Nazaret Domenech





My teaching approach

 

The start of this essay will deal with what teaching English is, which has to be our goal. After, I will analyze the different parts of the process responsible for learning English. In order to do this analysis I will introduce how the different existing approaches consider each element of this process. The lector can find, in the beginning of each element description, a comparison between the traditional methodologies and the actual methodologies. The methodologies have some difference between them, however, all of them were created with the same aim: to find the best way to teach English. A good teacher has to know all these approaches well, in order to be able to take what is effective and dismiss what it is not effective to his or her goal.

Which is our target when teaching English?

 If somebody knows a language that means they are able to communicate in this language. Effective communication implies that the person has these four skills: productive (speaking, writing) and receptive (listening, understanding). Balance between productive and receptive skills is the key to learning a language. The traditional methodologies have been focused more on the passive skills then on the productive skills. Although now we know that we have to give more importance to the student producing language.

How do we learn?

There has been much debate about how we learn languages. Because of this debate we have been improving the teaching-learning process, but still there is a lot to research, and a lot to innovate.

It is important to understand student’s mistakes as an opportunity. It is an opportunity for feedback, to improve our teaching and an opportunity to check what students have learned, and what needs more practice.

Effective factors have to be noted because they can determinate the learning process. We have to know our students, their previous English learning experiences, their needs, and how to gain their trust in order to help them with their learning process.

Student role

The student is the person who wants to learn. The student is the most important part of the learning-teaching process. That means that the rest of the elements; teacher, class, activities, goals, has to be thought to their purpose. This purpose is that the student can communicate in English.

We can not teach if we do not know how the student learns. Even though that is obvious nowadays, some traditional methodologies and approaches consider the teaching process the most important factor.  That means that the student has to study what the teacher transmits. If the student fails, it means he is not a good student, the teacher has no need to change the methodology of the class.

Teacher role

The teacher is considered by the traditional methodologies the authority in the classroom. He decides what and how the student learns. Knowledge is a property of the teacher; the student can not say what he wants to learn.

Other approaches focus on different elements of the learning process. There are interesting aspects we have to take care of when we interact with the students. The audio-lingual method says the teacher is responsible for providing the students a good model for imitation.

‘The silent way’ sees the teacher as a technician who designs the activities and the class, doing whatever is necessary for the students to learn. In other words, the teacher’s role is that of a learning facilitator.

Student teacher interaction

Interaction with the student is an important factor to improve the learning process. Different approaches have different understandings about how the interaction between teacher and their students has to be. The traditional approaches, such as the grammar-translation method give no importance to the interaction, so that interaction is minimal in the class. This little interaction is initiated by the teacher to their students.

Other approaches focus on different elements of the learning process. There are interesting aspects we have to take care of when we interact with the students.

As we said, the affective factors are something we have to consider. The student’s feelings are important, because they can interfere with learning. How can we avoid bad feeling from the students such a frustration, fear, low self-confidence? How we can get a positive relationship with the students?

Here we have some useful techniques we can use: Playing games with them, calling the students by name, giving clear instructions, controlling your tone of voice, having your material ready for the class, involving all the students, creating a warm class atmosphere, praise and encouragement, monitoring, concept checking questions and feedback, non verbal communication, and a dress code.

There are some external factors we have to control in order to increase the good harmony of the class, making a good environment to learn English.  A good option to guarantee eye contact is to arrange the students in a “U” in the classroom. The classroom itself can be stimulating; you can put some images with message in English, posting some English articles.

Teaching talk has to be adapted to the level of the students, and this is especially important for the lower levels. The teacher has to give clear, repeated instructions, and use cognates as much as he can.

What is interesting in the Suggestopedia approach is the activate phase.  The students gain facility through dramatizations, games, songs, questions and answers.

As a technician, the teacher has to make the activities to teach their students. If the teacher makes his own material thinking of the needs of their students he will get better results from the students, although we can use textbook activities we have to adapt them to guarantee they are communicative activities. We must adapt, add, delete or remove instead of following all the activities from the book.

The web is an enlightening resource. Webpages like slideshare, youtube, wikispaces, and blogs are quite interesting if we know how to choose them.

 

If we consider the communicative approach, all the activities must train the communicative skills of the students. Being communicative means the information has to be from the reality of the students. The class reproduces real communicative situations. As close as possible, more meaningfull, useful, learning.

A good teacher is good with difficult students.

All students are equal, so that, any student learns in the same way as any other. A teacher who can adapt to difficult learners, engaging them, so improving their results, means he can also find the best way to teach a good student. Furthermore, spending time and effort to find the best way to teach difficult students means improving our teaching skills.

There are some important issues that a good teacher needs to keep in mind while teaching beginners.

Some people think an adult can not learn a new language. That is not a true. The new educational investigation shows a person can learn at any time in life,

although the way to learn may be different. Other issues we have to keep in mind when teaching English, are the strong interference of the L1, the variability of the pace (faster with words provident from the Latin, and slower in some structures), less time to study, impatience to learn fast.  Because of this, it is useful to analyze their communicative needs, versatile vocabulary, and start teaching generic things and after more specific words.

There are four useful steps to teach from generic to specific:

First we are going to teach the function, next use the function with generic words, next, substitute the generic with the specific and finally join the function and specific nouns in a sentence.

We don’t use the L1 to teach beginner, we offer the meaning of a word with context, examples, images and mimicking.

It is important to model the answer for the students. Repetition is a good way to be sure students have understood the teacher. These two strategies, modeling and repetition avoid correcting their mistakes, and is less frustrating for the student. The structure of the class changes also. The structure is simpler then for other levels. We also start the class with quick questions. Next, the revision of the previous clas, After this, we will give new contant. At the end, we will use recap questions.

As we can see, the more we adapt to our student the better the results. The goals that we introduce to the students must be adapted to them. Adapting means, adapt the topic to the student’s interest, and the structures and vocabulary to the student’s level. As we have said mistakes are an opportunity, but we have to set goals that the student can achieve.

 



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