Content based instruction by means of communicative approach

 Since English language has become a lingua franca, the need to learn it has increased significantly. A lingua franca can be defined as a language widely adopted for communication between two speakers whose native languages are different from each other’s and where one or both speakers are using it as a “second” language. (J. Harmer.  English language teaching.p:1.) English speakers as a second or foreign language are increasing day by day. There appears the need to learn the language in the fastest and effective way especially in the modern world of technology.

There have been suggested different methods and approaches of language teaching by linguists: Audio-lingualism,  PPP (Presentation, Practice, Production) and alternatives to PPP, The communicative approach,  Task based learning,  Four methods ( The silent way, Suggestopedia, Total Physical Response, Humanistic Teaching, The Lexical approach, etc

Language is a means of communication. Thus, the main reason of learning a language should be to communicate. Communicative approach (or communicative language teaching) mainly serves to learn the language in the communicative way. It was founded in 1970s years in Great Britain. The “what to teach” aspect of the Communicative approach stressed the significance of language functions rather than focusing solely on grammar and vocabulary. (J. Harmer.  English language teaching.p:84.)  Therefore, the students usually are not aware of learning grammar and vocabulary at the lessons.  The grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation (i.e. stress, intonation, etc) and the other aspects of the language is taught in an unnoticeable way. It literally makes lessons alive and students become enthusiastic. Language is the key to the culture. Even though not all teachers are native speakers, all teachers serve as culture bearers–the representatives of the culture in the classroom. (Helena Curtain, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee). Students learn about the culture of the language spoken while learning the language.

Communicative approach does its best to create a natural learning environment for students. A classroom however does not offer a natural learning environment for language acquisition the way parents do with infants (Crichton,2009). Usage of target language creates an environment closer to the parent-infant environment. It almost imitates this relationship and thus the language is learned in a short time.

Usage of target language is very important in communicative language approach. Usage of target language in lessons, even in the beginner level classes, makes the students be self confident, motivates them and helps them to believe that the language can be learned easily (roughly said, they think the language is learnable). Role-plays, simulations of different kind of everyday situations (i.e. TV programs, salesman-customer, shop assistant-customer, doctor-patient, etc) are the essence of communicative language teaching.

However Jeremy Harmer says: “Communicative Language Teaching has sometimes been seen as having eroded the explicit teaching of grammar with a consequent loss among students in accuracy in the pursuit of fluency”.

This problem can be solved with teacher correction, reading, watching videos of native language speakers.

One of the structural approaches is PPP (Prestentation, Practice, Produce). It is a variation of audio-lingualism. There exists a confusion to which level of students the PPP is the most appropriate. “In the first place, it should be remarked that PPP is not a “method” or an “approach” (labels that some authors such as Skehan, 1998, use to refer to this model), but a pedagogical strategy at the teachers’ disposal to teach language items which seems to be more suitable for adult language instruction contexts“.(Raquel Criado, University of Murcia) However J. Harmer says “…And when it was at its most popular teachers knew that what might be appropriated for beginner and elementary students was less likely to find success at higher levels where accurate reproduction and controlled repetition seem out of place” we have accurate repetitive activities in chorus, individual, etc.

There is considerably lots of criticism against the PPP:

Although few proponents of the PPP nowadays claim that such an improvement is possible in about an hour of class time, the format of a PPP lesson still seems to suggest that aim and no one has really found another consistent aim for a production stage at the end of the lesson. ( Alex Case).

Perhaps the major criticism of PPP is that students do not learn the way that it supposes. One reason for believing this is that classroom observation has shown repeatedly that what is presented to students is seldom retained outside of an individual lesson, even though it seems to have been mastered in the course of a lesson.

“…only describes one kind of lesson; it is inadequate as a proposal concerning approaches to language in the classroom. It is entirely fails to describe the many ways in which teachers can work when, for example, using course books, or when adopting a task – based approach” (J. Scrivener).

The only difference between Audio – lingualism and PPP approach is that at the end of the PPP cycle (in the production section) the students make their own sentences freely.

There came many alternatives to PPP method and it became even improved. Keith Johnson and Donn Byrne suggested starting from any stage that the student has week points.  Michael Lewis suggested the Observe, Hypothesize and Experiment stages.  Jeremy Harmer created ESA (engage, study, activate).

David Kolb created the following learning styles:

  1. Concrete Experience– (In other words – Presentation).
  2. Reflective Observation(In other words – Analyze).
  3. Abstract Conceptualization(In other words – Practice).
  4. Active Experimentation(In other words – Produce).

We can enter to the learning cycle from any stage we need.  It reminds the PPP if closely paid attention. But it is revised and developed.

PPP is structural method, teacher talking time is much and student talking time is only at the end of the cycle.

Nowadays ESA (engage, study, activate) is preferred because of its communicative feature. It allows for much more flexibility.

Students do not like feeling like being controlled, listening to lectures, taking notes. They like being active, talking, moving in the class, playing games, etc.

Learning any skill is done by doing them, at the same time by studying them. There has always been a research for finding a flexible language teaching methodology.

Another methodology appeared in Canada in 1980s. It was a methodology that concerns the teaching of both subject content and language.

One early paper which considered CBI and EFL together was Mohan’s (1979) who explored three cases of relations between language teaching and content teaching (namely: language teaching by, with and for content teaching).  Since then three different models of CBI have come into being, and by 2003 Davies had noted three models in usage:  a “sheltered model” where a content specialist and an ESL specialist work together, and “adjunct model” where ESL teachers prepare classes to acclimatize students to classes with L1 learners, and a “themebased” model where a teacher teaches on his or her own to unlock and build upon the student’s own interests. (Neil Matthew Addison. Richard John Walker).

Each language teaching methodology has its own advantages and disadvantages. If we combine some of them together and take the best point of each of them we can get a flexible teaching methodology. As we talked above:

  1. The communicative approach offers a natural learning environment.
  2. ESA provides the students with accuracy and teaching all aspects of language.
  3. Content based instruction uses topic, content for each lesson and makes lessons interesting and useful for all situations which students can face in everyday life.

In our research we can use content based instruction as a model, give the lessons an opportunity to communicate with each other. We will do this at the same time with teaching them the aspects of language. In order to make a more natural environment direct method is preferable. Native language can only be used in abstract explanations.

Our lessons need to be student oriented (student-student communication) as students aren’t usually confident to speak to teacher. They are too much concerned about making mistakes. Teacher’s role should be an observer, a prompter, a resource and a participant. Sometimes teacher should also participate in the games and role plays. In this case the students will see the teacher as a peer.

Teacher should be a model of a target language with her accent. She should keep in mind that the students tend to imitate and her accent plays a great role on their target language speech and motivation.

The best lessons are carried in group lessons. Since a language is a means of communication students do need to practice the language with their peers. They feel more confident, enthusiastic and active between their peers. They compare their own achievement with the other students in the class and thus make improvements.


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