My teaching approach
A Proposal For a Holistic
Approach to Teaching English as a Second Language
proposal sets out to highlight the need for a holistic approach to teaching a
second language. I will assert that a communicative approach is fundamental and
should form the bedrock of any attempt to learn a new language. This essay will
look at various SLA (second language acquisition) methodologies and highlight
the aspects that can be merged to for a new holistic methodology that will will
engage, motivate and allow students of various ages, divergent affective
factors, learning styles, abilities and backgrounds to access an effective
curriculum and learn and use their skills dynamically.
give a firm basis for my perceived ideal methodology, I will discuss the theories
pertaining to learning language, then briefly reflect on the concepts of Steven
Krashen, highlighting the distinctions between acquisition and learning, which
directly underpin the following concepts.
I will then
build the ideals for my SLA methodology by drawing out what I consider to be
the important aspects from various approaches already in use, highlighting the
subtle 'affective factors' that can inhibit the learning of new skills. I will
assert that each technique has valuable aspects and only though a combination
of the key elements can a well balanced, student focused, language teaching
program be most effective.
discuss how a 'communicative approach' is paramount to secure L2 (second
language) acquisition. Understanding learning theory enables grounded critical
reflections on individual practice and preparations for teaching, with respect
to individual lessons and planning a continuing unit of learning.
communication is a foundation of humanity and has been evolving culturally and
in our brains for millions of years. Naom Chomsky has asserted that our brains
are prewired with the ability to understand grammatical structures, in
opposition Skinner maintained that language is a learnt behaviour. Usefully
however Steven Krashen has highlighted the importance of the two main aspects
of language learning; ACQUISITION and LEARNING.
observed and defined the difference between the natural process by which our
brains learn to use language effectively through subconscious ACQUSITION and
the conscious LEARNING of grammatical structures and vocabulary through direct
importance here is that when teaching a second language, providing
opportunities to communicate stimulates the natural ACQUISITION. To speed up this
natural passive process we can 'input' LEARNING of grammatical structures in a
finely tuned manner (ideally that are just above the learners level of
application) so that in free communication the learner can begin to use and
adapt these taught structures in dynamic and creative ways. Both these
paradigms are relevant to teaching L2 and deserve different considerations and
approaches when teaching, facilitating and planning communicative activities.
fundamental aspect of SLA is the 'communicative approach'. In this proposal I
assert that by creating interesting and communicative opportunities for L2 use
will stimulate dynamic language acquisition. The roll of the teacher in this
'communicative' sense is to provide effective and meaningful activities that
facilitate high STT (Student Talking Time), immediate reflections and
self-corrections so to support and instil the correct 'learnt/acquired'
structures, pronunciation and general fluency along side the taught vocabulary
communicative approach (CLT) as I have asserted is paramount to dynamic
language acquisition, allowing learners to use their vocabulary and grammar
structures in meaningful contexts that allow dynamic and reflexive language
learners to play with and explore their own knowledge (at a level just above
their own), practice and find vocabulary in their lexicon and knowledge of
structures, the teacher is able to create focused provisions that fully merges
the two elements of Krashen's 'monitor theory'. This principle can be built
into a lesson by teaching three elements, vocabulary, grammar structures and
'open' discussion based activities, though they are not mutually exclusive, it
can be useful to see them as distinct elements, this allows the teacher to
structure the syllabus in a coherent way and track where learning has occurred
and where elements and structures may need to be practiced.
of vocabulary should be meaningful and functional to the learner, this
generates motivation for learning and often a direct and immediate function and
desire for use, thus securing L2 acquisition in 'open' learning times.
structures are taught through engaging and fun activities, the learner
practices focused structures under the guidance of the teacher in closed
situations to instil and secure the structural forms as a skill to practice.
activities are where a student can apply their grammar knowledge and lexicon to
a free and dynamic use of language, actively utilising (hopefully all) their L2
basis in a dynamic sense, often using their own innate skills to find words or
contingency words from within their own minds. Teachers should appreciate here
that giving the word or structure is not always the best way for student learning,
teachers need to work with students to help them elicit answer from themselves.
important to note here that this system benefits learning in a variety of ways.
