Here is a reference to the major schools of language teaching methodology that have surfaced in the last century. I have found that a general knowledge of these is helpful in exploring proficiency-based teaching. Though most have been proven to be quite ineffective, understanding why they are not effective is important to remind ourselves of what we should avoid in the classroom as we teach toward language proficiency.
- Grammar-Translation Method (1890s-1930s): It consisted mainly of exhaustive use of dictionaries, explanations of grammatical rules (in English), some sample sentences, and exercise drills to practice the new structures.
- Cognitive Approach (1940s-1950s): This approach introduced the four principle language skills for the first time: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Oral communicative competence became the focus. Comprehensible auditory input became important and speaking in the target language began to occur. Learning about the language was overemphasized.
- Audio-Lingual Method (1950s-1960s): Lessons often began with a sample dialogue to be recited and memorized. This was followed up with substitution pattern and saturation drills in which the grammatical structure previously introduced was reinforced. Repetition, substitution, transformation, and translation were the drills. This method favored habit-forming drill techniques.
- The Direct Method (1970s):. Reference to English equivalents became discouraged. Grammar learning became inductive in nature without overt explanations. Teacher/student interaction became fuller, guessing of context or content and completing fill-ins. Accuracy in pronunciation and oral expression became vital. Examples to be followed became the main intention.
- The Natural/Communicative Approach (1960s-2000s): Originally developed by Tracy Terrell and Stephen Krashen, this acquisition-focused approach sees communicative competence progressing through three stages: (a) aural comprehension, (b) early speech production, and (c) speech activities, all fostering “natural” language acquisition, much as a child would learn his/her native tongue. Following an initial “silent period”, comprehension should precede production in speech, as the latter should be allowed to emerge in natural stages or progressions. Lowering of the Affective Filter is of paramount importance. Only the target language is used in class now, introducing the “total immersion” concept for the very first time, with auditory input for the student becoming paramount. Errors in speech are not corrected aloud. Now the classroom becomes more student-centered with the teacher allowing for students to output the language more often on their own. Formal sequencing of grammatical concepts is kept to a minimum.
- Total Physical Response/TPR(1960s-2000s): This approach, also known as TPR, was founded by James Asher. In this method, both language and body movement are synchronized through action responses and use of the imperative (direct commands). TPR may be used in conjunction with some other methods involving psychoneuro kinetic techniques wherein the teacher gives a host of commands with the students then responding by “acting out” the command: “Stand up”, “Go to the door”, “Sit down”, etc. Kinetic movement of the hands and arms is incorporated in lieu of rote memorization. Student speech is delayed until they feel comfortable enough to give other students commands too. TPR is very effective in teaching temporal states, personal pronouns, and other deep grammatical structures.
- The Silent Way (1960s-2000s): Dr.Caleb Gattegno, originally out of Alexandria, Egypt, introduced this classroom technique wherein the teacher remains silent while pupils output the language on cue through perpetual prompting. This is the production before meaning school of thought and practice. A color-coded phonics (sound) chart called a fidel, with both vowel and consonant clusters on it, is projected onto a screen to be used simultaneously with a pointer, thus permitting the pupil to produce orally on a continuous basis in the target language, vía a sequence of phonemes or sound units. The Silent Way truly gives students a spoken facility.
- Suggestopedia (1960s-2000s):This extremely esoteric, avant-garde method is subconsciously subliminal in texture. It is based on the pioneering efforts in 1967 of Bulgarian medical doctor, hypnotist, and psychology professor Georgi Lozanov and on his techniques into superlearning. Classes are small and intensive, with a low-stress focus. Material is presented in an especially melodic and artistic way. By activating the right “creative side” of the brain, a much larger portion of the intellectual potential can be tapped, thus drawing out long-term memory. This innovative approach to language pedagogy maximizes the learners’ natural holistic talents. Background classical or baroque chamber music, oftentimes accompanied with soft lights, pillows or cushions on the floor for relaxation, accentuate active and passive meditations, séances, yoga, breathing exercises leading into the “alpha state”, songs for memorization purposes, therapy sessions and stream-of-consciousness catharsis in the target language with little reliance on English.
- Organic World Language (OWL) (2009- ): Proficiency-Based language teaching that focuses on the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines and the Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI). Darcy Rogers is the Founder of OWL, and began developing the methodology in 2003. Her work is based on second language acquisition research, student motivation, and best teaching practices. Focusing on creating a space for second language to be naturally acquired, she believes in placing emphasis on students developing language through movement, social interaction, play and 100% immersion. The goals of OWL are: 1.) To use the second language 100% of the time 2.) To not be afraid of a second language environment 3.) Take risks and break down the filter (make mistakes!) 4.) To be able to infer and circumlocute 5.) To participate & be part of a community.