Every few years, new foreign language teaching methods arrive on the scene. New textbooks appear far more frequently. They are usually proclaimed more effective than those that have gone before, and, in many cases, these methods or textbooks are promoted or even prescribed for immediate use. New methods and textbooks may reflect current developments in linguistic/applied linguistic theory or recent pedagogical trends. Sometimes they are said to be based on recent developments in language acquisition theory and research. For example, one approach a set of correct sentences while another emphasizes the importance of encouraging ‘natural’ communication between learners. How is a teacher to evaluate the potential effectiveness of new methods? One important basis for evaluating is, of course, the teacher’s own experience with previous successes or disappointments. In addition, teachers who are informed about some of the findings of recent research are better prepared to judge whether the new proposals for language teaching are likely to bring about positive changes in students’ learning.
Students in countries around the world where English is not a native language have increasingly been exposed to English outside the classroom through the globalisation process. Nevertheless, in contexts such as Uzbekistan, where the language is not much utilised in everyday life, English continues to be a foreign language and classroom teaching is still the major source for its acquisition. Given that academic and professional success is increasingly based on a student’s knowledge of English, approaches which enhance the learning of the language to the point of its becoming a second language, as opposed to a foreign language, are essential. In this article, we will discuss the content-based instruction approach to teaching English from an early age — one which allows students not only to learn the basics of the language, but helps them actually apply what they have learnt to other subjects, making the learning process meaningful across the curriculum. Some examples of activities for young learners which incorporate both English and geography will also be presented. The exercises presented here are low-cost in that simple world maps sold at any stationery or book store are all that is needed.
The content-based approach involves teaching English through a mainstream subject from primary through to tertiary levels. Underlying this concept is the notion that more language is acquired through content than through the sort of material used in purely language-focused classes. According to Stephen Davies, the approach involves ‘learning about something rather than learning about language’. As students ‘learn about something’, there is a tendency for them to learn and use the language simultaneously. At primary and secondary levels, where foreign language study generally tends to be a burdensome appendage to learning due to the emphasis on overt grammar coupled with memorisation of vocabulary, a contentbased approach is highly recommendable. At all educational levels the classroom has always tended to be somewhat detached from real life and this is particularly so with younger students. Content-based instruction makes a connection between real life and real-world skills. The effectiveness of this approach has been demonstrated in various countries with courses which revolve around a generative theme as opposed to the traditional compartmentalisation, with each subject having little relevance to the others. With content-based instruction, the student is learning and acquiring skills in order to learn and understand a topic of real interest.
The content-based approach involves teaching English through a mainstream subject from primary through to tertiary levels. Underlying this concept is the notion that more language is acquired through content than through the sort of material used in purely language-focused classes. According to Stephen Davies, the approach involves ‘learning about something rather than learning about language’. As students ‘learn about something’, there is a tendency for them to learn and use the language simultaneously. At primary and secondary levels, where foreign language study generally tends to be a burdensome appendage to learning due to the emphasis on overt grammar coupled with memorisation of vocabulary, a content based approach is highly recommendable. At all educational levels the classroom has always tended to be somewhat detached from real life and this is particularly so with students. Content-based instruction makes a connection between real life and real-world skills. The effectiveness of this approach has been demonstrated in various countries with courses which revolve around a generative theme as opposed to the traditional compartmentalisation, with each subject having little relevance to the others. With content-based instruction, the student is learning and acquiring skills in order to learn and understand a topic of real interest.
Before reading answer these questions:
The development of electric motors began in the 1800's with the discovery of electromagnets. In 1820, a Danish physicist named Hans Christian Oersted discovered that a wire conducting an electric current produces a surrounding magnetic field. During the 1820s, a number of other scientists found ways of creating stronger and more practical electromagnets. In 1888, a Serbian-born engineer named Nikola Tesla invented the AC motor. Tesla designed models for induction and synchronous motors. In the early 1900s, scientists and engineers developed more advanced electric motors, including universal motors.
electric motormagnetic poles
field coilssplit rings
Special teaching materials consisted of:
1) Group work, which created situations for the use of the conditional in natural communicative situations;
2) Written and oral exercises to reinforce the use of the conditional in more formal, structured situations;
3) Self-evaluation activities to encourage students to develop conscious awareness of their language use.
The contrasting results of the native language immersion program teaching experiments (focuses on grammar) may also be explained by potential differences in input. But in this case, it seems more likely that differences in the experimental teaching materials and technology may have contributed to the different results.
Although both sets of materials had their goal to provide learners with the opportunity.
To use the linguistic forms in a variety of functionally- based communicative practice activities, the instructional materials for the ‘past tense’ study may not have been sufficiently form- focused or did not draw the learners’ attention to their language use as frequently and as explicitly as the instructional materials for the ‘conditional’ study. While this is a possible explanation, other factors may be contributed to the different outcomes. For example, it could be that the two linguistic structures under investigation respond to instruction in different ways or that even the relatively small differences in the age of the learners played a role.
