What is a Communicative Approach to English Language Teaching?

A Communicative Approach?

There are a variety of approaches to teaching English as a second or foreign language. One aspect of English and foreign language teaching involves using a Communicative Approach. But what exactly does using a communicative approach mean?

Well for me, a Communicative Approach to language teaching includes several distinct aspects. We’ll mention two of them here. Applying these aspects means that language teaching and learning become far more than a series of grammar lessons and vocabulary lists. For language teaching and learning to be truly communicative, it must not only be in context, but used to convey ideas, preferences, thoughts, feelings and information in a way that is addressed to reach others. Usually, I address communicative language teaching through the use of two approaches:

o Content-Based Instruction (CBI)

o Task-Based language teaching (TBLT)

Definitions of CBI vs. TBL in ELT

In CBI (Widdowson, 1978), the focus of classes is not on the language and structure itself, but rather on learners acquiring skills or knowledge using English as the language of instruction. If you teach a learner how to repair computers, for example, and use English as the language of instruction, the learners improve their language communicative skills while learning foremost the skill of computer repair.

Task-Based Learning in ELT

In the TBLT approach (Willis, 1996), the focus is on providing communicative activities needed for English language learning, performing tasks using the target language (English) and using the English language in other ways for learning tasks. Examples would be having learners buy postage to mail a letter by first teaching them the structures and language needed to perform the task, then actually having them do it. Another example would be teaching learners the needed English to order a meal in a restaurant, or make a shopping purchase, then allowing them to complete such tasks on their own using unguided or free speech.

In the publication, “Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching” by Jack C. Richards and Theodore S. Rodgers (CUP, 2001) more than a dozen approaches to ELT are explored in depth. From the now defunct Grammar-Translation and Situational approaches to Total Physical Response (TPR), Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Lexical approaches to the Communicative approaches, the Natural approach and Cooperative Learning, English and foreign language teachers world wide have a much greater language teaching approach repertoire than ever before.

So, what’s it going to be then?

Introduction to Computer Programming and Programming Languages

Since computer science was recognized as a distinct academic field in 1960s, it has made great strides especially in making things a lot easier for humans. One of the issues it has solved is the way problems that need to be addressed have been translated into a code or format computers can understand. There are various ingenious and great solutions used in such problems. Here’s an introduction to computer programming that will give you a greater understanding of this exciting discipline.

In order to pass on instructions to computers, programming languages are used. These languages, which are designed by humans, are based on the so-called rules of syntax and semantics. These days, a wide range of languages have been made, employed, discarded.

Programming languages usually don’t last that long. They come up but after just a few years of stay in the industry, you will feel that the language needs some improvement or you need something your chosen language can’t provide. It won’t be long until that particular language is replaced by a more flexible successor.

Programming languages do evolve because there’s a continuous search for efficient transformation of human language into machine code. Languages produced usually start with ideas, which conceal hardware and employ representations that are more convenient to human programmers. Another crucial facet of language design is dealing with the program’s complexity. As programs become bigger and more refined, developers have come to realize that there are language types that are easier to support in huge systems. Because of this, event-driven and object-oriented languages became widely used.

Types of Programming Languages: An Overview

Since this field is evolving, there is no set standard in categorizing programming languages. One way to characterize them is through programming paradigm. These classifications include:

o Object-Oriented

Object-oriented programming isn’t just the newest; it is also the most powerful among the paradigms. In programs that are object-oriented, the designer indicates the data structures as well as the categories of operations that can be done on it. The combination of data and operations that can be carried out is dubbed as an object.

o Procedural

Procedural programming involves a list of actions a program needs to accomplish to be able to attain certain goal. This is a simple paradigm wherein a program is divided into a starting phase, list of operations that needs to be done, and ending stage. Also called imperative programming, procedural programming involves the idea of procedure call.

o Structured

A unique type of procedural programming, structured programming offers additional tools that can be used to deal with the issues produced by larger programs. In structured programming, the program is split into small codes that can easily be understood. Oftentimes, structured programming is associated with top-down approach which starts with an overview of the system.

Computer programming languages are artificial and are made to manage computers. To come up with new and better language, the developer needs to spend hard work and long working hours. With this introduction to computer programming, you’ve become familiar with the various types of languages based on paradigms.

How To Introduce Primary Pupils To Programming

Computers are very much a part of everyday life now and pupils who are currently in primary school know nothing of a world without the internet. It is because of this that they need a more advanced curriculum when it comes to computer technology. This is being introduced in a couple of years and a significant aspect of it will involve pupils learning how to code. While the benefits in teaching children programming are obvious and numerous, it does beg the question; how should schools go about it?

The first thing primary school teachers will have to do when teaching primary pupils how to code, is to manage their own expectations. Children develop at different stages and just as some children take longer to read fluently, some will need more time to learn programming. It can take some children a while to develop analytical skills and for these children a patient approach will be necessary.

There are various different programming languages and some are far more complicated than others. An early programming language, BASIC (Beginners All Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) was introduced in a cut down form BBC BASIC for use on the BBC computer. It is a fairly straightforward language and one which it will be easier for primary school pupils to get to grips with. You do not have to limit your pupils to just one simple language, but it is a good way to break them in gently.

It is also really important to make coding seem fun so that it is more accessible to a younger audience. Introducing it as a mathematical, technological challenge is not going to make it appealing to the majority of children so teachers will have to find an approach which is more relevant to their age range. Online games offer one such technique particularly as the visuals and graphics are likely to be a lot more engaging to primary pupils than complicated explanations and board work. Introducing children to such games at school can encourage them to pursue similar activities in their own time at home. The internet is so accessible now that they will be able to play and therefore practice whenever they want.

Using other online resources can also be really helpful. Resources designed specifically to teach children how to code are becoming more and more commonplace and they can be really useful in the classroom. Using a tool to create a simple code in front of the class is a great way to make sure everyone understands and you can address any queries as they arise.

As much as it is important to teach programming at a manageable pace, it is also important to challenge pupils from time to time. Why not introduce a little competition by challenging pupils to change a code made in class and then rewarding those who are successful? Coding can be very satisfying when it is done correctly and encouraging children to feel a sense of achievement when they have built something will increase the enjoyment they get out of it.

It might take some time to find a successful method for teaching programming to younger children but it will soon become a staple part of the curriculum. Once a few schools have effectively introduced it, teaching coding to primary schools pupils will undoubtedly become a smoother process.