Harold Palmer’s Method

September 5th, 20117:27 am


Harold Palmer’s Method

Harold Palmer’s Method.


Harold Palmer, the great English authority and teacher, experimented extensively with the question-answer method. He considered question-answer work to be “the most effective of all language learning exercises ever devised”.

Palmer insisted, however, that if this technique was to be carried out successfully, all questions asked by the teacher must be carefully planned and thought out beforehand. Questions should never be haphazard, either in form or content. Specifically, H. Palmer thought that any question asked by the teacher should be of a nature that admits the following:

a)    an obvious answer, not an answer that requires one or more complicated acts of judgement on the part of the student;

b)   an easy answer, not one that requires the use of words, facts, or constructions unknown to the student;

c)    a relevant answer, i.e., a direct answer involving only a moderate change through the process of conversion, substitution, or completion of the material contained in the teacher’s question.

In H. Palmer’s view, there are three stages of learning:

1.  Receiving knowledge.

2.  Fixing it in the memory by repetition.

3.  Using the knowledge by real practice.

H. Palmer was the author of some 50 theoretical works, textbooks and manuals. Of great interest are H. Palmer’s “100 Substitution Tables”, in which sentence patterns are arranged in tables for pupils to make up their own sentences, following the pattern. His main findings can be conveniently summarised as the following objectives:

1. Phonetic, semantic and syntactic aspects.

2. Oral speech by way of speaking and understanding.

3. Accumulation of passive material with subsequent active reproduction.

4. Techniques used for translation include visuality, interpretation and verbal context.

5. Speech patterns to be learnt by heart.

6. Rational selection of vocabulary based on frequency counts and utility.

7. Topical selection: minimum vocabulary list of 3000 words.

H. Palmer paid great attention to a system of exercises, which in his opinion should include:

1. receptive – questions and short answers to them;

2. receptive-imitative words and word-combinations repeated after the teacher;

3. conversational – questions, answers, commands and completion of sentences.

Thus, H.Palmer’s method is based on rationalisation of teaching/learning process and systematic selection of material. Teaching speaking features prominently in H. Palmer’s method, hence its name “oral method”.

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