Teaching Methods and Correlation to Learning in the Language Classroom

It is imperative that teachers provide a “safe” learning environment, treat language learning as a “social” process where comprehensible input is a must when expecting comprehensible output. Most importantly, FL teachers must provide students with adequate teaching methodology and time, as well as appropriate vocabulary and learning activities that will allow for the development of verbal skills. 

There is no single "BEST WAY" to teach. The question teachers must address is which methods are best employed during the different stages of the teaching and learning process and then design curriculum to meet their final objectives/goals. USE A COMBINATION OF METHODS!

NOTE: No comparative study has consistently demonstrated the superiority of one method over another for all students, all teachers and in all settings.
If you have information on methods that can be added to this list please send them via email to tkennedy@globe.gov -- Thank you!


Content-Based Method:
In content-based instruction (CBI), the curriculum organizing principle is subject matter, not language. CBI can be focused around regular academic courses such as history and science taught in the target language or organized around a series of selected themes drawn from the regular curriculum.

Resources from the CARLA, the ERIC Digest and the Center for Applied Linguistics on Content-based language learning:
Making Content Connections -- Content-Based Language Teaching with Technology -- Content Centered Language Instruction

Integrating Language and Content: Lessons from Immersion -- Integrating Foreign Language and Content Instruction in Grades K-8

Languages across the curriculum For examples see: GLOBE Program in the Foreign Language Classroom AND GLOBE Across the Curriculum

Also see NASA materials in other languages. Also see the Barahona Center for a list of NSTA Recommended science books in Spanish. Click on recommended books and under SUBJECT type "science" limiting your search by GRADE LEVEL (from Grade K to Grade 3 or from Grade 5 to Grade 8).

