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Approaches and Methods for Teaching Listening and Speaking

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Through the time, there has been a significant shift in language perspective and along this shift, different approaches emerged for teaching listening and speaking skills. Some were short-lived, others stood the test of time. Hovering wordlessly by itself is a powerful but somewhat cliché principle that teachers cannot apply a “one size fits all approach” to offer the best learning experience to learners. As such, here are some approaches for teaching these two macro skills- listening and speaking.

Humanistic Approach

The Humanistic Approach. This is based on the principle that the whole being, emotional and social, needs to be engaged in learning, not just the mind. Under the umbrella of Humanistic Approach include TPR, Silent Way, Self-Directed Learning, Oral Drills and Suggestopedia among others.


1. Total Physical Response

One of the hallmarks of Total Physical Response is its focus on language learning through psychomotor associations. This draws on command forms to which learners respond by physically doing the action; there is a focus on student’s listening comprehension prior to oral production skills. It is the teacher who speaks in the target language in the early stage. Nevertheless, TPR is seen fundamental to lowering students’ affective filter and stress level. Given the fact that learners nowadays are really vigorous (regardless of grade level), they love to move around and do some actions finding it more fun and expressing themselves freely, and so learning seems to occur naturally.


2. Silent Way

The next approach has the weight of history behind it, making it a sort of “unconventional approach”. Yet, there are still faithful teachers who use it in their classrooms. So what exactly is the Silent Way? Why might one decide to teach with silence? How could that possibly work? There are a number of great reasons to give this a try. This approach is simple but powerful. The emphasis is on the students’ learning rather than the teaching. The students take an active role in the process of learning as they are granted a great deal of autonomy by the teacher to foster their problem-solving skills and to encourage them to speak as much as possible. It also creates a room for making mistakes where students are empowered to take a step forward to language learning. Hence, the teacher takes the role of directing students’ focus, facilitating self-reflection and providing feedbacks when necessary. Like the TPR, this gets students moving, speaking and constructing meaning away from textbooks and drills.


“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn” (Benjamin Franklin)

3. Self-Directed Learning

As with most things in life, a balanced approach is also a key in education. So here’s a second look at the Self-Directed Learning. The learners are considerably the center of this approach in which the learning process and learning experiences are organized and controlled by the learners themselves. Given this trend, it doesn’t mean that SDL is learning alone. On the contrary, it is a learning initiative. Learning independence is given to the learners to learn on their own abilities, with or without help from others.

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4. Oral Drill

Subsequently, drills are used to foster the formation of positive habits and focus mainly on the presentation and practice of grammatical structures. Although Oral Drill, as an approach, has been criticized for its imitation feature, it is deemed indispensable even up to this day. Drills are no longer used solely for mere repetition but also as an opportunity for controlled practice with an enhance communicative element. It’s also flexible in a sense that it can be carried out with individual, smaller groups of students or with the whole class. Oral Drill helps learners gain confidence and help teachers draw the former's attention to phonological features of the target language.


5. Suggestopedia

Often considered to be the strangest of the so-called “Humanistic Approaches” but has had its day flourished and certain elements still survive in today’s educational landscape is the Suggestopedia. The trademark of this approach is the use of music (background/accompaniment) to activities aimed at motivating learners become more receptive. Additionally, it intends to create a relaxing atmosphere to stimulate their learning.


Task-Based Learning Approach

Finally, we have the Task-Based Learning. This is separate from those previously mentioned. TBL helps learners explore the multitude of communication opportunities provided in their surroundings. The tasks or activities are authentic, “real-life” situations which require comprehending, producing, manipulating and/or interacting in the target language. The amount of listening or speaking involved to complete the problem posed is determined by the task itself. Similar with the Oral Drills, this can be carried out individually, in pairs or small cooperative groups. As it builds a stress-free environment, learning becomes more meaningful and natural. Also because one’s own experiences are considered important in the classroom learning atmosphere. Previous studies have indicated that, by and large, TBL is a good approach in facilitating receptive and productive skills and in the promotion of language competencies. This denotes that TBL provides an adequate chance to practice speaking and listening on the topics that are of interest enough for the learners.


These approaches and methods are just but a teacher’s way of looking at teaching and learning. Given these, we understand that not all the time, teaching takes priority over details of content especially the teaching of English in the field. Allowing students to make mistakes, learning on their own, discovering how to deal with things are already welcomed in the classroom settings as they yield better results.

We have to make sure that our teaching bags are always jam-packed with a variety of approaches, methods, techniques and the like to pull from as deemed necessary by the contexts and situations. While pre-made lessons and activities are available online and other resources at our own convenience, we all know that we are still the ones to create a difference in the lives and make a significant impact in the learning of our students.

© 2022 Sangie Ceneta

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