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Topic 14 – Methods and techniques aimed at the acquisition of communication skills. Specific methodological foundations for teaching English.







Following L.O.E 2/2006, 3rd MAY we can see that “Acquire basic communicative competence in at least one foreign language to enable them to express and understand simple messages and get by in everyday situations”.

There exists a great difference among the different foreign language learning methods.

But what exactly must teachers teach in a foreign language class? The student must learn to listen , speak, read and write. The four skills are necessary.

Current Communicative approaches to second/ foreign language teaching advise to try to replicate the spontaneous process of L1 acquisition , as far as possible and we consider that this is the approach to our future teaching task implied by the title of this theme.

During the 1970 , there was a widespread reaction against methods that stressed the teaching of grammatical forms and paid little or no attention to the way language is used in everyday situations. This reaction crystallized in the communicative approach.

The communicative approach covers several methods. It is a student-centred approach which emerged in the 80 and which lays the emphasis on the communicative purpose of language.


For the reasons above mentioned , we are going to begin by defining the different aspect that constitute communicative competence according to Canale and Swain , in order to be able to organize our study of the main linguistic skills in a way that is coherent with the needs of acquiring C.C in English.


When trying to define grammatical competence it is a must to mention CHOMSKY because he was the first to speak about competence and performance in the 60,s , taking as a basis the distinction that DE SAUSSURE had made between language and parole. CHOMSKY have done a lot of research , which has eventually led to the concept of communicative competence . as we understand it nowadays.


HALLIDAY , who started from CHOMSKY´S views , but taking into account language in its social perspective. HALLIDAY , on his turn, is interested in language in use in the functions realised by speech.

According to this theory language functions are formal features of language, which enable communication to take place.

HALLIDAY rejects the distinction between competence and performance , as being of no use to study the sociological aspects of language and he developed a socio-semantic approach to language and language in use, trying to explain the relationships between language events and social context.

In this approach , he includes the notion of language potential , which is the set of options in meaning that are available both to listener and speaker. This implies that the speaker have behaviour options which he translates linguistically as semantic options , encoded in linguistic forms.


As far as HYMES is concerned , he criticises CHOMSKY because his notion of competence does not account for the sociocultural dimension of language , which is something CHOMSKY left out on purpose , for the methodological reasons.

HYMES , on the contrary , posits that to establish the idea of C.C. we need to know whether something is formally possible .If something is feasible, according to our means and whether it is appropriate in relation to a context , we should also take into account whether it is done and what its doing implies.

That is , according to Hymes , C.C. implies:

a)Grammatical ability to use what is formally possible

b)Psycholinguistic ability to use what is feasible.

c) Sociocultural ability to use what is contextually appropriate.


Current research has shown that communication cannot de understood unless we move away from the sentence level and try to understand language at discourse level , however complex it may result.

According to this , discourse competence would be the ability , which enables us to interpret individual message elements in terms of their relationship with the full text.

Also includes understanding lexical cohesion devices in context as well as grammatical cohesion devices in order to notice the cohesion of the different genres.

On the other hand it also comprises it also comprises grasping oral discourse patterns as well as written discourse pattern to be able to notice coherence in different genres.


Strategic competence is related to current interest in the cognitive devices through which we apprehend reality:

Related to strategic in so far as it is relevant for communication we should mention the following devices:

a)The use of reference sources

b)Grammatical and lexical paraphrase

c)Requests for repetition

d)Use of non-verbal language

e)Use of a single grammatical form

f)Use of the most sociolinguistic neutral form when we are not sure.

g)Use of the first language knowledge as an aid

h)Use of non-verbal symbols or emphatic stress or intonation to provide cohesion and coherence.

i)Use of pause filters and turn-taking devices.


a)From the point of view of the grammatical competence, they should learn to cope with difficulties in phonology, orthography, vocabulary, word and sentence formation.

b)As far as sociolinguistic competence is concerned , they should be able to understand the social context in order to express and understand the social context in order to express and understand social meanings properly.

c)Referring to sociocultural competence they should get at least some command of the basic social and cultural features of L2

d)In relation to discourse competence they should be able to distinguish the different devices to use in oral and written discourse

e)Finally , in relation to the strategic competence , they should be able to use strategies to cope with grammar problems , with sociolinguistic difficulties as well as with discourse difficulties in general.


