Principles of FLT (Foreign Language Teaching)

August 28th, 201112:37 pm


Principles of FLT (Foreign Language Teaching)

Principles of FLT

The methodology of FLT is based on fundamental principles of didactics:

– the principle of conscious approach;

– communicative approach;

– differentiated and integrated instruction;

– activity;

– visuality;

– accessibility and durability;

– individualization;

– consecutiveness;

– systematicness;

–  heuristics, etc.


The Principle of Conscious Approach

It is one of the leading principles because conscious learning plays an important role in language acquisition, enlarges intellectual capacities of learners, and helps to understand new concepts and express new ideas in the target language. This principle also implies comprehension of linguistic phenomena by the learner through the medium of vernacular and the arrangement in sentence patterns graded in difficulties with the emphasis on some essential points. The principle of conscious approach ensures purposeful perception and comprehension of the material, its creative absorption, and retrieval of information from the learner with a certain degree of automacy.

In FLT it is sometimes reasonable to help learners assimilate language rules rather than wait until they deduce these rules through speech activity. The teacher’s task is not to put this hard work on the learner’s shoulders but to facilitate the process of rule learning and to practise it in real-life situations.

The conscious approach to FLT implies the use of the vernacular when it helps pupils to better understand certain grammar rules. The acquisition of a FL means the transition to thinking in a second language. For this it is necessary to acquire the ability of establishing direct associations between concepts and their means of expression in the target language. Visual aids and verbal context are of invariable help in establishing the link between what the learner says, sees, reads, and infers the meaning.

Initially, when the pupil learns a FL the words of this language are often associated with the words of the mother tongue. However, thanks to constant practice the intermediate link with the vernacular fades and FL words come into a pupil’s consciousness directly in connection with the concepts they express.

Mastery of a foreign language means formulating one’s thoughts in this language.

Thus, we may conclude that to master a FL pupils must have a lot of practice in four skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing. As to the mother tongue, we cannot eliminate it completely. We should use it sparingly as a means of teaching whenever it helps pupils acquire knowledge and reach the goal in the shortest way, i.e. developing necessary habits and skills.

Caution should be exercised in transferring pronunciation habits and grammar structures of one language on to another. In studying English Ukrainian-speaking pupils often make mistakes in word order, grammar tense-forms and prosodic organization of an utterance. The best way to overcome interference is some comparison of language phenomena showing similarities, distinctive features, areas of similarities and digression, as well as constant practice that helps overcome interference in developing pupils’ habits and skills.

The Principle of Activity

The didactic principle of activity presupposes a constant accumulation of knowledge and active participation of learners in the process of instruction. In TEFL we usually differentiate between intellectual, emotional and speech activities, which, if taken together, ensure favourable conditions to master the language (cf. 59, p.49). The intellectual activity can be obtained through guesswork, problem-solving questions, reading texts with their subsequent interpretation, etc. The emotional activity takes place when the pupils are pleased with the work they perform, when they like to learn a FL, and like the way of teaching. Speech activity appears during oral communication and is largely due to the intellectual and emotional activity which “feeds” it. To enhance the activity it is necessary to intensify the learning activity of the pupils. Group, choral, and collective work (discussion of a book, role-playing, holding a press conference, etc) can achieve this.

In FLT the principle of activity is realized through the following provisions:

1. The pupils must be taught to think from the outset not in the mother tongue but in the foreign language.

2. In the early stages and on, the approach to FLT should be primarily oral.

3. The pupils must, whenever it is possible, speak and act, perform actions, and at the same time comment on them. The Total Physical Response Method could be recommended here.

4. Throughout the whole course of instruction, the inductive approach should be adopted: practice precedes theory, since theory is active if put to practical use.

5. Group and choral procedures should be encouraged since they enable all pupils to participate actively in the class-work.

Apart from the above-mentioned techniques the teacher will resort to the general didactic guidelines to ensure activity:

1. The teacher must not correct a pupil’s mistake if the pupil can do it himself.

2. During individual interrogation the teacher should address the questions not to the individual pupils but to the whole class to capture their attention and to ensure their active participation.

3. The teacher should comment on the pupil’s marks and always find words of praise rather than find fault with them.

4. Prepare the pupils for independent learning.

5. Activeness is largely dependent upon interest. So, the learners’ interest should be sustained by telling them about manifold possibilities that open up before them as a result of studying the language.

The afore-mentioned on the principle of activity makes it possible to suggest the following:

1. Heuristic approach to FLT will stimulate the learners’ intellectual activity.

2. The learners’ interest should be sustained by proper organization of instruction, the use of purposeful teaching materials to arouse the pupils’ positive motivation.

