Alessandra Vena





My teaching approach

The Assignment

For this module you must write an assignment (around 1500 words) on how you would approach teaching English. Design your own method and explain why you think it would be the most beneficial for your students.

INTRODUCTION

This paper will evaluate various English teaching methodologies by giving particular emphasis to communication as a starting point for language teaching/learning and interaction. Different teaching methodologies will be presented and compared by taking into account both the teacher’s and the student’s perspectives and by introducing a teaching method that can benefit all types of learners, from the more receptive to the more productive ones.                                                                                                                                                                  Relevant field-based teaching experience will be examined in order to design a teaching method in which students can actively participate in the dynamics of the class and teachers can adapt to different ways of delivering the class according to the needs of the students.

TEACHING METHODOLOGIES

Up until the ‘90s the most common way of teaching English was trough the Grammar Translation method. Teachers used to give special emphasis to grammar rules and little or no attention to communication. This method strongly focuses on grammatical structures and vocabulary learned and translated from texts. The teacher is considered the authority in the classroom and students have few chances for interaction. Native language is commonly spoken in the classroom especially for providing translations. Students tend to memorise the syllabus by heart and no room for self-correcting and self-evaluating their progress is given.

On the other hand, more recent methods of teaching such as the Berlitz or Direct method tend to privilege communication over structure and vocabulary. Native language is not spoken in the class and although both receptive and productive skills are practiced, oral communication is still considered the most important. New vocabulary is introduced according to different topics and situations and teacher and students’ interaction are on the same level. Words and concepts are introduced and explained through the use of pictures, explanations and pantomime and no translation into native language is allowed. Grammar is taught inductively, rules, in fact, need to be worked out from the examples given.

In the Audio-Lingual method communication is also emphasized over structure, but skills are learnt in their natural form starting from listening, then speaking, reading and writing. The syllabus contains items of phonology, morphology and syntax following this order while the teacher is seen as a model to imitate and follow. Dialogues are used as means for introducing new vocabulary and grammar is thought inductively.

If in the Audio-Lingual method the teacher is a model to imitate, in the Silent Way he/she becomes a technician who has to adapt the syllabus according to the students’ needs. This model is, in fact, very student-centred, there is no fixed syllabus and a special emphasis is given to communication and to the development of a criteria of correctness and independence from the part of the students. Teachers tend to privilege non-verbal interaction in order to encourage student-to-student one.

In the Suggest-o-pedia method, instead, the teacher becomes a kind of psychologist whose aim is to eliminate psychological barriers and set the basis for a cheerful learning environment. Fine Arts are often used to facilitate the creation of this environment and also to reach students’ subconscious.

If the psychological aspects are stressed in the Suggest-o-pedia method, the physical ones are emphasized in the Total Physical Response method, which is characterized by the uttering of directions by the teacher and by observing and performing actions as a response. This approach also stresses the cheerful learning component.

Content-based Instruction, Task-based Instruction and Participatory approach teach through communication rather than for it. They revolve around teaching entire subjects in English and therefore aim to introduce topics and the vocabulary related to them.

Even though knowing how to express ideas according to different topics is important, knowing when and how to say something and to whom is crucial. The Communicative Approach aims to integrate the four learning skills for communicative competence. This approach also introduces language in context and is intended to give the students tools to independently develop their communicative skills by giving the function of communication from which grammar is deducted.

The Callan method is aimed to stimulate students to speak from the very first class by holding their attention and working on their memory through repetition. The teacher is the authority and students have a passive role in the class, although they get the chance to interact amongst each other they are not independent in their learning process and evaluation.

The Oxbridge model is based on the Triangular Projection Model and uses a communicative approach as its main model of teaching. The peculiarities of the Oxbridge teaching system are that every activity has a communicative goal and teaching becomes a collective task performed by a group of teachers rather than a single individual. The system is designed to develop student’s speaking skills first. The teacher tends to be a playmaker who cheerfully guides the students during the class and tend to leave the grounds for independent thinking and evaluation from the parts of the students. The syllabus is structured according three main activities: a topic activity for the purpose of communication, a vocabulary activity in order to learn new words according to different contexts and a structure activity to inductively learn grammar rules. These activities are more or less emphasised according to the level of the class.

As we have seen through this brief introduction of teaching methodologies, the traditional top-down approach of the Grammar Translation method tends to give space to more bottom-up approaches such as the Communicative one or the Oxbridge system, in which speaking and communication skills are at the core of the approach and in which the teacher becomes a guide rather than a role model to obey and imitate and students can have chances to participate in the classroom design and preparation as well as develop their own learning approach and evaluation.

DESIGNING A TEACHING METHOD

Teacher’s role and students’ perspectives

In order to deliver a successful class, an English teacher needs to adapt to the needs of the students. He has to understand them first and being able to read their minds in order to anticipate problems. Times in which teachers were seen as an authority are gone and teachers have to be able to switch personalities according to different situations. There are times for being playful and times for being more formal, times in which they have to act as psychologists and times in which they simply have to leave the students find their way through self-expression and self-evaluation. Teachers must understand student’s reasons for learning and adapt their syllabus according to these aspects. It is important to know whether a student is willing to learn, is obliged to learn or simply needs to learn, because the outcome of the class and of the learning process strongly depends on these reasons. When students are willing to learn they are keen for interaction and any activity could be interested to them. The teacher in these cases is advantaged because he doesn’t have to make a strong effort to stimulate the student. When students are obliged to learn, as in the case of many children and teenagers, things could be more difficult because teachers have to choose the activities carefully in order to make them very stimulating as to illicit students’ interests and curiosity. On the other hand when students need to learn English as in the case of businessmen that need it for their job, teacher must choose the appropriate register and discuss the syllabus with the student in advance in order to be sure to meet students’ needs. A good teacher also needs to be able to deal with students’ anxiety and personality in order to be able to maintain a good classroom flow and satisfy individual needs. He, in fact, has to spot in advance if some students in the class are below the level or particularly shy or emotional. This helps to create a good rapport with every student and to make them trust the teacher (Harmer, How to Teach English, page 1-20).

