Simon Prosser





My teaching approach

The Prosser Immersion Method

 

-The meaningful universe in which each human being exists is not a universal reality, but ‘a category of reality’ consisting of selectively organised features considered significant by the society in which he lives.

Condon (1973, p17)

 

I consider myself one of the lucky ones having acquired three different languages, from a very early age with very little effort.

My family moved from England to Catalonia when I was 18 months old. When I was two years old, before I started to speak ,read or write in any language  I had three communicative environments : Catalan at nursery, Spanish with certain friends and  English at home ,I obviously had some interference from language to language but later in life i was able to correct that.

DID I HAVE A MOTHER TONGUE?

That is not an easy question to answer as my daily life from an early age was in three different communicative environments, virtually split equally.

I only realised how fortunate I was when I was  in my twenties ,I honestly can say that  learning how to speak, read and write in these three languages involved very little effort  from my part  ,and I think the reason is that I was  fully immersed in one language at one given time.

 

I have included this small personal introduction to reinforce the importance of being fully immersed in language learning, and to present the Prosser immersion method.

I believe that the Direct or natural method was a huge leap in language teaching; it seriously questioned the effectiveness of the traditional method or grammar translation method. The Direct method refrains learner’s native language and teaches grammar by using an induction approach by having learners find out rules through the presentation of adequate linguistic forms in the target language. This method was probably one of the first to realize the importance of being immersed in foreign language learning.

 

The Prosser immersion method is a method that shares a lot of points with the Communicative and Oxbridge methods as it also reinforces the importance of executing all lessons in the target language. PIM places importance on receptive and productive skills of the English language, although a communicative model is to be adopted in class. The Prosser immersion method is only taught in the language which the learners are attempting to acquire, not in their native language and use of second language translation is not tolerated in the classroom.

The idea of this method is to fully immerse the learner in an English environment not only in language but also in socio-cultural manner. I’m a strong believer that ‘Englishness’ could be taught with many tools like comedy for instance. English comedy is recognized globally very often translated into different languages ,sometimes the comic factor is actually lost through translation ,and I think the reason is that English comedy very often relies on the play of words which need a socio-cultural knowledge to understand.

THE PIM APPROACH

A teaching approach refers to the ways by which people acquire their knowledge of languages. It searches for the best conditions for language learning. The PIM approach focuses on speaking and listening activities, but will develop the four fundamental skills required to have the ability to use a language with accuracy and fluency, so it would also include reading and writing activities. Receptive skills and productive skills are developed at different learning stages. In the lowest levels where students don’t have any knowledge of the L2, listening and speaking are given more attention, and reading and writing come later.

Communicative activities will be used to activate the students’ language. Different types of activities can be used ,they could be authentic texts for the learning situation, the learners’ own experiences, role plays ,discussions, debates etc…The important factor is that they are fluency based activities that encourage the learners to develop their confidence, always remembering to execute them in  L2 to further develop the receptive and productive skills.

 

Interlanguage is the type of language used by learners who are not yet proficient in their L2. Learners go through three stages: language transfer which is when learners fall back on their mother tongue to help their language system; overgeneralization which is when learners use rules from the second language in a way that native speakers would not; and simplification which is when learners use a highly simplified form of language.

Knowing the culture and the language of the students is important in the PIM, as it will help foresee such developmental patterns which will in turn help class management for the teacher.

 

The learner’s attitude to the learning process has also been identified as being critically important to second language acquisition. PIM promotes L2 immersion in class and the last thing we want is for a student to be anxious as this would be detrimental to successful learning.

Affective factors are very important in the learning process at any age, it is crucial to create a good rapport between teacher and the students, and that can be created by learning in a fun relaxed atmosphere. Classes are held in an enthusiastic manner and the teacher will treat students as friends.

Teacher talking time in the Prosser immersion method   is reduced to a bare minimum therefore student talking time is increased .The teacher will never patronise or punish the students’ as this conduct belongs to the past. It is much more effective to praise and encourage the students if they’ve accomplished a task.

Because the Prosser immersion method promotes full immersion we prefer to talk about acquiring a language rather than studying or learning it.

I believe that by creating an environment in which students are immersed in English, and only allowed to express themselves in English in an engaging atmosphere, the chances of language transfer occurring in the minds of the students is reduced, thus reducing the possibility of interlanguage errors occurring.

The Prosser immersion method syllabus has been created with one question in mind ‘how do people acquire a language?’

In each syllabus classes will develop the target language skills of the students progressively through a series of levels:

Beginners, elementary, intermediate, upper intermediate and advanced.

The teacher will have a one to one talk with new students to determine the most fitting level to start in.

PIM classes are divided into four kinds of activities: grammar, vocabulary, topic based and a socio-cultural based activity, all taught in a communicative way.

 Grammar activities build accuracy in students’ communicative skills. It is not just words what students are learning when acquiring a second language, they need dressing up in structures to give them a practical effect when communicating .Grammar activities are not taught with technical explanations, this could be very boring for the students, and in turn they are taught in context.

Vocabulary activities supply the learners with new lexicon in English; they provide all the necessary new words and expressions that allow the learners to broaden their communicative competence.

Topic activities or activities for fluency encourage students to express their opinion and talk about facts. They are the perfect excuse for the students to express their thoughts in a non-guided way. Topics could be found in newspapers, magazines, internet etc…  

 These three activities are shared with the Oxbridge method, and I have decided to include the socio-cultural activity because I believe that socio-cultural knowledge is very important in language acquisition.

Socio-cultural activities are mainly free listening and understanding activities created for students to be aware of the social and cultural elements of the English speaking world, they will present issues like the diverse British and American accents, British and American comedy or even Cockney rhyming slang which I think is a great way to learn vocabulary, and many others. The objective of these activities is for the student to listen and understand and to get to know the English speaking world a bit better.

In beginner and elementary levels, we only use grammar and vocabulary activities .We will start to introduce topic activities from the intermediate level upwards and we will reserve the socio-cultural activities for the advanced level.

 

All activities are prepared with clear objectives and goals that engage and are fitting to the students’ needs. In these activities we will use material like authentic texts, realia, cartoon clips for children, comedy programs, documentaries, songs, games etc. We have to keep in mind that we want total language immersion in the classroom. All video material is edited to fit the clear objectives of the activity. We do use white boards when required as some learners prefer to visualize language.

So to conclude, PIM fits into the category of modern teaching methods, placing attention on the four main skills with emphasis on listening and speaking skills. It’s an evolution of the Direct, Communicative and Oxbridge models of English teaching but with that added socio-cultural factor that tries to immerse the student into the English world. The Prosser immersion method attempts to update the content based learning method to motivate students to learn English in a communicative and engaging manner.

                                   



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