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To drill or not to drill, that's not the question!

When is drilling necessary?

      By Mubarak Abdessalami


            Methods and approaches to teaching change and evaluate with time but the basics are the same in this methodology or in that. Teaching is not static yet it doesn't completely metamorphose albeit it takes different shapes and procedures according to the various given situations or subject matters. The teacher everywhere is equipped by the same elements which are common in all circumstances. Drilling is one of the most common tools teachers use to make lessons easy for students to remember and practise .

            All the same, not all taught tutorials need to be drilled; and structure teaching seems the most likely to invoke drilling. Because learning is deductive by aim, not inductive, the pattern practice based on drilling is not only mechanical it is first and foremost meaningful. I mean understanding is basic, so the students have to make some thinking before drilling anything. The information gap is what makes the drill utterly meaningful.


            A drill is an oral exercise aiming at giving the students methodical practice of a particular syntactic structure in naturally expressed and easily remembered utterances in the target language. The aim of the exercise is to enable the students to assimilate the structure and develop fluency using that same structure in natural conversations.

Types of drill

       The ten main types of drill are:
  1. Repetition drills : The students repeat exactly what the teacher says so as to acquire acceptable pronunciation using the proper stress, rhythm and intonation where required.

  2. Substitution drills : This type of drills goes three central stages mainly:
    1. Single-slot substitution drills : Students here are asked to find out the opened up slot in a given sentence. The teacher gives the appropriate cues which could be at the same time verbal or visual.
    2. Double-slot substitution drills : The teacher here provides cues for the two opened up slots in a sentence.
    3. Triple-slot substitution drills : Three slots in the sentence are opened up and cues are provided for them.

  3. Mutation drills : In these drills the students have been informed, by repetition of examples or by explicit instructions, which structure they are required to produce. They don't simply substitute one item for another, but make a change in the form of the cue word.

  4. Transformation drills : These drills which require changes in word order and which involve the addition or deletion of grammatical constituents (e.g. "not"). Transformation drills can practice changes from affirmative to negative, from statements to questions, from active to passive, from direct to indirect speech and so on.

  5. Replacement drills : The students are required to replace one constituent of a sentence with another, thus making the sentence shorter. These drills are particularly appropriate for practicing the replacement of nouns by pronouns.

  6. Expansion drills : These drills give practice in building longer and more complex sentences. They are effective for practicing the placement of items like adjectives and adverbs.

  7. Combination drills : This type is also referred to as integration drills in which the students are given two separate sentences to combine into one sentence.

  8. Restoration drills : The base essentials of a sentence are given and the students try to make this skeleton into a complete sentence.

  9. Question-Answer drills : The students are given questions which they have to answer.

  10. Completion drills : The students are given one part of the sentence which they are asked to complete in their own styles. Completion drills are very valuable because they give the students the opportunity to create meaningful expressions of their own by completing each sentence.

Features of "good" drilling

  1. A drill should be concerned with one specific structure.

  2. A drill should be consistent and follow the same pattern. e.g.: do not start with substitution and go to transformation within the same drill.

  3. A drill should consist of a series of 6 to 8 cue-response items in order to give the students enough time to assimilate the pattern.

  4. Each item in the series should be short, so that the students have no difficulty keeping it in mind while trying to construct a response according to the cue afforded.

  5. Each response should be a complete utterance that could conceivably occur in a natural conversation.

  6. The students have a clear idea of what they are expected to do in the drills. This can be achieved through clear instructions followed by one or two examples.

  7. Drill should be varied in type so as to avoid the boredom created by a single type of activity.

  8. The items in the drills should be varied in content.

Transitional move

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