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Approaches and methods

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by spsmith45, Dec 1, 2011.

  1. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    What is "the proper method"?
     
  2. I think Siegen81to82 is referring to the "method" that lissadler describes. I don't think it has a fancy name, but I certainly recall many courses that adopted this approach - and it worked for me when I was trying to pick up the basics of a new language.
    Regards
    Graham Davies
     
  3. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    Understood, Graham. Thanks.
    One interesting thing to come out of the Jack Richards book on Approaches and Methods is that the grammar-translation approach was unusual in that it was not based on any theoretical understanding of second language acquisition. It simply followed on from the approach taken with the learning of Latin. This in itself need not invalidate the approach. No doubt it did work for many learners provided you were able to internalise the rules and vocabulary you had practised. However, it would not a priori seem to be the best route to listening skill and oral fluency in the short term so is rightly discredited on the whole unless the aim is reading and translating skill alone.
     
  4. chriszwinter1

    chriszwinter1 New commenter

    I was referring to Lisa's method of assuming responsibility for her own learning. Too many initiatives - listed in that marvellous article, The Mortality of Method - are presented as a panacea, and too often it is teachers who are blamed for pupils' failure to learn anything. As I said in another elsewhere, I have no time or patience for pupils who refuse to learn. How else will be grammatical structures and vocabulary be recognised, let alone used?
    The belief that we as teachers are responsible for pupils' learning, supported and encouraged by senior managers who prattle on about "challenging lessons", is utter nonsense. The most successful learners are those who realise sooner or later (preferably sooner) that they have to memorise the grammar and vocabulary.
    There are many welcome developments such as multi-media software that may help them to practise but are no alternatives to the learning which only the pupils can do. That's what I meant by "the proper method".
     
  5. chriszwinter1

    chriszwinter1 New commenter

    In my first paragraph above, I meant "in another post elsewhere". Apologies for the missing word.
     
  6. I tend to agree with Siegen81to82. There is no magic method. In the end we have to take responsibilty for learning ourselves. I was taught French, Latin and German in the 1950s. Latin and German were taught mainly by the grammar-translation method. French was taught by a teacher who was way ahead of his time, using mainly the target language in class, pictures that he drew on the blackboard (long before OHPs and computers were invented) and lots of oral practice. By the time I was 16 my skills in listening and speaking French were pretty good and, thanks to regular weekly dictations (which I think are essential in learning French), my written French was pretty good too. My knowledge of German grammar was sound but I had great difficulty understanding spoken German, and it took me ages to construct a sentence that I wished to utter - getting the cases and endings right and making sure the verb was in the right place. But an exchange visit to Göttingen, when I spent three weeks living with a German family, made an enormous difference to my listening and speaking skills. Everything seemed to slot into place. I knew the grammar and I had a reasonable range of vocabulary. It was just a matter of putting my knowledge into practice in a real-life situation.
    Regards
    Graham Davies
     
  7. jubilee

    jubilee Star commenter

    I'm not a fan of pairwork except as a way of giving the teacher's voice a rest for 5 minutes or so!
    I see no value in pupils having conversation with each other when their accuracy and pronunciation are defective. Instead of hearing the teacher (or native speakers on tape), they are embedding faulty language from their peers.
    Whilst the teacher might circulate and intervene to correct errors that they hear, they can'r hear everything being said around the room at the same time and many errors will go unchallenged.
     
  8. noemie

    noemie Occasional commenter

    I disagree. I think you can have some really valuable pairwork, and it can be prepared beforehand in order to model pronunciation. More than absolute accuracy, it is the idea of not having to speak in front of the whole class which I like about pairwork. I sometimes ask to hear pairs in front of the whole class afterwards, so that they know what they say is important, but in terms of building up self-esteem, I see it as an essential tool. If you start off with teaching phonics, those issues of pronunciation should iron themselves out too.
     
  9. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    I agree with Noémie, though I understand jubilee's point about poor models of language. It may be helpful to make the distinction between "accuracy" activities and "fluency" activities. Pair work breaks up the lessons, allows pupils to practise in a non-threatening way and it allows them to communicate while making mistakes. Mistakes are not the end of the world. Communication is more important.
    Many of our students are understandably embarrassed when put on the spot to perform in front of the group. We need to allow for that too.
    I do not agree with siegen that it is all up to students. That sounds like a licence for "anything goes" teaching, though I daresay siegne did not mean that. Much of the progress students make comes from our use of the target language in the classroom and the structured practice we set up.I believe we do have a responsibility to motivate students. That's our job. Let's face it, good methodology is important, but the personality of the teacher is probably just as telling, if not more so.
     
