As Robert McDougal has explained to us in the past, there are a variety of methods for educating foreign language speakers on the intricacies of learning how to understand, read, write, and speak the English language. There are even more approaches to ESL education, and as Robert McDougal has previously explained, the viability of the method depends on the type of learner the student happens to be.
Task-based language learning (TBLT) or task-based instruction (TBI) is a method that’s similar to communicative language teaching, in that they are both interaction-based approaches to absorbing the rules of language. The main difference between the two methods, Robert McDougal explains, is that communicative language teaching focuses on conversational English, while task-based language learning places more of a focus on understanding the language in order to complete meaningful tasks.
Practitioners of the method point to its reliance on communication and socializing as a major boon for those trying to learn English, as these are common factors that are present in most real-world applications and learning of language. Robert McDougal explains that another merit of TBLT is the way that it encourages students to develop a deeper understanding of the meaning of the words they are learning. Those who critique the method state that in some cases, because the tasks being presented have little to no reliance on language stills, it can be difficult for students to fully grasp the importance behind the task they’re performing, or retain any meaningful information about the English language as a result of it.
Another method Robert McDougal describes is “total physical response”, or TPR. Total physical response relies on the idea that language is inherently connected with physical movement. For example, a student may learn new phrases in English by being told to do things such as “sit down”, “stand up”, “go over there”, etc. as a beginner student, and graduate to more complicated instruction such as “pick up the yellow pencil bring it to your friend in the red shirt”. TPR has been criticized as only being appropriate for beginners, but there are materials and resources available for using TPR with more advanced students. In addition, teachers that utilize total physical response usually do not make it the sole method taught in the classroom, but instead, use it in conjunction with other methods in order to bolster their lesson plan.
These are only two more approaches to teaching English as a second language, and, as mentioned earlier, there are many, many more. So, what’s the best way to choose the method you should be using in your lessons? Robert McDougal suggests not tying yourself down to just one approach: depending on the lesson being taught, the method can change freely. The subject matter and level of expertise of the class can and should both be taken into account when deciding the best way to approach the lesson. Of course, you should also be taking special consideration of what kind of learners your students are. By properly utilizing these methods in conjunction with your own better judgment, you’ll be sure to find the best methods possible to teach ESL.