Specific Techniques of Teaching English

Some specific techniques are discussed in the following pages. The discussion may be programmed instruction or another type of discussion.

Programmed Learning Under the influence of behaviorist psychology, the idea of
programmed instruction has been steadily gaining ground.

In developed countries especially, a number of institutions have conducted complete language courses using programmed material allowing students to proceed at their own speed.

It is presumed that at least certain programmed courses permit the lower aptitude students to overcome their handicaps. The techniques of preparing programs are highly scientific and sophisticated.

The programmed instruction helps the learner to find out by himself where he has gone wrong and then tells how he should pick up the thread.

The programmed learning is learning by means of material that breaks the task into minimal steps, requiring an active response for each step and providing an immediate check on the correctness of the responses. The teaching machines are the part and parcel of this instruction.

These machines are mechanical devices that present the frames of a learning
program one at a time, require a response, and then show the correct answer. There are varieties of teaching machines ranging from simple boxes to computer-based devices.

It is pointed out that the appearance of programmed materials for foreign languages shows the application of principles of immediate reinforcement and a breaking of the subject into graduated steps.

The material for the study is divided into tiny steps. The learner begins at the easiest step and moves through progressively more difficult materials.

There are two major criticisms that are directed to this programming. One is the limitation of the theory which cannot tell us very much about what is going on in the pupil’s mind and the other is that the programs do not allow different pupils to work through programs in different ways according to the difficulty they experience.

It is usually said that programs for language are not as successful as in other areas of the curriculum.

The perfect synchronization of soundtrack and teaching machine which would permit the student to work at his own speed has not yet been devised.

In spite of its shortcomings, this method of teaching has its merits. It can successfully be used partly in teaching vocabulary, structure, and pattern practice of the language.

Language Laboratory

The language laboratory is one of the new and very effective, but at the same time are expensive methods of teaching any language. The knowledge of its principles and basic philosophy may be helpful in the improvement and development of other methods of language teaching.

The language laboratory is an effective way of learning in terms of the repetition and over-learning of the behavior patterns that are to become habitual.

The essential components of a laboratory are these: tape recorders, earphones,
microphone and the positions at which the students are to listen to a master voice, to repeat what they hear, and at times to record their responses for review and correction.

The language laboratory, in all its technical variety, is an attempt to harness a
term of tape-recorders for class use.

The term is loosely used to cover a wide range of installations the simplest of which is the extension of a single tape recorder by means of a junction-box with which a number of stethoscope-heads are connected.

Hilton categorizes the teaching materials into the tape recorders and other machines and mentions four of them:

  1. Listening material in the tape recorder.
  2. Audio-visual aids in the laboratory.
  3. Audio-lingual exercises with the help of mechanical devices.

Audio–Textual Work Lado defines a language laboratory as a special room for practice with sound equipment. The tape recorder used does not constitute a laboratory but what constitutes a laboratory is a special room with necessary equipment set aside for practice by the students.

It can provide good models of speech of the target language for imitation and manipulation by the students.

Oliva dilates upon this topic and mentions five basic types of language laboratories from the simplest to the most complex types:

  1. Listening room in which the tape recorders play for groups of students. The students listen and respond as a group.
  2. An Audio active laboratory. It is sometimes called the listen-respond laboratory. It is divided into individual booths. At each booth, there is a set of headphones, a microphone, and an amplifier plus the volume control
    and the channel selector.

The language laboratory method is highly effective, but it is expensive; moreover, it does not replace the teacher. The teacher is all the more important in it.

In Pakistan, it is not still in vogue. Some very good institutions have however installed
the language laboratories and made very good use of the same.

Questioning and Answering

Asking questions is a very useful technique to involve the students in the teaching-learning process. This keeps the students active in the process and the pace of comprehension increases.

You can write on the board, the comprehension questions for the students to find answers, while they read the textbook or hear it read. This helps them to concentrate on finding an answer rather than centering their attention on the vocabulary of structure.

You may sometimes wish to ask the comprehension questions after, instead of before, the students read the textbook. The gifted teacher will skillfully interweave both approaches.

In addition to asking specific comprehension questions, you may wish to ask the students to close their books and tell you what the paragraph they have just read is about.

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