged and authentic language is used. In addition, the language used is not predictable.

E.g. when asking about directions and how to get to certain places; the nearest bus stop, café or train station.

  1. Information-gap activities:

These activities achieve the goal of people’s communication which is getting the information they don’t possess. Students are encouraged in the classroom to do this kind of activities to communicate meaningfully to obtain information.

E.g. divide students into pairs to practise role-playing. Each student has information that the other doesn’t know. One student asks for information on train departures, prices, the time, … etc.

  1. Task-completion activities (puzzles, games, map-reading, … etc.)

In these tasks the focus is on using the language resources to complete a task.

  1. Information-gathering activities (survey, interviews, searches, … etc.)

In these activities students are required to use the language resources to collect information.

  1. Opinion-sharing activities:

In these activities students share their values, opinions and beliefs such as listing the most important qualities of a good teacher or the best friend.

  1. Information-transfer activities:

In these activities students take information from one form and represent it in a different form. E.g. reading information about a subject and represent it in a graph or a map.

  1. Reasoning-gap activities:

In these activities students derive or infer information from given information.

E.g. deriving information from the classroom timetable.


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