On Eclectism and Other Exotic Fruit – An Interesting Review of Various Teaching Methods

We are constantly trying to improve our instruction and to add something fresh and new to our classroom. Sometimes we end up going in circles and pushing certain teaching innovations upon ourselves without having a clear idea where will they take us.

What would happen if we stopped reinventing the wheel and tried to reimagine it? What would happen if we stopped reinventing teaching and just started to reimagine it in the current time and age and adapt and improve what we already know? Whit this goal the 27th TESOL conference in the Northern Macedonia, Greece, Thessaloniki, decided to give itself a hard task to reinvent the way we see ELT. Let’s see what did the plenary speakers and the workshop facilitators have to say!

Reimagining Classrooms as Research
TESOL Greece 2020

Leo Selivan – On Eclectism and Other Exotic Fruit

Leo’s presentation was engaging and highly interactive. He led us through the ELT supermarket, a metaphor developed by Gabrielatos (2000), and he presented the topic of informed or principled eclectism.

He introduced eclecticism as a final product of combining teaching theories and methods while pointing out that every teacher develops its own eclectic instruction. He compared every method he presented with a certain exotic fruit – we played a guessing game for each method. We also received a worksheet where we needed to check all the activities we conduct in our classroom, and we were invited to share if we knew what the method behind those activities was.

Grammar translation method

Benefits – Requires greater cognitive depth, forces attention, promotes noticing grammar structures.

Activities – Translating a literary passage, finding antonyms or synonyms, memorizing a list of words.  

FruitLemon – despite being groundbreaking at the time of creation, this method sometimes leaves a bitter taste in our mouth.

Audio-lingual method

Benefits – Memorization as an effective L2 strategy.

Activities – Repeating sentence after the teacher, memorizing a dialogue, asking students to self-correct.

FruitPomegranate – It takes a lot of effort to separate the tiny berries inside and you get very little fruit.

You can see an interesting and a fun example of the audio-lingual method in a famous movie Love actually.

‘Designer methods’ – suggestopedia – reimagined as mindfulness

Benefits – Peripheral learning, learning by observation.

Activities – Reading stories out loud, using humor.

FruitBanana – it opens to show the beautiful fruit inside!

The video below is recorded in the Diane-Larsen Freeman professional development program long time ago, but we must admit that it is still relevant!

Total Physical Response / TPR

Benefits – Embodied cognition, teaching chunks, ability to communicate.

Activities – Using gestures to explain words, using games like ‘Simon says’.  

FruitGrapes – a lot of tiny grapes, combining into one big, juicy grape. Every grape is important!  

The example below is NSFW and presents a hilarious way to use TPR! Again, don’t play this at work! 🤣

Communicative teaching method

Benefits – The teacher is the facilitator, less frontal teaching, focuses on fluency.

Activities – Giving instructions in English, using board-games and role-plays, inferring the meaning of new words from context.

FruitWatermelon – simply refreshing!

Dogme ELT – Teaching unplugged

BenefitsMaterials are light, the instruction is conversation-driven, it focuses on emergent language.

Activities – Free conversation topics, discussion, photo description.

FruitDragon fruit – it looks amazing, but it doesn’t have a specific taste.

Post-method era

Benefits – A reflection on the teaching practice and improving the instruction – teacher autonomy.

Activities – Leading a blog, or a teaching/learning journal to reflect on the learning/teaching process.

Fruit – I can’t remember the fruit!

To conclude

Leo’s presentation was a great refresher of various teaching methods, and I must admit that I was pretty pleased with myself that I guessed every method he asked us about. To conclude, we must emphasize that eclectism in teaching is crucial since one method is not always effective.

What are your preferred teaching methods? How varied is your instruction? Are there some methods you dislike? Write in the comments!

References for further study

Gabrielatos, C. 2000. The Shape of the Language Teacher. Talk delivered at the TESOL Greece 21st Annual Convention, Athens, Greece 22nd May 2000.

Suggestopedia, Silent way and the Communicative Approach – Language Teaching Methods explores various methodologies of English language teaching. This was a joint project by Diane Larsen-Freeman and the U.S. Information Agency and was produced in 1990. Audio-lingual method, also created in the same project.

Larsen-Freeman, D. (1986). Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching. Oxford University Press.

About Alice Glass

Alice is a 27 years old preschool teacher (Pre-K) with a B.Ed. She is currently enrolled in her Master studies, with a double major, one of them being English teaching methodology. She is also an online ESL teacher and blog writer for British Council. Last but not least, she is a mother of a very energetic toddler.

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