Previous to this job my only experience was working for youth clubs as a teenager but this has certainly helped when teaching children´s classes
10 years working in television, producing factual, historical & current affairs documentaries
BA Anthropology and Sociology (2:1), 3 A-Levels, 15 GCSEs
My teaching approach
This essay will outline my approach to teaching English, drawing on my course work, observations and teaching I have already experienced plus look at several teaching methods I have encountered so far. For someone who has only had 3 weeks of learning and teaching experience this is a large undertaking but I can also look to my own personal experiences of being taught languages during my own education. The essay is broken down into 2 sections.
The Oxbridge method solely focuses on verbal communication to teach English, emphasising the role of communication between the teacher and students as well as amongst the student class. This method allows grammar to be learnt learnt inductively so sentences with the grammar structure along with the target vocabulary are brought on in a fluent and natural manner. The method applies to all age groups so effectively the learning in the same no matter what the students level of language is. There are few opportunities for any written teaching relying instead on reading as a key tool for learning. The benefit of reading as opposed to writing is to give each student a level field to begin their learning; no individual mistakes that writing can cause are possible. This method also makes the atmosphere in classes more relaxed, placing no strain on the student and makes problem solving (both language and student behaviour) easier. The Direct/Berlitz method also has many similarities as it champions a intuitive and immersive method that emphasises the interaction between student and teacher. From the teaching I have experienced so far, and also recognising that I course I am on will only teach me one specific methods, these methods will be the ones I will draw upon most in my teaching career.
The audio lingual method, such as the Callan and Vaughn method, promotes to the speed in which a student learns target language and grammar but from a personal viewpoint it does not provide a natural context to learn, although there is the obvious similarity between this and the Oxbridge method of repetition of the target language which allow students to learn through corrections. I would also say that there would be benefits for learning basic phrases and grammar, as audio lingual teaching has been used for teaching large groups of people, for example the US Army in World War 2 used this method so its troop had basic phrases mastered in the country they were serving in. However the extreme manner of these methods obviously changes a relaxed atmosphere into a tense on and potentially lessens the enjoyment of the class and learning in general, plus this method does not allow speaking and conversations to flow naturally in class which I believe is an vital aspect of teaching.
Two methods that take a more extreme approach are the silent method and suggestopedia. Both methods were conceived by people not directly involved in education so they do benefit from an 'outsider looking in' viewpoint. The silent method puts the emphasis of learning on the student, with the teacher non verbal for the duration of the class, relying on pointing at word and pronunciation charts. The student is totally reliant on their ability and has to manage their own corrections whereas I personally believe the teacher should take an active and vocal role in correcting the mistakes and encourage students to correct each other. Suggestopedia in turn requires the teacher to 'perform' the text, taking the emphasis and pressure away from the language and allows the student to take in the vocabulary and grammar used. This can potentially make the student unfocused and feel a lack of direction with their learning. Both methods have their positives, especially the aspect of getting the student to find the answers to their problems, and may have its place within a classroom however I feel that they should not dominate as the key teaching method of an English language class. Activities and variation are important to keeping each lesson interesting, varied and well paced so relying on these methods to dominate is misguided. At best they should on be used as games.
Total physical response is another method which I feel has a lot to contribute to the teaching process, especially for younger students. The visuals and physical aspects are beneficial to young ages as they help identify target language and grammatical structure without making learning seem boring or a chore. I have already implemented this in my teaching for both students and low level adults especially in exercises such as learning directions as it has great simplicity and is generally enjoyable.
A syllabus should focus on both function as well as grammar, and I would alternate between a direct,communicative method, and introduce games and activities that could include the silent method and suggestopedia. During the lesson the initial grammar structures can be learnt through speaking structures, giving equal amounts of time (ie 3x15minute activities in a 1 hour lesson) plus always allowing extra time in case students wish to expand discussion on certain topics which should be encouraged. This allows topics to be covered in more breadth and in a logical way during this time. This creative part of the session would be created by games and activities which would encourage students to enjoy the language learning and allow them to be the drivers of their own experience and goals.
The teacher also should understand the students specific needs as the goal of each student is different even though ultimately it is about being proficient in speaking and understanding English. A 12 year old school student and a 40 years old businessman will be trying to obtain different results from their lessons. The means that the teacher must be adaptable both before and during the lesson. Although it is a good to be prepared with a lesson structure the teacher must recognise that there is nothing wrong in not sticking with the plan if the lesson isn't working or is clearly not beneficial to the student.
The type of learning material needed depends on the learning style of the individual. Some learners may rely on visual learning whereas others do benefit from written exercises, plus we need to take into account that symbols and visual prompts also contribute to the learning experience. I do agree with the Oxbridge method of decreasing the amount of written text used in the classroom however for some learners this may need to be a transition, away from more traditional techniques, to a more verbal method. Personally I felt very stifled when learning languages when I was younger when teachers were over reliant on textbooks but from taking this course I can see their benefits if use sparingly and when it will benefit the student. I do prefer using symbolism, with pictures and demonstrative displays in order to explain words and concepts quickly and effectively.
Finally the attitude and energy of the teacher is key to motivating the classroom, and arguably the most important thing to create an environment where students are eager to learn. The teacher is responsible for creating a stimulating learning environment along with the structural outline and the content of the material for each. It cannot be stressed enough how the attitude of the teacher has a direct impact on the learning environment and the students ability to learn. By behaving in a friendly and engaging way the teacher is able to make the students feel calm and at ease plus create a relaxed, focused environment which is conducive to learning while having fun. Incorporating the use of authentic materials, such a up to date and relevant topics, is another way of keeping the students engaged. I would also use a wide range of media (YouTube clips, newspaper articles etc..) would be used in order to stimulate the learner, and make the classroom an interesting place to be. The teacher must also make balanced corrections for mistakes and praise would also be a significant part of the teaching facilitation. I would be aware of the appropriateness of the corrections, and the need to balance this with a student's personality. Praise can be used as a tool for motivation throughout the session, and for groups incorporate a healthy and supportive environment.
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