Angelica Balmaseda





My teaching approach

TEACHING ENGLISH

All the points and opinions I am to write about are from the point of view of a person born in Spain with Spanish parents and that has acquired English in an English school and that has been immersed in English language environment since 4 years old.

Spanish people have a high sense of being ridiculous so the teacher has to make them feel confident, letting them know that everybody makes mistakes and none of us have being born knowing everything. Also English language is an unresolved subject for Spanish people and usually fall in what we call ‘false friends’.

All the teaching methods were created to find the best way to teach a second language. Many times teachers ask themselves how to make the assimilation of the subject easier, interesting and affordable to students so that they can do their best and assimilate what they have been taught and, of course, be able to use it in real life. It is difficult to decide which method is the best because everyone has its strengths and weaknesses so I think it is better to pick up some ideas from each one although I have some preferences in two or three methods.

The Direct Method of teaching was developed as a response to the Grammar-Translation method. It sought to immerse the learner in the same way as when a first language is learnt. All teaching is done in the target language, grammar is taught inductively, there is a focus on speaking and listening, and only useful ‘everyday' language is taught so they can use it in daily context. The weakness of this method is it assumption that a second language can be learnt in exactly the same way as a first, when in fact the conditions under which a second language is learnt are very different.

Communicative Approach: Language would be introduced in real context and target language should be used in classroom communication. Games are important to learn, mistakes are took as natural, the grammar and vocabulary follow from function, situational context and roles.

It is very important to learn a language to have a total immersion from the beginning, that is, that when the classroom door is closed the only thing the student should hear is the target language. First of all it is important to get to know your students because they are different from each other and you have to know what are their weaknesses and their strengths, not only when learning, but also find out if they are shy or are afraid of making mistakes or other personal involvements. The teacher must make them trust in him/her so they can ask when they don’t understand, they have to see the teacher as a guide not a judge. I think the teacher has to give students lots of time to speak and practice not only with the teacher but also with their mates in class so they get confidence in themselves.

Obviously it is not the same to teach children, teenagers and adults as they are in class for different reasons. Usually children and teens are there because their parents have told them to go and adults need their classes because they need English for their work or need a certificate for other matter.

There is no need to say that the teacher has to be patient, smile and become a playmaker as well as a guide for the students.

Children have to be taught with songs, games, stories and pictures. Children get distracted easily due to their imagination and the teacher has to engage them in what she is doing so they pay attention, have a good time and learn what they are supposed to, challenging them with games and giving them ‘stars’ or extra points. It is easier to teach them, for example, the alphabet with a song such as the one in which the melody is from Mary Poppins movie or the parts of the body with ‘Head & Shoulders, Knees & Toes’ or ‘John Brown had a little indian’ to learn numbers. Also it is very useful to have in the class pictures of different things of everyday life so they can relate in their mind the word with the object just using their sense of sight. As children’s brains are like sponges they get everything what is taught to them in a natural way.

 

Teaching adults depends on what they were taught at school and how. After leaving The British Council School I went to a Spanish school and I noticed that my mates knew very little English. As I was another pupil in the class while the English teacher was there I noticed that teachers taught lots of grammar, vocabulary and structures that only were put in practice sometime and she usually gave us homework and that was all. That was absolutely useless. I think teaching English should be in a practical way, giving time to students to talk and practice so that they get conscious of what they know and that will encourage them to learn more when they realize they can talk.

If you have to teach people who need English for work it has to be a practical teaching so they can use it when they have to communicate with their colleagues abroad of by phone or mail. Also you can teach people to have examinations such as PET or FCE but that is just helping them with a specific book, doing some listening so they can pass their exam, and that’s it.

For beginners, I would start with pictures, simple sentences, greetings, introducing themselves and actions using gestures and movements, emphasizing and using facial expressions so they can understand what I am trying to transmit them. When they start to speak and if they make mistakes I would make them repeat the sentence after me to practice and retain it in their memory.

For more advanced students I would use vocabulary in a context so that they can understand the meaning and structure and get them engaged in a situation so they can brainstorm their own ideas of what we are reading. An effective technique of teaching speaking is encouraging students to have their own view point and to be willing to defend it (spirit of challenge). I would encourage them to express themselves freely without stopping for mistake corrections. Make them feel it's a matter of convincing others with their point. This will help to untie their tongue knots. When they finish speaking I would correct the mistakes made and ask for possible questions about we have seen in class

For every group I would start with a warm up such as asking short questions and five minutes or so, before the class ends ask them questions related with what we have seen during the class. It is very difficult for them not saying a single word in Spanish but I would try and encourage them to say what they are saying in their mother tongue in target language.

Obviously we are talking of teaching a language to talk and use it in real life so understanding and speaking comes first and writing and listening comes second.

In any case the teacher must grade the language used in the class depending on the level, she/he has to be patient and reachable, he/she has to smile, encourage students to speak and make them feel easy and comfortable so they want to come to class next time to learn more.



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