Modern Approaches to Language Teaching

Before  1990s,  the  „Three  Ps”  approach  to  language  teaching  was  seen  by  scholars as the most common  modern  methodology employed by teachers around  the world. It is based on the premise that knowledge becomes skill through successive practice and that language is learned in small chunks leading to the whole. This  approach  views accuracy as a  precursor  to  fluency.

PPP  is  a  three-part  teaching  sequence:  Presentation,  Practice  and  Production;  The high  degree  of  teacher  control  which  characterizes  the  first  and  second  stages  of  this  approach lessens  as  the  class  proceeds,  allowing  the  learner  to  gradually  move  away  from  the  teacher’s support towards more automatic production and understanding. (Ur, 1996, p. 19). This approach has come under a lot of criticism, many of its opponents criticizing its tight control from the teacher and therefore its rigidity,  inflexibility and lacking the ability to adapt to the ever-changing classroom situations as well as to the students’ learning processes. Hence, this sequence was little by little replaced by other  modern approaches to language teaching, based on communicative competences, so necessary to students in real-life situations and more appropriate for the modern times. Beginning with persuasive oral discourses, continuing with working in groups or pairs, the teacher has to motivate them to contribute and to share personal experiences.

I. The AIDA model

In teaching grammar as well as in teaching vocabulary, motivation is essential in order to keep students focused. The various resources of English students come in contact with will increase their abilities, their skillfulness, but also place accuracy in great jeopardy. The focus is shifted from accuracy to communication, with students engaged in their own learning process, allowing them to make mistakes as they discover for themselves the meaning underlying each grammar or vocabulary structure they encounter. The ultimate goal within such an approach is communication in real-life situations, as well as motivating well enough so as to stir curiosity and desire to participate and take action when it comes to their own learning process.

A- drawing ATTENTION
I-  arousing INTEREST
D- stirring DESIRE
A- persuading ACTION

II. Critical Thinking and ERRE

Critical Thinking represents a modern approach which has as declared aim the reduction in the use of memory in our students and the increase and development of cognitive processes such as reflection, evocation, meta-knowledge, spiral reasoning, investigation and, among so many others, self-evaluation. The Lesson Plan Stages used within this approach are the following:

1. The EVOCATION stage is an elicitation procedure during which students reflect upon and bring out previously acquired information, knowledge and concepts regarding a given topic and / or make logical connections. It is an area of building expectation and confidence with no wrong answer and multiple possibilities of further developments to be used later on. Among the activities suggested for this first stage we can list. Students can bring their own contributions and thoughts in a permissive, nonjudgemental environment, through such activities as:

  • Roundtable or Roundrobin
  • Pens in the middle
  • Clustering
  • Brainstorming
  • Free Writing

2. The REALIZATION OF MEANING stage during which students inquire and search for knowledge, and as a result come to realize meaning. The activities under this heading are diverse and focus less on accuracy and more on communication and allow the teacher to minimize the Teacher Talking Time and to maximise the students’ interactions. Activities such as those mentioned below are perfect examples:

  • Study Guides
  • Dual Entry Diary
  • Reciprocal / Peer Teaching
  • Literature Circles
  • QtA- Questioning the Author
  • TSI –Three Step Interview
  • Paired Reading / Summary.

For this second stage of ERRE, Reciprocal teaching is often used because it is well known that the act of teaching is the best way to learn. Hence the following procedure was developed to enable all participants to experience the role of teacher in leading others through a text:
After a passage of a text is read by a small group of students, they are asked to take turns playing the role of teacher, summarizing what was just read, asking questions to the other students about it, clarifying parts that are unclear, and predicting what will come next in the text-before passing the role of teacher to another student in the group. The person acting as teacher:

  • Summarizes what has just been read;
  • Thinks up a question about the text, and asks the other participants to answer it;
  • Clarifies issues that other participants are unclear about;
  • Predicts what the text will say in the next passage;
  • Assigns the next passage.