The four skills

Speaking for the purpose of communication should be the first goal of the class, in fact, if the students learn how to say things in English it will become easier for them to know how to write and read them. However, listening, writing and reading skills must be practiced as well. The teacher should reach a good balance between receptive and productive skills by making them target and context oriented. At the end of every class student must reach a target and must also learn when, how and in which context to use the vocabulary or structure taught. Every activity must be communicative, students need to be stimulated to speak through topic activities, role plays, debates, but they also have to get used to listen to different accents and different registers through the listening of audios and videos. Teachers should also encourage students to read and write in their spare time since classes are more focused on speaking and listening. More importance should also be given to function over form even though different forms will be introduced as students become more proficient.

The syllabus

Students should actively participate in the design of the syllabus; they should openly express their needs and concerns at the beginning of the course in order for the teacher to consider them when proposing the syllabus. Students should carefully choose the topics and the activities with the teacher as to make the teaching and learning process as egalitarian as possible. Students, in fact, should not feel stressed or overcharged, but should enjoy their learning process and teachers have to make this as natural and smooth as possible. A special emphasis should be given to topic and vocabulary activities from which grammar structures will be deducted by the students in a natural way and through repetition. First language must not be spoken in class since students need to get used to think in English.

Classroom dynamics and materials

Teachers must encourage students to speak and debate among themselves on the topics given. Teachers have to give inputs only, in order to give space for the students to talk. Different materials will be used. For low levels it is important to use a lot of pictures and pantomime so that they can associate the figures with the words. For more advanced level is good to use audios and videos as well as role-plays and games. It is also important for advanced students to learn entire subjects in English (as seen in the Content-based Instruction approach) in order to be able to learn the vocabulary related to different subjects. Even though the classes are more focused on developing speaking skill, writing things down should be encouraged especially for those who have a more visual type of learning. The teacher should, in fact, be able to understand students’ types of learning styles as to provide specific activities. This could be done by keeping the syllabus as eclectic as possible as to give room for visual, kinesthetic, audio-lingual types of learning styles. Moreover students need to be encouraged to self-evaluation and self-correction. This could be done also by asking other students to correct and intervene. Teachers should keep correction error to a minimum especially with low-level students in order to avoid decreasing their motivation, while should always encourage language self-awareness. It is also very important for a teacher to understand the level of student’s interlanguage (http://duermueller.tripod.com/interlanguage.html), in order to help them improving; this can include: what patterns they borrow from their mother tongue, the application of the same grammar rules to many cases, and the oversimplification of the vocabulary learnt. Every class should also be as dynamic as possible. Even though a general class structure should be followed, teachers have to be able to leave room for improvisation as well as letting students lead and or choose the activities. Teachers in fact have to be only facilitators; the class has to be student-centred.

TEACHING EXPERIENCE

Teaching people from different age groups, or coming from different backgrounds, or having different levels can be challenging. Teachers have to be prepared for all types of circumstances and need to quickly adapt and be able to change their activities or their register according to different situations. A lot of patience is needed especially with children, teenagers and elders; teachers have to make the activities more dynamics for children, very engaging for teenagers and easier and clearer for elders. The use of game can be very successful with these classes. With businesspeople professionalism in required, teachers have to be able to meet their needs and design a syllabus that adapts to their purposes. Teaching beginners and teaching more advanced students is also different. With total beginners teachers have to really grade their language and use a lot of pantomime. The material needs to be carefully selected as to include a lot of images that can be easily associated with the new vocabulary. In teaching more advanced students, on the other hand, topic materials has to be chosen over structure material in order to make the classes more engaging as to illicit student to talk and debate. All the materials must be chosen with the students in order to understand their preferences and their learning styles (Harmer, The Practice of English Language Teaching, page 37-52).

CONCLUSION

As we have seen through the course of this essay, a communicative and student-based approach has been chosen over a more structured and teacher-based one. This approach is considered to be beneficial for the students as they actively engage in the syllabus preparation and they tend to be more aware of what they learn and how. Students, in fact, learn to self-correct and self-evaluate and in this way they are more motivated to learn given the level of independence they develop. Teachers, on the other hand, become very flexible by being able to adapt to students’ needs. They are not seen as models to imitate but, instead, as facilitators, as friendly individual who engage and stimulate students through inputs, but leave the grounds for an independent learning environment to emerge. Classes need to be cheerful and dynamic, different types of activities need to be performed all the time as to be able to meet the needs of different learning styles.  

BIBLIOGRAPHY

http://duermueller.tripod.com/interlanguage.html

How to teach English, Jeremy Harmer (Longman)

The Practice of English Language Teaching, Jeremy Harmer (Longman)

 

 



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