Structuralism is a theory that seeks to explain broad subjects by looking at their individual components and how they interact. This is particularly useful when teaching English; many people learn English by applying individual elements, such as grammar and vocabulary. Taking the structuralist approach to teaching English will help you develop a methodology that can be applied to any problem.

The Theory

Structuralism views a thing as a complex system of interrelated parts. The structural approach to English views the language as being divided into several components; these components interact with each other and form the rules of the language. Structuralist approaches to teaching English help students learn through context. Theoretically, the students learn how to piece the parts of English together into a more complete understanding of the language.

How it Applies

When you divide English into its basics, you reduce words into several categories, such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions and particles. Every word falls into one of these basic categories. The words individually have meanings which signify objects, actions and situations in the real world. When combined into sentences, the meanings are unique and often transcend the meanings of their components. Students learn a language by using the parts and intuitively learning how they interact.

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How to Use it

Apply the rules of language in practical ways. The audio-lingual approach focuses on spoken language skills. Students speak English and receive positive reinforcement when they speak correctly. Another structuralist method of teaching English is grammar translation. Students are presented with a short story or book chapter; they also receive a list of vocabulary words and grammar rules used in that piece of written text. Students work their way through the reading, learning the appropriate language with help and explanations from the teacher.

When to Use it

Structuralist teaching techniques are not always appropriate for the classroom. Gauge your your students' progress level and learning style while teaching. No matter how hard you try to stick to this method, you are bound to encounter students determined to learn their own way. Structuralism in the classroom relies heavily on repetition and trail-and-error. Teaching in this manner is often tedious. If this method is not working for you, mix it with other teaching approaches.

About the Author

James Stuart began his professional writing career in 2010. He traveled through Asia, Europe, and North America, and has recently returned from Japan, where he worked as a freelance editor for several English language publications. He looks forward to using his travel experience in his writing. Stuart holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and philosophy from the University of Toronto.