What Are the Different Methods of Teaching the English Language

There are numerous different teaching methods and approaches when it comes to teaching the English language. All methods are considered effective with their own strengths and weaknesses so it is hard to pinpoint which one is the best. Different students have different needs and learning curves and sometimes it helps to use more than one method in your sessions.

Teaching methods for learning English

Each method has a different approach and priority. Here is a list of common methods being practiced today by different English language teachers all over the world:

Direct method or natural method

The direct method of teaching is used worldwide not only to teach English but also other foreign languages. The main idea is to only use the language that the student wants to learn – in this case, you have to teach in pure English and the student only gets to talk in English as well. In this type of method, the main focus is on the student’s oral skills and this is done by repetitive drilling. The method traces its beginnings to a military drill in Germany and France back in the early 1900s. The method was implemented to help soldiers learn a second language quickly so that they can communicate with allies effectively. There is no emphasis on grammar rules in this method of teaching because the major focus is to improve the student’s oral skills.

Grammar translation method

This method of teaching English concentrates more on grammar as its name suggests. Students will mostly deal with literary texts in their lessons. The grammar translation method is the most common way people learn languages where lessons heavily rely on translation. Basically, learning is done by translating words and by giving them the rules of grammar. A lot of countries prefer this method of teaching because students get to learn all the rules of grammar and they will be able to translate sentences correctly. Students who wish to be fluent in English would commonly choose this method of teaching.

Structural approach

This teaching method is all about structure, as the name suggests. In this method, complex grammar rules are taught in a specific order. This way, a student gets to construct these grammar rules from the easiest to the hardest. The focus is more on sentence structure, patterns, appropriate composition, and grammar. In the structural approach, emphasis is placed in the proper order of things.

Total physical response (TPR)

This method follows the principle of learning by doing. The theory was developed by James Asher during the 1960s. He believed that memory is enhanced when you associate something with a physical movement. Students will learn English with the help of repetitive actions like “lift your hands”, “stand up”, and “thumbs up”. For the TPR method, aural comprehension is considered to be the most important skill and everything else will naturally follow suit.

Communicative language teaching (CLT)

For this teaching method, the focus is more on being able to communicate or converse effectively in realistic situations. Students will be exposed to interaction, real-life communication, and negotiation. The CLT method will also involve teaching students the right and different ways to converse in a situation such as thanking someone, suggesting something, complaining about something, asking for directions, and requesting for something. Basically, students will be given enough exposure to use English in the real world. This is the type of teaching method most preferred for students who simply want to learn English to communicate with others and they do not necessarily need to know rules of grammar.

Audio-lingual method

This method is also known as the “Army method” and “New key method” and was derived from a behaviorist theory that through constant reinforcement or making a habit out of something, that something can be learned. But just like in the military, if a student performs badly, they receive negative feedback from the teacher. If a student is able to perform well, the teacher gives them praise. Just like in the Direct method, English is the only language used during the class. The student is discouraged to use their native tongue. Conditioning through long, repetitive drills may bore students sometimes but the audio-lingual method is found to be an effective tool especially when it comes to enhancing a student’s vocabulary and pronunciation.


This teaching method also comes from a behaviorist theory in relation to pseudoscience. This method will rely on the student’s belief on the effectiveness of the teaching method. In the Suggestopedia method, the student is given a choice on how they want to learn English. Student can choose a method that they are comfortable with or a method that they feel they are confident in. In the end, the student gets more responsibility on his or her learning.

Silent method

The silent method relies heavily on the learner’s autonomy. In this method, the teacher will be silent most of the time and will be a facilitator only, encouraging students to be more active in the learning process. For instance, in a class setting, two students will be asked to talk to each other in English while the teacher observes. In one on one sessions, a student will be asked to read something out loud and the teacher makes notes about the performance which they can discuss after. Lessons under this method will focus on pronunciations and vocabulary.

Task-based language learning

In the task-based language learning method, the students will have to complete a task and in the process, they get to learn English. For instance, a simple task will be to ask your student to make an infographic about a certain topic and ask them to explain their work. Another interesting task is to assign your student to present a short video about asking people in the community to teach them a common slang and what it means. The lessons under this method will be based around how the student completed the task and the teacher works on making the necessary corrections after the presentation.

Helpful tips and suggestions for teaching English

Adjust to your students

You have to make allowances for each student because they are learning English on different levels. For group classes, there will be no one standard method to follow that will apply to everyone in the group. To be an effective teacher, you have to create a personalized approach especially for those who are still in the early stages of learning English. They will certainly appreciate you and your efforts for making sure that you get a good quality education from their class with you.

Get to know your students

This is important especially if you are dealing with immigrants who moved to an English-speaking country with little English skills. They are already intimidated by their surroundings and the people around them because of the language barrier and you, as their English teacher, should be a welcoming presence in their new journey. Even the act of simply calling them by their name or their preferred nickname would mean a lot. Try to make an effort to know them a little better. For instance, ask them about their day before starting the session or show an interest in their culture. This will make them like you a lot as their teacher and will help you earn their respect in the classroom.

Make your students feel safe

Sadly, there are people who laugh at and make fun of non-native English speakers when they try to converse in English. This can intimidate them and discourage them from trying at all. In your class, make sure that you provide a safe and secure environment for them to fully express themselves without the fear of being ridiculed. Correct their errors gently and with compassion. They will always be bound to make mistakes and it is part of the learning process. When you do this, they will feel more comfortable and will be encouraged to practice their English skills more.