The Grammar Translation method.

The grammar-translation method was the first applied to the teaching of classical languages such as Latin or Greek

It was particularly influential in the 19th century.

The name of the method derives from the fact that it consists mainly in the teaching the foreign language grammar and the main technique used is translation from and into the target language.


-The students learnt grammar rules and vocabulary(trough bilingual lists).Therefore learning mainly involves the mastery of grammatical rules , and memorization of long lists of vocabulary.

-Each pupil is required to read literary works since literary language is considered to be superior to spoken language.

-The emphasis is laid on written skills : reading and writing. The pupils do reading comprehension activities and write compositions.

-It is a teacher centred teaching. The student assumes a passive role and there is very little student-student interaction

-Grammar is taught deductively.



The grammatical rules and the examples are studied and the students do exercises in order to apply these rules. The students memorize grammatical rules , verb tenses , etc.


The students must find antonyms or synonyms in the text from a list of word given.They may also be asked to explain the meaning of some words in the passage or make sentences with them.


The pupils are asked to translate a reading passage from or into the foreign language.But they should try not to translate everything literally.


The students are asked to write a composition about a particular aspect of a reading text. Then they do a summary of the reading passage.


The direct method started to be developed the late XIX century.

It is based on the active involvement of the learner in speaking and listening to the foreign language in realistic everyday situations.

This method aims at getting the students to communicate in the foreign language.No use is made of the learners mother tounge. The method is thus against translation.


The main characteristic of this method are the following:

-Language is mainly taught through speech.Speaking skills are emphasized.

Phonetic is very important in the early stages of learning.

-The use of the mother tongue is avoided as mucha as possible and translation reduced to the minimum,

-Grammar is taught inductively.

-Vocabulary is given more importance than grammar. The teacher explains the new vocabulary through action , drawings , mime or examples. The pupils have to use the new words in sentences .Instead of learning vocabulary in isolation , they , they practise it in the context of conversations and discussions.

-The learner assumes a less passive role.


-Question and answer

The students are asked question which they must answer using full sentences.The students are also required to ask question.

The teacher can also ask question where a particular grammatical structure is practised and the student have to answer correctly.


The teacher reads the passage three times. The first time at a normal speed while students just listen. The second time the teacher reads each sentences so that the y have time to write what they hear. Finally the teacher reads the text at normal speed and the students check what they have written.

-Self correction.

The teacher encourages the students self corretion.So if a student makes a mistake the teacher gives him or her an alternative answer to his/her reply , and the student has to choose between his/her answer and the answer given by the teacher.

The Audio-Lingual method.

The audio –lingual method originated in the USA during World War II.

It was widely used during the 50s and the 60s, and was based on Structuralism and Behaviourism.

Structutalism holds that the grammar is a set of rules that govern structures. This means that the foreign language structures must be taught

On the other hand , Behaviourism had a great influence over structuralism , resulting from the methodology based on stimulus-response-reinforcement.


-This method argues for the use of the foreing language for communicative purposes

-The new language is presented through dialogues learnt through repetition and imitation

-The method follows as inductive approach to grammar teaching. Grammar is taught through exercises and drills

-The aural skills are developed before the writer skills..

B)Techniques and activities.

Memorizing dialogues.

The lesson usually begins with dialogues which the students memorize. To do so , they play one role and the teacher plays the other or with others students.


Drilling is a technique based on the behaviourist principle under which one learns through repetition and imitation.It is a form of linguistic discipline requiring the learners to perform correctly regardless of whether they have to think about what they are saying.

