The Structural Approach of English Teaching

The arrangement of words in any language is very important. The meaning changes with a change in the word order. For example: there is a sentence ‘You are there’. Consider  two other sentences made of the same three words but put in different order ‘Are you there?’ and  ‘There you are’. The three sentences, although built of the same three words give different meaning  because of a different way in which the words are arranged.
These different arrangement or patterns of words are called ‘structures’. Each language has its own special sentence patterns. For example, there is a sentence in English, ‘They eat mangoes.’ The formula of this sentence is SVO (Subject – Object – Verb). We can frame numerous sentences on this pattern.

However, Hindi does not have the same pattern. The sentence given above, translated into Hindi becomes ‘वेे आम खातेे है ··’. The formula changes to SOV (Subject – Object – Verb). Similarly, in both English and Hindi, adjective come before noun as in ‘red car’, ‘लाल कार’. But in French, it is the other way around. They say ‘car red’ (voiture rouge) in their language.

The Structural Approach is based on the assumption that language can best be learnt through a  scientific selection and grading of structures and vocabulary. Hornby has made a study of Sentence 
Patterns or Structures in English. He has found that there are approximately 275 structures in  English and the learners of the language must master all of them. But not all the structures can be  mastered at once. The stress is on the learning of essential structures of English.  

Basic Principal of Structural Approach

  • The sentence pattern of English is quite different from the sentence pattern of our mother tongue. It can be taught not by telling them the rules of arrangement but by giving them ample practice of speaking.
  • Speech is the most important thing in learning a foreign language.
  • Pupil's activity in learning the language is more important than the teacher's activity in teaching the language.
  • Importance of the child's activity rather than the activity of the teacher. 

The Structural Approach of English Teaching, Types of Structures, Basic Principal, Aims, features, Advantages   and Limitations of the Structural Approach, ENGLISH PEDAGOGY Notes, CTET 2015 Exam Notes, TEACHING OF ENGLISH Study Material

Aims of  Structural Approach

  • To lay the foundation of English by establishing through drill and repetition  about 275 graded structures.
  • To enable the students to attain mastery  over an essential vocabulary  of about 3000 root words for active use.
  • To correlate the teaching of grammar and composition with the reading lessons.
  • To teach the four fundamental  skills, namely understanding,  speaking, reading and writing in the order named.
  • To lay proper emphasis on the aural-oral approach, active methods and the condemnation of formal grammar for its own sake.

Main features of Structural Approach

1.  Importance  of  forming  language  habits- Much practice is given to  the students in structures that their use becomes a habit with them. A number of language drills are given for this purpose. Inthis way, the students are enabled  to  use  the  basic  structure  for   English   unconsciously    and automatically.

2.  Importance  of  speech- It considers speech as the most important step for learning  the  language.  Structures  are  presented  and  practiced   orally. Reading   is  introduced   when  the  students  have  learnt  a  number   of structures orally. The ability to speak English gives the students a sense of achievement.

3. Importance of Pupils Activity- Students are made active learners and not passive listeners. They participate in a number of language games. So they learn through activity so, their learning of English becomes effective.

4.Situational Teaching- It also makes use of situational teaching. The students learn English structures by associating them with the situations in which they are taught.

5.Selection and Gradation- It involves the selection and gradation of the structures to be taught. Structures are selected on the principles of fluency, frequency, simplicity and practicability. Structures which are quite common, simple and practical are taught first. Difficult and tough structures are taught after words.

6.Multi  Skill  Approach-  It gives  due importance  to  all the  four language skills i.e. listening. Reading, speaking and writing. Init no skill of learning is over used and no skill is neglected.

Types of Structures- 

The syntactic structures may be classified into four categories.

Sentence structures- The essential parts of a sentence (subject, predicate) occupy fixed positions. If they are changed, they also change their meaning e.g. 
Ashok gave a book to Keshav.
Keshave gave a book to Ashok.

In these two sentences, the same words are used but the meaning is quite opposite.
There may be three sentence structures

-  Two part sentences having - subject + verb
Lion roars Birds fly
-  Three part sentences having- sub + predicate + object He saw an eagle
-  Four part sentences having- sub + predicate + object + composition I saw him happy

Phrase Structures- A phrase is a group of words which gives sense but not a complete sense. This type of structures also follows the order of words e.g. the red flag, the young man. The order of the structure is (determiner) + Adj. + noun. This order cannot be changed e.g. 'behind the wall in the dark' etc.

Idiomatic Structure- These structures contain their own specific meanings
e.g. 'All of sudden'. 'In black and white' in nut shell' etc. these structures need not have grammatical units. They are so composed that if they split, they loose their specific meaning because they stand in the unit form. They have to be learnt as a unit.

Formulae of Routine Structure- Routine structure consists of such groups of words which are used in day to day conversation or a certain occasion, e.g. Excuse me, Good night, 'How are you?" 'Sorry for the delay'. It must be noted that proper word order is maintained so that words cannot be dislodged from their respective fixed position.

Advantages  and Importance of Structural Approach-

  • It facilitates the learning of English by imparting knowledge of its structures.
  • By the time, students leave the school; they acquire mastery over about the 275 basic structures and vocabulary.
  • By  learning  the  structure  of  sentences, the  child  automatically  learns grammar, word order and use of words.
  • It promotes the use of everyday English. That is why it is called English through play way.
  • It focuses on the basic four language skills. LSRW.
  • It enables children to speak English which is more important than to read or write it,
  • Shanti Swaroop writes, "The special virtue of the structure approach lies in the fact that at every stage the objectives of teaching of learning are very clearly defined and are attainable, producing a delightful sense of mastery and confidence

Limitations of the Structural Approach-

  • The selection and gradation of structures does not solve the problem of teaching English. It only helps the teacher to know what he has taught and what he should teach next.
  • It does not take into consideration the fact that the pupil is a learner. Continuous teaching of structures and their repetition by the pupils make the atmosphere of the class dull and teaching mechanical.
  • It is suitable for junior  classes, not applicable to higher classes where many branches of the English language are taught.
  • This approach demand rigid methodology .
  • It is based on mechanical drilling of isolated items.
  • It leaves no freedom to the teachers to accommodate their teaching of living language to their individual preference.
  • It consumes much time and syllabus cannot be covered by adopting this approach.

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