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In my opinion, silent way is a discovery learning approach. The silent way is the name of the method language teaching devised by Caleb Gattegno. This method represents Gattegno's ventures into the field of foreign language teaching. It is based on the premise that the teacher should be silent as much as possible in the classroom and the learners should be encouraged to produce as much language as possible.
A Silent Way lesson typically follows a standard format. The first part of the lesson focuses on pronunciation. Depending on pupils' level, the class might work on sounds, phrases, or even sentences designated on the Fidel chart. At the beginning stage, the teacher will model the appropriate sound after pointing to a symbol on the chart. Later, the teacher will silently point to individual symbols and combinations of symbols, and monitor pupil utterances. The teacher may say a word and have a pupil guess what sequence of symbols comprised the word.
As far as the presentation of language is concerned, Silent Way adopts a highly structural approach, with language taught through sentences in a sequence based on grammatical complexity, described by some as a "building-block" approach. The structural patterns of the target language are presented by the teacher and the grammar "rules" of the language are learnt inductively by the learners. Cuisenaire rods (small coloured blocks of varying sizes originally intended for the teaching of mathematics) are often used to illustrate meaning. New items are added sparingly by the teacher and learners take these as far as they can in their communication until the need for the next new item becomes apparent. The teacher then provides this new item by modelling it very clearly just once. The learners are then left to use the new item and to incorporate it into their existing stock of language, again taking it as far as they can until the next item is needed and so on.
The last line of Benjamin Franklin's famous quote about teaching and learning can be said to lie at the heart of Silent Way. The three basic tenets of the approach are that learning is facilitated if the learner discovers or creates rather than remembers and repeats what is to be learned, that learning is aided by accompanying (mediating) physical objects, and that problem-solving is central to learning involving the material to be learned.
Let us consider each of these issues in turn. First is regarding 'learning is facilitated if the learner discovers or creates rather than remembers and repeats what is to be learned'. Based on this tenet, I think the Silent Way can be considered as one of the humanistic approaches. This is because the teacher is usually silent, leaving room for the pupils to talk and explore the language. Besides, the pupils are responsible for their own learning and are encouraged to interact with one another. The role of the teacher is to give clues to the pupils, not to model the language. This can be accomplished while playing games with ad-hoc materials as well as Cuisenaire rods. After achieving good control over the grammar, pronunciation and melody of a language, pupils can absorb large amounts of "content vocabulary" (shoe, tree, run, tired, etc.) and immediately put these words to use in sentences.Â Therefore, Silent Way makes it easy for pupils of foreign to master grammar at a very early stage in their study.
Whereas a typical teacher might walk into a classroom with a lesson plan in mind and a textbook in hand, a Silent Way teacher might enter the room with a box of coloured rods and a very open mind. In their attempts to describe a situation created with the rods, the pupils might find themselves in need of an expression like "It won't fit because it's too long," or they might run into problems trying to ask "What did she do?" Neither of these situations may have been planned by the teacher, but both offer possibilities for further exploration and practice by the pupils. Since there are no book pages to cover, the teacher and pupils can spend as much time as they want on understanding particular topics. Allowing all the time necessary to get to the bottom of a new structure and practice it thoroughly often means that the pupils have "got it for life" the first time around and don't need to review it again and again as they do in normal language courses.
The second issue to be explained here is regarding 'learning is aided by accompanying (mediating) physical objects'. The rods and the colour-coded pronunciation charts (called Fidel charts) provide physical foci for pupil learning and also create memorable images to facilitate student recall. In psychological terms, these visual devices serve as associative mediators for pupil learning and recall. The psychological literature on mediation in learning and recall is voluminous but, for our purposes, can be briefly summarized in a quote from Earl Stevick:
"If the use of associative mediators produces better retention than repetition
does, it seems to be the case that the quality of the mediators and the
student's personal investment in them may also have a powerful effect
(Stevick 1976: 25)
The third issue to be discussed here is regarding 'problem-solving is central to learning involving the material to be learned'. From here, I think Silent Way is also related to a set of premises that we have called "problem-solving approaches to learning." These premises are succinctly represented in the words of Benjamin Franklin:
"Tell me and I forget,
reach me and I remember,
involve me and I learn."
