Sam Watts

My teaching approach

TEFL Essay

The centre of my teaching approach would be speaking. The most important function of language is communication and speaking is at the heart of any form of communication. Furthermore, other key skills can be passively acquired through speaking practice. For instance, listening skills will obviously be developed as speaking skills improve. As well as this, from studying second language acquisition theories it is clear that immersion in the native language is essential; academic Stephen Krashen went so far as to say that comprehensible input is all that is needed for L2 acquisition.

More specifically I would have strong emphasis on correct pronunciation from the beginning, in a similar fashion to the Berlitz or Audio-Lingual methods. These early formative lessons are vital for the student’s long term language acquisition so crucial skills, such as correct pronunciation of basic sounds, should be mastered before progressing. If one continues teaching more complex topics while the learner is still mispronouncing words it is highly likely that these faults will become fossilised, making it far more difficult to reverse these mistakes later on in the teaching process. Thus, before venturing into role plays, debates and other forms of free practice, the students should be drilled in basic sounds, with particular emphasis on common mistakes (e.g. words with just one different sound: sheep and ship).

Reading is equally important to my approach, although speaking is of prime importance. While basic communication is based on speaking, reading is essential for anyone attempting to correspond on a regular basis with native speakers, especially in the business world. As well as this, private reading of authentic texts is a fantastic way to learn new structures and vocabulary, as well as being pivotal for the comprehension of that language’s culture.

Just as listening skills are acquired from speaking practice, writing skills can be gained from reading practice. So, all four skills can be attained through reading and speaking. Reading will be part of many, if not all, activities, with all articles being read out loud so that speaking and listening are also improved. The reader of the article depends on the level of the students; if they are at such a low level that they would struggle to read the text then the teacher would read the text to them, with the learners following the words whilst listening. When they have progressed to a capable stage the students will take it in turn to read the texts out loud, with the teacher correcting any pronunciation mistakes and explaining any unclear terms.

As in the Berlitz method the teaching of real life situations are very important to my approach. Language is learnt to be applied in real life situations so the skills taught in class should be immediately transferable to the real world. Furthermore, real life situations are an easy way through which one can combine a range of teaching approaches. For instance, a lesson on how to go clothes shopping could be a topic activity but also teaches structures (e.g. can I try this on? Do you have a smaller size etc) and new vocabulary (e.g. different types of clothes). Thus, these situations are a concise way of teaching a range of skills.

In addition to this, the teaching of native culture – as used by the suggestopedia method- is just as important for understanding the pragmatics and semantics of a language. A key example of this is the frequent use of dry wit and sarcasm in British culture, which is often confusing to foreigners.

I put far more emphasis on productive skills than receptive skills as the former is the more important for communication. As well as this, it is far easier to subconsciously acquire receptive skills through the practice of productive skills. For instance, once one can speak one can automatically listen as this is essential to any conversation. Therefore, although receptive skills will not explicitly feature on the syllabus, they will still be taught.

The main syllabus will be dialogue based to ensure that as much speaking practice as possible is available. This will also be mixed with a situation based syllabus so that more skills can be incorporated into activities. This combination means that I can focus on speaking and real life situations so that the most important aspects of communication, which I have already discussed, can be covered.

LESSON PLAN (going clothes shopping)

·         Give examples of things you buy when clothes shopping e.g. ‘When I go clothes shopping I buy shirts, socks and a hat etc.

·         Ask the same questions to the students – ‘What do you buy when you go shopping?’ After  first student has answered get students to ask one another so they understand the question form

·          Introduce new vocabulary in the same format e.g. I need to buy a new raincoat. Ask students what they use a raincoat for to prove they know what it is. If they don’t know explain it e.g. what it looks like, what it’s used for etc. Do this for 6-8 new words

·         Give students a sheet of paper with useful questions for shopping e.g. ‘do you have this in a smaller size?’ ‘Can I try this on?’

