My teaching approach
My Approach to Teaching English as a Second Language
There are a plethora of ideas, methods and philosophies that have been created and developed to define the teaching process. From the oral teachings of Ancient Greece to the modern day, people have argued about the best way to teach for students to progress quickly and effectively. Within language learning, the main factor in all methods is the ability to communicate. This includes four main skills: listening and understanding, speaking, reading and writing. The emphasis put upon each of these factors varies in each method. I will examine and critique some of the most popular teaching methodologies in order to develop my own method throughout the essay. I will merge elements of existing methods and use my own ideas to create a personal approach to teaching English as a second language.
Language skills can be split into two groups: productive (speaking and writing) and receptive (listening and reading.) The Grammar Translation Methodplaces emphasis on reading and writing as the key skills for language learning. It focuses on translation between languages and grammatical rules. This is the direct opposite of what I would include in my method of teaching. To be able to communicate with people we need to be able to understand and transfer messages to one another. Speaking and listening are the most natural and efficient ways to do this. In our native language, we do not read and write letters to communicate with each other directly; we have conversations. Therefore, my teaching style would be influenced by approaches that favour speaking and listening. Although the Audio- Lingual Method focuses on speaking and listening, it uses specific dialogues for students to memorise. This means students learn certain grammatical structures. By using such specific examples, students are not fully equipped for unforeseen situations in real life. However, The Direct (Berlitz) Method concentrates more on speaking and listening naturally. It uses direct questions and focuses on encouraging the students to speak, ensuring they learn how to communicate in a regular context. In my method, I would encourage students to speak as much as possible by eliciting responses rather than giving them the words they are looking for.
The Direct Method also uses images to convey the meaning of words. The Communicative Approach further develops this, using authentic material. By using real images, newspaper articles, radio excerpts etc., students learn language as a native speaker would learn in a natural environment. I think this is very important and would be the main focus of my method. Students should be engaged and excited to learn English so authentic, current material that they already have opinions about should be used. This results in a greater will to learn English, as they want to express their thoughts. As well as images, The Direct Method encourages using gestures. The Total Physical Response Method goes further, using actions and mimicking as a way of learning. Students are encouraged to follow and mimic the teacher’s utterances and movements. This is similar to how native speakers learn from their surroundings: a creative and valuable way of learning. Although it is adapted more for children, actions and gestures would be included in my method as an effective way of showing meaning.
My syllabus would be based on the function and meaning of the English language. As mentioned, using images and actions to express what the words signify rather than their grammatical form would be the focus. I would also put a lot of emphasis on creativity, both in lesson planning and within the classroom. The Oxbridge Approach is an inspiring example. It uses games, role-plays, debates and discussions which serve to fire up students’ imaginations and opinions. I would also consider going further and branching out further into the arts. This is obviously easier with children as they have no inhibitions. Encouraging children to create songs and storyboards enables them to be creative and I think this would also help to cement meaning within their minds. An example of an activity would be getting the students to create puppet animals and invent a small play or story. This would enable them to learn vocabulary (names of the animals) as well as using the vocabulary in a grammatically correct way (within a story.) With adults, it is perhaps more difficult for them to let go and express their creativity. However, drawing and describing pictures as well as creating stories is quite basic, but still creative. An example of an activity for adults would be getting the adults to draw their perfect world and describe it to their classmates. This would also lead into discussions about, for example, political or environmental issues. High levels of creative activities would make the classroom a fun place to be. I would use the structure of The Communicative Approach in which each lesson has a goal, input and an activity, using authentic and creative materials. I would also have small groups of students so attention can be concentrated on each one individually, which is a benefit to them. I would also encourage each lesson to be different and innovative so that students never get bored or have a bad attitude towards learning English.
The attitude of the teachers in my method is also of high importance. In a creative and communicative atmosphere, teachers have to be outgoing and fun. I would place priority on teachers being motivational figures and giving high amounts of praise to students when they are correct in their use of English. The Audio- Lingual Method draws inspiration from behavioural psychology whereby students are positively re-enforced with praise when they do something good, which I believe is a good idea. I would encourage the correction of mistakes, however, this would be in a much more low-key manner than the praise. This would help to create a positive learning atmosphere. My method draws inspiration from parts of The Suggestopedia Method which focuses on having a positive atmosphere and minimum negativity within the classroom, as well as using the arts. However, that methodology relies heavily on psychological theory e.g. the effect of learning on the subconscious mind and psychotherapy, which I do not think is relevant. Also, I would be keener to use The Direct Method of encouraging student interaction rather than focusing heavily on the teacher as the main force.
In reference to problems in the classroom, I would expect my teachers to be calm and respectful towards students. If there were disruptions, I think these should be handled with good humour. If students were not able to calm down or change their behaviour, they would be asked to leave the classroom. As I have mentioned, the idea of a highly positive classroom environment is key in The Suggestopedia Method. Negative attitudes towards the teacher or other learners would not be acceptable. Interlanguage could also be a problem. English would be the only language used in the classroom as with many of the methods we have looked at. Translation, as used primarily in The Grammar Translation Method, would not be allowed. Students would be encouraged to look at learning English as a positive and exciting experience. They would be discouraged from comparing English to their own language as this could cause a lot of confusion in their minds about grammatical rules and translation between English rules and their native language’s rules. Using the teachers as motivational tools for the students to use English conversation over translation would be my method in dealing with Interlanguage. This would help them learn English more effectively and quickly.
In conclusion, the aim of my method would be to ensure students learn in a fun environment in which they feel confident. This would be realised through creative activities and an emphasis on speaking and listening as means of communication. Reading and writing would not be focused on as they are less important in being able to communicate with others on a daily basis. The role of the teachers would be vital as inspirational and motivational figures. However, they would not be the leaders of conversation and the class would focus on interaction between the students. Problems within the classroom would be dealt with calmly and respectfully. However, if students continued to be disruptive, this would not be tolerated. They would be asked to leave the classroom. My method draws heavily on The Direct Method and The Communicative Approach, which I think are two effective methods of teaching English as a second language. It also draws from elements of The Suggestopedia Method and The Total Physical Response Method, which are innovative ways to teach English. I think my method is highly positive and would benefit students in their quest to learn English in an efficient and exciting way.