A. Definition
Drilling is a technique that has been used in foreign language classrooms for many years. It was a key feature of audio-lingual method approaches to language teaching, which placed emphasis on repeating structural patterns through oral practice.
Drilling means listening to a model, provided by the teacher, or a tape or another student and repeating what is heard. Drilling is a technique that is still used by many teachers when introducing new language items to their students.
Harmer states that drilling is mechanical ways if getting students to demonstrate and practice their ability to use specific language items in a controlled manner.
From those theories above, it can be concluded that drilling is a technique that has been used in foreign language classrooms which emphasis on repeating structural pattern through oral practice to demonstrate students’ ability in using specific language items in a controlled manner.

B. Kinds of Drill
According to Haycraft (36: 1978), after presentation and explanation of the new structure, students may used controlled practice in saying useful and correct sentence patterns in combination with appropriate vocabulary. These patterns are known as oral drills. They can be inflexible: students often seem to master a structure in drilling, but are then incapable of using it in other contexts. Furthermore, drills have several types in form:

1. The Repetition Drill
The teacher says models (the word or phrases) and the students repeat it.
Teacher : It didn’t rain, so I needn’t have taken my umbrella
Students : It didn’t rain, so I needn’t have taken my umbrella

2. The Substitution Drill
Substitution drill can used to practice different structures or vocabulary items (i. e one word or more word change during the drill)
Teacher : I go to school. He?
Students : He goes to school.
Teacher : They?
Students : They go to school.

3. The Question and Answer Drill
The teacher gives students practice with answering questions. The students should answer the teacher’s questions very quickly. It is also possible for the teacher to let the students practice to ask question as well. This gives students practice with the question pattern.
Teacher : Does he go to school? Yes?
Students : Yes, he does.
Teacher : No?
Students : No, he does not.

4. The Transformation Drill
The teacher gives students a certain kind of sentence pattern, an affirmation sentence for example. Students are asked to transform this sentence into a negative sentence. Other examples of transformations to ask of students are changing a statement into a question, an active sentence into a passive one, or direct speech into a reported speech.
Example: (positive into negative)
Teacher : I clean the house.
Students : I don’t clean the house.
Teacher : She sings a song.
Students : She doesn’t sing a song.

5. The Chain Drill
The teacher begins the chain by greeting a particular student, or asking him a question. That student respond, then turns to the students sitting next to him. The first student greets or asks a question of the second student and the chain continues. A chain drill allows some controlled communication, even though it is limited. A chain drill also gives the teacher an opportunity to check each student’s speech.
Teacher : What is the color of sky?
The color of sky is blue
What the color of banana?
Student A : The color of banana is yellow
What is the color of leaf?
Student B : The color of leaf is green
What is the color of our eyes?
Student C : The color of our eyes is black and white.

6. The Expansion Drill
This drill is used when a long line dialog is giving students trouble. The teacher breaks down the line into several parts. The students repeat a part of the sentence, usually the last phrase of the line. Then following the teacher’s cue, the students expand what they are repeating part at the end of the sentence (and works backward from there) to keep the intonation of the line as natural as possible. This also directs more student attention to the end of the sentence, where new information typically occurs.
Teacher : My mother is a doctor.
Students : My mother is a doctor
Teacher : She works in the hospital.
Students : She works in the hospital
Teacher : My mother is a doctor. She works in the hospital.
Students : My mother is a doctor. She works in the hospital
Teacher : She take cares the patient.
Students : She take cares the patient
Teacher : My mother is a doctor. She works in the hospital. She take cares the patient
Students : My mother is a doctor. She works in the hospital. She take cares the patient

7. Communicative drills
This kind of drills is quite different from the so-called meaningless and mechanical drills used in a traditional grammar oriented class by some teachers, in which the primary focus is on the form of the language being used rather than its communicative content. Children do not blindly mimic adults’ speech in a parrot fashion, without really needing to understand or communicate anything, but make selective use of simulation to construct the grammar and make sense of the expressions according to the grammar. This kind of drills has meanings and connotes information accordingly in a certain situation and at a certain time. It has an information gap and does involve communicative process. The child has access to language data and opportunities to interact with the inputs (meaningful inputs). When processing the language they hear, children construct the grammar and make sense of the expression according to the grammar. When producing utterance, they follow the internalized grammatical rules. This kind of drilling can be formed by using the other drilling types. But the emphasis is that the student involving something real as well as communicative value and the practice creates an information gap.
Example :
Guessing game:
Teacher has something in mind (things, job, event, etc) and the students must guess that thing by using yes no question:
Students : Is it in the class?
Teacher : Yes, it is.
Students : Is it blue?
Teacher : No, it is not.
Students : Is it black?
Teacher : Yes, it is.
Students : Is it in the front of the class?
Teacher : Yes, it is.
Students : Is it black board?
Teacher : Yes, it is.

With the basis of the communicative drills, teachers may design more advanced communicative activities so that learners can have more opportunities to produce sustained speech with more variations in possible responses.

