Anna Dorzhieva

My teaching approach


There are many different approaches of teaching English and every one has its advantages and disadvantages.  It is very difficult to choose only one, but I would have to say that I really enjoy teaching by communicative method, because it is fun and very effective at the same time.  You learn how to speak English, not something else. You pay money for actually using the language during the lessons, not to listen to grammar explanations and instructions in your mother tongue. However, there are some points I would like to change and something I want to add.

Communicative method is still considered something new, unusual, something perhaps rebellious at times. There is one important thing – I have seen this method applied and work. My Spanish teacher has been using it for a couple of years and though it is a challenge to most adults who do not believe in such inventive ways, I have tested it myself. The most important thing is that you speak English from the very first lesson. This way, you really speak English in English classes. Imagine, you don’t, well, what do we have then? You spend three hours a week speaking your mother language, learning some terms you will not need or, even worse, terms that will make you even more confused and on the top of that  - you will feel bored and discouraged. A teacher is a person who has to be your guide and the whole lesson must be always about you! Thus it is important that the teacher encourage you, teach you in a way you would be able to teach yourself and learn any other foreign language using the same tips. However, in my country the teacher has always been seen as an authority whose work is to show that his knowledge of the language is much better than the students’. I find it one of the challenges, because a lot of adults see the method of learning English as writing a lot, listening to the teacher and doing a lot of hard work. And the older the teacher is, the better! They think that if they have a young teacher, he will teach them something not very solid, something creative, something that will not work. This all leads to the certain challenge, but I think it is a new era where we should be opened to the new methods.

First of all, the teacher and the student have to understand that English is not all fun. We need to either have motivated students or to encourage them as much as they can.  We have to give students all the reasons to learn English which could be personal reasons - being more successful, doing some intellectual work, understanding the lyrics of their favorite things or watching films in original.

The second thing I would like to mention is that students should be given homework which is not optional but very essential for the progress. Otherwise, it is meeting twice a week – meeting could be cancelled and there is very little progress. The more the input is, the faster they will learn. Thus, students have to enhance their receptive skills –writing and listening at home. I suggest they listen to as many audio in English as they can. However, the tracks should be graded – for the beginners and other levels. You don’t want students to be confused with the plenty of new words. It is better if they understand what they are talking about – it will motivate them even more. When there are students of higher levels, you have to convince them to do a lot of listening work. I insist they watch TV show Friends, because the episodes are very short, the humor is quite visual, the language is not very complicated and the show itself is extremely good. Usually, after watching one episode, students have to tell me the synopsis, but very briefly. They also are encouraged to ask any questions, especially references to English or American culture.

The third thing I would like to change is following: I believe English is a skill and as all skills, it has to be practiced as often as possible. That is why I make my students understand that the more English work they do, the faster the progress will be. They have to understand that it is not only the teacher’s work but their own as well. It is crucial; otherwise, there will be an attitude: I pay –you teach, this is it and it is teachers’ fault if I don’t improve. Thus, they have to do some grammar exercises at home, listen a lot, write essays from time to time and learn new words on their own or revise them at least. However, during the lessons it is important not to write – although I would make them write new words they can use. Vocabulary and grammar should be handouts that would be given to them for home revision. Thus, we will save time and they will have something to do for homework.  

My syllabus would have four parts – structure, vocabulary, and topic and also something I would like to call checking homework or making small talk, but I would always change the order so that students will never know what comes next. Tests and other quizzes should be given as homework, I don’t want to spend precious class time on that. I think the classes have to have three or four parts because obviously it is counterproductive to work on one topic the entire lesson.

I think that the usage of authentic materials is extremely important. I will try to update the books I have and add a lot of materials such as articles for discussion especially at higher levels. With the beginners and elementary students that is going to be more of visual aids, pictures. Correction is extremely important – I suggest we make notes to get to them after the sentence or with higher levels after the end of their speech. I would also have to praise students a lot especially with lower levels, however somewhere in the middle there is going to be not a lot of praising so that they see there is still a lot to be desired and they would see their progress. Age factor is important when you look for interesting material to discuss as some topics might be more suitable for teens and of less interest for adults. Especially, when you are talking about celebrities – adults do not care about Disney stars or Kardashyan family. So, one more rule is to know your audience. If you know the students background you will always sweep in with some useful vocabulary. If they are intermediate lawyers who are eager to use English at work, you can recommend reading John Grisham’s books.

Another thing is that I also strongly believe in reviewing material every other class – a few classes later, a few weeks later. The most important thing here is to make short sessions for the reviewing the vocabulary and grammar and only after this move on to a new topic. This is how human memory works – we need to revise things a day, a few days, a week, a month later. If you repeat this every time, it will get more and more difficult to forget what you have learnt.

As I am going to use a communicative approach, I would provide students with the new vocabulary in the context. Because this is what works the best. I also believe that guiding and giving clear directions is extremely important however you have to be very careful with those as it increases the TTT. I would also have the audio tracks with the vocabulary words for students to check it at home and repeat as much as they can. I would also insist on leaving feedback, however, they have to understand that the structure of the lesson and the syllabus itself has some points they might not agree with. For example, for students revision may seem something useless and here we have to make them understand it is up to professionals, but we would consider their comments. They may not see the big picture, but they should feel free to express their opinion and understand our aims.

I would also make students think form time to time why they start learning English in the first place. So that at times they feel it is hard they can turn to their essay and remember that there is no output without their input.

I believe that things that should be considered as the most trouble making ones are pronunciation and grammar of course. Especially for Russians at the very beginning. I guess it is important to have some sort of pre course activity for students – so that they check the ABCs and the figures and they will be prepared and understand that they have to motivated and corrected a lot. They need to know this is a natural part of learning and it doesn’t make them stupid. However, with the higher level we have to really concentrate on some things – we don’t need to correct them every now and then, but we have to focus on typical pronunciation mistakes and some very basic grammar.

I also believe that at the level pre-intermediate we need to introduce phrasal verbs because they make up a very significant part in English language, with them our speech sounds natural. I don’t want them to learn all of them but the most common ones – of course. Also, I will insist they have vocabulary books made by themselves – to write down new words and expressions. They also have to do it by topics, not random ones.

Classes should have a very clear purpose. I think it is important for students to know what they have learnt, thus, at the end of the class you should tell them that today they have practiced this or that. They don’t need to know grammar terms except for basic ones. One more important thing for classes is that they have to be held in a friendly atmosphere. It strongly depends on the teachers’ attitude- if he looks gloomy or angry or nervous, they feel it immediately. That is way I think it is important to love your job or at least change the attitude to it and always be prepared.

To summarize, I would point out a few things. My approach is a communicative one but with some changes. The methods should vary depending on students need – I mean, if they want to prepare for an IELTS exam, you have to change a few things, but if a student wants to speak the language, it definitely has to be a communicative approach. However, do not forget that it has to be individualistic so you will always need to learn something, to make researches, to adapt and of course to continue learning.  To be a good teacher, you always need to make students and only students speak during the class, motivate them, use a lot of authentic materials, give them homework and love your work.

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