In the language of experimental psychology, the kind of subject involvement that promotes greatest learning and recall involves processing of material to be learned at the "greatest cognitive depth" (Craik, 1973) or, for our purposes, involving the greatest amount of problem-solving activity. Memory research has demonstrated that the learner's "memory benefits from creatively searching out, discovering and depicting" (Bower and Winzenz, 1970). In the Silent Way, "the teacher's strict avoidance of repetition forces alertness and concentration on the part of the learners" (Gattegno 1972: 80). Similarly, the learner's grappling with the problem of forming an appropriate and meaningful utterance in a new language leads the learner to realization of the language "through his own perceptual and analytical powers" (Selman 1977). The Silent Way pupil is expected to become "independent, autonomous and responsible" (Gattegno 1976) - in other words, a good problem solver in language.
Talking about the relevance of the Silent Way to our current Malaysian classroom ELT context, I think this method is relevant to the upper level of primary school pupils and above only. This is because, if we look at our current lower primary school pupils, most of them are depending much on the teacher. Why is this happening? There are many factors that can be put into consideration. In fact that teacher should be creating pupil-centeredness situation while teaching, we are actually a little bit behind in practising this environment. However, teachers are not to be blamed for this lacking. Perhaps, besides some instability in our current education system, where the policies are seemed to be changing in short term period, pupils' unreadiness is also one of the main reasons why I think this method is not relevance to be practiced upon lower level primary school pupils. In my opinion, pupils' readiness depends on their maturity and experiences. Based on Malaysian context, the age of lower primary school pupils in our country is in the range of 7 to 9 years old. During this range of age, children are said to be at a critical stage where they are actively developing their cognitive and physical skills as they manipulate and explore their world. However, according to Piaget (as cited in Berk (n.d)), "as the brain develops and children's experiences expand, they move through four broad stages, each characterized by qualitatively distinct ways of thinking". In other words, Piaget believes that children from different age have different level ways of thinking and understanding. Same goes like upper and lower level of primary school pupils, both levels have different rate of absorbing the input from the teacher. How fast or how slow the rate of their knowledge absorption is depending on their readiness, where it relies much on their maturity and experiences. Meaning that, pupils would not be able to move on to the next stage, or a more advance level unless if they are mentally, emotionally and physically ready, and have maximally explored their own world.
Next, I am going to describe on the second language approaches that I have chose, which is 'Community Language Learning (CLL)'. This particular method is considered to be an interesting method to discuss because it was not designed by a language teacher, instead it was created by a counsellor who was also a therapist and a priest. The design of this method is based on a therapeutic approach in order to facilitate the learners of a new language to enter their independence and high level of trust in the target language. Since the counselling techniques are applied on this method, it is also well-known by the name of Counselling Learning. The use of the counselling techniques is based on the assumption that the counselling relationship without a threat or unwanted force can create an optimum environment for the learners in learning a target language.
Same goes to the Silent Way, CLL is also a part of Humanistic Approach to language learning, where it emphasises on the learners' responsibility for their own learning. In the case of CLL, the founder figure was Charles Curran, an American Jesuit priest, whose work in Counselling Learning (an approach to learning in general, based on Rogerian counselling ideas and practices) was then applied to language learning. The community language learning (CLL) is primarily designed for monolingual conversation classes where the teacher-counsellor would be able to speak the learners' first language (L1). The intention is that it would integrate translation so that the pupils would disassociate language learning with risk taking. It is a method that is based on English for communication and is extremely learner-focused.
