Theories, Methods & Techniques of Teaching - The Silent Way

 

Our next methodology is called the silent way and it's accredited to Caleb Gattegno and was developed in or around the 1970s. This particular methodology moved on from the behaviorist stimulus response to what's called a theory of constructivism and this constructivist approach was very very different, very radical to anything that had been tried before. The background to this particular methodology was that there was a French mathematics teacher who found that his students were finding it very difficult to understand particular concepts. What he realized was that what they needed was a more visual representation of the information. So he came up with a series of colored rods to help with those concepts in mathematics. He gave his name to those rods and they're called Cuisenaire rods and there's an example of Cuisenaire rods here. What teachers of English realized was that if this constructivist idea of using this visual representation of rods worked for concepts in mathematics, why could it not be applied to the teaching of English and this is what the Silent Way and Gattegno came up with. The idea is that each of these colored rods would represent a different sound, a phoneme if you like, and by using those rods he could teach vocabulary and indeed grammar by using a series of colored rods. One particular color may represent one particular sound and by putting those colors out in a series, he could represent the linking of those sounds into a particular word and indeed the length of the rod itself could tell you something about how long that sound should be pronounced. So, if you were quite inventive and you were trained in this particular method, you can use this series of colored rods to develop the pronunciation of words, move on to the next level into the way in which sentences are actually constructed by using the rods and so on and so forth. So, what was good about this particular methodology was they were said to use cognition in the learning process, in other words the brain was actually physically involved in constructing the language in how it works. So we're really building up the language within our own brain. This constructivist idea is very much the same way that we learn our native language. The other positive thing about it is that it's very good fun. One of the main problems with this particular methodology is the fact that it uses all of these rods and phonemic charts and so on and so forth so it takes quite a lot of learning. Before you actually get on to the learning of English itself, you have to know what each of these particular colors mean in terms of the phoneme and all of the charts and so on and so forth and that's true both for the teacher and for the students themselves. The second negative part is that you're actually too distant from the teacher. The whole point of the Silent Way is that the teacher would say as little as possible, apart from the modeling of language initially, and one of the main criticisms was that it was felt that this particular methodology was so far removed from didactic teaching, the teachers standing at the front and explaining, that the students found it very difficult to learn.


Below you can read feedback from an ITTT graduate regarding one section of their online TEFL certification course. Each of our online courses is broken down into concise units that focus on specific areas of English language teaching. This convenient, highly structured design means that you can quickly get to grips with each section before moving onto the next.

This unit begins by introducing the concept of modals and their uses. The modals are: can, could, may, might, shall, should, will, would, must, have to, have got to, need to, needn´t and ought to. They are used before other verbs and their function is to add meaning to the main verb. Modals are used to express a variety of ideas such as obligation (Ex. \"You have to finish your homework\"), possibility/probability (Ex. \"I might go to tonight´s party\"), permission/prohibition (Ex. \"You may not touch my things\"), ability (Ex. \"My brother can play the guitar\") and advice (Ex. \"My mother should go to the doctor\"). Modals can also be used to express different degrees of formality and they will be used depending on the context and the situation. For example, if you want to borrow something from your sibling it would probably be alright to ask: \"Can I borrow your CD?\", but if you are speaking to your teacher, you would probably say: \"May I borrow your pen?\" since the modal \"may\" is a lot more formal and polite than the modal \"can\". The unit also introduces the topic of the passive voice. There are two voices in English, the active voice and the passive voice. All sentences containing a subject, a verb and an object can be written in either of the two voices. For example, the sentence \"Mary steals a bicycle\" is written in the active voice and \"A bicycle is stolen by Mary\" is written in the passive voice. In the second sentence, the object of the active verb becomes the subject of the passive verb. Both sentences have the same meaning but a different focus. In the active voice, the focus is on the agent, or whoever is carrying out the action in the sentence. In this case it is Mary. In the passive voice, the focus shifts to whoever is receiving the action in the sentence, in this case the bicycle. The passive voice is often used when the agent or performer of the action is not known, is not important or does not want to be said. The passive can be used with a \"by phrase\" when the speaker or writer wants the audience to know who performs the action. The unit also covers the topic of relative clauses. A relative clause can be defined as a dependent clause that modifies a noun in a sentence, meaning that it will describe, identify or give additional information about the noun. Relative clauses are introduced by relative pronouns such as who, which, that, whose and whom. In some cases, these relative pronouns can be omitted. Finally, the unit addresses the topic of phrasal verbs which are verbs made up of multiple words that are made up of a verb and one or two particles. These particles can be prepositions or adverbs. There are three types of phrasal verbs. The first type are intransitive phrasal verbs whose main characteristic is that they cannot be followed by a direct object, such as in the example: \"The student didn´t show up\". The second type of phrasal verbs are transitive separable where an object pronoun can only come between the verb and the particle. For example: \"My dad picked her up at school\". Finally, in the third type of phrasal verbs called transitive inseparable, the object phrase or object pronoun both come after the particle. For example: \"The teacher went over the homework.\"

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