As we have mentioned before the situational approach has some peculiarities which differentiate it from other oral-based approaches namely audio-lingual and direct methods. The first its striking feature is the focus on structural core: training grammatical structures, vocabulary expressions, sentence order via oral practice and drill training. The next point of crucial importance is the principles of systematic character of introducing the material, what reflects in accurate selection of lexical and grammatical material. There is the definite transition from one technique to another what is underpinned by Russian linguists who made the stress on gradually training of communicative situations. To take consideration of viewpoints on the situational approach which have been proposed by Russian and British linguists, it should be mentioned that this approach is not totally focused on the structural base of language or completely emphasize the drills and habits. The matter is in the correct utilization and application of the effective constituents of this approach. Thus, the situational or oral language can be the mixture of two above mentioned practices whereby the grammatical and lexical items can be taught through oral activities.
Before we approach artlessly to the experiment and analysis of the textbook on which it is based, let us to ponder upon one more convention which is relative to situational approach and reveal its implement. Other point here is that situational approach pertains to functional methods of foreign language teaching. The reason why the notion “function” appears here is that the comparing the situational language teaching with direct and audio-lingual method, linguists drew their attention to the vocabulary and grammar peculiarities of any foreign language. Therefore they reached the conclusion that every language has the core basic vocabulary items which frequently appear in the written texts. The amount was 2000 words. If learners master these words they will be able to improve their reading skills. Similarly there was the matter with the grammatical structures. Situational approach proposes that grammatical patterns and structures which construe as the substitutional visual tables, schemes can facilitate the grammar acquisition. Analyzing the oral methods we can find out that situational approach encompasses drills from the direct methods and systematic basis from the series method, in which precisely is its effectiveness. The other core point and proposed benefit is that there is the combination of coherent sequence of learning activities with the vocabulary and grammar contexts. The notion that plays not the last role here is “a situation”, what in fact served as the name for this approach. All grammatical and vocabulary activities and tasks are to be presented through situations.
The general convention about this approach is that in the initial stages, the role of a learner is rather passive. In the beginning of the learning process a learner has to succumb to a teacher’s orders and guiding. This is vital for building the correct habits and behaviors. A teacher acts as a model, learners should repeat pronunciation, order in the sentences. Likewise, a teacher presents situations and learners read them in chorus. However later, there is active participation needed, learners can initiate the answers in dialogues, ask questions. Although a teacher still should control the introduction of new language items and when presentation of new situations occurs [3, 3-4]. Accordingly, Russian linguists mention that when students have basic background knowledge, on the medium stage, they practically keep the conversation without the teachers’ control.
Turning to the teacher’s role, it should be mentioned that he\she is the main figure in the beginning of the learning process. The teacher not merely presents the situations and structures but also controls the other stages of the process and sets the pace. In fact the teacher acts “like the skillful conductor of an orchestra, drawing the music out of the performers” [4, p. 2]. Naturally, the teacher has to be the skillful manager of the process and be able to guide it. He\she is to ask leading questions, give hints, cues, show the example, and elicit correct structures. In the intermediate and advanced stages, during practice, the teacher gives the opportunity to students to speak in the situations freely and lead the conversation almost independently, however with post analysis of their grammatical and vocabulary errors.
According to Pittman there are such responsibilities of the teacher during the application of this method:
- oral practice, to support the textbook structures;
- adjustment to special needs of individuals;
- developing language activities other than those answers from the textbook [1, p. 8].
Thus, the teacher is the significant subject in this approach on the account that he or she controls the process and in the initial stages becomes the preeminent figure in the learning process. Regarding the above points, the obvious fact is that the textbook is only the element of the process, where the teacher sets time, elicits structures, adjusts needs of students and makes assessment. It is beyond the doubt that the time management on the lesson is the vital constituent in spite of what method the teacher is applying. Every element of the lesson should be hold in appropriate time. As in situational or structural method the weighty portion of attention is drawn to the three basic stages: presentation, practice and production, the timing plays the central role here. Not many books support the situational teaching activities and tasks, especially oral exercises; however, there may be the description of them, according to which the teacher can create activities in the classroom. The next point in the duties of the teacher is assessment of the oral skills. That is likewise the teacher individual decision to make the criteria according to students’ individual peculiarities, their level of knowledge and the topics they have learned.
A major role in the situational language teaching is rendered to the materials and ways of the presentation. As we have found out from the previous information, the book still takes the rather sizeable place in this approach. However, the teacher has to be the master of the textbook and in the same time to be prepared to create the necessary materials as the appendix to the tasks given in the book. For speaking activities the means of not small importance is visualization. Even the textbook contains the pictures, the posters, flashcards, hand-outs are the essential aids. The pictures on A4 format can be the brilliant means for speaking interaction on the account that students easily find words looking at the pictures, they can describe separate elements of the pictures. Moreover the teacher has to adjust students’ individual styles of learning: there are visual, auditory, kinesthetic learners.
Speaking about the procedure of the lesson, the central point here is to practice the structures and vocabulary items in such way
that learners can gradually come from the oral exercises and controlled utterances to more automatic and spontaneous speech. Therefore there are the three main stages as it has been mentioned before: such called PPP approach: presentation, practice and production. However, Pittman expand them to the following:
- Presentation of new structure or vocabulary
- Oral practice or drilling
- Reading of material on new structure, or written exercises” [1, p. 173].
In the previous chapter, we have illustrated the example of the presentation stage of the plan in situational teaching. Here we will exemplify the stages of the lesson referring to the particular textbook, which encompasses some elements of the situational approach.
Following the above recommendation let us analyze the stages of the lesson.
The theme of the lesson: First conditional sentences (the textbook Family and friends 5 class book) [5, p. 56]
Previous vocabulary: healthy food
New grammar structure: If S V(s), S will V.
