My teaching approach
For the hundreds of
years the process of teaching English as foreign language had greatly evolved.
There have been studies, experiments, different methods that aim to improve
particular skills, such as speaking, writing or listening. However, as it was
told, it is a question of “do you speak English”, and not “do you write
English”. (I find it very useful for students who think talking is not
serious). It means that first of all, we need to develop speaking skills of our
students. It is a platform that will hold the language construction later on. And that’s where some of the “old” approaches
wouldn’t work at all, such as grammar-translation method. This is something a
student can do by himself, when, for example, he wants to master grammar or
learn to translate really fast.
In my opinion
communicative approach is the most efficient in order to get students to
actually speak, and be able to use the language. Oxbridge system shows that the
task as hard as to teach a foreign language can be easier than we expect. When
I was observing the classes I noticed that most of the students genuinely enjoyed
the lesson. They expected to spend a
good time and learn English at the same time. I also find very it useful that
activities are built smoothly, so students feel less tension or none at all while
learning new structure or vocabulary.
I believe that a
teacher is a bridge between a student and a language. At some point we need to help students believe
they will succeed, encourage them no matter what progress they show. Explain
that it’s okay to make mistakes, so they feel disappointed being corrected a
lot. A positive attitude should always be present, though you had a bad day in
the class you change and it feels good when you get the same attitude back. Sometimes,
it is the teacher who slows the student, because the approach is wrong or a
teacher is not quite qualified. Our aim is to “break the walls”, so when our
students finish the course they may continue mastering English by themselves.
I believe that syllabus planning always
depends on the reason the student wants to study English. Some want to be able
to pass an English graduating examination, and some want to be able to speak,
when they go abroad, others wish to pass a job interview. The amount of time given
is important as well. If a student has an interview a week later, we meet every
day and make an emphasis on speaking skills.
On the other hand, if there is a whole year till the final examination,
we have time to focus on grammar, and writing, and speaking. However, no matter
how much time we have, there should be a goal, objective put for each lesson.
Only in that way there we’ll be able to see the progress. In this case I really
like Oxbridge materials - it has clear instructions and wrap-up section. A
lesson should be carefully planned, which means preparation is vital. If you
are unprepared and lost in your own materials, how should your student feel?
The rule of lowering TTT might sound illogical at the beginning, but at the
same time, the student needs guidance, not a lecture.
When I teach my
students I try to use my own materials, and I agree that preparation takes a
lot of time, but then, there is more student-teacher relationship, than
student-textbook. You put a part of yourself into it, and you can create an
activity that is connected with the purpose of learning. At the same time, I always give homework to my
students; I think the practice is essential apart from lessons with the
teacher. It is usually some Raymond Murphy’s grammar drilling, which helps to
memorize the use of some particular structure, like conditionals I don’t
usually use a whiteboard, only if there’s a word they would like to know and I
want them to know how it spells. Sometimes, for homework, I ask my students to
read or watch a piece of news in English, and retell what happened. It might be
hard for beginners, but it brings them closer to the authentic language, and
they can notice the progress later when they would be able to understand the
most part of it.
My lesson usually
consists of different parts that are related to each other and more or less help
to practice grammar, vocabulary and speaking.
I agree that writing should be the last skill needed to be practiced. It
takes a lot of time and depends on how well a person can produce a piece of
writing; some people struggle to do it even in their native language. For
beginners ability to absorb the information is more important than producing
the language, so the materials need to be very easy and interesting. For the higher
levels it is a student who mostly talks, creating new sentences and telling
about some experience from his/her life.
At some point
students meet a problem when they don’t understand why it is pronounced that
way, or why a structure works that way and not the other. This happens mostly
with adults, who find it difficult to combine two or more languages in their
mind. First, they try to make a sentence in their native language and translate
it. It takes a lot of time and effort, and lessens the motivation. Second, the
phonetics are usually very different, and it is hard to learn some new sounds,
so some students want to just focus on structure and speaking, but not
pronunciation. Third, there are students who have a lot of work, and their mind
is filled with a lot of information, which makes it difficult to learn
vocabulary and memorize how to use certain structures. Learning a new language
is different from learning something else, e.g. mathematics. In order to speak
we use a particular part of our brain, and the process is really fast. But,
when we learn another language our brain needs to switch something so we get
used to the “new words” for the same things. A teacher needs to understand
these things and consider the difficulties a student might have. Our job as
teachers is to make it as much easier for them as we can, for example I found
the suggestopedia method very curious, and I would like to try it someday. We have all the materials we need and we
should do our best to transmit the language to our students. We actually are
more than just teachers, we need to consider the psychological aspects of
acquiring new language, and we need to introduce the language to a student in a
way, when he gets extremely interested and highly motivated.
It is impossible to
cover all the different aspects of acquiring a second language, because it
touches so many different fields like, psychology, linguistics, even
neuroscience! And because the humanity is evolving, the methods will develop as
well. We are still far from knowing how our brain works, and we try to use our
ears, eyes and tongue as much as we can to learn new languages. I believe that
with time, the methods will become more and more effective, and designed for
all kinds of learners, of any age and any occupation.
For example, I’m
planning to write an English language training that will be designed for people
who know some grammar from school, but can’t use it, for people who desperately
want to speak, but find it hard to do on their own. It will last for seven to
ten days, and the goal is to break the language barrier and make students learn
how to use a language even if your vocabulary is very small. In this intensive
training I would like to use communicative approach mostly. Include role plays,
competitions; Not everybody can afford visiting an English speaking country, so
I want to create an atmosphere when you need to learn language because this is
the only thing that will help you survive. Of course, a short training has a
lot of disadvantages, like if students do not practice and revise the knowledge
they have received they will forget it eventually. However, it is something
that a lot of people need in order to actually begin to study English. The
beginning is always the hardest part. I hope that it will help a lot of people
who are stuck at some point and procrastinate.
We have to always
think about how we can make our classes more effective. There is no limit to
perfection! Teachers need to learn too. I’m very glad that my idea of how
language should be given to students is widely shared and I’m happy I could
take this course to make myself a better tutor. I wish that all teachers in the
world would work on themselves harder and provide a better service.