There are different types of drills:

-Repetition Drills

-Substitution Drills

-Transformation Drills: The teacher gives the students an affirmative sentence and they put it in the negative.

-Expansion Drills:: When a dialogue is too long and difficult to memorize , the teacher breaks it into several parts and the students have to repeat each sentence until they are able to repeat the whole dialogue.

Gap Filling

The students have to complete a dialogue by filling in the blanks with the missing words.

The Silent Way

The Silent Way was develop by Gattegno(1975)

The most fundamental principle underlying in this method is that the student are responsible for their own learning. They encourage to become independent.


The main characteristics of this method are the following:

-The foreign language learning process begins with the study of the foreign sounds associated with colour

-The structures of the language are practised in situations provided bay the teacher.

These structures are constantly reviewed.

-The teacher tries to create an enjoyable atmosphere in the class.We encourages the students to express their own thoughts and feeling and to cooperate with one each other since it is believed that they can learn from another.

On the other hand , the teacher provides feedback to help the students overcome any negative feeling which could interfere in the learning process.

-The four skills are developed from the beginning but there is a sequence in that the student learn to read and write what they have previously practised orally.

-The students self –correction is encouraged

b) Techniques

-Sound-colour chart

The chart contains blocks of colour which correspond to the foreign sound easily and make syllables and words with them.


A rod is apiece of wood with words on it that the students have to combine in order to make meaningful sentences.


Suggestopedia is a method devised by the Bulgarian Doctor Lozanov , who emphasizes the importance of the psychological environment in the learning process.

The setting is crucial:sofas , soft lighting , classical music.

The aim is to get the students to relax and be self –confident.This leads to what he calls “hypermnesia”


-The emphasis is laid on the use of everyday language

-The students use both verbal and non-verbal communication.

Lozanov holds that non-verbal communication has an influence on how message is interpreted.

-Vocabulary is given a lot of importance

-Speaking skills are emphasized.

b) Techniques


The students close their eyes and after a minute or so listen to the teacher who , in a soft voice , describe a scene or event in such a way that the pupils seem to be really there.

Role – play

Primary and Secondary activitation

The students read aloud the dialogue introduced by the teacher. For the secondary activitation they take part in activities aiming al using language for communicative purposes.

Community Language Learning( CLL)

CLL is a method based on the Counselling-Learning approach developed by Curran.He discovered that adults usually feel threatened when they are in a new learning situation because of the change inherent in learning.

The main characteristics of this method are the following:

-The aim of foreign language learning is to use the language for communicative purposes

-The students are responsible for their own learning. The teacher plays the role of a counsellor.

-The students , in a circle , talk to one another in their mother tongue and the teacher helps them to translate their speech into the target language.

The pupils do pronuntiation , grammar or vocabulary exercises related to this text

-During the lesson , the students are encouraged to say how they feel.

-Listening and speaking are emphasized.

The Total Physical Response method.

The TPR was devised by Asher. It is built around coordination of speech and action: language is taught through physical activity. Understanding and retention are best achieved through movements of the students bodies in response to commands

This assumption is related to the brain lateralization of learning functions. This means that language is acquired through motor movement , a right-hemisphere activity. This activities must occur before the left-hemisphere can process language for production. Thus speaking follow comprehension.

Other characteristics of this method are the following:

-Asher claims that teaching should minimize learner stress.

-As already mentioned listening precedes speaking. After responding to the oral commands , the students learn to read and write them.

-Grammar is taught inductively.


a)Theory of language

Communicative methods are based on a functional view of language. This means that language is conceived as a means of communication. The main goal is to acquire the communicative competence.

b)Theory of language learning.

Communicative methods are based on a particular theory of language learningThe principles of this theory go as follow:

-The communication principle: activities that involve communication promote learning.

-The task principle : activities in which language is used to carry out meaningful tasks foster learning.

-The meaningfulness principle: language is meaningful to the learner support the learning process.

c) Objectives and syllabus

As advanced above , the main objective of communicative methods is to acquire communicative competence. Another objective is to develop the four language skills.

