The specific principles and methodology of suggestopedia predetermine the specific character of the teaching and learning process in the language classroom.
The start of each suggestopedic course is preceded by painstaking preparation done by teachers and support staff. First, teachers conduct interviews with all students to
obtain information about their language level, needs and expectations, personality, learning preferences, etc. Next, the aesthetic decoration of the classroom requires a
certain number and proper positioning of grammatical and lexical charts which are always presented on the background of natural scene. Added to these are photos, reproductions
of paintings, etc. Teaching materials, translations in L1, an array of artistic devices, but also report forms, class registers are likewise taken good care of.
The first proper stage of the teaching cycle is represented through introduction to/decoding of the new teaching material presented in a global lesson. It usually lasts about 20 minutes
with the exception of the first day of the course. The global lesson in foreign language suggestopedia is usually a chapter from the textbook (8 chapters on average). The latter resembles,
as already mentioned, a piece of literary work, most often a play. The first introduction at the beginning of each course is lengthier because of the adoption of new roles/personalities
and immersing into the scenario. It is a unique and memorable moment of suggestopedia when teacher and all students choose a new name, nationality, profession, etc. and enter into an
on-going role play which continues till the end of the course. Right from the start they are all engaged in communication getting to know each other and getting a feel for the new language.
Right from the start they sing, dance and play games, all of these in well structured and linguistically purposeful activities. The stage of introduction also aims at decoding the new linguistic
material in the global lesson for active learning through short explanations, the use of wall charts and didactic songs. It also gives some hints about the story line in the chapter of the
text-book and raises the expectations of the learners.
In a state of enhanced motivation and expectations learners encounter the new material at the background of music. This is the famous first séance or first concert session in which the teacher stands upright and the literary text is read slowly and solemnly in harmony with the selected piece of music by classical and pre-classical composers (Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn). For the special selection of concerts based on research refer to Gateva, 1982, 1991). The students are instructed to follow the text in L2 together with the rhythmic reading of the teacher and also read the translation in L1 in the ensuing pauses. Suggestopedic teachers undergo special psychological, musical and voice training in order to reconcile the linguistic agenda with the tempo, dynamics, rhythm and tone of the music. Most important, however, is the skill of the teacher to tune in to the orchestra performance as one of its instruments. Next to it comes the ability to articulate clearly, to give a distinct shape to each sound, word and phrase.
The first concert reading is of great importance for acquiring reading and pronunciation habits, for comprehending the new language, for memorising large chunks of the text which will be creatively used at later stages of the learning process.
The splendid music with its emotionality, relaxing effect and positive suggestions balances the large volume of linguistic information and prevents any signs of fatigue or boredom.
The second reading of the same teaching material is done by the teacher during the second concert session at the background of Baroque music (Handel, Vivaldi, Bach). This time the books are closed and learners enjoy entirely the soothing, rhythmic flow of sounds. The teacher sits comfortably and maintains rapport with the students by eye contacting them occasionally. Unlike the first concert session the teacher`s intonation and tempo sound perfectly natural to express the real life situations and characters of the textbook. The articulation remains clear and understandable. Learners have been acquainted with the content of the story, still they hear the same words and expressions through different intonation and rhythmical patterns which facilitates memorization and recall. At the end of the second concert reading the effect of rest is complete.
The first elaboration of the new global lesson (the reproductive phase) takes place during the following two or three days. It goes through several phases and always deals with separate parts of the text (the text is subdivided into meaningful units). It aims to revive and refresh the global lesson presented at the concert session. It develops learners` reading skills, their comprehension of the text, their pronunciation, their memorization of whole lexico-grammatical chunks. Most importantly, in a positive, emotional atmosphere the teacher creates the feeling of confidence that the large volume of material is easily mastered.
Reading and pronunciation phase
The teacher can start with reproducing/pronouncing few chunks of language (of the respective part of the text) using different intonation patterns resembling the classical piece of music or the natural intonation of the situation. Students repeat after the teacher and try to recall the meaning. Generally, at all initial stages they are encouraged to refer to the translation in their native language. Students` repetitions are choral (whole class, smaller groups) and individual. Humorous intonations are often applied-humour and laughter are essential part of the learning process.
