It seems about every decade or so a “new” English language learning method or approach comes into vogue. During the 1990s, the European Direct method or Direct method was widely taught and used in EFL and ESL classes. Although this method is still in use, it has largely been replaced by other, newer approaches and methods such as the Multiple Intelligences and the Discovery method, among a few others. The Direct Method however, has some distinctive features and advantages which make it useful even today despite the advent of newer, more popular English language learning methods and approaches.
The Direct Method is fairly simple and straightforward in its application towards language acquisition. The general manner of teaching using this method involves a three-stage procedure:
Each of these three general lesson stages has its own particular aspects and characteristics. We’ll briefly then examine each of these lesson and planning stages in order to have a better understanding of the Direct Method and its application.
Foreign Language Acquisition Using Direct Method
The Presentation Stage – In the presentation lesson stage of the Direct Method, the English or foreign language learners are introduced to the topic or theme of the lesson. This can be done through images, a video clip, a sound or audio clip, a short story, an anecdote, a Total Physical Response (TPR) physical activity or game, a drama presentation, teaching of lexis or a short six to eight word vocabulary list or other introductory method lasting approximately five to eight minutes at the beginning of the lesson.
The Practice Stage – In the practice stage of a Direct Method lesson, the learners get an opportunity to work with lexis, vocabulary or grammatical elements of the lesson theme using a variety of short, dynamic activities as an aid in internalizing the selected material.
This is most frequently done in context using practice activities including:
· Word search puzzles
· Crossword puzzles
· True / false exercises using the lexis or vocabulary
· Cloze exercises and / or fill – in – the- blanks writing exercises
· Cognitive pairs or matching written activities, to name a few
This stage of the lesson features guided practice in using the lexis, vocabulary or grammar structure of the lesson. This stage is also relatively short, lasting from fifteen to twenty minutes, typically longer than the presentation stage.
The Production Stage – The production stage of a Direct Method lesson allows the learners an opportunity for free or unguided practice in producing new language using the lexis, vocabulary or grammatical theme structure of the lesson. Learners may have short dialogues, conversations, interviews or inter-active oral discourse and dynamic speaking activities among themselves. Writing production activities like producing e-mails, notes, recipe or shopping lists, completing questionnaires by talking with several other learners or a small group are included as production stage activities. The purpose here is to give learners ample time for actual application of the lexis, vocabulary, grammar structure or other featured linguistic element.
Language Acquisition Advantages
The Direct Method of language acquisition and teaching offers several key advantages to both the English or foreign language teacher and the learners. Some of these are:
· The lesson approach is simple and straightforward
· Learners can easily follow the pace and content of the lesson
· The simple format of a Direct Method lesson makes it easier for teachers to prepare
· Lesson objectives for each stage are clear and simple
· Pacing or timing of each Direct Method lesson stage allows ample time to develop each stage
· Priority is given to the third or final stage of Direct Method lessons giving added weight to the free or unguided production of new language on the part of the English or foreign language learners
· Lessons are prepared to feature a specific grammar or structure point, specific key lexis or vocabulary, develop reading, listening comprehension or communicative writing skills
Advantages of Direct Method
So even though the Direct Method may no longer be “in vogue” with industry language acquisition leaders, the advantages of the Direct Method make it worthy of consideration as an addition to the teaching and learning repertoire of any English or foreign language teacher.