The syllabus refers to the language items to be taught and their sequence. With regard to the language items , various syllabuses have been designed:

-Notional – functional .Present the language to be taught in terms of notions and functions.

-Bumfits model.It has a grammatical core around which notions , functions and communicative activities are grouped.


Posited by Krashen, it comprises five hypothesis. It highlights the importance of communication in L2 instruction.


Acquisition occurs subconsciously, as a result of participating in natural communication, where the focus is on meaning.

Learning occurs as a result of conscious study of the formal properties of the language.

Acquired knowledge is stored in the left hemisphere of the brain, in the languages areas, and so it is available for automatic processing.

Learnt knowledge is metalinguistic in nature, so it is stored in the left hemisphere but not in the language areas and it is only available for controlled processing.

In performance, acquired knowledge serves as the major source for initiating the comprehension and production of utterances. Learnt knowledge is available only for use by the Monitor.


It affirms that learners may follow a more or less invariable order in the acquisition of formal grammatical features.

-We do not know the order of acquisition of every structure in every language.

-The existence of a natural order of L1 acquisition does not imply we should teach second languages along the same order.


It speaks about the manner in which language acquisition can be influenced by conscious awareness.

The Monitor is the device learners use to edit or revise their language performance. It utilizes learnt knowledge to modify utterances generated from acquired knowledge. So it is based on the previous distinction between subconscious acquisition and conscious learning. According to Krashen, learning is always effected through a Monitor, which can be effect in communication only if:

-There is enough time

-If the speaker is concerned with the correctness of his production

-If he knows the correct rule.

The Monitor, while fostering accuracy, is likely to hamper fluency.


In order to acquire language, the learners needs input. Acquisition takes place as a result of the learner having understood input that is a little beyond the current level of his competence (I + 1)

In order to make the input more accessible, it is convenient to provide the suitable context and as much extra-linguistic information as possible. Devices such as simplified speech, visual clues, key words, gestures or familiar topics can be used for this purpose

Input should be interesting and comprehensible for students. Themes should be chosen according to the student’s needs and interest.

Early speech is typically not accurate. Direct error correction should be avoided as useless, as self-correction will arrive in due time.

Speaking fluency emerges on its own time. We cannot teach it directly.


Dulay and Burt first proposed this notion. The factor which constitute the affective Filter are anxiety, motivation and self-confident, which are affective variants and have an effect on L2 acquisition.

If the Affective Filter is raised it produces a mental block which prevents input to enter. If it is lowered, lots of input are obtained and let in.


English should be based on the following methodological principles:

1-English teaching does not involve teaching a language , but teaching to communicate in English. This means that we will adopt a communicative approach which aims at the acquisition of a communicative competence.

2-We should favour functional learning. This means that students should be able to use the language in communicative situations.

3-We should produce meaningful learning. This entails that the learners will build up their own linguistic competence by using learning strategies and by making hypotheses about the way in which language works starting from the linguistic input.

4-English teaching should provide students with both a new linguistic experience and human/social experience. In this light , we will develop attitudes such as cooperation and respect to the others and contribute to develop the learners socialization skills by promoting social relations through pair work and group work.

5-The four linguistic skills must be developed in an interrelated way , since in real life we cope with communicative situations which require different skilss


Involves using a wide range of materials and activities in the classroom.

There are many ways to introducing variety within a lesson:

-We can use a wide range of activities and materials

-We can change the setting arrangement for different activities

-We can use the course book in different way.

We should introduce variety for three reasons:

-The students motivation will be better

-Our pupils attention span is short and they thus need to do different things

-Lesson will be more enjoyable.

7-The language should be presented in context. Give that any language is a system of interrelated signs , the linguistic elements should appear in discourse where their meaning depends on the communicative function and the communicative situation.

8-Foreign language teaching must introduce the most relevant sociocultutral features of the foreign culture , since any language reflects a way of understanding and constructing reality.

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