Giulia Zecchini





My teaching approach

 

When teaching a language, one must consider a variety of different methods to aid the students with all the different aspects of a language. A person’s proficiency makes reference to the degree to which one can then utilize the language in different contexts. This must be kept in mind when selecting specific teaching methods so that the learning process can be as well rounded and complete as possible. A teacher can take on many roles such as a motivator, controller, a coach and a facilitator. Although these may all seem important, certain methods praise certain roles more than others. In this essay I will be examining some of these diverse methods, which I believe to be the most useful or peculiar, and making suggestions on possible adaptations and changes.

Teaching methods have been heavily altered throughout the centuries to reach more modern and effective means of learning. Around the 1940’s language teaching was focused on repeated drills, out of context vocabulary drills and grammar translation techniques where long vocabulary was learnt by heart. There was hardly any emphasis on developing oral abilities of the students. Although this might sound slightly monotonous, this method is still present nowadays. This is due to the fact that it is considered one of the easiest methods to introduce literature in the target language and to present the students with infinite grammatical structures and vocabulary words. This method tends to give students intensive knowledge and great writing and reading skills, but makes them lack oral and listening skills, which are considered vital for good proficiency levels. The fact that grammar rules are learned before knowing how to apply them and vocabulary is mostly memorized; students then find it extremely challenging to perform in real life situations using the L2. Some of the most commonly used techniques in grammar translation are learning antonyms and synonyms, cognates, fill in the blank exercises and translation of literary passages.

Another method used might be the direct method, which was developed to evolve from the monotony and ineffectiveness of the grammar translation method. This approach tried to immerse the students in the second language because it was believed that a language could be learnt by imitation and the use of the target language, without direct explanations of the grammar rules. With this method, grammar was taught inductively, and the main objectives were speaking and listening comprehension and pronunciation. The main techniques for this method include reading aloud, getting students to self-correct and dictation. Although this technique appears more successful than the grammar translation one, it also has weaknesses; it’s intensity and the need for small class sizes meant that it was not functional for public schools, and it relied on the teacher’s ability and fluency too much, which back then was not seen as a feasible alternative for all schools.

These methods that we have just discussed, although not fully rounded and complete, teach students using some degree of communication. An alternative to these is the silent method. This technique focuses on making learning automatic, and encouraging students to discover, rather than memorize. A riveting and diverse system that was achieved by making students associate physical objects with phonemes. The teacher in this specific method only represents a facilitator, for when students are completely lost and cannot move forward in the learning. The silent way does encourage students to be independent discoverers, however the type of learning confines them to their own communicative devices.

The natural approach, created by Professor Krashen, was an additional method that became popular around the 80’s due to its distinct nature compared to the previously mentioned techniques. This system was mostly teacher-centred and the use of textbooks was not made at all. It was the teachers’ responsibility to engage the students and make the classroom experience as enjoyable and challenging as possible. Although the students are obviously the primary learners, they are not responsible for their own learning, they are only meant to be absorbing the information that is output by their teachers. The natural approach seeks to make learners acquire knowledge rather than consciously learn it, so to do this effectively, a balanced and intelligible input has to be given at all times. Students are fully immersed in the language and the teacher is only there to create a more positive and comfortable atmosphere for the learners, however, the native language is allowed in class because it is believed to allow an easier acquisition of the L2.

The final method I would like to discuss is the communicative method (CLT). This method is believed to teach language rather than about language. It features strong focus on functions such as time, travel, greetings etc. The CLT seeks to recreate realistic situations in the classroom so students can be guided towards communicative competence. Similarly to the direct method, grammar is not taught directly but intuitively, and the three P’s are used; Presentation, practice and production. For example, a teacher would present the students with the required target language for the class, the students would then be given a chance to practice this language with dialogues in the classroom and finally, the teacher would leave the students to independently “produce” the target language. This enables students to communicate effectively and appropriately in various situations. Some of the most common exercise included in this method would be role-plays, language stories and the use of authentic material such as real life situations.

Language teaching has come a long way since the old days of monosyllabic sounds uttered by students. Newer methods are now intertwined for successful learning and this is clearly effective and valuable. I believe that teachers must always consider outside factors that affect individual students to teach them in the finest way possible, factors such as; literacy, self confidence, academic level, nationality and also more personal dynamics such as home situations and their attitude towards authority and school. It is also fundamental for teachers to know the reason why the students are learning the second language to adapt to the students needs. Teachers need to give students the equipment necessary to succeed and to use the second language independently in the contexts needed.  In my personal opinion, I believe it is vital to integrate the aspects of various methods to reach one more complete and well rounded technique, which can answer all of the individual students needs; however no one method could ever be appropriate for all kind of students, this is why it is important to be able to find a harmony of systematic procedures accessible by many students, both adults and children, and with different types of achievement skills.

To begin with, the syllabus I would chose would be more oriented towards functions, this being that even without a perfect grammar form, students could begin communicating with very basic structures. The syllabus would gradually get more complicated to challenge the students throughout the course and keep them engaged and involved. Furthermore, to decide what technique to use, I would opt for an approach most similar to the CLT, however I would try and adapt this technique because I believe it is unsuccessful in connecting language and identity. I think it would be extremely important to involve physical activities, visual aids and the environment, as the sheltered English technique suggests, for students to be fully engaged and to learn to the best of their abilities.

Other vital techniques used by teachers should include: being patient with the students so they have time to think and process the information, not correcting errors if the message is clear because the correct grammatical structure will develop with time, using visual aids that help understand meanings, and use sensory activities in lessons so that students have the chance to use all of their senses whilst learning, which is more engaging. Other than these various approaches that allow students to use oral communication, I believe I would also add some aspects of the authentic assessment method, where students would be able to work on their reading and writing skills to produce texts about realistic situations and to learn how to express themselves on paper in the most natural way possible, they would consequently be asked to discuss these pieces of writing so to continue working on their communicative skills. The teacher must be a facilitator and a supporter, helping the students when they are in need, but never jumping in before time to give the answers. They must be present to lead the discussions in a useful direction, and then let the class flow as naturally as possible, to maintain low TTT levels and higher STT levels. I deem important an extremely cohesive curriculum that not only involves elements to build language skills, but also to apply this knowledge didactically. The use of technology is dramatically important in revolutionizing the world of teaching and in making the role of students more important than the one of teachers. In considering a personal method of teaching, I would reflect on paperless and penless classrooms as an alternative to more aged teaching methods. This would allow interactive teaching methods and for the teacher to simply be a facilitator in this multimedia approach. Although the challenge to modify these already existent teaching methods and to develop new approaches is not easy, I believe this technique complete with technological aids could benefit both students and teachers in making classes more adaptable, practical and realistic.  

 



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