M is for Method – What Is My Method?

Wordle Methodology Word Cloud


Method is Dead. Long live Method! Methodology is Dead. Long live Methodology! OK, what gives. Hasn’t method and methodology long disappeared in ELT? Not according to Scott Thornbury, as he explains in this insightful video, “M is for Method”. Method and Methodolgy persist, seemlingly unwilling to roll over and die.

Well, what do teachers actually do in the classroom? Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), (which freed teachers to adopt an eclectic way of teaching), is pretty much what one would expect a teacher of English to answer to the above question.

A personalised answer to the question, “What is my method” can be given on reflection. Today I taught a class of 8th graders a lesson in the first period of the day at school (from 8:30 to 9:15). The lesson did not use a coursebook, nor had it been exhaustively planned.

Today was simply Monday morning, which means back to school after the weekend. What a great weekend it had been, filled with interesting events. There had been the hugely successful Chilean bi-annual Telethon, covering 27 hours from Friday evening to Saturday at midnight. Surely my students would have broken open their piggybanks to make a donation? Some of them would have had family members working and volunteering to help. Most, if not all, would have watched this bi-annual event either on television or in person.

What else had happened this weekend? Oh, the boys would have watched the national championship football match on the Sunday, again, in person or on TV. Most are fans of one of the three major teams: Colo Colo, U, de Chile, and U. Catolica. Catolica had won the championship in the last match of the season.

By the way, the 12th graders had graduated on Friday night. Many had attended with their families. Some had sung in the choir. Some had had brothers and sisters who had graduated.

How could I exploit this tremendous amount of personally relevant, real-world events to develop my students speaking and listening skills? On the 45-minute Metro train to work I mentally worked out the following lesson:

Topic: Talking About Your Weekend
Aim: To share your weekend experiences with classmates
Grammar Focus: Past Simple
Procedure:
1. T explains the background & shares his weekend experiences with Sts.
2. Sts divided into 2 teams (Numbered heads 1 and 2)
3. Team Captains chosen
4. Rules explained
a. Each St speaks for 1 minute in front of class
b. 5 points given for successfully completing one-minute speaking
c. 1 point given for each verb in Past Simple that St uses
d. After finishing, the Speaker asks 3 questions about their weekend to their teammates
e. 1 point given for each correct answer
f. T acts as Timekeeper and Grammar Judge (accuracy)
Before beginning, check St understanding of rules using ICQ (Instruction Check Questions)
The winning team is the team which tallies the highest score. Of course, everyone is a winner, since participation requires Sts to be both fluent and accurate.

How successful was this speaking activity? I must confess that it was so successful, so much fun, challenging, and entertaining, that I used it all day long, for students in 8th grade (lower intermediate, PET level), 9th grade, and 10th grade.

Coming back to my original question: What is my method? What is my methodology? Was this a communicative language lesson? Was it an eclectic, Post-Methods, whatever works kind of lesson? It would appear that methods and methodology are both dead in the way that I taught this lesson(s). Yet, someone more discerning might say, “Your method is evident in the apparent lack of method or methodology”. I would answer that by asking you, “What is your method? What is your methodology?”

Method is dead. Long live Method! Methodology is dead. Long live Methodology!

Thomas Baker
Teacher of English as a Foreign Language to Speakers of Other Languages
Santiago, Chile

About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family.
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