Erin Currier





My teaching approach

 Language is our door to the world, it is how we communicate with each other and convey ideas. When we are young we do not appreciate the ease with which we gain this profound tool that becomes our native tongue. The learning of a new language becomes a great source of frustration because, our first language was gained with such affluence when we were just toddlers. Many studies and methods have emerged, attempting to produce the most efficient mode of teaching and learning second languages. All of these methods have very unique approaches, focusing on specified features of what they believe to be the most important features of language. The natural instinct to polarize these methods is unproductive. I am going to critique as well as hand pick what I believe to be the corresponding pieces that will mesh together to make the most paramount method of teaching and learning language, as well as define my unique feature that will make the Medi-learn method.

The most widely used and common methodology of teaching language is the Grammar Translation Method. The focus is reading and writing practices. Communication is not a goal; the target language and concepts are drilled and studied but never taught HOW it is to be used. The materials are mainly textbook fill-in-the-blank activities and reading comprehension exercises. Error correction is the focus, and interlanguage is not tolerated. This method hones in on receptive skills, so that students can proficiently read and comprehend (and thus write), but have little understanding for pronunciation or proper use with productive skills. The teacher is an authoritarian figure in the class. This method is perhaps useful for someone learning for the purpose of translating texts, but will never understand nor communicate orally. I know from personal experience that this method does not transfer well to real life situations and uses. It also does not aid as a transition to communicative learning. Communication between two people verbally is the most important function of language so this method is lacking the most essential aspects to useful learning.

The Communicative Method is the antithesis of the Grammar Translation Method. The main goal is to build productive skills, occasionally integrating receptive skill building activities. Function is taught first, then context is introduced and roles are practiced. Errors are tolerated as part of the natural learning process of practice and understanding. The target language is not drilled or studied but implicitly introduced with realistic situations. Materials are representative activities and games that incorporate the goal of the lesson by way of target language with actual current topics that will motivate students to interactively communicate. The teacher talking time is very low in this approach, the teacher is more of a guide and resource to help foster communication between students. Speaking is the main focus of this method, and for this reason it appears to be the most successful in producing more advanced students. This approach would seemingly be the most commonly practiced but is very much underrated. For over 50 years, more eccentric language teaching theories have dominated across borders.

For instance, the Callan Method. These schools are found world-wide. It uses extremely high teacher talking time, and focuses on listening and memory so receptive and productive skills are valued and practiced. Lessons consist of three blocks. First, listen and speak. Second, repeat and retain, and thirdly, read and write. The first two blocks the teacher repeats and asks a question and the student will answer by learning through the repetition. Vocab and grammar are acquired in this same matter so no translation of native language can be performed by students. The teacher has more of a dominating position making sure there are no silences, but also functions as a guide. This method is very successful for low level learners, but is too redundant for high level learners. It is not very communicative because it does not encourage interaction, but rather drilling memory. This method is very interesting because it uses tactics to overload the conscious mind from native language interference. The repetition aids memory of target language but also seems to be used to seep into the subconscious for later recall and understanding. Student confidence is gained from the very first day to battle any affect towards learning a new language for students of all ages.

Another method that aims to battle affective factors which inhibit barriers is Suggestopedia. This approach is focused on listening skills. The teacher does most of the talking, standing in front of the class reading while performing the reading. The aim is to make students as comfortable as possible. The entire environment and surroundings consist of the fine arts. Paintings, drama, art and music are present but not overtly so. Neutral music, typically classical without words is continuously played.  This is so that learning is done in a cheerful environment and students won’t try so hard to learn or become easily frustrated. The pleasant atmosphere fosters confidence and relaxation to convince students that success is obtainable, while subconsciously associating learning with positivity. This method is excellent for shy people, or people with a bad previous language learning experience, or adults who struggle with learning a new language. It attempts to subconsciously break down the affective barriers that cause fixation on interlanguage, or emotional frustration that use excessive brain power and make learning difficult. These two factors, I believe are the main reasons why people struggle to learn a new language or progress at a more consistent and reasonable pace. While this method is ideally helpful, especially for learners already equipped with basic knowledge to follow, for absolute beginners, intermediate and advanced learners it falls short in the follow through of whatever advantages it might have gained. Listening is the only facet practiced. Reading and speaking are done synchronized as a group. No concept check is done, no interactive communication. Just relaxed resuscitation of a reading passage. Teacher talking time is extremely high, with no real receptive or productive skills gained.