Preparing and supporting the learner in this way alleviates stress other
inhibiting factors for production, 'open discussions' can be easily
differentiated to suit the ability of the learner with the use of aid memoires
(e.g. vocabulary flash cards).
discussions can be centred around specific aspects of the language or
completely free depending on the ability or learner and objective of the
engagement. The learner is therefore given a toolkit to use before they are
asked to start building sentences in a dynamic way.
themes and topics to motivate, challenge or even develop contentions and
allowing the learner to express themselves in communicative ways such as;
role-play, interviews, playing verbal word games, and dialogues satisfies the
acquisitional need for dynamic language use, which facilitates the best type of
learning, experiential learning. However the communicative approach can utilise
any form of discussion, using stimuli from exploring pictures, writing or real
life elements, generally a familiar, exciting or controversial topic will often
lead to high levels of motivation to communicate. High STT alongside highly
effective error management leads to highly effective learning/acquisition. We
have heard about motivations (extrinsic to learner) but some factors are
personal (intrinsic to learner) and come with learners into the classroom.
important to appreciate a 'humanistic' approach when considering any form of
learning. Always remember that a learner is a unique human individual who
carries a variety of 'affective factors' that are personal to them. These
elements can be both positive – such as being an extrovert or being personally
motivated to learn - and negative – such as carrying anxiety or low self
esteem, with language or pronunciation etc. Some methodologies such as
'Suggestopoedia' were developed to avoid certain psychological inhibitors of
learning by creating an environment where learners are dislocated from their
own personalities through totally immersing the learner in role playing. This
concept however is worth noting as a point for strong consideration though lies
on the fringes of the importance of this essay. I maintain that any methodology
should create a calm and yet personally challenging environment to learn,
learners should feel positive and happy about said learning, learning should be
such as Total Physical Response (TPR) that links the body, mind and soul are
very effective, especially for children who don't carry with them the plethora
of 'affective factors' that adults seem to accumulate. The concept of linking physical
gestures and sign language with learning language is excellent as the brain and
the body are linked in the same focus, in my experience this creates very
meaningful connections and opportunities for quality depth of learning, so
experiences and learning will be remembered.
If one can
over come the 'affective factors' that may inhibit an adult to stand up and
tell a story with elaborate gestures then learning will be secured. A
practitioner needs to be particularly excellent at perceiving the nature of her
students and finding the best motivations for them to overcome their
insecurities. It is my attitude to teaching that learning should be physical
and dynamic however this may be most effectively used at the early learning
stages, where the teachers physical and verbal gestures work together to create
higher quality input and understanding of the L2 (second language).
Way' is an approach has many useful elements. Not only for teaching and
creating dialogues but also as a skill base for eliciting self-corrections and
responses. The concept of using no criticism or praise doesn't suit my style,
again however, I can see the value of the technique to create an emotively
neutral environment for learning.
leads me to assert that any methodology should have specific framework for
presentation of sessions and in classroom communications and behaviour.
to eliciting responses and self-corrections I feel that a well placed open or
reflective question or gesture can work just as well, so long as you have taken
care with other elements of your methodology to alleviate the 'affective
I have said
that the focus of teaching L2 is to get the learners to apply their acquired
knowledge in a free and fluent way and to increase the speed of acquisition
elements of teaching and learning should take place in a structured way – to
give the students the toolkit to use to create sentences.
Approach' focuses on learners learning vocabulary. The process by which grammatical
structures are approached is through demonstration and not functional
explanation. The approach uses fast paced and repetitive techniques to drill
vocabulary with grammar bolted into the drilled sentence. This approach should
only be used when kept short, pacey and well a bit fun. E.g. make a song with
the target language, or use the techniques of TPR.
the 'Audiolingual Method' is almost the completely opposed to the systems I am
suggesting, such as, teaching grammatical structures first and then vocabulary
and that all mistakes are immediately corrected – not supporting the fluency of
a communicated thought or feeling, there are useful aspects to the method. Of
cause it is in the application of the strategy; timings, motivations and presentation,
that defines the success of a particular method. Building and repeating
dialogues, checking pronunciation at each step will help to secure the learning
of the structure. Though these skills can only be employed briefly, short
chunks, meaningful contexts and short, pacey and fun presentations.
conclusion, a SLA teaching methodology at its fundamental should be
'communicative' in nature, presenting motivating lesson activities that focus
on quality learning input and production rather than focusing on understanding
grammatical form - teach in in context and use it creatively!. Activities can
follow various pattens of vocabulary, grammatical structures and 'open' themes
where creativity and dynamic use of language is encouraged.
The manner of
the teacher is important, not to say that all teachers should be the same, but
that certain classroom techniques are shared and used consistently, such as
eliciting responses and encouraging self-correction with low TTT. Also teachers
should be aware that 'affective factors' exist in students and should work to
alleviate these before, during and after the session if needed.
All of the
teaching methodologies have positive and useful elements to them, though I
consider some of their applications to be only useful in small chunks, i.e.
becoming part of a particular session and not the only focus, e.g. The Direct
and Audiolingual Approaches. The communicative approach should be the basis of
everything we do in the classroom, encouraging the learner to apply the taught
vocabulary and structures in dynamic ways will assure quality learning and
Most of all,
no matter your age, background or motivations...
...Learning should be FUN!