But, the Community Language Learning method does not just attempt to teach pupils how to use another language communicatively, it also tries to encourage the pupils to take increasingly more responsibility for their own learning, and to "learn about their learning", so to speak. Learning in a no defensive manner is considered to be very important, with teacher and pupil regarding each other as a "whole person" where intellect and ability are not separated from feelings. The initial struggles with learning the new language are addressed by creating an environment of mutual support, trust and understanding between both learner-clients and the teacher-counsellor.
Through this method, pupils typically sit in a circle, with the teacher (as counsellor) outside the ring. They use their first language to develop an interpersonal relationship based on trust with the other pupils. When a pupil wants to say something, they first say it in their native language, which the teacher then translates back to them using the target language. The pupil then attempts to repeat the English used by the teacher, and then a pupil can respond using the same process. This technique is used over a considerable period of time, until pupils are able to apply words in the new language without translation, gradually moving from a situation of dependence on the teacher-counsellor to a state of independence.
This method is based on several theories. First of all, it is based on the idea that what is actually learnt by a human being is generally in his cognitive and affective areas (Subiyakto, 1988). It means that a learner gets all of the inputs from outside world through his mind, which can be considered as his cognitive ability and also through his feelings, which can be considered as his affective ability. Creating a learning atmosphere that facilitates a learner to communicate and interact with others freely seems to be the best way to maximize a learner's cognitive ability as well as his affective ability.
The second theoretical base of this approach is quite similar to the first. According to Pateda (1991:103) who quoted from Atmodarsono (1984:22) as an effort to learn a second language, Community Language Learning is based on several factors in a learner's mind such as attitude, emotion and motivation. It is clear from this statement that this method is dealing mostly with the internal factors of a language learner. Pateda (1991:103) also mentions that this method is based on the interactional theory as well. It means that language can be used by an individual as a mean to have an active interaction with others in a community.
The next theoretical premise of this approach is basically directed to achieve the personal needs of the individuals. It is confirmed by Tarigan (1989:232) that this approach is based on a particular assumption saying that a person as an individual needs to have an understanding and assistance from others to go through the process of achieving not only their personal values but their personal goals as well.
Another assumption that has become the basis of this method is that Curran emphasise that counselling and teaching should be integrated together (Hamied, 1987:143). It is because according to Curran, counselling is concerning with the self-insight and self-awareness of an individual that can stimulate his personal growth, satisfaction and better relationship with others, while teaching is exclusively concerning with intellectual learning process therefore counselling and teaching should not be separated.
However, there are clearly some major problems with CLL. It can only be done with small numbers of pupils. The pupils have to share a single mother tongue. The teacher has to be highly proficient in the target language and in the language of the students. The teacher also has to have enormous reserves of energy - both physical and psychic. Arguably, too, it is unwise to undertake CLL as a teacher without some counselling training. It has also been pointed out that this is a methodology exclusively suitable for adult learners, not for children.
Talking about the relevance of this method to our current Malaysian ELT classroom context, I think this method is suitable for upper level of primary school pupils and above only. This is because it would be quite limited in terms of how it could be applied to classes of young learners (lower primary school pupils), who tend to instinctively expect a certain amount of active direction (compared to the upper primary school pupils) from the teacher. In this method, in understanding what the pupils need in the classroom, the teacher must have a high sensitivity to be able to identify the time when the clients need help in communicating their ideas and the time when they need to do it on their own. Since the teacher has a role as a translator to guide the pupils on the early stages of this method, the teacher must have a good command of the target language so that he can make necessary correction to the mistakes that the clients do. For those who are interested to apply this interesting method in their classrooms here in our country, it may be a little difficult since this method not only takes more time and energy but it also depends on the diversity of the culture and language as well as the clients themselves. In spite of that, the role-play in the classroom offered by this method still can be applied in our country, the teacher may take the part as a counsellor and the pupils as the clients. As long as the teacher is less active than the learners the use of this method will give a great advantage and a brand new wonderful learning experience to both the learners and the teacher
In a conclusion,