3. The REFLECTION stage is a stage of the lesson during which students are asked to reflect upon the new ideas they have come across or up with and basically extend or expand meaning to new areas of either language or knowledge. This stage allows either inter-disciplinarity or linguistic skill transfer to step in while revising, debating, questioning, interpreting, applying or challenging findings and acquisitions. The activities applicable at this point list:

  • KWL- What we KNOW- What we WANT to know- What did we LEARN
  • Cubing
  • Value Line
  • Academic Controversy
  • Key Terms Revisited
  • Gallery Tour
  • Venn Diagram
  • SLWM –Save the Last Word for Me
  • Corners
  • Exit Cards
  • Maps and Graphs
  • Rotating Review
  • Six Hats

When Eduard De Bono’s book  appeared in 1992, it really created a big impact in a society very much used to traditional methods. Six Thinking Hats is the new way of teaching most of the skills and teachers all over the world welcomed and embraced this new approach. Mainly, this method offers six different points of view upon the same topic and it really makes students hypothesize, contradict, reach a consensus, make compromise, agree and disagree, offer solutions, implicate. Every hat has a special meaning and can be used in certain situations as follows:

  • The WHITE HAT is pragmatic to the bone, neutral and objective and concerned with facts and figures. Questions to be asked under this hat: 1- What info do we have? 2- What info do we need? 3- How do we get the info we need?
  • The RED HAT is emotional and subjective, expressing feelings, emotions and intuitions, based often on the “sixth sense”.
  • The BLACK HAT is the hat of survival, of caution and weaknesses, which lists all possible “go wrongs” of a procedure, solution or decision to be taken or enforced. It is  highly logical and seeks evidence.
  • The YELLOW HAT is positive and optimistic, developing value sensitivity. It focuses on benefits, makes proposals and suggestions based on irrefutable arguments and deals with constructive thinking.
  • The GREEN HAT is energetic and creative. Under this hat, new ideas are put forward, which are  aimed to change for the better, offering alternatives and dealing with parralel thinking, with thinking “outside the box” and encouraging the students’ creativity and inventiveness. It is anti-pattern in essence.
  • The BLUE HAT thinks about thinking, organises the thinking process and controls the other hats. It is  aware of all going on under its umbrella and it is the ultimate and successful ”boss”.

Over the years the results of using the Six Hats method have become increasingly clear. They fall into four broad categories as follows:

  • Power: with the Six Hats method, the intelligence, experience and knowledge of all members of the group are fully used. Everyone is looking and working in the same direction. The focusing of the mental ability of many persons on a problem can more easily solve that problem.
  • Time Saving: with parallel thinking, every thinker at every moment is looking in the same direction. The thoughts are laid out in parallel, ideas are added and in the end the subject is fully explored quickly.
  • Removal of Ego: perhaps the biggest obstacle to quick and effective thinking is the ego. Confrontational and adversarial thinking exacerbate the ego problem. With the Six Hats method one exerts his\her ego by performing well as a thinker under each of the hats. The Six Hats method provides neutral and objective exploration of a subject.
  • One Thing at a Time: confusion is the biggest enemy of good thinking. Juggling with six balls at a time may be rather difficult. Tossing up one ball at a time is much easier. One cannot be sensitized in different directions at the same time, so when one sets out to do all aspects of thinking in the same moment, one is going to be suboptimal on all of them.

4. The EXTENSION stage is the area where students will be given a written assignment in order to reconsider findings and concepts acquired and express opinion, make judgment, analyze or synthesize, report on findings, build questionnaires and apply them, then present results in class, rewrite the story from a different angle or perspective, summarize or give details, write a reflective essay upon the theme, etc.

To conclude, no matter what approach a teacher chooses when teaching students, the main goal when doing so must always remain that of empowering the students with the skills they need to cope with the real-life situations they will face in life, as well as with the competences they need to deal with the myriad facets of their intricate minds.


De Bono, E. 1983: The Edward de Bono School Of Thinking Inc., New York.
Giuchici, M. & Lerch, C. 2009: Weaving a New Educational Tapestry Through Multiple Intelligences Approach. Resita, ISJ – CCD.
Ur, Penny, 1996: A Course in Language Teaching –  Practice and Theory, Cambridge University Press. ,


prof. Elena Munteanu

Colegiul Național Mircea Eliade, Reșița (Caraş-Severin) , România
Profil iTeach:

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