Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the communicative approach to the teaching of language.
The communicative approach to language teaching stresses the importance of communication and interaction among the pupils and between the teacher and the pupils to learn a foreign language. Rather than repeating mechanically dialogues or grammar rules learnt by heart, the communicative approach encourages pupils to use the target language in semi-authentic contexts. This approach also values the pupils' personal experiences outside the classroom as a way to facilitate their learning in the lesson. So most of the tasks of this approach demand that pupils work in pairs or in groups and discuss different aspects of their lives (free-time activities, likes/dislikes, have you ever done this or that). Another common task in the communicative approach is games like guessing as students have to ask and answer questions among themselves to do them (Choose a character from Spiderman. Your class mates have to guess who you are. Use Are you ....? and the short answers Yes, I am No, I'm not). Grammar points are introduced to support the learning of the structure in question (in the previous example, the inversion between subject and be in yes/no questions)
The good thing about the communicative approach is that it makes students speak the language even at a beginner level and they are usually enthusiastic about this. One negative aspect that I can see (but I am Italian and we're obsessed with grammar) is that the study of grammar is somewhat pushed to the side and pupils find it increasingly difficult to be aware of how a language works.
Students learn languages best by using them. If you have students constantly practicing their language skills by talking to each other, they will gain confidence and learn more quickly. The key is to create a safe environment, where it is ok to make mistakes. Kids will be embarrassed that they might say something wrong. I remind them that everyone in the room is a learner except me, and I am not going to laugh at them or ridicule them for making a mistake! Have them talk, talk, talk!