The theory behind both Suggestopedia and the Callan Method strike me as very interesting theories but not properly used to their full potential. All of the methods I have discussed have valuable assets to them, but while the methods stand on their own they are not very effective for progressive and adaptable teaching. The Medi-learn method has 2 main objectives. The first relating to Medi- as in median, or the middle. I believe that because everyone has different learning styles you cannot cater to simply one, but to attempt to cater to every method for all styles would be a lofty feat. A balance must be found.

Because the Medi-learn method will draw from several approaches, many requiring the teacher to actively assess and participate, class size must be limited to no more than 8-10 learners. Any larger and the class would be very difficult to manage. The communicative approach is the primary influence to my methodology so the teacher’s role for the most part remains as a guide, a resource, and assessor, and very much a psychologist in a relaxed and non-dominant environment. The Medi-learn method can be applied to any age or level learner. The aim is to focus on all four aspects of language (speaking, listening, reading, and writing). First only listening and speaking for absolute beginners, then reading and minimal writing for intermediate levels, then all four equally focused on for advanced learners. Both productive and receptive skills will be developed but in realistic and useful communicative contexts, and similar to learning our native language, learners will have intermediate level of productive skills before receptive skills are mastered.

The design of the Medi-learn Method is that all aims are mastered through interactive activities led or guided by the teacher, based on level of the students and nature of the activities. A structured syllabus will be constructed at the beginning of the course after assessing student’s level and goals. Each individual class session may not have a specific goal of target language to be achieved, because vocab and grammar target language will be intermittently revisited and practiced. A wide range of activities will be rotated throughout each levels course, utilizing aspects of every teaching method to accommodate each learning style (visual, auditory and kinesthetic), and no specific allotted time will be limited for any given activity. Most activities will be interactive communicative, but there will also be listening, writing and reading comprehension as well as concept check games. S1 beginners will have activities such as the Callan Method practice, and Total Physical Response activities or entire classes using these methods. As students gain vocabulary and basic structure function, games such as charades (similar to the silent method) will be played to act out sentences, or scenarios. The more advanced the student the more communicative and interactive the activities will become between students. Corrections will be tolerated as a natural learning process, and native language use will be discouraged but not completely eliminated.

                  The approach of the Medi-learn Method has to do with the second main objective relating to meditation state, or rather hypnosis. Many factors contribute to why some people struggle to learn a language; Age, motivation, time, energy, and emotional barriers. Many adults are too self-critical and have unrealistically high expectations. Interlanguage also plays a very strong role in the plateau of progression for intermediate learners. Each course will begin with a 5-10 minute session where students will be put under hypnosis or a deep meditative state. While in this state, the teacher will use the power of suggestion to aid students to let down affective barriers during the class, or to simply relax. In other sessions, phrases in the new language will simply be repeated, or the teacher will create automatic cognitive processes to focus attention of learner to an aspect of the new language. For instance, suggesting students pay close attention to pronunciation or sentence structure, to help their brains more efficiently attend to these grammar rules with more ease, to suggest students accept them. Ninety percent of people are influenced by hypnosis. Cognitive attention studies have been done to prove that hypnosis can be a useful tool to focus energy and specific brain functions to modify and attune thinking processes. This is seen with the Stroop Task (Whalley, 2013)

I realize that many people will have serious apprehensions to being put under hypnosis for any reason or any length of time. So this is certainly a constraint of my method, because it is taboo and novel.  But, even a short guided meditation session before will improve affect and focus of class. The combination of the Medi-learn Method design and approach should be very effective and fun for learners. Overcoming the psychological barriers of learning a new language is often the defining factor of failure or success. The Medi-learn method will attempt to battle not only this difficulty but also dabble in every teaching method encompass all the best features of methods catering to any learner, to enhance anyone’s ability to absorb a new language in useful and communicative ways.  

 

 

Whalley, Dr Matthew. “Hypnosis and Attention” Hypnosis and Suggestion. 2007-2013.



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