Unit 3: Theories, Methods and Techniques (ITTT 120-hour online TEFL course review)

Unit 3 - Theories, methods and techniques.jpg

Review of the ITTT 120-hour online TEFL course -

Unit 3: Theories, methods and techniques

Following on from Unit 2 on taking my online TEFL course, which was concerned with basic grammar terms and tenses that you’ll naturally understand as a native-speaker or near-native speaker, but perhaps not know the names for.

Unit 3 on the ITTT online TEFL course was named ‘Theories, methods and techniques’ and was mainly concerned with ways to teach English in the classroom. This unit will be essential to new teachers. In a nutshell, new English teachers coming into the classroom for the very first time could probably solely study this unit and get by well.

Theories of language teaching: which is best?

Children all around the world learn the basic rules of their language, whatever it may be, by the age of 5 years old and will have a huge vocabulary. They are able to convey meaning, understand social interactions and make grammatically correct sentences most, if not, all of the time. How this happens is still not fully understood, but what is true, is that after about the age of ten years old, it is impossible to speak and sound like a native speaker. All this, even though as children, we all receive no formal language instruction from parents and care-givers. Natural L1 (first language) acquisition cannot be repeated with L2 (second language learners), so we’ll need to use different ways to teach English, but which approach is best and which should you use for your English classes? Unit 3 of the online TEFL course looks at this.

Presentation, Practice, Production (PPP)

Many English teachers who have done TEFL courses would be familiar with this term and teaching technique. The PPP approach to language teaching is a favourite model of teaching practice on many online TEFL courses and it basically involves the students watching the teacher presenting the new language, then the students being put into small groups to practice the new language in controlled practice activities, then finally, producing the language in freer practice. This teaching technique has come under recent criticism for excessive teacher talking time (TTT), which should be avoided. ITTT online courses for teachers have gone with a different teaching approach; ESA.

What is ESA? Engage, Study, Activate!

International TESOL and TEFL Training (ITTT) advocate a different teaching approach to teaching language called ‘ESA’; this stands for Engage, Study, Activate. The idea is to get your students speaking English through raising interest and encouraging more Student Talking Time (STT) and lowering the time that the teacher is talking.

#1: Engage

The teacher raises an interest in the theme or topic of the class, using a variety of teaching materials, such as realia, flashcards, drawings, pictures, topic-linked warmers, asking though-provoking questions, etc. This prepares students and their ears and brain into receiving and producing the target language. Curiosity is encouraged.

#2: Study

A focus is now put on the target language and the TEFL teacher teaches new language, again using a variety of resources such as good ESL worksheets, music, language practice games, video clips, pair-work, etc.

#3: Activate

Students now produce the language they have been taught and have been practicing in free practice activities, such as dialogue, roleplays, etc.

I think that ESA is the better teaching methodology and I am pleased to see teachers leaning this on the 120-hour online TEFL course. They have the idea of a ‘patchwork’ lesson, where different parts of lessons are cleverly meshed together to get the teacher and students from the start of the lesson all the way to the end, with the teacher’s teaching aims always in mind.

Language Games for the ‘Study’ Section

This part of Unit 3 of the ITTT 120-hour course for English teachers is something which my in-house TEFL course never offered, but I badly needed when first becoming a TEFL teacher.

The section covers 30-40 language games which teachers can use to teach new sentences or lexis (vocab). Each game is designed to last 5-10 minutes and is an opportunity for your students to learn new language in a fun way and move around the classroom. Often without realising it, your students will be practicing and consolidating new language, whilst having a big smile on their faces. These are language games for learning English which can be pulled out of the teacher’s ‘magic hat’ to practice English, in an emergency, as a warmer or a cooling down activity. ITTT has added into their online TEFL course a unit, which I think, is crucial to all teachers.

Overall impressions of Unit 3: Theories, methods and techniques

This has been the longest unit so far (over 20 PDF pages to read) and I haven’t covered everything in my review. I missed out some parts about other teaching methodologies from past and present, some of which were a bit useful, others irrelevant, for example talking about ‘The Silent Way’ and the use of Cuisenaire Rods. I’ll eat my hat if teachers ever once come across these in their career!

The importance of this unit meant that the unit was long and if I was ITTT, I would cut this section into two parts and have 21 units rather than 20. Perhaps they were going for a round number?

Don’t let the length of the unit and the addition to, what I think are irrelevant parts put you off; this unit is essential and, again, will probably be the most important you’ll study on the ITTT online TEFL course.

Next up….Unit 4!!

By Stuart Allen

Stuart AllenComment