Grammar Translation:
The Grammar Translation method started around the time of Erasmus (1466-1536). Its primary focus is on memorization of verb paradigms, grammar rules, and vocabulary. Application of this knowledge was directed on translation of literary texts--focusing of developing students' appreciation of the target language's literature as well as teaching the language. Activities utilized in today's classrooms include: questions that follow a reading passage; translating literary passages from one language to another; memorizing grammar rules; memorizing native-language equivalents of target language vocabulary. (Highly structured class work with the teacher controlling all activities.)
*Most early twentieth-century Spanish educators emphasized the importance of oral skills.
Direct Method:
The Direct Method was introduced by the German educator Wilhelm Viëtor in the early 1800's. Focusing on oral language, it requires that all instruction be conducted in the target language with no recourse to translation. Reading and writing are taught from the beginning, although speaking and listening skills are emphasized--grammar is learned inductively. It has a balanced, four-skill emphasis.
*One of the earliest claims for an introductory "silent period" was presented by Hills (1929) and Place (1925). Teachers were cautioned that they should not expect unrealistic results from the Natural Method after only two years of study.
The Silent Way:
The teacher is active in setting up classroom situations while the students do most of the talking and interaction among themselves. All four skills (listening, speaking, reading & writing) are taught from the beginning. Student errors are expected as a normal part of learning; the teacher's silence helps to foster self-reliance and student initiative. 
*The theoretical basis of Gattegno's Silent Way is the idea that students must be subordinated to learning and must develop their own inner criteria for correctness.
The learning environment is relaxed, subdued, with low lighting and soft music playing in the background. Student choose a name and character in the target language and imagine being that person. Students relax and listen while dialogues are presented accompanied by music. Students later practice dialogues during an "activation" phase.
*Lazanov's method of suggestopedia seeks to help learners eliminate psychological barriers to learning.
Community Language Learning:
Teachers recognize that learning can be threatening and by understanding and accepting students' fears, they help their students feel secure and overcome their fears of language learning--ultimately providing students with positive energy directed at language learning. Students choose what they want to learn in the class and the syllabus is learner-generated.
*Curren's method allows the student to lead the direction of the class.
Natural Approach:
Introduced by Gottlieb Henese and Dr. L. Sauveur in Boston around 1866. The Natural Approach is similar to the Direct Method, concentrating on active demonstrations to convey meaning by associating words and phrases with objects and actions. Associations are achieved via mime, paraphrase and the use of manipulatives. Terrell (1977) focused on the principles of meaningful communication, comprehension before production, and indirect error correction. Krashen's (1980) input hypothesis is applied in the Natural Approach.
*This approach is widely used in elementary FL programs (FLES).
Reading Method:
The reading method was prominent in the U.S. following the Committee of Twelve in 1900 and following the Modern Foreign Language Study in 1928. The earlier method was similar to the traditional Grammar/Translation method and emphasized the transference of linguistic understanding to English. Presently, the reading method focuses more on silent reading for comprehension purposes. 
*At the present time, reading proficiency remains an important second language skill as contemporary researchers in L2 reading take an information-processing approach to instruction and stress the role of reading strategies in comprehension.
ASTP and the Audiolingual Method:
This approach is based on the behaviorist belief that language learning is the acquisition of a set of correct language habits. The learner repeats patterns and phrases in the language laboratory until able to reproduce them spontaneously.
ASTP (Army Specialized Training Program)  was an intensive, specialized approach to language instruction used in during the 1940's. In the postwar years, the civilian version of ASTP and the audiolingual method featured memorization of dialogues, pattern drills, and emphasis on pronunciation. 
*The audiolingual approach achieved some of its goals such as good pronunciation and formulaic speech, although it did not always result in communicative competence.
Technological Approaches:
This approach has been utilized since the 1920's in FL classrooms.  Access to audio visual equipment and materials such as records, short-wave radio, motion pictures and films, wire recorders, video tape recorders and computers enhance instruction as well as provide student opportunities for authentic exposure and interaction in the target language(s).
*Today's students can communicate by email and the web as well as view programming directly from other countries using satellite and cable links in their classrooms.
Cognitive Methods:
Cognitive methods of language teaching are based on meaningful acquisition of grammar structures followed by meaningful practice. 
*For more information see Bloom.
Communicative Methods:
The goal of communicative language approaches is to create a realistic context for language acquisition in the classroom. The focus is on functional language usage and the ability to learners to express their own ideas, feelings, attitudes, desires and needs. Open ended questioning and problem-solving activities and exchanges of personal information are utilized as the primary means of communication. Students usually work with authentic materials (authentic realia) in small groups on communication activities, during which they receive practice in negotiating meaning.
*The Communicative approach stresses the need to teach communicative competence as opposed to linguistic competence. Error analysis research was a product of this method.
Total Physical Response Method:
This approach to second language teaching is based on the belief that
listening comprehension should be fully developed before any active oral
participation from students is expected (just as it is with children when they
are learning their native language) .
*For more information see TPR.
Total Physical Response Storytelling Method:
This approach was modeled after the TPR method but provides the critical vehicle–storytelling–to utilize and expand acquired vocabulary by contextualizing it in high-interest stories which students can hear, see, act out, retell, revise and rewrite.
*For more information see TPRS.
Lexical Approach:
Based on the idea that an important part of language acquisition is the ability to comprehend and produce lexical phrases as unanalyzed wholes, or “chunks,” and that these chunks become the raw data by which learners perceive patterns of language traditionally thought of as grammar--that language production is the piecing together of ready-made units appropriate for a particular situation--the Lexical Approach concentrates on developing learners’ proficiency with lexis, or words and word combinations. This method proposes that it isn’t grammar but lexis that is the basis of language and that the mastery of the grammatical system is not a prerequisite for effective communication.
For more information see The Lexical Approach to Foreign Language Learning.
Focus-On-Form Approach:
The Focus-On-Form Approach considers grammar to be heterogeneous, meaning that some grammar points are easy to explain and easy to apply, and other points are difficult if not impossible to apply.  This method proposes that the real problem is that grammar instruction in both approaches is limited to a small set of pedagogical practices.  A Focus-On-Form pedagogy profitably mixes explicit and implicit techniques depending on the grammar item and the communicative task.
For more information see Blyth

The methods chosen should promote skill development in listening, speaking, reading and writing.  Avoid using a written word list as an introductory learning activity--only provide lists as a review exercise.


    Asher, James. (1982). Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. New York: Pergamon Press, 9-32. 
    Doggett, G. (1993). "Eight Approaches to Language Teaching." Center for Applied Linguistics, Wash. D.C.
    Krashen, S. (1980). "The Input Hypothesis." Current Issues in Bilingual Education.  Ed. James Alatis. Washington, D.C: Georgetown UP, 168-80.
    Long, D. R. (1999). “Methodology and the Teaching of Spanish in the Twentieth Century: Retrospective and Bibliography.” Hispania, 82: 3, 383-396.
    Terrell, T.D. (1977). "A Natural Approach to Second Language Acquisition and Learning." Modern Language Journal, 61, 325-37.