When presenting the target language, the teacher has several methods. No one method proves more ably suited than another for the class. However, the teacher will almost always use several methods to clarify the information, as all the following methods work in tandem.
What follows are four methods, namely:
Method One: Explanations
If a teacher were introducing zero conditionals, for example, the explanation would likely explain that the grammar structure is used to talk about always or almost always true statements. It consists of an if-clause or a when-clause which states the condition, followed by the action taken under that condition. Zero conditionals usually use the present tense, but can sometimes be used in the past tense too.
Method Two: Visual Aids
Timelines, pictures, and diagrams all fall into the category of visual aids. The teacher can draw a diagram or timeline on the board to highlight how to use the target language. This works especially well when introducing new grammar structures. Pictures work equally well, as they can show the meaning of the word. For example, flashcards can be used to introduce new vocabulary, or videos can be used to show gestures and facial expressions. In short, a visual aid may be anything in which the students can visually link the key language of the lesson with the explanation.
Method Three: Examples
For the class on zero conditionals, the teacher might provide two or three examples on the board:
If it looks like rain, I bring an umbrella.
I almost always bring an umbrella on dark, cloudy days.
For a class on adverbs of frequency, the teacher might write the following on the board:
I always eat breakfast in the morning.
Students can more readily see and understand the target language because of the examples. They further can see how the target language fits into sentences and other structures.
Method Four: Elicitation
The teacher may think to provide more examples, in order to provide a lot of sentences for reference and models. However, too many examples from the teacher tend to establish a teacher-centered classroom. Students will look to the teacher for examples as a means for added clarity. They won't attempt to generate their own examples, which then places too much reliance on the teacher. In addition, when practicing the language, students may very well be less likely to deviate from what the teacher has given, in fear of being wrong.
In addition, elicited examples allow the teacher to effectively asses if the students understand both the form and the function of the newly presented material. If the examples fail to use the language correctly, or stick far too closely to the examples provided by the teacher, then this serves as a signal for the teacher to further clarify the target language. Students don't yet fully understand the form and/or meaning.
Let's look at two examples. In the first example class on conditionals, the teacher calls on the students for some sentences using the target language. He writes the following on the board after making some minor grammar corrections for articles and singular/plural.
If I'm hungry, I go to restaurants.
All of the sentences elicited from the class demonstrate that the structure is sound, but the meaning isn't quite correct. Does the student always go to restaurants when hungry, no matter that it's breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack? Does the second student always play tennis during his free time? In other words, he does nothing else?
The teacher realizes that additional examples and a clearer explanation are required on his part. He returns to the presentation before allowing the students to practice. After all, if he simply stated that the examples weren't zero conditionals, made corrections, and then began a practice activity, then the students would still likely be unable to correctly use the structure.
The other example on adverbs of frequency sees the teacher elicit the following:
I always study for my tests.
His class obviously understands the structure, and so should move on to practice it.
Although the teacher may opt to use only one of the above methods, improved comprehension and use of the language in the initial stages of the lesson results when a combination of methods are used. Each reinforces another method. In addition, it also taps into select learning styles, giving consideration to auditory learners, visual learners, and others. Lastly, with elicitation, the teacher can gauge comprehension among the class in general, and choose to move on to the practice portion of the lesson or to provide additional explanation.