My teaching approach
of a new TEFL Teacher
There are numerous different ways and
ideas of teaching a language, some of the traditional methods have been around
for hundreds of years. The system of teaching has changed somewhat over this
period, not only because of modernisation of styles but also as the necessity
of needing to learn languages has changed, as the world has become more
interwoven. Some of the more modern methods are considered to be an improvement
on certain aspects of the traditional methods, in terms of structure and how
the language is being presented, and also complete overhauls of the entire
Most language schools nowadays have
their own methods of which their teachers are expected to adhere to.
In my personal experience as an
English teacher (a very modest 3 weeks) I have been teaching the 'communicative
approach', as it is the training method of Oxbridge. The focus of this method
is to enable the learners to communicate appropriately and effectively in any
real world scenarios that they might find themselves in. The lessons are taught
entirely in the target language, and although grammar is quintessential, the
function and the meaning of the language are taught before the form.
This is different to the way that I
was taught foreign languages at school; the lessons where drilling exercises
and only sentences that we were expected to say were spoken in the target
language. Learning was largely by translation to and from the target language.
Grammar rules were memorised and long lists of vocabulary were learnt by heart.
There was little or no emphasis on developing oral ability. This was taking
certain aspects of the 'Grammar-translation method', as also most of the
examinations were on grammar rules and translation with little or no oral assessment.
This method has a very limited scope. Because speaking or any kind of
spontaneous creative output is missing, students translate the language in
their head to their own language without using the target language in the
thinking process. We can learn a lot about a foreign language by comparing it
to our own, but too much concentration on grammar translation might stop the
student from thinking in a natural way, therefore hindering the input that
would help them acquire a language. Basically this method teaches about the
language and doesn't really help students to learn the language itself.
realised over these last few weeks, that even though the main method I used was
the communicative approach, aspects of other methods were implemented in the lessons.
For instance, the Silent Way crept into
my teachings before I even knew of it. This method emphasises the
self-direction of the learner; the students are encouraged to have an active
role in learning the language, including correcting their own errors and
helping each other when they have trouble with a particular feature of the
language. It seems as though it lacks meaningful
communication as the language taught is structural, and therefore difficult to
go beyond the simplest early stages of language. But on the other hand,
learning language through problem solving can
be very valuable in these early stages as it switches the thinking process into
the target language. I think that, in any method taught, it is possible and
even recommended to use a bit of the silent way to avoid giving away answers
too easily and try to get the students to guess and remember. Even if teachers
are silent, it doesn't mean they're not active; they can use techniques such as
mouthing words and hand gestures to help
the students with their pronunciation.
It's difficult to pick out and
centralise a whole method of teaching on such a broad and varied subject. There
is probably no wrong or right answer when it comes to teaching a foreign
language. Many aspects of the teaching can change depending on the target
language, the native language (and the similarities and more often the
differences with the target language) and very importantly on the students
learning the language. For sure different age groups would benefit differently
from the different methods – very young learners might struggle and loose
interest when using more communicative approaches whilst it would probably be
an adventure for them to actively and physically enact the language through
movement, such as in the Total Physical Response (TPR)., which is based on the assumption that the coordination of
speech and action will boost language learning. This
theory is that the memory is enhanced through association with physical
movement. TPR is based, first and foremost on listening, and is linked to physical actions which are
designed to reinforce comprehension of particular basic items. It seems as though the teacher needs
to be highly motivated in using his own imagination to keep the class and the
students involved beyond the limited activities that can be done in a
classroom. It's difficult to see how this method could be used for more
advanced students trying to use the language in a real world scenario. However,
I have no doubt that these activities can be both motivating and fun, and
therefore ideal to start young students with this approach, teaching the basic
elements of a foreign language.
For the older students however, I
can't imagine that a 40+ year old mother would want to get moving around the
classroom enacting commands given by the teacher. Although I'm not fully
convinced with the Suggestopedia method of teaching, there are certain elements
that I think could greatly benefit learners' concentration. This system is
based on yoga techniques of physical and mental relaxation. Physical
surroundings and atmosphere in classroom are the vital factors to make sure
that the students feel comfortable and confident, and various techniques, including art and music, are used
by the teacher.
Although this is an innovative method that promises great
effective language learning results, it seems as though the students only
receive input by listening, reading and musical-emotional backing, while other
important factors of language acquisition are being neglected.
Also the organisation and planning
that has to go into each lesson makes this method seem too time consuming for
the average teacher. Availability of comfortable chairs and the correct music
choice makes this too complicated. Not everybody has the same music preferences
and one could argue that being too comfortable is not always going to keep your
mind on the task, although deliberately induced states of relaxation can be
valuable at times.
I personally prefer a communicative approach to
teaching as it sets the mind into the target language at an early stage. Even
though I mentioned before that kids would benefit from more of a directional
style with a higher teacher talk time, I don't see any reason why this cannot
be implemented in this approach. I find this method very open and experimental
and all the other methods can have their ideas implemented from time to time.
As a teacher, it is important to be
focused on the students and their reasons for wanting to learn a foreign
language. Someone wanting to learn translation would have a completely
different approach to someone just wanting to be able to communicate with
others. Even in the case of pure communication, social and business languages
have their differences, especially when it comes to formality.
Besides the mentioned teaching methods, there are
other ideas that can be beneficial to the classroom, such as props, movies,
newspaper articles and visual aids. Not only do these engage the students, but
they also captivate their attention and create an interest in the material.
These methods stimulate mental activity and make it more effective for
learning. When all techniques are combined, students have a better chance of
understanding the material.
Everybody is different, at least in
how their brain has the ability to take information in and make use of it.
Depending on what side of the brain is dominant, causing each person to be
stronger in either a logical way or a creative way - some learn better by
listening, some by watching, and others by doing. This contributes to the
reason why each person has a specific type of learning style that works best
for them. Some students learn material quicker and easier than others.
Teachers, faced with the challenges of
accommodating different types of student learning styles and academic levels,
and should implement various teaching methods in order to captivate each
Students need to be challenged,
engaged, and eager to learn. The more opportunities that are available, the
more valuable the education becomes. Therefore, the most successful teaching
technique is one that involves a variety of different methods in order to
accommodate every student's unique learning style.