Use visuals

Majority of people are visual learners – especially in this digital age where the attention span is significantly shorter than it was before. Even in the Internet, videos, pictures, and infographics turn out to be the best ways to disseminate and absorb information. Sadly, most teaching approaches rely heavily on auditory instructions and barely uses visuals. Try to incorporate more visuals in your lessons to help your students learn faster.

Keep it simple

When talking to your students, it helps them to understand you better if you keep things simple. For example, instead of saying “Today, we will practice a few keywords we have learned from the past session. I will ask you a question and I want you to answer the question for me.” You can keep it simple by saying “Let’s practice some words we learned last time. I’ll ask you a question.” Can you see the difference? Keeping your statements short, simple, and clear will also be an advantage to you if your student asks you to repeat what you said because he or she was not able to get it right the first time.

Make your students read out loud

If you have a textbook, workbook, or instructions for an activity, ask your student to read the instructions out loud. If your text comes with pictures, you can also ask them to describe the picture and what they understand about it. It helps if in your session, you do less talking than the student. One way to do this is to ask them to read out loud. When they do this, their oral and reading skills improve.

Do interactive activities

In traditional English language school setups, you can make your students interact with each other by doing interactive activities like role playing. You can pair up students and give them a scenario where they have to converse in English in accordance to the situation given to them. And do not just choose boring scenarios like going to a store and buying something. Go with a break up, telling a friend that their lover is cheating on them, asking a boss for a raise, etc. These situations are very interesting and will surely give your class a lot of fun and material to work on.

Limit dictionary use

Asking your students to memorize words is okay but majority of the time should be spent on how to put those words into use. The task of reading a glossary or dictionary and memorizing is repetitive and can be boring plus it does not bring a lot of context to the class. To be relevant, it is best to use these words in conversations in your class instead of just simply memorizing them for the sake of having a wider vocabulary.

Do summaries

A few minutes before your session ends, ask your student to give a summary of what they have learned from your session today. This will help them absorb the lesson more. Make this a practice for every session so that they will be expecting it and will be forced to pay attention on your sessions to be able to give a good summary and impress you.

Stay up-to-date

As an English teacher, you should be well informed when it comes to the best methods and techniques of teaching the English language. There are a lot of researchers uncovering new information on how the brain works and how language develops. Attend as much conferences as you can and join trainings to get as much certification as you can to improve your teaching techniques and raise your credibility in the industry.

Where to get teaching resources

Here is a list of ESL resources for teachers to help you have more interesting lesson plans, lesson ideas, and activities in your ESL classes:

British Council

The British Council is regarded as the authority in English for some countries making them a greatly reliable source of tips and resources, especially for teacher development. You also get to connect with other teachers around the world through this site as it also provides an avenue for you to ask questions and exchange ideas about ESL.

National Council of Teachers of English

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) is a professional association for educators in English studies, language arts, and literacy. NCTE offers resources, journals, and publications to its members and hold conventions and professional learning events to share research, teaching strategies, and lesson ideas.

Everything ESL

EverythingESL.net is a website set up by Judie Haynes, an ESL teacher who has more than 39 years of teaching experience. She has authored and co-authored four books on ESL and has co-written a chapter for TESOL’s Integrating Standards into Classroom Practice. This makes her one of the most reliable sources of information and resources for ESL. Her site is filled with lessons plans and teaching tips as well.

Busy Teacher

This is a great resource site when it comes to preparing for anything that involves ESL. The site is owned by SureSwift Capital, a company that works on education technology solutions and the site has been operating for over nine years already. You can find thousands of printable worksheets and lesson plans on the site written by teachers. The best thing about it is that you can access these resources for free.

ESL Galaxy

ESL Galaxy is a free ESL resource site. You can find printable worksheets, flash cards, board games, lesson plans, and PowerPoint presentations. You can also find a lot of resources catered to teaching ESL to adults both for conversational English and business English. The site was created last 2005 and has expanded as a portal site for other ESL sub-sites. The website is being updated daily by a team of full-time English teachers.

ESL Games World

This site is a partner site of ESL Galaxy and is the best resource when it comes to looking for fun games. This can be very helpful to perk up any sleepy student. You can find a lot of interactive online and PowerPoint games to test your student’s grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation. For classroom settings that do not have an access to computer, you can still have fun with ESL Games World because they also have printable games available.

ESL Video

A lot of schools do not allow access to social media sites and YouTube in their premises so if you need a video resource, ESL Video is a great alternative for you. The site offers free video-based activities and quizzes catered both for online and traditional classroom settings. The videos with quizzes and the lessons in video forms are made by English teachers who made videos to improve the vocabulary, grammar, listening, and speaking skills of the student. As a teacher, you can even contribute your own quizzes in their website.

TEFL Tunes

Sometimes, it is easier to learn something through music and for moments like this, TEFL Tunes is the website that will give you a lot of ESL songs. You can find songs that focus on grammar, writing, speakings, pronunciation, reading, and listening. The site has songs for all levels of ability. You have to subscribe in order to get full access to their songs but they also offer some songs for free.

Make Belief Comix

Comic strips are a fun and creative way to teach English to your students. If you are not so good in the art department, you can make your own comic strips through Make Belief Comix. The site offers story ideas, creative writing prompts, and free printable comic strips. You can even write your own text for the comics that are already drawn and just waiting for their lines.

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