Jordan Donati

My teaching approach


Jordan Donati

October 2, 2011


When it comes to teaching there are many methods with no one way more correct than the other.  One teacher’s method may be successful with some students and another teacher’s method may work with the other students.  When it comes to teaching English as a second language there are many methods that have been put into place and as a teacher we now have many techniques to choose from.  Teachers must take different factors into consideration when choosing which method to use, such as the student’s age, the student’s reason for wanting to learn a new language, and also the student’s motivation level.  Three different methods with key similarities are the Direct Method, Total Physical Response, and the Communicative approach; each has pros and cons and each a very different approach to teaching.

                  The Direct method, created by Maximilian Berliz, is one of the original methods for teaching English as second language.  The main idea of the method is that the second language should be taught just like the first with no use of the students’ original language.  The focus for this method is vocabulary and the teacher uses a lot of repetition, pictures, and demonstrations to teach.  This method also places high importance on pronunciation from day one.  Pronunciation is very important but too much criticism from the teacher can discourage students from wanting to continue learning this new language.  I feel vocabulary is very important when learning a new language, as well as grammar.  This approach to teaching English does not teach grammar rules; instead the teacher assumes the student will learn the grammar rules through imitation and trial & error.  When it comes to teaching English I agree that repetition of vocabulary can be very useful but the teaching of grammar is necessary.  English is a rich language with many rules and exceptions to those rules, and it is the job of a teacher to make sure the students know more than vocabulary terms. 

                  Another approach to teaching English is through Total Physical Response.  The main idea behind this method is that students will learn by acting out the commands of the teacher.  The teacher has the authority in this setting and tells the students what to do and the students must repeat it.  This approach, like that of the Direct Method, does not allow students to use their native language.  By forcing students to only use the target language the teacher is forcing them to think in English in order to speak English, which is ultimately the main goal.  I think this method is quite alternative but can be very successful when teaching children.  It is hard to capture the attention of a child by making them read and write but by asking them to repeat gestures they learn the language without realizing.  This method is good for beginners but when the students begin to develop their own thoughts this method does not allow the students to express their thoughts through words.

                   Finally, the Communicative approach seems to be the best approach by using successful aspects of the approaches that came before it.  This method focuses on all four communicative skills but primarily listening and speaking.  What makes this approach so beneficial is that it uses the target language in real context with authentic materials.  Authentic materials, such as a real newspaper article, allow students to share real opinions and have real discussions rather than a discussion on the gingerbread man, which would not happen in daily communication.  The teacher acts as a guide, not an authority figure, who helps students and corrects them only when they feel necessary.  Errors are part of learning and teachers of the Communicative approach tolerate those errors.  By not reprimanding the student each time they pronounce a word incorrectly the students can feel comfortable expressing themselves and practicing the new language.  Just like the other approaches, the target language is the only language used in the classroom in an effort to force the students to think only in English.  The best part of this method, in my opinion, is the task.  Each task in this method has a goal, input (reading, news article, activity, etc.), and activity.  By having these three factors in each task it breaks up the learning process into a fun way to successfully engage the students and have them practice the target language in real life situations.

                    All three of these approaches have one main similarity: the only use the target language.  Not all approaches feel this is the best way to teach a foreign language, one of those exceptions is the Grammar Translation Method. The Grammar Translation method translates words from one language to the next.  As a teacher it is easier for me to follow the Grammar Translation Method when a student does not understand a new word, but as a student of this method I know the handicap it placed on my listening and speaking ability.  By translating words from your native tongue to the target language it slows down your thought process and doesn’t allow for communication to flow.  When speaking in Spanish I find myself still thinking in English, which is not what I want.  We want students to think and speak in the target language, so as a teacher I will not follow the Grammar Translation method; instead I will take the approach of the other methods and only speak in the target language with students and require the same of them.

                  Another similarity between these methods is the use of games.  Total Physical Response and the Communicative approach both use games as a mean of practicing the target language.  After giving examples and practicing language the teachers use games to use what was learned in a fun way.  Learning is not meant to be only from a book, it can happen through memory games, story games, and conditional games for example.  These methods allow the teacher to assess the students’ progress without giving them tests and asking them one comprehension question after another.  The games help motivate the students by making the learning process light. As a teacher I feel seeing the students have fun and enjoy using the target language is just as important as them receiving an A on an exam. 

                  Another factor to consider when choosing a method for teaching is why the student is choosing to learn a new language.  If the student wants to learn English for a specific purpose, such as business English, or medical English, the Direct Method has its benefits.  By focusing on vocabulary needed for the specific purpose the student can focus on words and terms that are beneficial for their specific need and not be weighed down by vocabulary that is not applicable to them.  If a student wants to learn English for communication then the Communicative Approach would help this student by using authentic material and teaching them grammar so they can speak properly in the target language.  Also by using role playing in the target language it can better prepare students for encounters they will have with English speakers, or interviews, or even when dating.

                  When I become a teacher I think I will take a few key aspects of all three of these approaches when I teach.  I will take the vocabulary repetition approach from the Direct Method.  I feel that in some cases it is necessary to drill vocabulary into the students mind in order for them to learn.  From the Total Physical Response method I will use gestures and actions.  I won’t necessarily have the students repeat the gestures but I feel it is a good way to describe words nonverbally and sometimes an abnormal gesture can help the students remember abnormal words.  From this method I will not be taking the role of the teacher as an authority, instead I will be acting as a guide like the Communicative Approach describes.  I want to be there to help the students learn and not make the process seem demanding.  A teacher who guides their students gains a better rapport and students respond better to a teacher they are comfortable with.  From the communicative approach I will also focus on the tasks using authentic materials.  From the classes I have observed and the activities I have taught in the past two weeks the real life discussions have been my favorite part.  I am looking forward to having discussions on current events with my students and watching as their ability to speak English improves week to week.  

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