The Eclectic Approach in Teaching English

Teaching English as a second language has its own challenges. Since different learners have different backgrounds and expectations in learning English, teachers need a flexible way of teaching. Focusing on one method will only work on one subset of the students while missing the other subset completely. The solution to this problem is the eclectic approach.

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What is an eclectic approach?

The eclectic approach is a term given to teacher’s preference to apply an arsenal of teaching methods and approaches instead of just one. Eclecticism in teaching is not a new concept by a long shot.  It has been advocated since the early 90’s to overcome the limitation of individual teaching method.

How do you apply the eclectic approach in the classroom?

Let’s have a look at the Grammar Translation Method (GTM). This method teaches a foreign language through translating, contrasting, and comparing the foreign language to the native tongue.

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Now let’s have a look at its strengths and weaknesses:

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Strengths:

  • Students can understand the meaning of words, phrases, sentences, and grammar easily and quickly through a consistent translation of sentences.
  • Teachers need not be fluent in English.
  • Teachers can teach grammar and sentence structure by easily by following strict grammar rules. This means less stress for the teacher during lesson preparation.

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Weaknesses:

  • It’s hard to for students to produce complete sentences by simply learning an isolated and independent collection of words.
  • The teacher may be motivated to stick to the grammar rules throughout, making the class boring without any variation.
  • Speaking English is not encouraged so students may not be able to produce English sentences verbally.
  • Very little learner participation is required.

To overcome the weaknesses of the GTM, teachers can employ the Direct Method (which is also known as the Natural Method) along with GTM. The idea of the Direct Method is to use English orally by repetitive drilling. Meaning is communicated by associating speech with objects, mime, gesture, and actions.

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For the Direct Method, teachers can also use a variety of helping tools such as drawings and flashcards. Using different learning media is also a part of the eclectic approach. The media acts as an additional “anchor” that links the English language to the mother tongue. Using different learning media can also overcome the boredom problem associated with the Grammar Translation Method.

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Additionally, for written tasks, teachers can ask students to actively proofread their own work before submitting them. Allow the use of tools such as the online spelling checker from online-spellcheck.com    to help them find mistakes.

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Remind the students to do their best in weeding out any spelling or grammar mistakes before using the tool. After checking their work using the spelling checker, students should make a note on mistakes they miss so they can avoid those same mistakes in the future.

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