Approach, Method, Strategy and Technique

There are some nomenclatures related to Language Teaching. In this post we are going to give a brief explanation about Approach, Method, Strategy and Technique and give some examples about each one.


To language teaching, an approach is based on researches or theories such as learning and language acquisition. They guide the choice of method.  Some approaches in language learning include the following:

  1. Cognitive

In the cognitive approach, language learning is viewed as rule acquisition, not habit formation. Instruction in often individualized. Learners are responsible for their own learning. Reading and writing are as important as listening and speaking. Errors are to be used constructively in the learning process.

  1. Affective-Humanistic

The affective humanistic approach emphasizes the individual and his or her feelings. In this approach, the communicative process keeps the focus on the meaning. The instruction involves a lot of work in pairs or small groups, considering the necessity of support and interaction. Learning a foreign language is a process of self-realization and of relating to other people.

  1. Comprehension-Based

Regarding to this approach, some language methodologists assume that second language learning is very similar to first language acquisition. Listening comprehension is very important and is viewed as the basic skill that will allow speaking. Learners progress by being exposed to meaningful input that is just one step beyond their level of competence.

  1. Communicative

In the communicative approach, it is assumed that the goal of language teaching is learner ability to communicate in the target language. Students regularly work in groups or pairs. Classroom materials and activities are often authentic to reflect real-life situations and demands. Skills are integrated: activities may involve reading, speaking, listening and writing.


            A method is a set of procedures on how to teach a second or foreign language that is somehow compatible with an approach. Some examples of language teaching method include the following:

  1. Silent Way

This method is used with adults that are learning a new language. The teacher should not talk too much because the student has to be in control of what he wants to say. The mother language cannot be used.

  1. Community Language Learning (CLL)

In this method, a sense of community is emphasized. The teacher is a counselor and helps the learner. Students can use their mother tongue and the teacher can translate for it to be repeated by the student.

  1. Total Physical Response (TPR)

This method is based on the coordination of language and physical movement, most used with children. It can be used with English native kids to help them to acquire their mother language and kids that are learning a new language.

  1. The Direct Method

In the Direct Method the teacher uses the target language all the time with the students. It is not allowed to use the mother tongue. There is emphasis in good pronunciation and there is little emphasis on grammar.


Strategies represent an implementation component of a method. The following teaching strategies are for teachers of ELL:

  1. Always provide comprehensible input for the learners. Teachers may speak slowly, using gestures and body language to help students understand better.
  2. Link new information to prior knowledge. Tie new vocabulary to prior learning.
  3. Provide practice in pronouncing words. Provide exposure to new terms and words.
  4. Give students activities to work in group and monitor that they are participating. 


            A technique is a very specific type of learning activity used in one or more methods. Some of the techniques used and espoused by a teacher and methodologist Johann Amos Comenius between 1631 and 1658 were the following:

  1. Use imitation instead of rules to teach a language.
  2. Have your students repeat after you
  3. Help your students practice reading and speaking.
  4. Teach language through pictures to make it meaningful.

We also have some recent techniques:

  1. Flipped Classroom (Inverting your class):

The Flipped Classroom Model basically involves encouraging students to prepare for the lesson before class. Thus, the class becomes a dynamic environment in which students elaborate on what they have already studied. Students prepare a topic at home so that the class the next day can be devoted to answering any questions they have about the topic. This allows students to go beyond their normal boundaries and explore their natural curiosity.

  1. Design Thinking (Case Method):

This technique is based on resolving real-life cases through group analysis, brainstorming, innovation and creative ideas. Although “Design Thinking” is a structured method, in practice it can be quite messy as some cases may have no possible solution. However, the Case Method prepares students for the real world and arouses their curiosity, analytical skills and creativity. This technique is often used in popular MBA or Masters classes to analyze real cases experienced by companies in the past.

  1. Gamification:

Learning through the use of games is a method that has already been explored by some teachers, especially in elementary and preschool education. By using games, students learn without even realizing. Therefore, learning through play or ‘Gamification‘  is a learning technique that can be very effective at any age. It is also a very useful technique to keep students motivated.

  1. Social Media:

A variant of the previous section is to utilize social media in the classroom. Students today are always connected to their social network and so will need little motivation to get them engaged with social media in the classroom. The ways you can use this method of teaching are quite varied as there are hundreds of social networks and possibilities.



CELCE-MURCIA, M. Language Teaching Approaches: An Overview

HERRERA; MURRY, 2005, p. 171




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