Diane Lopez

My teaching approach

When analyzing different teaching methods one has to be very careful not to stigmatize any of them before trying them first.

Before you even begin to plan out a syllabus you have to take under consideration the culture of the country you are in and the dynamic of the group of people you are going to be dealing with. Keeping in mind that also the style and personality of the teacher will play a mayor role in how everything is going to develop.

It would be very easy to take the “old school” approach. Thinking that the book is your guide and that the faster or better for a student to learn a language would be by teaching them grammar rules, reading, and writing. But if we stop to think about the organic process that occurs when a child is learning a language is far beyond less complicated than what it has become. For example take a child’s native language, any language. What is the first thing that the child does before even stepping one foot inside a school? He listens to their mother, father, or family members, starts to register the language, and becomes used to the sounds. After that the child starts to develop speech. Speech that is compound of just words at first, then becomes simple structured sentences and sometimes body gestures to try to convey what they want or need at the moment. Once the child can communicate then he gets to school and starts the reading process and later on, the writing process. Why would we ever choose to do it backwards? What makes most “traditional” teachers follow the same process that in most cases doesn’t result in a child or a person’s fluency in the language? It is the common believe that this is the right way to do things because it will produce students who are not only fluent but also are capable of expressing themselves correctly when writing.

I can say, from personal experience that it is not necessarily correct.

Take my high school classmates for example. Most of them would memorize prepositions, verb tenses, and even some sentences structures without even knowing exactly how to use them in a real life conversation or how they come together. It would just be about memorizing a structure not even knowing what it meant. People who would be on top of the class would not be able to hold a fluent or even coherent conversation. The common thing that you would hear people say in Puerto Rico is “ I know what you are saying I just don’t know how to reply”. Well, How is it that someone can understand or listen to a conversation if you may, and not be able to reply back? Have we stop and think that maybe by jumping from listening skills to writing skills we are missing a link that the student needed to develop before he would be able to move on to the next part in the process? It is my believe that teachers are coming short when they’re supposed to go the extra mile and really help the student overcome the different difficulties in the different spaces by guiding them. Just like it happens in nature, a very organic process that doesn’t involve more technical skills like writing until later on. Until they have sufficient tools to be able to hold there own in a conversation. Otherwise you will have people with a substantial amount of knowledge who are not able to do anything with it. To me it sounds as ridiculous as if someone came to your class wanting to learn how to ride a bike and the first thing you would is to show them: how the bike works, how it should be used, maintained etc and not taking them outside to actually ride a bike! They would have all the knowledge necessary to ride the bike and would not be able to do it. 

To me language learning has to be a process where the student has to make mistakes, he/she has to be corrected and guided to help them develop themselves in that other language in the best way possible.

If a student is talking to you he or she can actually have immediate feedback as to how they’re doing and if their way of manifesting an idea is correct. If you were to test the student to place them on a level or if you were to make them practice what you just taught in class by writing it would take time for them to know how they did. Not only that but they are not getting to practice speaking if they are writing. And they could be also be doing it by association, by eliminating the less obvious options or simply by copying the paper.

When you analyze the students level by listening to them speak you can have a clearer notion of how well they understood the lesson and if they’re able to use it in a real life situations.

As teachers of a Second language our ultimate goal should be that the student not only could survive a conversation with a native speaker but that they are able to do it effortlessly.

This is why, as teachers we most decide the best method of teaching not only for the students but also for ourselves. We need to be prepared, know our students and the challenges the repeatedly encounter when learning a language.

If you are not approachable enough students in your class might not feel comfortable, personalities might start to clash and affective factors would start to show. It is possible that the student doesn’t have the correct motives or the motivation to be in the class but he/she has to go to class. If the willingness and desire of the student to learn the language is not there it can happen that the teacher would try and try to make the student more enthusiastic about class but still find some resistance or hesitation on the other part. That isn’t a reason for the teacher to feel discouraged but to take this experience to help mold their individual teaching techniques and apply them to different classroom settings and situations.

Some teachers would prefer a more strict method of teaching and will not be as lenient when a student makes mistakes and borrow from their mother tongue. They not only borrow words from their native language but also structures and/or patterns. (Interlingua)

This to me is a very sensitive subject. As a teacher I feel not only the need but also the obligation to correct a student when, for example, he or she uses false friends. However, the approach I usually take is a very casual and not at all reprehending towards them. I keep in mind that they’re either learning the language for pleasure or they’re learning it out of necessity. My attitude could potentially frustrate them or make them lose interested.

This is why when we use immersion as a way of teaching a language, which I prefer, I try to make it as interesting, fun and engaging as possible. Using visual aids, gestures or other words as references are the best way to make the student not only understand the message but also to help them visualize the action, learn how they can use the word or expression in real life setting and help them retain everything they just learn even better.

I can’t say that after reading about the different methods and having taught at a traditional school as an ESL teacher it was refreshing when I first started the TEFL course at Oxbridge. I am not saying that the method is the best one, or the definite authority when teaching English as a Second language but I believe that they’re on to something. When I sat down to compare between what I learned in the classroom and the different methods (that have also proven to be effective) I noticed that we take a little bit of the good engaging parts of other methods and incorporate them in the classroom setting to create a more refreshing teaching environment and process. For example we use repetition in a more subtle way so that the idea gets drilled into the persons memory without it being exhausting or even annoying. We use gestures and I have even found myself doing something similar to the silent way to communicate something to the student, that I know he/she knows without giving it away and making them think. This exemplifies my way of thinking in the sense that language learning should be organic in the beginning and not so technical. Making the students feel as if the language is a part of them already. Quick questions are not only a way of making them practice vocabulary, sentence and reply structure but also making them answer the questions without them having to take the time to know the meaning of each word. Because in our native language we don’t do that, we just answer.

This are things that I will incorporate in my method of teaching but also I would add some things that I think would be helpful to the students. For example, the teacher is the one who’s inside the classroom with the students, one on one. The teacher better than anyone knows whether they understood the subject of if they are having trouble remembering something in particular. I believe it would help if, before the new material is taught the teacher could take the time to do a quick review of what troubled them. I know this can be tricky as well because some students don’t like to feel as if the first five minutes of class are a repetition but I think if it’s done a way that is not obvious it would be of tremendous help. This we don’t have people who move along very fast and others who simply stay behind. Quick questions could be a great way of doing this. With the teachers feedback the questions that are planned out for next week could include asking the student to give them an example of the subject that gave them the most trouble on the past lesson. This way we practice and transition on the new subjects. 

A teacher has not only to be prepared for can happen in the classroom but he/she has to define the type of teacher they want to be and move along from there. Because, if as a teacher you are not sure of what your ultimate goal is and what you want the student to have learned at the end of each class then we will never be able to mold ourselves as better teachers and it wont be possible for us to connect with the students and to help them reach their ultimate goal.

Any method of teaching can give you excellent results the teacher takes the time to get to know their students and their goals. If the teacher takes the time to prepare a syllabus that adjusts to their students needs and become more flexible to different experiences in the classroom, any method can be good if the teacher is good, engaging and willing to go the extra mile.


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