C. Purposes
1. For the learners, drills can:
a. Provide for a focus on accuracy. Increased accuracy is one of the ways in which a learner’s language improves so there is a need to focus on accuracy at certain stages of the lesson or during certain task types.
b. Provide learners with intensive practice in hearing and saying particular word or phrases. They can help learners get their tongues around difficult sounds or help them imitate intonation that may be rather different from that of their first language.
c. Provide a safe environment for learners to experiment with producing the language. This may help build confidence particularly among learners who are not risk takers.
d. Help students notice the correct form or pronunciation of a word phrase. Noticing or consciousness rising of language is an important stage in developing language competence.
e. Provide an opportunity for learners to get immediate feedback on their accuracy in terms of teacher or peer correction. Many learners want to be corrected.
f. Help memorization and atomisation of common language patterns and language chunks. This may be particularly true for aural learners.
g. Meet students expectation, i.e. they may think drilling is an essential feature of language classrooms.
2. For The Teacher:
a. Help in term of classroom management, enabling us to vary the pace of the lesson or to get all learners involved.
b. Help the teacher recognize if new language is causing problems in terms of form or pronunciation.

D. Advantages and Weaknesses
1. The Advantages of Drilling are:
Drilling help our learners memorise language by the teacher’s control. And the teacher can correct any mistakes that students make and encourage them to concrete on difficulties at the sometime.
2. The Weaknesses of Drilling
Drilling often make the students not vary creative. In all drills learners have no or vary little choice over what is said so drills are form of very controlled practice. The teacher needs to handle the drills, so that the students are not over used and they don’t go on far too long. One of the problems about drills is that they are fairly monotonous.

E. Principles
The following principles will help in planning and making drilling:
1. Realistic- don’t get students to practice sentences they would never actually say in real life.
2. Meaningful-practice should take place within a context-if possible relating to students interest.
3. Said with appropriate expression, e.g. surprise, impatience, enthusiasm, indifference, etc.
4. Used for only a minute or two. Use signs and pictures and sound prompts to give briskness and interest to the practice.
5. Used as a first stage, quickly leading the way to other kinds of practice.
6. Vary the way in which you do drills to make the language more memorable.

This technique is based on Audio-lingual Method. Richard and Rodgers (1986) said that a number of learning principles in learning theory became the psychological foundations of Audiolingualism and came to shape its methodological practice. Some principles are:
1. Foreign language learning is basically a process of mechanical habit formation. Goods habits are formed by giving correct responses rather than by making mistakes. By memorizing dialogues and performing pattern drills the chances of producing mistakes are minimized. Language is verbal behaviour- that is the automatic production and comprehension of utterances-and can be learned by inducing the students to do likewise.
2. Language skills are learned more effectively if the items to be learned in the target language are presented in spoken form before they are seen in written form.
3. Analogy provides a better foundation for language learning than analysis. Analogy involves the processes of generalization and discriminations. Drills can enable learners to form correct analogies. Hence the approach to teach the teaching of grammar is essentially inductive rather than deductive.
4. Teaching a language involves teaching aspects of the cultural system of the people who speak the language.

Drilling deals with Psychomotoric process in which the competencies that are developed by the technique are listening and speaking skills. Listening is one of the skills in which the learners try to get information (word, phrase or sentence) from the teacher’s statements, vocabularies or sentences. Then, they repeat it. That repetition is the realization of learners’ speaking skill and as the media for the teacher to check the learners’ pronunciation.

1. Students first hear a model dialogue (either read by the teacher or on tape) containing the key structure that are the focus of the lesson. They repeat each line of the dialogue, individually and in chorus. The teacher pays attention to pronunciation, intonation, and fluency. Correction of mistakes of pronunciation or grammar is direct and immediate. The dialogue is memorized gradually, line by line. A line may be broken down into several phrases if necessary. The dialogue is read aloud in chorus, one half saying one speaker’s part and one other half responding. The students do not consult their book throughout this phase.
2. The dialogue is adapted to the students’ interest or situation, through changing certain key words or phrases. This is acted out by the students.
3. Certain key structure from the dialogue are selected and use as the basis for pattern drills of different kinds. These are first practiced in chorus and then individually. Some grammatical explanation may be offered at this point, but this kept to an absolute minimum.
4. The students may refer to their textbook, and follow-up reading, writing, or vocabulary activities based on the dialogue may be introduced.
5. Follow-up activities may take place in the language laboratory, where further dialogue and drill work is carried out.

Elementary School Students

2X 40 Minutes


Cross, David. A Practical Handbook of Language Teaching. Phoenix ELT. Hertfordshire. 1995.
Haycraft, John. An Introduction to English Language Teaching. Longman Group Ltd. 1978 England.
Larsen, Diane. Freeman. Technique and Principle in Language Teaching. Oxford University Press. 2000.
Richard, Jack C. Rodgers, Theodore S. Approach and Method in Language Teaching Second edition. Cambridge University Press. 1986.


5 Comments to “DRILLING”

  1. Thank you so much. It helped me to understand completely.

  2. A very interesting article! But, who wrote this?

  3. may I know who writes this article?

  4. This article was submitted to fulfill my assignment in Teacher Trainer and Education Faculty, If i’m not mistaken, the subject was TEFL (teaching English as Foreign Language). And the most noticeable issue in this technique is that “How come drilling can be communicative?”

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