3. Both individual and collective forms of work should be used to ensure the pupils’ activity and collective spirit.

The Principle of Differentiated and Integrated Instruction

Every type of speech activity is characterized by its own set of grammar structures, rules and lexical material. Consequently, we should differentiate between teaching speaking and writing; teaching listening comprehension and speaking; teaching reading and writing; teaching prepared and unprepared speech, etc. The realization of this principle is reflected in Instructional Methodological Sets (IMS) which furnish “software” for each type of activity. To acquire skills in reading, readers and periodicals are used. To acquire grammar skills – books on grammar, reference guidebooks and guides to patterns and usage are recommended.

Psychological investigations confirm the idea of interrelation and interaction between types of activity, and these relations are of a deep-seated character. Consequently, all types of speech activity should be regarded as interrelated parts of communicative process and taken into account while forming the learner’s communicative competence.

To realize the principle of differentiated and integrated approach, the following teaching strategies could be recommended:

1. In teaching listening comprehension provide conditions suitable to hearing recorded materials or make the learners take you for a “foreign-language-native-speaker”. Conduct your lesson in English and resort to the mother tongue only in case of extreme necessity.

2. In teaching speaking, mind that the pupils’ speech is correct, logical, developed, variable and relevant to the topic of discussion. Use phrase openers (gambits), elliptical sentences.

3. In teaching reading differentiate between such teaching strategies as reading aloud, silent reading, expressive reading, etc. Help the learners with the clues to guess the meaning, to make inferences and to draw conclusions.

4. Teach the pupils to use writing as a means and aims of FLT, i.e. to assimilate teaching materials and master speaking and reading.

The teaching process can also be done in integrated way – all types of activity – listening, speaking, reading and writing are developed simultaneously with regard to their interaction.

The Principle of Visuality

The principle of visuality or ostensive principle is realized in direct and visual modes of semantizing or explaining meanings, i.e. in the demonstration and naming by the teacher of objects, pictures and actions wherefrom the learners infer the meanings of words and expressions used. Visuality in methodology of FLT creates favourable conditions for sensual perceptions and brings another reality in instructive and educative process. The principle of visuality is considered to be one of the main methodological principles especially now that the instruction pursues practical aims. The implementation of visual aids develops the learners’ habits of speech and enhances the emotional influence of visual perception. Most teachers see the need for making use of oral and visual aids in one form or another to help the pupils through imagination to an experience beyond the reach of the classroom.

Visuality as applied in FLT is of two kinds:

1. material or ostensive, consisting of the demonstration of objects and actions;

2. graphic, consisting of pictures, tables, diagrams, charts, etc.

Visual or ostensive aids play an important role in FLT. Comprehension skills are formed and developed by listening to the native speakers or authentic recorded materials. Visual props such as texts or illustrations can supplement oral visuality.

The formation of habits and skills of connected speech is almost impossible without an extensive use of visuality, which helps to model a communicative situation, stimulates monologic and dialogic speech.

The formation of reading skills can also be achieved with the help of oral and visual teaching aids. The learners listen to the tape and try to imagine objects, pictures and situations co-referent with the text. Most unsuccessful language learning is due to failure of imagination. One failure is the failure of the learners’ imagination to realize that words alone may not be enough to carry the pupil over into the situations he is trying to bring him into. Another failure is the failure of the pupils’ imagination to create or picture the situation in their mind that the words are intended to build for them.

Not enough teachers realize the need of using visual aids imaginatively. That is, they use the objects and situations shown in a picture, film, video, or other visual representation of reality as if they were the actual objects and situations themselves. But even the best and clearest representation remains a representation; and it requires to be related to or based on experienced reality by some effort of imagination, however slight. The teacher can help the pupils to make such effort by reminding them of similar situations from his own first-hand experience and by showing them examples.

The afore-said makes it possible to suggest the following recommendations:

1. Teaching a FL use auditory materials (tape-recorders, TV, videos) to ensure listening comprehension.

2. Use audio-visual materials and encourage the learners to work with them in the language laboratory and independently at home.

3. Use visual materials extensively; select bright pictures, illustrations in teaching speaking.

4. Make up situations employing verbal and non-verbal means in view of linguistic and psychological factors.

The Principle of Accessibility

In FLT this principle is realized in conformity with teaching strategies to the pupils’ capacities so that they don’t experience insurmountable difficulties. The teaching materials should meet requirements of linguistic and psychological factors:

1. correspond to the age and mental abilities of the learners; be neither difficult nor easy;

2. be properly graded;

3. be heuristic in form and structure;

4. be presented in such a way that the pupils have to solve one problem at a time.

The teaching materials, their organization secure accessibility in FLT, and techniques used at the lesson and outside school hours. Accessibility presupposes adequate rate of presentation, qualitative assimilation, rate of advancement in forming speech habits and skills.

It is a mistake to suppose that a more limited knowledge of a subject can be imparted more easily and within a shorter period of time than a more extensive one. This is largely due to the fact that semantically related words can be easily assimilated through various associations and fewer associations often imply scarce means of memorization. More facts may sometimes be more easily taught, learnt and memorized in verbal context that are of gnostic value and ensure interest and motivation.

