Marta Sierra Fernàndez

My teaching approach


In today’s era, multilingualism has become more than just important. Knowing a foreign language other than your native language has evolved to be extremely beneficial. Theories about how we learn and teach languages have been produced all around the world. In the present essay, we will go over and explain the main theories and methods that have influenced English language teaching. Following that, I will express my opinion on how I would approach the English teaching process.

To my view, one of the most important skills an English teacher needs to have is to know how to engage students to learn and to express themselves in English. In order to achieve the best results for students, there are many different types of teaching methods, but the positives and negatives of each method varies on opinion.

There are numerous different points to consider when reviewing a teaching method. For example, which level of learner is it aimed towards, is there a certain age that would benefit more, the number of students that are in the classroom or the environment (students sharing the same physical space or attending the class online). We also need to look at other things such as interlanguage, productive and receptive skills and what material, or lack of, the teacher is using.

Before we start to analyse the teaching methods, I would like to go over and explain what the concepts of “interlanguage” and “productive / receptive skills” mean.

“Interlanguage” is the language used by a learner who is not yet fully proficient in the language he wants to learn. This is an important objective study to predict and anticipate mistakes; these are normally influenced by the structure of the learner’s mother tongue. There are three different processes that influence the creation of interlanguage. The first process is language transfer where learners fall back on their mother tongue. This is more process than a mistake. The second process is over generalisation, where learners use rules from the second language in a way that native speakers would not. And finally the third process is simplification; this is a simplified form of the language similar to what children would normally use.

As for “productive and receptive skills”, activities such as speaking and writing are known as productive skills, while activities such as listening and reading are called receptive skills. Depending on which method the teacher decides to use, any one of these skills or individual activities can be given more importance than the others. I would like to go over several English teaching methods:

The Grammar translation method (GTM) is focused on writing text and the ability to communicate orally is not a goal. The main focus is on reading and writing, and no attention is given to pronunciation. The students are taught a large variety of words but are not taught how to use them in sentences.

On the opposite hand, we have the Direct method (Berlitz), where the main object is vocabulary rather than grammar. In this method there is no translation allowed, the teacher is to demonstrate and explain using hand gestures or other words if the student is unable to understand. Pronunciation gets attention from the beginning, no native tongue is allowed, writing is important but not as much so as the Grammar translation method. There is also a syllabus that teachers need to follow (a list of activities in order for the teachers to see what the students have been taught and what level the students have).

We can see a huge contrast in these two teaching methods, since one focuses on productive skills and the other on receptive. From my point of view, the Grammar translation can teach students bad habits in pronunciation and may not make things easy for students when it comes to communicating with others. It can also be hard for complete beginners to start with. On the other hand, the Direct method allows students to communicate from the beginning, giving them confidence and the ability to talk to others (which I believe is the main goal in learning another language).

The Audio-Lingual Method is also an oral-based approach.  It is very different in that rather than emphasizing vocabulary acquisition through exposure to its use in situation (Direct Method), the Audio-Lingual Method drills students in the use of grammatical sentence patterns. It is also, unlike the Direct Method, has a strong theoretical base in (structural) linguistics and (behavioural) psychology. To my view, this method is useful because it allows learners overcome the habits of their native language and form the new habits required to be target language speakers.

 Two other english teaching methods are Suggestopedia and The Callan method.

Suggestopedia was developed to help students eliminate the feeling that they cannot be successful, or the negative association they may have toward studying. It focuses on helping them overcome the barriers to learning. This method focuses on `desuggesting´ students psychological barriers. Indirect positive suggestion is also promoted through fine arts such as classical music, art and drama, and are integrated into the lesson to reach the students subconscious. Communication takes place the conscious and subconscious planes.

The Callan method starts at an extremely fast pace and finishes the same way. On average the teacher will ask fifty questions an hour. Each lesson consists of three blocks which are as follows: “listen – speak”, this is where the teacher will complete the dialog and then the students will have to repeat. “repeat – retain”, this is where the teacher will tell the class the answer twice in a row, then ask the students the question which the students will then have to answer. And finally “read – write”, this is where the students will read what has been written and then write down the answer. There is absolutely no silence in the class from the first minute to the very last.

So yet again we can see two very different methods. With the Callan method teachers will teach in a very fast pace, going through fifty questions an hour, so they will need to have a good lesson plan, with a list of questions that will not be repeated or too difficult for the students to understand.  As for suggestopedia the teachers rely on music, drama and art so all of this will need to be prepared along with the actual activity they will be teaching.

I feel that these two methods are aimed to students with specific needs. In the Callan method the drilling technique the teacher applies could benefit those learners who are trying to learn the basics of the English language in a very quick way. As for suggestopedia the relaxed style of the class could help some students to get over any psychological negative barriers they might have.

I believe that the most useful of the methods above described would be the Direct and the Audio-lingual methods. These are methods which are function-based (instead of grammar based) and thus these are the methods I would prefer to use as a ground to my teaching activity. With a function-based method, the student not only learns new vocabulary or grammar patterns in L2 but also learns to put them into practice by making sentences from the very beginning of the course. To my view, the Callan and the Suggestopedia methods are aimed to students with more specific needs, and I would not use them as the base of my teaching activity. Neither would I use the Grammar translation method because I feel that the mere teaching of the grammar of a foreign language (using mainly fill-gap activities) does not suffice to enable students express themselves.

So, what would be my approach when teaching English? I have several ideas.

My method would be function-based, a combination of the audio-lingual method and the direct method. I would teach students new vocabulary and would discourage them to speak their native language in class. I would engage them to use the new target language taught by asking them to use it in context.

I would like to offer classes whose syllabus would be based on the goals of the student – English for the sports lover, English for business, English for the world traveler, general English, etc. Each specialized module would build on the general English course. A student would need to acquire or demonstrate a higher level of English (P4, for example) before being admitted to the specialized program. This method would offer an incentive to the student in order to move on to his or her favorite topics.

Students would be sent an e-mail reminding them to review the latest lesson’s target language through the internet. Students would be able to review target language through a website, wherever they were, even on the metro going home. This is what I did when studying the TEFL course and it allowed me to spend more time learning. While it may or may not be true that technology improves learning, I believe that if students use technology in their daily lives, the practical result is that it can improve learning. All of the lessons applicable to a student’s course and level would be stored in the website, available anywhere to students.

Vocabulary, structure, and topic activities would be conducted, with corrections and praise delivered in the most fun way possible. I would use songs, videoclips, TV series episodes, news reports. The topics could be introduced with an authentic news report, rather than a printout of a news item.  All materials would also be available for printing.

Drills and gap fill exercises would be non-existent in my lessons. Inter-language would be tolerated as a natural part of the process of learning a second language, of course depending on the student’s level and if such errors are not part of the activity’s target language. I would constantly correct the errors my students with a high level would make, but I would be more tolerant with the errors of beginners.

The attractive appearance of the materials also plays an important role among the affective factors in English learning. I believe that it is crucial to attract students to a particular course. Thus I would prepare a syllabus and my lessons in advance in order to provide students with interesting, fun and engaging activities. The seating arrangement of the class would be a very important affective factor in the learning too. As a teacher I would like to have eye contact at all times with my students in order to offer a cheerful environment.


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