Experiential Language Teaching

Experiential language teaching Experiential language teaching (ELT) initially grew out of educational and psychological theories proposing that a subject is learned best if students are involved in concrete, hands-on experiences with the subject. The American educator John Dewey was one advocate of the method. The belief is that students will learn better if they use the language as opposed to being passive receptors of artificial language. It is also thought that students will be able to analyze and discover their own information about the topic and language use as they are involved with tasks or projects. In language teaching, ELT creates situations in which students use their new language instead of just learning about it. This method is seen as particularly well suited for use with children but is now being practiced with students of all ages in many learning situations.

Experiential Language Teaching

Strategy of Experiential Language Teaching

  • English Skill Level: Advanced Beginning to Advanced
  • Grade Level: Elementary to Adult
  • Also Called: Task-based Teaching, Project-based Teaching

ELT’s main strategy is to have students be involved in doing. An experiential language lesson can be conducted in multiple ways, and a number of different activities can be included under the umbrella of ELT. For example, realia, show-and-tell, games, and videos are examples of teacher-fronted ELT activities. Because the focus of ELT is more often on the student than on the teacher, however, student-centered activities such as hands-on projects, cross-cultural experiences, field trips, role-plays, and simulations are frequently used ELT activities. In addition, poetry, songs, and drama may also be considered ELT activities.

  • The teacher identifies a task or activity that will help students learn the language needed in their particular context.
  • The teacher plans how the task should be implemented including any necessary language items that may need to be introduced or reviewed for the students to perform the task or activity.
  • The teacher explains the task to the students.
  • The students discuss the task and identify their roles.
  • The students do their task or activity.
  • The students perform or demonstrate what they have learned or accomplished.

Examples and Applications of Experiential Language Teaching

  • The student does an exercise in which he or she is asked to comprehend questions with question words such as what, where, how, who, when, and so on.
  • The student listens to examples of job interviews.
  • The student and teacher analyze the grammar, vocabulary, and discourse of the interviews.
  • The teacher or the students (or both together) create the dialogue for their own interview.
  • The students practice and then role-play interviews.

Strength of Experiential Language Teaching

  • Students are involved in actually using the language in authentic situations.

Weaknesses and Modifications of Experiential Language Teaching

  • Experiential activities must be carefully thought out with their goals and pedagogical purposes kept in mind or experiential activities may end up having little or no educational value. See also: Cooperative Language Learning; Whole Language

Notional-Functional Approach

The Council of Europe developed this approach in the 1970s to serve as a paradigm for language teaching in Europe. In this model, the content of what should be taught focuses on notions and functions as opposed to a grammar-based curriculum. Notions are content areas such shopping, health, travel, personal identification, and so on. Functions are how we use language such as expressing opinions, asking for advice, apologizing, and so on. Concepts presented in this approach have been subsumed by experiential language teaching.

Strategy of Notional-Functional Approach

English Skill Level: Advanced Beginning to Advanced
Grade Level: Elementary to Adult

The following format is often used:

  • A dialogue focusing on certain functions and notions is presented.
  • Students practice the dialogue with classmates.
  • Students may create their own dialogues for role-playing.
  • Students may reinforce usage through assignments in which they choose or fill in the appropriate words in a written dialogue.
  • Students may expand on the previous tasks by going into the community and practicing “real-life” dialogues.

Strengths of Notional-Functional Approach

  • Pragmatic, authentic use of language is emphasized.
  • The approach helps students to understand different registers of language.

Weaknesses of Notional-Functional Approach

  • The approach can be too limited with little focus on academic or professional needs and skills.

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