The afore-mentioned makes it possible to suggest the following recommendations:

1. In realizing teaching/learning process, care should be taken whether the pupils assimilate the material and form the necessary habits and skills. The difficulties should not exceed the learners’ capacities. It is cruel to expect the learners to go beyond their capacities.

2. Assignments should provide for the abilities of separate groups (bright, average, dull) to ensure a high level of development for each group of learners.

3. The amount and character of homework should be graded in difficulty.

The Principle of Durability

This principle assumes particular importance in FLT because it is largely concerned with a constant growth of language and speech units, words, word-combinations, idioms, clichés which are to be stored and retained in the pupils’ memory so that the learners could use them in listening comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing. Durable and lasting instruction especially in learning a FL can be ensured by:

1. the content of the material to be studied; realization of its importance and necessity for communication and reading;

2. the presentation of new material should be vivid, bright and live; this results in live images, appropriate associations (perception has an emotional impact on the learners); they have to resort to abstract thinking (analysis, synthesis, comparison, inferences, etc.);

3. a great deal of repetitive work supplemented by assimilation, revision and follow-up practices where visual, aural, kinaesthetic and motor analyzers are at work;

4. this material should be used individually and creatively to solve communicative tasks in speaking, reading and writing;

5. a systematic control of the material to be assimilated helps retain it in the pupils’ memory;

6. the revision of the material will be more effective if it is presented repeatedly in a new verbal context, new visual aids are used and the types of exercises are varied.

The afore-mentioned makes it possible to make the following recommendations:

1. while imparting new material show the learners its significance for communication;

2. try to establish different relationships tapering the learners’ thoughts and feelings;

3. use the new material in various verbal contexts so that the pupils could use it;

4. employ various types of testing and evaluation to ensure a feed-back;

5. the language material should be regularly reviewed to ensure better results;

6.   durability leads to confidence building and makes the learners feel comfortable and at ease.

The Principle of Individualization

This principle takes into account individual peculiarities of the learner, his background knowledge, what he knows, his spheres of interest, etc., i.e. cognitive styles. Cognitive styles have been defined as characteristic mental and psychological behaviours that “serve as relatively stable indicators of how learners perceive, interact with, and respond to the learning environment” (Keefe, 1979).

Cognitive styles can hence be thought of as predispositions to particular ways of approaching learning and are intimately related to personality types. Differences in people’s cognitive styles reflect the different ways people respond to learning situations [113, p. 59]. The teacher has to deal with a wide range of pupils: extroverts (who get their greatest satisfaction from social contacts with other people), introverts (who are self-centered, like to be alone with their dreams and their thoughts), deductivists (rational-logical types of pupils who like the rules to be formulated), inductivists (who induce rules from examples), etc.

Some pupils can be managed easily and flexibly, others require more attention and a tough hand, and still others prefer a certain degree of freedom in choosing the mode of learning. Consequently, the teacher needs knowledge of psychology to realize the principle of individual approach to organize for instruction and manage it successfully.

Knowles (1982) suggests a different classification where four different types of learners are characterised by the following learning styles.

1. Concrete learning style. Learners with this style use active and direct means of taking in and processing information. They are interested in information that has immediate value. They are curious, spontaneous, and willing to take risks. They like variety and the constant change of pace. They dislike routine learning and written work, and prefer verbal and visual experiences. They like to be entertained and like to be physically involved in learning.

2. Analytical learning style. Learners with this style are independent, like to solve problems, and enjoy tracking down ideas and developing principle on their own. Such learners prefer logical, systematic presentation of new didactic material with opportunities for learners to follow up on their own. Analytical learners are serious, push themselves hard, and are vulnerable to failure.

3. Communicative learning style. Learners with a communicative learning style prefer a social approach to learning. They need personal feedback and interaction and learn well from discussion and group activities. They thrive in a democratically run class.

4. Authority-oriented learning style. Learners with an authority-oriented style are said to be responsible and dependable. They like a need structure and sequential progression. They relate well to a traditional classroom. They prefer the teacher as an authority figure. They like to have clear instructions and to know exactly what they are doing; they are not comfortable with consensus-building discussion [113, p. 60].

Here are some recommendations to implement the principle of individualization in FLT:

1. Make up a methodological character of the class, describing all the pupils, their features and personal characteristics. This will greatly facilitate the management of instructional-educative process.

2. Be careful to see how the pupils assimilate teaching material; help those who need your guidance, use differentiated tasks, handouts, and clues.

3.   Organize work in small groups, using the knowledge of each pupil to work together and get into contact to perform the task.

Близнюк М.І. Курс лекцій з методики викладання англійської мови. – Чернівці: ЧДУ, 1999 – с.

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