My teaching approach
been an L2 (foreign language) teacher for a while now and experience,
throughout the years, has provided me with different tools to best
perform my job. On the other hand, after having done a TEFL (Teaching
English as a Foreign Language) course, I have realized that many of
the strategies I´ve used in-class along the years are part of a
broader, and formally settled, group of theories and methodologies in
language teaching and acquisition.
then try here to explain the approach to teaching english which I
believe would be most benefitial for students of L2, and argue why it
is so, through what I´ve learnt in the readings and discussion
sessions I´ve had at Oxbridge.
teaching and learning goals, have to aim getting students to speak
the TL (target language). Meaning that the students have to be able
to perform communication and express themselves in the wide
variety of contexts that a language and its culture conform. From
the most basic daily needs to a broader set of situations, where they
can be involved in, in the target language environment, the main goal
is then to get students to achieve communicative
competence, which is defined as the ability
to function according to the cultural rules of a cultural system
and/or responding in culturally sensitive and appropriate way
according to the cultural demands of a given situation.
the Communicative Approach states, in order to achieve this, students
need knowledge of linguistic forms, meanings and functions; knowing
the what, when and how. I believe, language functions in context
should be emphasized over forms, so students can develop strategies
for understanding TL as it is authentically used and
become proficient being given the opportunity to use it for
seems to be Oxbridge system´s aim too, but while I agree on speaking
and listening skills being the most important skills, in terms of
classroom duties, I do not share the opinion on writing being
considered a secondary ability. I could consider the later as a skill
that should not be developed as an in-class activity, due to its time
consuming characteristic, but I do believe it to be a must to develop
at-home one. Now a days, and due to arrival of new technologies and
on-line ways of communication, I believe that writing should be given
more importance and consideration in the learning process. In
addition, I would highlight its visual potential, which I consider a
great aiding tool through the learning process.
I would always provide my students with writing activities to do out
of class time. Besides, consider writing activities as the best way
of assessment in learning process.
is generally agreed is that pedagogy restricted to teaching grammar
rules and vocabulary lists does not give students the ability to use
the L2 with accuracy and fluency. I agree with it, as pure knowledge
of grammar and vocabulary doesn´t provide the competence to speak
it. On the other hand, I do believe there is a need of acquiring
structure knowledge in order to facilitate understanding in further
complexities of the language. Students of an L2 don´t have the
advantage of intuitive knowledge, that L1 speakers have due to
continuous exposure to it, and in most cases students need grammar
input in order to achieve perfection at it. Although, the form
should always be present in the input, as a secondary aim of
styles, or the way particular learners prefer to learn a language,
can range from a variety of techniques, that students prefer in order
to best achieve their learning. There are auditory learners, analytic
learners, holistic or experiential learners, kinesthetic learners
(which Total Physical Response method defends, consisting in doing
something physical whilst experiencing the language) and visual
learners. What my experience tells me is that, on top of all, visual
aids, wether written and/or, in this case, physical, are of great
help in the learning process, as far as they can provide many of the
so called “magical moments” in the classroom
as used by native speakers of a language in real-life context, and
have not been specially written for classroom use, that replicate its
use outside the classroom, are essential. This doesn´t mean, being
the input that learners receive one of the factors that most affects
that adjustments aren´t needed. In fact, Stephen Krashen defines it
as comprehensible input, and claims it as necessary for it to be more
approachable to learners of L2.
adjustments that teachers do to language form and language function
to help communication in the classroom, known as Teacher Talk, is a
must. For example, at lower levels of the learning process, we can
introduce pro-forms as a type of function word that expresses the
same content as another word, phrase, clause or sentence, instead of
the word that the learner doesn’t know. Gradually, we substitute
the pro-forms of generic words by the concrete object, as the
students gets to achieve a higher level of the TL.
paralinguistic mechanisms (intonation, stress, rate of speech, and
pauses or hesitations) and non linguistic behaviours (gestures,
facial expressions, or body language), are also very good tools when
approaching students, mostly at a beginner´s level.