  10. I agree with you, Noemie. How else can you get the class talking and using the language at once? I tend to do a pair work game/activity about twenty minutes in to a lesson to lift it and give me a break but get them all active and productive.
    Going back to the original post, this is very interesting because I have been teaching for eleven years and am not sure of a methodology that I necessarily subscribe to as my 'big picture' when teaching. I tend to think of what I want students to be able to do and how I design a lesson and activities within that lesson to build their skills towards that objective. I tend to think in half-term segments, with a weekly aim rather than lesson-by-lesson learning objectives/outcomes. My ultimate aim is that students produce the language independently (with varying degrees of support depending on progress rate/ability) and have a grammar and vocabulary knowledge to support this.
     
  11. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    Hi saley. I guess most of us are like you and yet what we do is to a greater or lesser extent supported by theory. The noted second language learning writer Wilga Rivers from America once said something along the lines: when we try to describe how second language learning takes place we are like blind Indians trying to describe an elephant (I am paraphrasing). We really don't understand it very clearly at all, but have some sense that we know what we are doing!
    I have to say that I do have a "method" based on theory, but I cannot say if it is the best. It is, for want of a better term, very pragmatic, "structured direct method" with bits of audio-lingual, communicative and grammar-translation thrown in. Graham was right to say there is no "magic method".
     
  12. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    For the 1950s your French teacher was way ahead of his time. Mine were too in the 1960-70s. I think there were always a minority of teachers who did what they thought worked and did not follow the received GT wisdom.

     
  13. Sounds like a good recipe for it to me! I do like to keep flexible but I also suspect with my teaching is that I adapt to whatever new specification the GCSE throws at us which I hate to admit but I do feel the responsibility to my students for them to get the best grade they can.
     
  14. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    Well, yes, there is that too! Noteworthy perhaps that the exam boards offer little methodological guidance in their specs beyond some links to resources.
     
  15. chriszwinter1

    chriszwinter1 New commenter

    I'm certainly not arguing for "anything goes" teaching, and you'll get no disagreemnt from me about the complementary roles of teacher and students. Yes, our job is to teach and the students' is to learn. I am happy to spend as much time as it takes with students to help them learn, but I cannot do the learning for them, and that is my point. No one learned anything for me, because no one could do that for me. Only I can learn something for me. Others can help me practise, and I can turn to them for help and explanations, but I have to do the learning. My best and most succesful students over the years have been the ones who have recognised that they must learn something and have acted accordingly.
     
  16. Some of you may know the name of my French teacher - the late Brian Page. He took me through O-Level and A-Level.
    Regards
    Graham Davies
     
  17. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    http://www.multilingualliving.com/2011/05/04/learn-languages-make-bilingual-kids-multilingual-kids-smarter-bialystok-petitto/
    An interesting discussion featuring Ellen Bialystok, one of the leading experts on bilingualism and intelligence and the neuroscientist Laura-Ann Petitto. What are the benefits of learning languages for the brain? One interesting point made: adults are just as good at retaining vocabulary as very young learners, though the latter are better at picking up syntax and good phonology. Does this suggest we should focus more on vocabulary acquisition with adolescents? I think it may do with our less able learners. With our more able ones who might continue beyond GCSE and A-level we should push syntax strongly as a basis for competence.
    Another interesting point from research: quality of input is more important than sheer quantity.
    http://frenchteachernet.blogspot.com/
     
  18. chriszwinter1

    chriszwinter1 New commenter

    So we should dealing with mastery rather than coverage. The problem with topic-heavy specifications is that the temptation is to concentrate on vocabulary rather than structures. For the last few years AQA's GCSE exams and more recently its FCSE certification have often required candidates to identify the tense of an activity rather than its content alone. That is a welcome development as vocabulary alone, especially with cognates, won't get them the marks.
    I remember when using Francoscope à la mode and Fokus Deutsch, both for AQA, how we had every topic nicely fitting into a two-page spread with the grammar limited to writing frames. Those books did the job for that specification and we had pleasing results. We didn't increase our uptake at A level though.
     
  19. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    Although in actual fact, at GCSE, vocab alone does pick up marks. I'm thinking of those signs they seem to have gone back to near the start of reading papers. Words like "interdit" and "défense de" are back in fashion with AQA, it seems.
     
  20. chriszwinter1

    chriszwinter1 New commenter

    But they tend to be at the beginning of the foundation paper. The later questions quite rightly expect more from the candidates.
     

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