S will V if S V(s).
Revision: The teacher uses the flashcards and explanation for revision vocabulary
Teacher (showing the flashcard): addi-
Teacher (showing the flashcard): dairy products, dairy
Students: dairy … Teacher: products Students: products Teacher: dairy products
Teacher trains the pronunciation of the other words referring to the healthy food.
Guessing the words according to the flashcards and definitions:
Teacher: food that you eat because it is good for you
Students: health food
Teacher (showing the flashcard): once more – health food
Students in chorus: health food
Teacher: what is the word for different foods you cook together to make a dish?
Teacher (showing the flashcard): repeat after me – ingredients
From the example of the revision phase, it is clear that the every vocabulary item is related to the object (flashcard) and the situation (definition). The same way of actions can be proposed for the presentation stage for the new vocabulary. Alternatively, this textbook contains the CD and MultiROM, therefore
Student: Eh, it is future?
Teacher: correct! But actually, we have two tenses in the first conditional sentence, but we refer it to the future.
At this stage the teacher gives the substitutional structure of the grammatical pattern:
If S (I, you, Tom) (V present simple), S (I, you, Tom) WILL
students likewise listen to the recording for (V1).
train the pronunciation.
The presentation stage – grammar structure: first conditional sentence. The grammatical pattern is presented through the story in a form of dialogue between the known characters: Professor and Chip. In the textbook the story is applied in the form of comics with pictures.
Pre listening stage:
Teacher: Children, look at the pictures, please. Who and what can you see?
Student 1: There are Professor and
Student 2: Eh… machine?
Teacher: Yes, correct. There is a new invention machine at the picture. Let’s listen to the recording and answer the question: Does Professor’s machine work?
Professor: I’ve made a wonderful new cooking machine.
Chip: Well done, Professor!
Professor: Oh, dear, if this machine doesn’t work, I will be very upset.
Chip: Well, we don’t know if we won’t try it. If I press this button, the machine will make a pizza. ….
During this stage, teacher not only presents the new structure to the students, but he or she makes them explore the grammatical structures on their own.
After listening, teacher points students’ attention to the rule below the story and makes students to guess and find new structures in the text.
Teacher: Look at the example:
If I press this button, the machine will make a pizza. But I haven’t pressed it yet. Did I press it?
Teacher: Am I pressing it now? Students: No.
Teacher: So, What is the tense?
From the above mentioned situation it can be seen that firstly the teacher does not point at the rule itself. The students try to understand it from the story. They explore the context and the educator asks them pivotal questions.
Next action the teacher does is the explanation of the rule and making students build sentences similar to examples given. The book gives a short outline of the rule elements and examples from the story.
Use the first conditional to talk about things that might happen in the future.
e.g. If I press this button, the machine will make a pizza.
The punctuation in the first conditional:
e.g. If this machine doesn’t work, I’ll be very upset.
I’ll be very upset if this machine doesn’t
Students read the rule and the examples. They find the sentences in the context of the story.
Teacher: So, as we understand from the example we talk about the future when we use this construction.
Let’s look at the example again:
I press the button. What tense of the verb is in this sentence? PRESS
Teacher: Is it present perfect, continuous or simple?
Students: May be this is present simple.
Teacher: That’s right. So, in the part of the sentence where we have IF we use the present simple tense in this particular structure.
This stage is the part of the presentation phase; however it can be called likewise – exploration stage, where students explore the rule individually. At the previous stage we already have students maximally engrossed in the story. Next step is to give them opportunity to work with the new information and connect it to the previous knowledge.
The next stage is the practice of the learned material – grammatical structures or vocabulary items. In the textbook – Family and Friends 5, the grammatical patterns are practicing via exercises. They might be in a form of test, gap filling, substitutional sentences. For instance, how we will observe the examples below, first conditional sentences are presented in a form of short test, where students have to select the correct part of the sentence.
Exercise: Read and tick.
- If you don’t do your homework,
Your teacher is angry
Your teacher will be angry
- Mum will be happy If we cook dinner
We will cook dinner [6, p. 35].
The practice implies that students train their knowledge on the substitutional examples, where they have clear sample how to form the new structure. During this stage they master their ability to identify the regular occurrence of the separate patterns of the grammatical structure. Depending on the teacher, such exercises can be also be used orally.
The last stage in the process is the production. In the book we have typical exercise including in the situational approach.
Figure 1. Match. Ask and answer
The picture with the phrases from the Family and friends textbook are the bright example of the situational exercise. The implication of this exercise is in the production stage on the account that students have to make sentences without the teacher’s help. What students have is the example of the interrogative and affirmative sentences. Due to that students product their own questions and responses while the teacher observes and controls the situation [2, p 74].
Thus, as we have mentioned in the beginning of this subchapter, even though the situational approach has some features in common with direct and audio-lingual methods such as drills, substitutional exercises, repetitions, it likewise has remarkable differences. First of all, this approach is focused not merely on the drills themselves but more on the practicing the lexical and grammatical items through them. Secondly, the situational teaching is characterized with the systematic nature, what makes stress on the careful selection of material and gradual usage of exercises. The roles, which the teacher and learner play in the process, also reveal the core essence of this approach. The learner is passive on the initial stage of the learning process, however later, he or she are the active participants in the process. On the advanced stages students have to speak and form dialogues, take part in situations on their own, however under control of the teacher. The teacher’s role is extremely active in the beginning of the learning. He or she is an example, model and guide for students. The teacher initiates dialogues, presents situations, stories. At the intermediate and advanced stages the teacher makes students opportunity to be active and keep the conversation independently. The core elements of the situational approach lesson are presentation, practice and production.
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