It is difficult to draw firm conclusions about the strength of the theoretical proposals until further research is completed. But it is possible to speculate on the ‘strongest contenders’ on the basis of the classroom research findings so far.
There is increasing evidence that learners continue to have difficulty with basic structures of the language in programs which offer no form- focused instruction. This calls into question the ‘Just listen’ proposal, which in its strongest form not only claims no benefit from form- focused instruction and correction, but suggests that it can actually interfere with second language development. However, we don’t find support for the argument that if second language learners are simply exposed to comprehensible input, language acquisition will take care of itself.
There are similar problems with the ‘Say what you mean and mean what you say’ proposal.. As noted earlier in this chapter, there is evidence that opportunities for learners to engage in conversational interactions in group and paired activities can lead to increased fluency and the ability to manage conversations more effectively in a second language. However, the research also shows that learners in programs based on the ‘Say what you mean and mean what you say’ proposal continue to have difficulty with accuracy as well.
Because these programs emphasize meaning and attempt to simulate ‘natural’ communication in conversational interaction, the students’ focus is naturally on what they say, not how to say it. This can result in a situation where learners provide each other with input which is often incorrect and incomplete. Furthermore, even when attempts are made to draw the learners’ attention to form and accuracy in such contexts, these attempted corrections may be interpreted by the learners as continuations of the conversation. Thus, programs based on the 'Just listen' and 'Say what you mean and mean what you say' proposals are incomplete in that learners' gains in fluency and conversational skills may not be matched by their development of accuracy. It is important to emphasize that the evidence to support a role for form-focused instruction and corrective feedback does not provide support for the 'Get it right from the beginning' proposal. Research has demonstrated that learners do benefit considerably from instruction which is meaning-based. The results of the native language immersion and intensive ESL program research are strong indicators that many learners develop higher levels of fluency through exclusively or primarily meaning-based instruction than through rigidly grammar-based instruction.
The problem remains, however, that certain aspects of the linguistic knowledge and performance of second language learners are not fully developed in such programs. Unfortunately, research investigating the 'Teach what is teachable' proposal is not yet at a point where it is possible to say to teachers: 'Here is a list of linguistic features which you can teach at any time and here is another list which shows the order in which another set of features will be acquired. You should teach them in this order.
The number of features which researchers have investigated with experimental studies within this framework is simply far too small. Similarly, second language researchers working from the 'Get it right in the end' proposal cannot yet provide a list of those forms which must be taught. Nonetheless, because these proposals do not argue for exclusively form-based or meaning-based instruction, but rather acknowledge a role for form-focused instruction and correction within a communicative program, the Teach what is teachable1 and 'Get it right in the end' proposals appear to be the most promising at the moment in terms of guiding decisions about second language teaching. Decisions about when and how to provide form focus must take into account differences in learner characteristics, of course. Quite different approaches would be appropriate for, say, a trained linguist learning a fourth or fifth language, a young child beginning his or her schooling in a second language environment, an immigrant who cannot read and write his or her own language, and an adolescent learning a foreign language at school. It could be argued that many teachers are quite aware of the need to balance form-focus and meaning-focus, and that recommendations based on research may simply mean that our research has confirmed current classroom practice. Although this may be true to some extent, it is hardly the case that all teachers approach their task with a clear sense of how best to accomplish their goal. It is not always easy to step back from familiar practices and say, 'I wonder if this is really the most effective way to go about this? Furthermore, many teachers are reluctant to try out classroom practices which go against the prevailing trends among their colleagues or in their educational contexts, and there is no doubt that many teachers still work in environments where there is an emphasis on accuracy which virtually excludes spontaneous language use in the classroom. At the same time, there is evidence that the introduction of communicative language teaching methods has sometimes resulted in a complete rejection of attention to form and error correction in second language teaching.
Teachers and researchers do not face a choice between form-based and meaning-based instruction. Rather, our challenge is to determine which features of language will respond best to form-focused instruction, and which will be acquired without explicit focus if learners have adequate exposure to the language. In addition, we need to develop a better understanding of how form-based instruction can be most effectively incorporated into a communicative framework. Continued classroom-centered research in second language teaching and learning should provide us with insights into these and other important issues in second language learning in the classroom.
- Day, E and S.Shapson.1991.’integrating formal and functional approaches to language teaching in native language immersion: An experimental approach’. Language Learning 41:25- 58.
- World Book Encyclopedia Vol.3 p 48 Chicago 1993
- Harley, B.1989.’Functional grammar in native language immersion: A classroom experiment. p.331
- Savignon, S.1972. Communicative Competence: An Experiment in Foreign- language Teaching. Philadelphia, Pa: Center for Curriculum Development.
- Internet: http://www.univercityofottawa.ca/teachenglish/- various publications.
- Montgomery,C. and M.Eisensstein.1985.’Relality revisited: An experimental communicative course in ESL’TESOL Quarterly 19:317–34