5 Key TESOL Approaches

Communicative Approach:

  • Example: Instead of simply practicing asking for directions, students might plan a scavenger hunt in teams, using English to negotiate routes, describe landmarks, and give each other instructions. This adds an element of fun and authentic collaboration.
  • Emphasize: CLT isn’t just about activities, but also an underlying shift in the teacher’s role from the “knowledge giver” to a facilitator of communication and learning.

Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT):

  • Example: Students research, debate, and create a persuasive campaign about reducing food waste. This task requires reading, listening, writing, and presenting in English, all within a real-world purpose and a potential for impact.
  • Nuance: TBLT works best when the tasks carefully align with learners’ current language proficiency level to be both challenging and achievable.

Content-Based Instruction (CBI):

  • Example: Students learning about the solar system aren’t just memorizing vocabulary, but writing a science fiction story as if they were on a mission to Mars. This engages multiple skills and knowledge domains.
  • Highlight: CBI’s effectiveness depends on selecting content that’s genuinely interesting to students and tailoring it to their language level.

Total Physical Response (TPR):

  • Example: Use games like “Simon Says” with action words, or teach prepositions (“put the book under the chair”) through movement.
  • Advantage: TPR is excellent for reducing anxiety, especially in beginners, as it lets them participate actively before feeling the pressure to speak.

Lexical Approach:

  • Example: Don’t just teach the word “heavy” – introduce common collocations like “heavy rain,” “a heavy bag,” “a heavy heart.”
  • Benefit: This primes students to understand and produce natural-sounding English beyond memorizing isolated vocabulary.

Additional Notes:

  • These approaches are often blended in practice! A lesson may start with TPR to solidify new vocabulary, move into a CBI-style reading, and culminate in a communicative task for real-world application.
  • Consider student age: TPR works well with young children, while teens might get more out of TBLT projects, giving them a sense of agency.