Published 19th February 2019
PPP, Dogme, grammar-translation, CLT, CLIL, audio-lingualism, task-based learning… There are as many teaching methods and techniques in the EFL world as there are EFL teachers – and there are loads of those! Everyone has their own ideas of what works and what doesn’t work in the classroom and it doesn’t really matter which teaching method you adopt, as long as you are an effective teacher and are helping your students learn as best they can.
It is, however, a good idea to keep up to date with all the latest methods and techniques so that you are well-informed when it comes to deciding on your own teaching style. Guided discovery is a teaching method which gives the students the tools for discovering linguistic rules themselves rather than us spoon-feeding them.
How does guided discovery work in the classroom?
Guided discovery uses a set of activities which lead the students to the language point. There is a lot of elicitation and inferencing involved. Firstly, a context will be set up by the teacher but as much of it as possible is elicited from the students. The teacher will then try to elicit sentences which include the target language. The teacher must ask concept checking questions which will ascertain whether or not the students understand the meaning of the sentences. If they don’t, the teacher must ask questions which will lead them to the correct answers. This information they must then use to come up with the rule for the language point concerned. The teacher then gives a number of examples of the language (again eliciting as much as possible) and helps the students realise the structure of the language as well.
Here is an example:
Target language: Third conditional
Teacher tells the story of her very bad day and elicits as much as possible.
I had such a bad day yesterday! I went to bed very late the night before so yesterday I slept until 8 o’clock! I jumped out of bed and had a shower and got dressed as quickly as possible. I ran down the road to catch the bus but I was too late! I had to catch a taxi but when I got to school I realise I was in such a rush I had left my bag at home!
Teacher: Did I catch the bus? No
Why not? Because you overslept.
If I hadn’t overslept, I wouldn’t have missed the bus.
Teacher goes through the same process for the other relevant points in the story. Teacher elicits the meaning and the form of the third conditional.
Why should we use guided discover in the classroom?
Guided discovery is an implicit approach to teaching grammar. It builds on the existing knowledge of the students which prevents us from teaching what the students already know. It helps us assess just how capable our students are in relation to a certain language point. If that language point is a little above their capabilities, this will challenge them, which is as it should be. The more brain power our students have to use in a lesson, the more memorable the lesson is. It takes a lot of pressure off us as well, because we are not doing all the hard work in the lesson. All in all, a win-win situation!