evidence for input comes from studies on reading, that assert that
large amounts of free voluntary reading have a significant positive
effect on learners vocabulary, grammar, and writing, and which I
always like to encourage among the students. This again, is something
that I recommend to do at home. This way, I would emphasize the
important and need to develop of the four skills, although I would
work on receptive ones over perceptive ones in the classroom and
vice versa outside of it, in order to optimize the learning
the totality of a given individual's language ability, but what
describes how long will it take to acquire it? This is one of the
most common questions among students and, in my opinion, it has as
many answers as types of learners. Many factors affect how long does
it take to learn a language: including the motivation, exposure to
the language, the perseverance of the student and, even, the teaching
approach or methodology.
emphasis on role play, pair and group work, among others, seems to be
crucial strategy to learning process. Researchers
have also pointed to interaction in the second language as being
important for acquisition. According to Long's Interaction hypothesis
the conditions for acquisition are especially good when interacting
in the second language. “Specifically, conditions are good when a
breakdown in communication occurs and learners must negotiate for
meaning”, states Long. In other words, the modifications to speech
arising from interactions like this help make input more
comprehensible, provide feedback to the learner, and push learners to
modify their speech.
fall back on their mother tongue to help create their language
system. This is recognized as a process that all learners go through
and best known as interlanguage.
the use of rules from the second language in a way that native
speakers would not, known as overgeneralizing (for example, a learner
may say "I goed home") and highly simplifying language
forms, (similar to speech by children), are other processes that
influence creation of interlanguage.
correction of this errors and mistakes are not so important at early
stages of learning, taking in account that production is more valued
than correction of form at that moment. Although, is important to try
and make the student realize them at higher levels so the errors and
mistakes don´t get fosilized in the long run.
L2 is accepted that not always a correct meaning implies grammar (or
form) correctness, a linguistic form being how something is said and
meaning being what is said. Throughout the years I´ve understood
that meaning of things being communicated is more important for
second language acquisition than their form, and I always encourage
my students to just talk over think. Conveying meaning over
correctness of speech is crucial at early stages of learning.
theories insist more on the approach rather than the early age factor
regarding proficiency of learning. However, for children it is more
natural, as they don’t question grammar rules and act like sponges
absorbing and imitating what´s being taught and said in the
classroom. They are more flexible and lack fear of speaking, which
makes them excellent learners. At
older ages, learning theories insist on that “where there is a
will, there is a way”. On the other hand, affection
is very important in the learning process at any age. Both children
and adults learn more if they create good rapport with their teacher.
(Teacher Talking Time) has to be less in proportion than the STT
(Student Talking Time), which should be mostly dedicated to student´s
language production in class. As well, the
teacher should reduce stress and anxiety
and enhance their feelings of success. In
opposition to Callan´s method teacher should be tolerant with
errors, mostly correcting major ones in fluency based activities and
primarily the ones related to the subject at hand. Doing so with tact
is also a must. As students get more advanced, teacher can approach
correction of minor errors.
the teacher will be a model and a facilitator of communication, being
one of his/her major responsibilities to establish situations that
promote communication. During activities acts like an adviser,
answering students questions and monitoring their performance.
Sometimes, teacher may be a co-communicator engaging in the activity
and building rapport with the students.
all this said, I encourage a situation based syllabus, focused in
functions in context, mixed up with a structure based one, giving the
chance to develop communication competences plus implicitly acknowledge
the grammar structures. A when-what-how syllabus.
plan: “at a stationary shop" (object direct pronouns)
asks the students what they would say when entering a store. What
their approach would be to the shop assistant and how they would
request what is desired (not important right now).
brainstorm and after, along with the teacher, build up sentences
that would fit the needs stated above.
hands to students a written dialogue where a client- shop assistant
maintain a conversation at a stationary shop.
read along and comprehension questions are delivered, as well as
vocabulary when needed.
states that in order to not keep repeating the object desired they
can substitute the noun (always using the words in the text, not
grammatical jargon) for an D.O. Pronoun, remarking that this only
happens when the objet is well known by both speakers, client-shop
are given by the teacher, so the students apply the rule on D.O to
other contexts, they already now.
on stationary items is widen, trough students needs.
is divided in pairs and students have to role-play the situation,
using what they just have learned (function and vocabulary)
students will require more in-context situations, so the teacher
will facilitate it as earlier (but before will engage the class in
trying to transfer it from their previous knowledge)
the end of the lesson students will feel confident enough in going
to a stationary shop and buying what desired without big trouble.
For sure, somethings will be different at the shop, but for now they
have acquired the basics to deal with a stationary shop assistant,
which, with practice, will lead them to be proficient at it.