According to the authors, at the end of the 1960s the need to develop alternative methods of language teaching was considered a high priority (Richards & Rodgers, 2014, p. 154). Since the mid-1970s the scope of Communicative Language Teaching has expanded. It is seen as an approach (and not a method) that aims to “(a) make communicative competence the goal of language teaching and (b) develop procedures for the teaching of the four language skills that acknowledge the interdependence of language and communication” (Richards & Rodgers, 2014, p. 155). The wide acceptance of the Communicative Approach and the varied way in which it is applied can be attributed to the fact that practitioners from different educational traditions can identify with it (Richards & Rodgers, 2014, p. 157).
CLT emphasizes interaction as both the means and the ultimate goal of learning a language. It has been seen as a response to the Audio-Lingual Method (ALM). With the Communicative Approach, interaction becomes both the Method and the Goal of teaching.
Content-Based Instruction (CBI) refers to an approach to second language teaching in which teaching is organized around the content or information that students will acquire, rather than around a linguistic or other type of syllabus (Richards & Rodgers, 2014, p. 204). CBI draws on the principles of CLT.
According to Richards & Rodgers, students learn a second language most successfully and they are more motivated when the information they acquire is perceived as interesting and useful, and they focus on something other than language, such as ideas, issues, and opinions. In other words, in CBI the content that students study is selected according to their needs (Richards & Rodgers, 2014, p. 210). Besides, in CBI, language learning is typically considered incidental to the learning of content. Thus, the objectives in a typical CBI course are stated as objectives of the content course.
Implications for My Classroom
Activities for Communicative Language Teaching
The range of exercise types and activities compatible with a communicative approach is unlimited, provided that such exercises enable learners to attain the communicative objectives of the curriculum (Richards & Rodgers, 2014, p. 165).
In the Communicative Approach, a lot of talking is done by the students. Guided by their teacher, students engage in role playing, pretending to talk about different events, recalling the plot to the latest movie or book – all real-world situations where there is a need to communicate meaning. As a result there may be more emphasis on skills than systems, lessons are more learner-centered, with the use of authentic materials.
There are the following exercises that enjoy great popularity in my classroom:
1. Role-playing. It allows students to practice English in a safe environment.
2. The Talk Show Interview. Students experience what it is like being the host of a talk show or the guest answering questions in front of the audience (class).
3. Objectified. The teacher prepares a list containing names of different objects. One student picks up an object and, using English, tries to describe it without naming it so that the class can discover what the object is.
4. News Reporting. I let students tell about the most awesome thing they have seen on TV recently. It gives students the opportunity to practice talking about events.
In my opinion, the important thing for each of these activities is to let students know that, in spite of any awkward pauses and mistakes, they can survive using English and that they are appreciated by the teacher and the whole class.
Even though the purpose of CLT is to help students communicate with others, this approach also integrates multiple skills, such as listening and writing. As a teacher, however, I do not ignore the necessary work of learning the functional language (grammar and vocabulary-building). I teach grammar within contexts and through communicative tasks. I incorporate it into my lessons in a way that contributes to the interactive tasks which encompass the communicative style. Besides, communicative approach to the language teaching requires a sense of community which “pair work” or “group work” can provide. The benefit of group work is that it changes each person, transforms the atmosphere of the class as a whole and is the key to having a successful ESL/EFL class.
Activities for Content-Based Instruction
In CBI, students learn about different subjects using the target language as a tool for developing knowledge and so they develop their linguistic ability in English. This is thought to be a more natural way of developing language ability and one that corresponds more to the way we originally learn our first language.
CBI is very popular among ESP (English for Specific Purposes) teachers as it helps students to develop valuable study skills such as note-taking, summarising and extracting key information from texts. Back to Belarus, I was teaching ESP for for journalists and psychologists at the undergraduate level. I also developed a special ESP course “Idioms in Mass Media”. My students were significantly more motivated when authentic materials, content, and contexts were used. The active nature of CBI allowed students to develop critical thinking that could be used in their professional activities later in life. However, these courses were mostly designed for more advanced students as finding information sources and texts that lower levels could understand was difficult.