by Dr. Shanthi Thomas
Much research has been done on the methods of teaching English. There are various proven methods such as the Grammar Translation method, the Direct Method and the audiolingual method. However, in this article, we will see some methods of teaching English that are accessible to the common man.
Human beings, both young and old, love stories. It is no surprise that listening to stories and reading stories are some of the most effective ways to learn English. Therefore, an English teacher would do well to acquire story books that are suitable to the learners’ level, and make sure that the learners read them. At the Kindergarten level, simple stories accompanied by pictures should be read to children. This can happen in school as well as at home before bedtime. As the child matures, more sophisticated stories can be introduced. One of the ways to make sure that learners are indeed reading the stories is for the teacher to insist on them producing book reports after reading.
All of us know some nursery rhymes which were part of our childhood. Songs work with any age group of learners, as experienced English teachers around the world would testify. Teaching children to sing songs in English is a sure way to make sure they get the pronunciation and the rhythm of the spoken language correctly. One of the English teaching programs that are popular with very young learners is the ‘Jolly Phonics’, which introduces the letters of the English alphabet through songs that mimic the sound of the letter. In this program, the teacher teaches the sound of the letter before teaching the name of the letter.
Very young learners benefit a lot from teaching using flash cards. At the absolute beginner level, the flash cards can be used to teach the letters of the alphabet. Every day, the lesson can begin with a revision of letters by the teacher showing each flash card on which a letter is written, and asking students to read it. In slightly older classes vocabulary can be taught by using flash cards on which words in the Dolch word list are written.
Interactive activities such as role plays, skits and drama can be used in English language learning very effectively. Typically the learners are given situations which they have to turn into a role play or skit. The interactive activity will be completely in English. The advantage of this method is that learners get practice in using English in real life-like situations. For example, ‘a disastrous shopping trip’ can be the title of a role play in which learners take on various roles and act out a family shopping trip that ends badly.
Young people usually have unbridled creativity, and this can be channelized into learning of English. This is achieved by means of giving opportunities for learners to write on a chosen subject or a picture freely, without fear of being reprimanded for making mistakes. The idea is that writing skills can be developed when learners can imagine and create their own stories. Often, such writing will be full of grammatical mistakes, but error-free writing is not the goal here; rather, the goal is creative expression of ideas. This creative expression leads to greater confidence in the learner in the usage of English.
Crossword puzzles and board games such as Scrabble, Wordle and Word Search are used by English teachers around the world to teach English vocabulary. They combine fun with education, and hence are very popular. Some schools even have Scrabble clubs for their students. With the advent of the internet however, there is a huge number of word games available online for anyone who wants to learn English vocabulary. There is also a good number of apps available for mobile phones such as Memrise that build your vocabulary, and Clozemaster and Ligvist that let you learn words in context. There are also vocabulary apps especially for children such as Lingokids.
This is the most old-fashioned way of all among the methods of teaching English. Starting with Parts of Speech, learners are taught all the rules of the English grammar, and given adequate practice in following each rule. The advantage of this method is that learners will have a solid foundation in English. The emphasis in this method is on accuracy.
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