Students and teacher read each part of the global lesson in succession. Students throw a glance at the translation of the text. The first reading is slow and reminds of the first concert session. A variety of reading techniques is applied. First reading is only choral and gradually sentences and situations are read by individual students. While reading, attention is drawn to different intonation (e.g. loudly, quietly, slowly, quickly, sadly, joyfully, mockingly, boastfully, etc). Attention can be drawn to different activities performed with the words in bold while reading (e.g. when coming across a word in bold/or underlined word clap your hands, stamp your feet, stand up, touch your ear, turn your head, etc.) The shift of attention is in line with “the double plane” technique of suggestive communication-memory is activated and retention is better when learning happens “on the second plane”. The first plane is engaged by a game or game-like task. Games should not be complicated. They should not be used for entertainment-they are essential part of the learning. Playing games recreate the atmosphere of happy childhood (“the infantilisation” means of suggestive communication) but they take into consideration the psychological characteristics and needs of the adult learner.
The teacher also applies a variety of different reading tasks such as: competing to find words and phrases, reading forward and backward, reading in a chain, etc. At certain points the teacher gives brief explanations about the reading rule, supplies more examples and refers students to the Grammar Section of the course book.
The teacher prompts a second reading of each part. The translation is taken away. The second reading is quicker and students perform individually by reading in roles. They try to imitate the characters in the story by putting on different items of clothing, accessories (hats, sun-glasses, scarvess, wigs), etc. While doing it individual students may volunteer to translate sentences and paragraphs. Translation of paragraphs can be prepared as group work as well. Clubs of reading and translation specialists can be set up. The most important thing is to observe the game/activity principle and the shift of attention from the first (game) to the second (language) plane and vice versa.
Work on language
During the second reading of the text at appropriate places students` attention is attracted to the grammar paradigms on the right hand side. These can be read rhythmically, the endings can be associated with different gestures. Grammar paradigms are practiced through songs and simple dances. Grammar elements are coded with gestures, movements, symbols, objects At the same time grammar phenomena in suggestopedia are always extracted from and treated in the context of the story/situations in the book. To practice grammatical structures the teacher again applies different games: imitation games (guess the tense), retelling a short story through a diagram, time-line, ball games (for questions and answers), card games, dice games, ordering sentences and paragraphs, etc.
The activation of grammar and lexis happens in a strictly planned way and is always based on key moments of the development of the plot in the suggestopedic book. Suggestopedia makes use of a great number of lexical games like auctions (buying and selling of objects), guessing games (guessing letters, words, parts of sentences, nationalities, professions, etc), working in groups and forming of different lexical sets (synonyms, antonyms, word families, semantic fields and mind maps), coding and decoding of sentences through numbers and other symbols, memory games, chain games, etc. What makes suggestopedia different in using games is that the latter are integral part of the learning process, not a stage. Secondly, they deal with larger volumes of material and enhance memorization significantly. Thirdly, they are always closely connected with the characters and story line of the book which creates natural motivation for participation.
In the linguistically oriented elaboration the teacher also encourages a lot of substitution and transformation tasks by replacing words, by changing verb tenses, by transforming statements into interrogative/negative sentences. In this way the phrases are made flexible, detachable from the book and the students feel more independent in making the transition to the more creative stages of work.
The second elaboration and production (performance)
The transition stage between the first and second elaboration is very subtle. The aim of the second elaboration is to create opportunities for the personalized use of the language in new situations. The role plays based on the book become more intricate, they provide new obstacles which require a new solution, new ending which on its part requires creative recombining of the linguistic resources. Students can make their own version of the stories in the book, add more details, express their opinion, opposing views.
The most creative stage of the elaboration process is the so called performance which happens during the last two hours before the new concert session. The students prepare at home a monologue speech based on the main topics of the preceding global lesson. Some pairs may prepare a dialogue. During the performance everybody participates in a monologue or a dialogue which represents a synthesis of the material covered. The stories are prepared to a certain degree (some revision takes place at home) and unprepared
because the stories are original and personal and also during the presentation both teacher and other students ask questions and prompt unplanned speech. In addition, the teacher often introduces a small object and asks the students to integrate it into their story which creates opportunities for spontaneous speech..