The Natural Approach and its Effects on Role-plays, Lesson Planning & Activities

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The Natural Approach, a language teaching methodology developed by Tracy Terrell and Stephen Krashen, has had a profound impact on English Language Teaching (ELT) classrooms worldwide. It encourages language acquisition in a natural, intuitive way, advocating for immersive, meaningful interactions in the target language. This approach greatly influences role-plays, lesson planning, and activities in ELT classrooms.
1. Role-Plays: In the Natural Approach, role-plays are seen as indispensable tools. By mimicking real-life scenarios, students can practice English in context, shaping their understanding and usage of language through the dynamics of the situation. For example, students may enact a scene from a restaurant, where they have to order food or interact with restaurant staff. The spontaneous nature of these role-plays encourages students to think on their feet, fostering better fluency. The communicative nature of role-plays also fosters an empathic learning environment, enhancing cognitive and socio-emotional growth.
2. Lesson Planning: The Natural Approach proposes that lesson planning should focus on providing contextually rich, comprehensible input. Teachers should design lessons to foster interaction and active participation. Lessons may begin with easier tasks to build confidence, and then gradually move on to more complex activities. The Objectives should be clear, focusing on facilitating communication skills and enhancing understanding rather than just memorising grammar rules or vocabulary. The emphasis is on the use of visuals, realia, and other materials that can foster a close to real-life environment. Teaching is flexible and error-tolerant, where making mistakes is seen as a natural part of the learning process.
3. Activities: The Natural Approach promotes participatory activities that engage students. Rather than rote learning of grammar rules and vocabulary, learners are encouraged to acquire the language through a more hands-on approach. Activities such as information gaps, jigsaw reading, storytelling, group work, and peer teaching are used. For example, learners might be given incomplete diagrams or stories which they must work on in groups to complete, facilitating negotiation and reinforcement of learning. Language games focus on the interactive nature of communication, promoting a relaxed, playful classroom environment that relieves anxiety and fosters positive attitudes towards learning English.
In summary, the Natural Approach has revolutionised the ELT classrooms by infusing them with a rich tapestry of role-plays, holistic lesson planning, and intuitive, immersive activities. The emphasis shifted from the mechanical structure of the language to its communicative and interactive aspects. Students are no longer passive receivers of knowledge, but active participants in their own learning process. By providing an environment that promotes natural learning, students are more likely to maintain motivation and achieve a high degree of language proficiency.

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