Need information about The Callan Method

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Need information about The Callan Method

Post by Monika83 » Sat Nov 27, 2004 2:30 pm

Hi everybody,
I am looking for objective opinion about the Callan Method. How and why this method works? If it is effective? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this method? In the books I have found only advantages. Opinions that this method is the best one... Materials which look like a leaflets advertising this method. Could anyone tell me something objective. If this method really works?
Thanks in advance. Monika

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Post by joshua2004 » Mon Nov 29, 2004 8:08 pm

I have no experience with this method. It smells like one of those systems that might work if you didn´t end up getting thoroughly bored a few days into it.

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Post by woodcutter » Tue Nov 30, 2004 7:03 am

Oh go on then, you twisted my arm.

The Callan method is a long list of questions fired at individual students in a small group. Each question is asked 2 times, and repeated later, usually on three successive days. The first time the students can read the questions too. By the third time the teachers should be varying the content (focusing on the new item of the moment), and following up interesting answers. Every mistake is corrected. Students often have a three hour session, kicking off with revision and moving into new work. There are occasional writing exercises to break things up.

Positives are:

Students get lots of different teachers, yet a well structured program.
They get comprehensible input, building up slowly.
Levels are (should be) well monitored, students should be in more or less the right level.
Classes are focused on language learning, not edutainment.
No students are left out, all is fair.
Correction is always given, if you believe in that!
What the students are doing is responding as they wish to the teachers questions - it is more natural than it may fact can be very natural.
Little time is wasted. Not even an issue in some other classrooms.
Students are guaranteed a decentish education. That is most important of all.


Some of the questions are a bit dopey.

It is monotonous. Not too boring if done well, however, though 3 hours is hard core.

The teacher is straight-jacketed. This is good in some ways, most teachers don't know their bottom from their elbow. However imagine if someone of the calibre of Scott Thornbury or Metal56 was controlled in this way. Unspeakable.

Students are focused mainly on speaking, and mainly on responding to questions at that. Less of a problem than you'd think though.

Teachers are not treated well, and the school exaggerates the benefits and scope of the method for commercial reasons.

Do students succeed in this program? Yes, many do, otherwise the place would close. Many do not like it, but they do have a trial lesson to find that out. Students who really want to learn take to it better than lazy students. Shy students do not prosper, but where is this not so?

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Post by Monika83 » Thu Dec 02, 2004 6:32 pm

Thanks for your reply :D

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Post by woodcutter » Fri Dec 03, 2004 12:24 am

I was very happy to..........actually I worked for a school which copied the Callan method, so it might be a little different.

I must say that the school in London (as opposed to China) didn't love my classes, because I tried to use energy and humour to keep things alive (difficult to do under observation). They train you to do so by using energy and abrasiveness. The students generally react well to energy, even in abrasive forms, but I find it unpleasant to teach like that. By the way, keeping the requisite energy level up six hours a day is tough.

The one week training is abusiveness is unpaid, by the way!

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Post by woodcutter » Mon Dec 06, 2004 12:27 am

I'm sure no one is interested, but I thought of a couple more things.....

One great thing is that students spend about 5 minutes of a language point, instead of banging on at it ad nauseum in one lesson and then forgetting about it.

One very bad thing is that students rarely have the time and energy to stick with the program and attend all classes. That can really ruin it.

Anyway, I feel that working in a method school is something which can benefit anybody, and give an insight into philosophies of teaching that can be radically different from the mainstream. Even if you think the school is bad, a dose of it may help you improve your teaching.

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Post by CORE » Fri Jan 27, 2006 3:31 am

I have been teaching for about three years with the method now. I am also a CELTA qualified teacher and have used a variety of approaches in various countries.

I am currently teaching at a school using this method.

There are certainly many pro's and con's in this method. As we have seen from previous posts, the method is restrictive and tiring to both students and teachers. Creativity is dicouraged and it is almost exclusively speaking-based learning. Teacher are seldom qualified teachers as the training takes only one week, and because everything is scripted, a knowledge of grammar is not required. The only requirement for a teacher is to be a native speaker who speaks clearly. (This is not always true for schools outside the UK). As I did my training at the Callan School in London, I use this as my base.

Some good points of the method for the teacher is that there is no need for lesson preparation, not a lot to learn for novice teachers and constant interaction with students.

My personal opinion is a bit divided. Although I use the method at the moment, I have found that the method is incredibly effective with beginners, but do not offer a solid base at higher levels where communication rather than accurate speech is required.

With the Callan Method, students do not hear the natural rhythm of English but are rather drilled in the correct pronunciation, word order etc.

The method is approx 40 years old and many of the questions in the book are outdated and some material at the higher levels of Book 6 & 7 even show Robin Callan as a women-hating, racist character. Also some of the material in the book takes a quite morbid view on life.

The method is structured in a way so as student can gradually pick up the 2000 or so most commonly used words in English. By forcing students to speak and corecting constantly, students learn very quickly at beginner level.

From a business perspective though, the Callan Method is great. Minimum input with maximum rewards. The cost of classes are lower as teachers are not qualified and are paid below the average. As many as 14 students can be put into one class and not material other than the books are needed. The initial cost of setting up a school is limited to a couple of chairs and a lecturn.

