Sunday, 31 December 2006

Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching - Diane Larsen-Freeman

I've been reading "Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching by Diane Larsen-Freeman, Second Edition (Oxford university Press, 2000). I bought the book from amazon.co.uk

In this book Larsen-Freeman outlines a series of teaching methodologies and techniques in some detail. She outlines the techniques appropriate for each methodology and some of the theory and principles underpinning them.

The methods looked at are as follows:

  1. The Grammar - Translation Method
  2. The Direct Method
  3. The Audio-Lingual Method
  4. The Silent Way
  5. Desuggestopedia (also known as Suggestopedia)
  6. Community Language Learning
  7. Total Physical Response
  8. Communicative Language Teaching
  9. Content-based, Task-based and Participatory Approaches
  10. Learning Strategy Training, Co-operative Learning and Multiple Intelligences.
I would recommend this book for anyone who teaches languages - it does show different ways that it can be achieved.

As to my own personal reflections.... well:

I have probably included elements of the direct and audio-lingual methods in my teaching, Communicative Language teaching is probably the closest single method to my personal teaching.

Some of the principles of the Silent Way are interesting - I think learners would have to be 'trained' before they would respond to the 'pure' way of teaching silently in the book but I think that the idea that the teacher should let students work together to find answers before providing them - that the teacher should create a space for learners to 'perform'.

Desuggestopedia seems a little bit 'spaced-out' to convince Ss. It could perhaps work in a fairly pure form with Ss who have become somewhat disillusioned with other methods of language teaching - but probably wouldn't work for classes with discipline issues. I do like the idea of making the experience as comfortable as possible for learners and trying to activate students' peripheral learning. Playing music in the background of classes seems to help some Ss - I've certainly found that it helps me when I'm studying! Posters of different language items hung up in the classroom seems to be helpful. The use of interactive whiteboards in our college would seem to help us in this regard as it makes it easier to produce more visually-stimulating materials for use in the classroom.

Community language learning is a methodology made for an EFL classroom it would seem - being much more practical with monolingual students. I would find it hard to apply in my current contexts because a) classes tend to be multilingual and in those where there are few L1s they tend to be Lithuanian and Polish - languages which I don't speak. I could apply it if I had a class of Spanish and Portuguese speakers, but that seems to be unlikely within the present FE ESOL context. It is an interesting methodology because it goes against the training that I have had up to now, I would like to be able to try it in order to see it in operation. The reality is that when I worked in EFL I was a 'novelty' as a native speaker and so the institutions that I worked for wanted me to use as much 'realistic' English as possible - this method would appear to be easier for a non-native teacher in the contexts that I worked, mainly for the way the institutions viewed their native speaker resources.

Total Physical Response - This is a promising way to include kinaesthetic learners, I feel that I could include more of these elements in my teaching and should try to... First New Year's Resolution.

Content-based, Task-based and Participatory Approaches. These approaches seem to be in vogue at the moment and I feel that they are appropriate to my context. My second new year's resolution is to try and read as much as I can on these approaches and try to implement them successfully.

Learning Strategy Training, Cooperative Learning and Multiple Intelligences. These are other areas which I would like to develop further - I have used some learner-training exercises but I feel that I should try to use them in a more coherent fashion and include them clearly in a scheme of work. Following on from that Co-operative learner is a very interesting method which could be used to help classes gel better. We will have new students in our classes in January this could be a good way to bring them in to the groups. Howard Gardner's Multiple intelligence theory has been explained to me in loads of different places, however Larsen-Freeman does include an interesting lesson outline from Emmanuela Agostini that could use seven of Gardner's intelligences. I need to look at that and see if there was a way I could use something similar in my context.

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