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TESOL Teaching Methods



Throughout the history of teaching languages a number of different teaching approaches and methodologies have been tried and tested with some being more popular and effective than others. If you’re just beginning your TESOL career, it would be beneficial to be familiar with a few of these.


TESOL-The Direct Method

If you’ve ever heard the Direct Method being taught, you may have rightly mistaken it for some sort of military drill, which is not far off as it was first established in France and Germany in the early 1900’s to assist soldiers to communicate in a second language quickly.

The direct method of teaching English is also known as the Natural Method. It’s used to teach a number of different languages not just English, and the main idea of the Direct Method is that it only uses the target language that the students are trying to learn.

Its main focus is oral skill and it is taught via repetitive drilling. Grammar is taught using an inductive way and students need to try and guess the rules through the teacher’s oral presentation.
Today popular forms of the Direct Method are Callan and Berlitz.

TESOL-The Grammar Translation Method

Just like its name suggests, this method of teaching English is grammar heavy and relies a lot on translation. This is the traditional or ‘classical’ way of learning a language and it’s still commonly used when learning some languages. Some countries prefer this style of teaching and the main idea behind this method is that the students learn all grammar rules, so they’re able to translate a number of sentences. This is particularly common for those students who wish to study literature at a deeper level.

TESOL-The Audio Lingual Method

The Audio Lingual Method otherwise known as the New Key Method or Army Method is based on a behavirourist theory that things are able to be learned by constant reinforcement. However, just like in the army when someone behaves badly (or in this case bad use of English), the learner receives negative feedback and the contrary happens when a student demonstrates good use of English.

This is related to the Direct Method and just like its predecessor it only uses the target language. The biggest difference between the Audio Lingual Method and the Direct Method is its focus of teaching. The Direct Methods focuses on the teaching of vocabulary whereas the Audio Lingual Method focuses on specific grammar teachings.

TESOL-The Structural Approach

As the name suggests, the method is all about structure. The idea is that any language is made up of complex grammar rules. These rules, according to this approach need to be learnt in a specific order, for example the logical thing would be to teach the verb “to be” prior to teaching the present continuous which requires using the auxiliary form of the verb “to be.”


This is a behaviourist theory and related to pseudoscience. This method relies heavily on students’ belief about the method’s effectiveness. This theory is intended to offer learners various choices, which in turn helps them become more responsible for their learning.

It relies a lot on the atmosphere and the physical surroundings of the class. It’s essential that all learners feel equally comfortable and confident. When teachers are training to use the Suggestopedia method, there’s a lot of art and music involved. Each Suggestopedia lesson is divided into three different phases – 1. Deciphering 2. Concert Session 3. Elaboration.

TESOL-Total Physical Response

Total Physical Response, otherwise known as TPR is an approach that follows the idea of ‘learning by doing’. Beginners will learn English through a series of repetitive actions such as “Stand up”, “Open your book”, “Close the door”, and “Walk to the window and open it.” With TPR, the most important skill is aural comprehension and everything else will follow naturally later.

TESOL-Communicative Language Teaching (CLT)

The idea behind this approach is to help learners communicate more effectively and correctly in realistic situations that they may find themselves in. This type of teaching involves focusing on important functions like suggesting, thanking, inviting, complaining, and asking for directions to name but a few.

TESOL-The Silent Way

The Silent Way emphasises learner autonomy. The teacher acts merely as a facilitator trying to encourage students to be more active in their learning. The main of this way of teaching is for the teacher to say very little, so students can take control of their learning. There’s a big emphasis on pronunciation and a large chunk of the lesson focuses on it. This method of learning English follows a structural syllabus and grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation are constantly drilled and recycled for reinforcement. The teacher evaluates their students through careful observation, and it’s even possible that they may never set a formal test as learners are encouraged to correct their own language errors.

TESOL-Community Language Learning

This is probably one of the English teaching methods where the student feels the safest as there’s a great emphasis on the relationship and bond between the student and teacher. Unlike a lot of the other methods and approaches of teaching English as a Second Language, a lot of the L1 (mother tongue) is used for translation purposes.

TESOL-Task Based Language Learning

The main aim of this approach to learning is task completion. Usually, relevant and interesting tasks are set by the teacher and students are expected to draw on their pre-existing knowledge of English to complete the task with as few errors as possible.

TESOL-The Lexical Approach

The Lexical syllabus or approach is based on computer studies that have previously identified the most commonly used words. This approach in teaching focuses on vocabulary acquisition and teaching lexical chunks in order of their frequency and use. Teachers of the Lexical Approach place a great emphasis on authentic materials and realistic scenarios for more valuable learning.

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