Posted by International TEFL Academy Costa Rica on 05/23/2018

What are the Recommended Methods & Approaches for teaching English as a Foreign Language?

What are the Recommended Methods & Approaches for teaching English as a Foreign Language?

Teachers use various approaches, methods, and techniques in their classrooms to meet the needs of their learners.  In our 4-week TEFL course, we will model a number of these approaches, methods and techniques and give you opportunities to practice them in your student teaching experience.

11 Things You Will Learn in Your 4-Week Costa Rica TEFL Class


A teaching approach is a general philosophy that you will use to plan classroom activities and carry them out. You will find that you can mix more than one teaching approach to make it your own based on your teaching and life experiences and the approaches that you have experienced as a student. A method is how you plan to teach the students.  A technique, on the other hand, is a specific tactic or classroom procedure used to execute a chosen teaching method. 

Methods to Teaching Languages

Many of the traditional models of teaching language are based on grammar.  While there are clear disadvantages to these methods, they each have some strong points.

The grammar translation method is based on the belief that language learning is a type of mental training and that the learner’s mind is stimulated through direct translation between languages. As many of us who have learned another language know, we often try to translate between our native language and the new language. Very little English is used in the classroom, and students never arrive at conversational speaking or listening abilities. 

With the direct method, instructors teach language by directly associating the words to pictures or objects in the language being taught.  There is no use of the students’ native language, however, there is no way to teach actions or abstract ideas through the direct method. 

The audio-lingual method is characterized by memorization of dialogues, as well as use of language labs. When this was first introduced, it was believed that if people could remember their part of the conversation, then they would be able to function. However, when native speakers did not recite parts of conversation exactly as it was taught in the classroom, the language learners were often unable to respond. 

Contemporary Language Teaching

One of the most popular teaching approaches today, the communicative approach is a general philosophy based on a belief that all teaching and classroom interactions and activities should be conducted in English. Our goal should be talking with our students in English and having students talk with their peers. Our goal in a communicative classroom is to have students understand most of the language being used and to have them use the language in as natural a way as possible.  

Total physical response connects words, actions, and pictures and relies on kinesthetic and visual cues. Simon Says is an example of TPR!   In addition to making connections to help students remember what they are learning, TPR also avoids using the students’ native language.  Students feel comfortable because they are able to receive a great deal of input before they have to produce language. Many teachers like to use TPR to introduce new vocabulary and grammar or to practice concepts.

Total physical response storytelling has the same premise as TPR:  to give students a lot of language input before they have to speak or write in the language. However, it gives students the language in context and has a greater focus on speaking. While telling a story, the teacher uses specific gestures, and the sentences in the story are repeated several times.  At the end of the class, students are able to recite the entire story with the gestures.

Other Important Methods & Approaches

Content-based instruction is a method that emphasizes learning about something rather than learning about language.   We focus on content or contexts in which students would use English grammar and vocabulary, for instance, a chapter on food or sports.  A topic or theme is chosen and all language aspects are taught through that topic. Teachers ask themselves, “In what situations do people use these grammatical forms in real life?” From there, these teachers develop themes around which they can wrap language instruction. 

Task-based learning is an approach that requires teachers to think about the real-world task that they want students to complete. TBL is focused on an end goal of having learners complete real-world tasks and is not focused on a particular grammar point or lexical context.  For instance, students work in groups and are required to create a business plan to present to a board of directors.   

Differentiation is an approach in which different instructional techniques are implemented based on individual needs. Differentiation is used by teachers in all disciplines and is the art of helping all students find out how they learn best and then using those strengths to overcome weaknesses. Writing on the board, using pictures, playing videos, and any other modifications are all types of differentiated instruction. Anything you do outside of a traditional lecture to help a group of students or one student learn is a form of differentiation.

There is no one approach or method that is a “one size fits all.” In our 4-week TEFL course, we will discuss all of these methods and approaches and more.  We will model many of them and give you opportunities to practice as well!  Sign up today to save your seat in our course!

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