The Participatory Approach to Language Teaching & Why Should You Use it

Hello, my dear colleagues! This article is an article in the series of articles related to language teaching methodology and it is related to the participatory approach.

What is the participatory approach to language teaching?

The participatory approach is similar to content-based instruction, but in this approach, the content emerges from the students’ answers and participation.

What are some aspects of the participatory approach?

  • Problem-solving is elicited by the teacher. The teacher will pose a problematic situation, backed up by some visual stimuli, and ask the students to solve the situation.
  • Brainstorming solutions is the crucial part of this method. The students will present their ideas, and they can discuss them on the spot.
  • Group work/project consists of collaborative work in order to create a solution that is accepted by the whole group. Educators usually do it in form of a letter, story, or a science project.
  • Students complete the self-assessment at home, through the project revision.
  • Discussion happens when the students bring their revised projects. They will describe their corrections and evaluate their own learning in front of the group.

The use of authentic texts and connecting the teaching materials to real life

Since the issues presented are usually connected to their closest community and/or real life, this is a real chance to introduce authentic lesson materials. This means that instead of using a textbook to introduce content, content from real life will be used, such as videos, newspaper articles, interviews, and so on.

An example

Example: The teacher engages the students into an initial discussion about something connected to their lives. The teacher poses a problem and tries to elicit a solution from the students. The teacher leads the students to the best solution. Then they decide on a project, in this case, a group letter. The students work together to edit their letters. They will continue editing the project for homework and bring their letters and read them next time. In the end, they will discuss what they learned in the lesson.

The Participatory Approach works very well in Content-Based Teaching. Educators can use the method after the initial presentation of the content, as a follow-up activity and a way to revise the learned content, vocabulary, and grammar structures. If we want to conduct a lesson with a participatory approach, we should plan it according to the learners’ level.

How can this engage and motivate your students?

This engages learners to explore on the internet, activates multiple 21st-century skills, and motivates them to stay active in the classroom. It opens a whole new world and it gives them opportunities to voice their concerns over important issues that are closely related to their lives, while also improving language learning, acquisition, and content retention. It also activates all 4 language skills (listening, speaking, writing, and reading) in an organic, contextual way.


  • J.Nelson. (2012), Overview of ESL/EFL Methods
  • Larsen – Freeman, D. (2000). Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Saville-Troike, M. (2006). Introducing second language acquisition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

How do you engage your learners and keep them motivated? Have you ever considered using the participatory approach in your lessons? If you have anything to add or say, write below or get in touch via the contact page.

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About Alice Glass

Alice is a 29 years old preschool teacher (Pre-K) with a B.Ed. She is currently enrolled in her Master's studies, with a double major, one of them being English teaching methodology. She is also an online ESL teacher and blog writer for the British Council. Last but not least, she is the mother of a very energetic toddler.

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