·         Carry out this role with one student. After demonstrating how it works get students to role play with one another so by the end of the class they are well aware of the common language needed for this situation

The role of the teacher and of the student develops and changes as the course continues. At first the teacher is a model, showing students how to pronounce words so that they gain a basic understanding of the language, and the learners are imitators, following the teacher’s lead until they have developed enough skills to communicate on their own. When this stage is reached the roles are altered. The student becomes the communicator, speaking for the vast majority of the time to improve fluency, and the teacher becomes the technician, interrupting the learner when necessary to correct mistakes or guide his/her meaning when they become confused, so that accuracy is also acquired. This evolution allows students to continue to learn no matter what stage they are at.

Part of the technician’s role in my method is a heavy emphasis on praising students when they succeed, especially if they have struggled to answer or understand this concept. As well as this, correction is a large part of the teacher’s job. At the beginning one should only correct major errors so as not to break the fluency and confidence of the student. However, as the student becomes more proficient and fluent the teacher should correct more minor errors to improve accuracy. Any error that is not immediately corrected should be noted and brought up at the end of the activity and again at the end of the class to ensure that the problem has been resolved.

The teacher should encourage self correction as much as possible. For instance, if a student makes a mistake use facial expressions suggesting a problem and prompting them to immediately self correct. If they are unaware of the mistake the teacher should repeat the sentence but pause before or emphasise the incorrect word along with an inflection in the voice to show it to be a question (e.g. my parents IS married?). If the student still does not know the answer rephrase the answer as a question, comparing the incorrect answer with the correct one (e.g. my parents IS married OR my parents ARE married?). The learner will better remember how to avoid the mistake if they have solved the problem themselves.

Realia would be key to the teaching of vocabulary. Using the visual style I would directly associate words with images when teaching them. This association means that students don’t need to translate from L1 to L2 as they have learnt the word from an untranslatable image, as opposed to a word in their native language. This allows learners to think in L2, greatly increasing fluency.

In a similar fashion I would use kinesics to associate words and structures with movements (e.g. to throw etc), as is done in the Total Physical Response (TPR) method, to avoid the need to translate from L1 to L2. This also allows teachers to quickly check students’ memory and understanding by asking them to repeat the action.

Depending on the students’ level either authentic or adapted material will be used. Lower levels will only use adapted material as their comprehension of the text is the most important focus. However, as the student progresses authentic texts should be used as they can only attain native fluency if they immerse themselves in the native language.

I would use a mix between drilling, role play activities, games and debates. Drilling would be used more with lower levels to teach essential structures and vocabulary (e.g. where are you from? Where is pizza from? Where is Messi from? Etc). This rapid and intense drilling will commit the information to memory, reducing the need to translate from L1 to L2. As the students progress role play activities, games and debates are used more to encourage greater Student Talk time (STT), which is essential for the amelioration of their fluency.

I would not use tests to assess the students learning, instead continuously evaluating the student’s ability through conversation. Their progress will be evident through the improvement in their fluency, accuracy and the increasingly advanced language that they use. Likewise any difficulties that the students may encounter will be obvious from the mistakes they make in conversation, either problems with pronunciation, grammatical structures or linguistic concepts. I believe that this informal assessment will create a more comfortable and less stressful learning environment as students are not constantly worried about passing the next stage of the course. The stress from tests is often a negative affective factor to the learning process. Learning can also be improved by positive affective factors, such as continual encouragement and a well light classroom.

The method and techniques will clearly change depending on age. I have already gone through a lesson plan for adults but this must be adapted for children and teenagers. Younger learners are hard to engage so more pictures and fewer texts should be used to maintain their attention. On top of this, young children generally enjoy physical activities to learn so more TPR activities should be used. Just as activities should be adapted depending on skill level, it equally must be adapted depending on age. Therefore, any complex topic activities (e.g. about politics, economics etc) should be omitted from the syllabus for younger learners.


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