I do not think that this method is designed to give student a good grounding in English. The more I teach it the more I realize that it was designed with economic benefit in mind. That being said, classes are usually cheaper than at other schools, so students tend to flock to the schools.

I do not like the method because I do not think it is the best approach available. Why do I teach it then? Well I am a part-time teacher and very pressed for time so I do not have a lot of time to prepare lessons. I like the idea that I can come in to school 10 minutes before my lesson, look at the pages to be taught and go teach them. I have used other approaches as well and are gradually suggesting them to our director as an alternative for higher level students.

If you are interested in teaching with the Callan Method, the best place to start is the Callan School in Oxford street, London.

For more info visit:

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Post by lelo » Mon Jan 30, 2006 11:51 am

very thorough info...

I haven't used the method, but I have heard some critiques, along the same lines as those above.

SAT Vocabulary Hip-Hop

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Yeah, its good

Post by jamesjamesjames » Sat Jul 01, 2006 1:35 am

I certainly enjoy teaching the Callan Method and my pupils enjoy studying with it. If it is taught properly it is fun and effective. It is especially effective for students studying in English speaking countries. I tend to think people don't like it because they like to boost their egos through proving what original teachers they are (i.e. usually wasting students time). Its VERY popular in Brazil and Poland.

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Re: Need information about The Callan Method

Post by Karim » Thu Nov 22, 2007 10:57 am

Hi Monika,
I think I'd able to help you catch up with undertanding more about how the Callan Method works and whether if it is effective or not, as I'm teaching the Method for almost a year now. I also would be glad to simply declare my opinion about it to all who are intersted in it.
The Callan method is an excellent same as a very fast way to learn a language with. In my opinion, it is very effective for beginners same as the advanced learners. Firstly, it teaches you the very correct structure of building up sentences by presenting them into a frame of questions and answers. Some questions might sound easy or unnecessary, athough, what's behind the questions is all that matters. Which is, to give the correct structure of a sentence within your answer. That is, teaching you the perfect way of building up a sentence.
It teaches foregin students to think and speak directly into their new language, without translating sentences. How this Method really works, depends on teachers teaching it and on sudents who are ready to learn by it, as there's nothing wrong with the Method itself. The teacher's preformance during a lesson helps students benefit from it. This method deveoples a student's skills in reading, writing and expressing his/her own opinion. Finally, the Callan Method is one of the best ways of learning a language.


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Post by woodcutter » Tue Dec 04, 2007 6:12 am

Hey, I'm sorry I was away for all this. Interesting. Four out of four method teachers find that it seems pretty effective, despite the rumours. Better percentage than whiskas catfood. Better than the communicative approach, if the people I talk to are representative. And in applied linguistics reasearch terms, a pretty big sample size!

No, though, someone mentioned imagination free drilling didn't they? Can't say I remember that in my method school, (though I do that now!) but anyway, it's all rubbish then. Doesn't work at all. Not one word is ever learned in those money-grubbing rat-holes.

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Post by stncollegeCoUk » Tue May 13, 2008 3:24 pm

A Callan method teacher of English explains how the method functions in his video interview, taken by St. Nicholas College of London. Question asked:

Can you tell me a bit more about experience of your first Callan Method lessons?
What was the most challenging part of becoming a Callan Method teacher?
Do you think that Callan teachers become better with more experience or do they reach certain level and stop?
What is the most exciting and challenging part of dealing with students from completely different countries?
According to Callan Method, students are not allowed to ask questions during the class. How do you struggle with it given that some students still keep asking you some questions?
In your opinion, students from which countries are more extraverted and easy to teach?
What is the most fun part of teaching Callan?
What would you suggest to those who would like to become a Callan teacher and Callan student?

Watch the video-interview!

If you would like to become a Callan teacher visit the web-site of St. Nicholas College of London for more details.

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Post by woodcutter » Thu May 22, 2008 7:02 am


That brings a lot back! One of the down sides is that everyone seems a bit uneducated, intense and mad - they didn't try to hide that on the video, how honest! I never saw why it is necessary to behave like you are a salesman who is smoking a little crack, the basic idea behind it all of demonstrating, throwing out a lot of questions and letting people answer (with guidance if necessary) is good. The best teachers do this with a sense of humour, these classes easily can be quite comic.

I tried to be a little less intrusive than that when leading students through answers, one of the reasons my supervisor didn't think I was up to much as a Callan/Avalon method teacher. As bad as it looks, at first, think of all those aching silences you don't have to endure...........

99% of the people who post on this forum hate this stuff, so how about defending it a little, person who claims to be "stcollegecouk". Try and sound humane and intelligent! Come on, you can do it!

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Post by aniaLL » Thu Feb 17, 2011 4:30 am

For three months I had an opportunity to learn my English at The Callan School at London's busy Oxford Street. It is the largest private English language school in the world and very popular in European countries and now it has its branches all over the world. This method has a long, about fifty years tradition. The school has its own The Callan Method books that are used by schools and teachers to successfully teach students of all ages to speak English. The books have been further adapted to make it possible for students to learn English in a “Teach Yourself” or “Teach-Each-Other” manner, as well at a school. From my own experience this method works well at the early stage of a second language acquisition.

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