IN the last column, we looked at five methods for teaching English that have evolved over the last six or seven decades.
This week, five more English teaching methodologies are considered: The Phonic Approach; The Whole Word – Look And Say Approach; The Presentation, Practice and Production (PPP) Method; The Grammar-Translation Method and The Lexical Approach.
The Phonic Approach refers to an instructional method for reading and writing that involves teaching about the characteristics of and the relationship between particular sounds and symbols (letters) or symbol combinations (clusters).
One characteristic of the English language is that symbols and symbol combinations can often make more than one sound. For example, “ch” makes four different sounds – as in cheese, chef, ache, and choir.
Another characteristic is that different symbols and symbol combinations can make the same sound, for example the k… sound can be made by “c”, “k”, “q”, “ck” and “ch”.
Phonics teaches how to decode or “target” words for pronunciation and for spelling and writing purposes. While different Phonics methods vary in what they teach, their commonality is their teaching of how the sounds and symbols of sub-parts of words are connected to form spoken and written words.
The 4S Approach To Literacy And Language is also partly a phonic-based methodology, but it goes to greater literacy and language heights by focusing on the symbol combination-syllabic structure of words, on the relationship existing between words, on the multi-meaning attributes of numerous words in context, as well as on the provision of “Keys” for understanding pronunciation and spelling.
Whole Word Approach
The Whole Word – Look And Say Approach has been the predominant method used globally over the last fifty to sixty years to teach English.
Simply put, the Whole Word – Look And Say method involves teaching learners to “sight read” words. Learners are taught to visually recognise and pronounce a whole word as a single unit.
The rationale behind the method is the belief that language is best learnt as whole words in whole, meaningful text.
Whole Word instruction involves the association of the name of a word with a single printed form.
The learning procedure involves seeing the whole word in its written form, hearing the whole word spoken, seeing a pictorial representation of the word, and then encountering it in a sentence.
By the repeated exposure to different words in this way, learners are expected to remember, read and use the words being taught.
Critics argue that the Whole Word method relies too much on memory and fails to teach an understanding of why words are spoken or spelt the way they are. Further criticism centres on the lack of attention given to the sound and symbol combination attributes of words or the phonic, structural, root and function relationships that words can have.
The Presentation, Practice and Production (PPP) method adopts a three-stage approach.
Teachers firstly present the context and the language situation when the meaning and structural form of the new language components are explained and demonstrated.
Secondly, learners use the new language contextually by practicing making sentences, both verbally and in writing. Learners do this in a controlled, directed way, using “models” to work from as required.
It is at the third, production stage that learners are given the opportunity to be more creative in the application of what has been learnt, either working individually or in pairs.
While many teachers use this method today, critics contend that the approach can lack flexibility and that lessons can become too teacher-centred.
Grammar – Translation
The Grammar–Translation method teaches learners to systematically find equivalent or similar words and grammatical concepts in sentences and word lists in their own native language and then translate them to the foreign language being learned, e.g. English, and vice versa.
Teachers applying the Grammar–Translation Method need to be bilingual with a high level of proficiency in the native language. Some critics argue that the method can stifle learners from getting the kind of natural language input necessary to acquire the second language.
The Lexical Approach contends that the knowledge of words and phrases is a far better foundation on which to build to acquire a “new” language than learning grammatical structure.
An advantage of the Lexical Approach is the emphasis that is usually given to the study of Lexemes – the fundamental units of English. Learners are taught how an English word can sometimes represent one or more than one Lexeme.
For example, “oxygen” = one Lexeme, which means the word has one meaning and one use in all contexts — it is a colourless, odourless gas. But “bank” has more than one Lexeme — it could mean a bank of computers, an investment bank, the bank of a river, and so on.
In the next column, we will take a look at the 4S Approach To Literacy And Language Methodology.
by Keith W, Wright, the author and creator of the 4S Approach To Literacy and Language (4S) — a modern, innovative and proven method of accelerating the learning of English.
He is also the Director of International Language Academy.
The 4S methodology and the associated Accelerated English Program (AEP) mentioned in this fortnightly column are now being used internationally to enhance the English language proficiency of people from a diverse range of cultures and with different competency levels.
contact@4Sliteracy.com.au for a free 4S chart, The “or..” Sounding r- Combinations.