EFL Teaching Methods
Methods for Teaching English
in the EFL Classroom
To follow this lesson, scroll down the page and watch or listen to the numbered video and audio presentations. Please wait a few seconds for the first video to load.
1. To start, click on the video below
2. We have created an audio podcast to complement this lesson.
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TEFL Methodology Podcast – nine minutes
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3. Click to play this six-minute video describing PPP methodology
Though there are many approaches to teaching methodology in TEFL/TESOL, two teaching methods are most commonly taught in TEFL certification programs. These methods are “PPP” (present, practice and production) or “ESA” (engage, study and activate). That doesn’t mean they are the best approaches. They are just the most well-known approaches and more likely to be requested by employers or Directors of Studies (DOS). Thus we are going to concentrate on those two approaches.
“PPP” Presentation, Practice and Production
“Presentation” involves presenting the target language (the language to be taught to the students) to the students generally through eliciting and cueing of the students to see if they know it and then providing the language if no one does.
The target language is usually put on the board either in structure (grammar-type) charts or in dialogs. Presentation features more “teacher talk” than the other stages of the lesson, generally as much as 65-90% of the time. This portion of the total lesson can take as much as 20-40% of the lesson time.
Next comes “Practice” where the students practice the target language in one to three activities that progress from very structured (students are given activities that provide little possibility for error) to less-structured (as they master the material).
These activities should include as much “student talk” as possible and not focus on written activities, though written activities can provide a structure for the verbal practices. Practice should have the “student talk time” range from 60-80 percent of the time with teacher talk time being the balance of that time. This portion of the total lesson can take from 30-50% of the lesson time.
“Production” is the stage of the lesson where the students take the target language and use it in conversations that they structure (ideally) and use it to talk about themselves or their daily lives or situations. Production should involve student talk at as much as 90% of the time and this component of the lesson can/should take as much as 20-30% of the lesson time.
As you can see the general structure of a PPP lesson is flexible but an important feature is the movement from controlled and structured speech to less-controlled and more freely used and created speech. Another important feature of PPP (and other methods too) is the rapid reduction of teacher talk time and the increase in student talk time as you move through the lesson.
One of the most common errors untrained teachers make is that they talk too much. EFL students get very little chance to actually use the language they learn and the EFL classroom must be structured to create that opportunity. See the paragraph on Pairwork and Small Groups below.
Below is an excellent video covering some basic concepts of PPP.
4. Click to play this eight-minute video describing PPP methodology
You can often hear criticism of PPP as being too rigid and too grammar based, but there is no need to use PPP that way. CELTA programs in particular approach lessons with a very grammar-oriented focus. There is no better way to turn off your students, to bore them and have them hate the study of English.
5. A better way to use PPP is to teach functions. And here is a good short blog post to turn the whole grammar problem around. Just click on the image below to open a new window and find the article:
Some TEFL training programs will teach a method called Task Based Learning or TBL – which is really quite similar to teaching functions with a PPP structured lesson. Don’t let all the acronyms get you confused. The basic ideas are 1. Teach something to your students, ideally something useful and relevant to them, 2. Have them practice it in a structured way that assures success and, 3. Allow them more freedom to apply that language to their own circumstances.
6. Read the short section below:
“ESA” Engage, Study and Activate
Roughly equivalent to PPP, ESA is slightly different in that it is designed to allow movement back and forth between the stages. However, each stage is similar to the PPP stages in the same order. Proponents of this method stress its flexibility compared to PPP and this method, as defined by Jeremy Harmer (its major advocate), uses more elicitation and stresses the “Engagement” of students in the early stages of the lesson. Both elicitation of students’ knowledge and ideas and their engagement are excellent ideas in any lesson regardless of the methodology. Put some thought into adding a focus on elicitation in the early stages of your lesson to help shape where it goes as you proceed through the lesson.
ESA is superior method to PPP when both are looked at from a rigid point of view. But, EFL is not rigid and you should not adhere to any one viewpoint or method. PPP is often an easier method for teacher-trainees to understand quickly and can easily be used as flexibly and in as much of a student-centered manner as ESA. (Or maybe PPP just becomes ESA at the point?)
7. Click the image below to watch a short Power Point slideshow that compares PPP and ESA. (Opens in a new window)
8. Pairwork and Working in Small Groups
Most speaking practice in the classroom should be done in pairs and small groups with students talking to each other. It is a common mistake of the untrained teacher to think that students must or need to talk to the teacher.
While talking to the teacher is certainly useful, each student in a small class of only 15 will get at most 3 minutes of talking time in a 45-minute class if conversation is teacher-centered. In pairs, those same students could be directly involved in conversation as much as 22 minutes.
See the difference? That is a seven-fold increase in the amount of time a student can practice speaking, listening and interacting in English. One of the biggest problems EFL students have is the very limited amount of time they actually get to practice speaking and listening in direct interaction. Often their only opportunity is in your classroom.
The teacher’s role during pairwork and small group time is to rotate around the classroom encouraging students and helping them focus on the target language/concepts of the lesson. Including pairwork and small-group work in your PPP/ESA lesson is critical to the success and improvement of your students’ language skills.
Other advantages to pair and group work are that they encourage collaborative study and help the students support each other in the class room.
9. Watch this good example of pairwork in an ESL classroom
10. Expanded Concepts
Read the following. They will download as Word documents. Consider these documents as reference material and use them to stimulate your thinking about the concepts involved.
A good review of a variety of EFL teaching methods (so you don’t get stuck in just one) is at the website of Dr. Jill Kerper Moran of San Diego State University: Second Language Teaching Methods
11. Additional Notes for EFL Teaching Methods
It is important to use English in the classroom as the target language and as the teaching language. There are times, however, when the limited use of the students’ first language (L1) can be useful. Native speakers in particular should be careful though. Some native speakers lose their value when they begin teaching in the students’ L1. Most EFL students have already studied English for years in their L1 but still can’t speak fluently. The more you use a student’s L1, the more you lose your value as a native speaker and in most cases, a major factor in your hire was that you were a native speaker. If you don’t use that skill and ability, they might as well hire a local teacher usually for significantly less than what you cost.
12. Watch this short fun video by Pedro Camaho about when to use or not use L1 in the EFL classroom
13. Other Important Classroom Concepts for EFL Teaching Methods
Read this British Council article on the use of realia in the classroom.
There is more information on realia in the Student Motivation page on this website.