My teaching approach
"A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary." Thomas Carruthers
The new global market needs a global language. This means that every year more and more people are interested in learning English as a foreign language. They want to be able to meet and communicate with other cultures. As teachers, we need to be aware of all the different ways of acquiring new languages and we need to be able to distinguish the different approaches and practices from nowadays.
A whole range of theories have influenced the teaching of English Language. The methodology used in the Spanish schools up until now is the Grammar-Translation method which focuses on written texts. This method teaches the students about the target language but no how to use it. At the very beginning of the past century another method came out: the Direct Method. In this case, the vocabulary is over grammar and the target language is primarily speech. The purpose of this language learning is communication and students are asked to use the language in real contexts.
Many other methodologies have been used among the years: the Silent Way, the Total Physical response and Suggestopedia seem like good examples to show that the teacher talking time is not the most important part of teaching but, the way I see they are too intense and perhaps too unnatural to be used for a whole lesson.
Choosing a method should be the result of a long period of analysis and consideration. You need to find an approach in which you feel confortable with and gives you the best results according to the skills the students want to develop. My belief is that if you want to learn a language, the best way is to have a constant exposure to the language. Learning through communicating and through everyday conversations is the most effective way.
Personally, I find the Communicative Approach very interesting as it is based on integrating four skills for communicative competence. That means knowing when and how to say what to whom. It uses a task, which consist of a goal, some sort of input and an interesting and motivating activity or activities related to the goal and the input. From not only the theory, but also because of my experience as an English student in the past and as a teacher now I think that using this method can help students to gain confidence and accelerate the learning process. A more communicative approach makes the student develop links and connections among semantic fields and structures making it easy for them to enhance language skills. It is also a type of guidance that allows them to continue practising out of class. Teachers in this method are the guides for the lesson, not the lesson themselves.
The teachers must take in account the different levels, ages and specific purposes. The lessons have to follow a system of gradually increasing the difficulty according to the level. Also the age is an important factor as the communicative competence is different between adults and children, so we need to adapt the material so they feel comfortable. In addition to this, we need to know the purpose of their learning and then focus the lessons on this aim.
When it comes to organising a syllabus you need to balance certain competing claims when making decision about selection and grading. You need to make sure that topics are of students’ interests. It is not only about what to be taught and in what order, also the implementation, evaluation and management of the program.
Firstly, I would formulate the grammar syllabus from simple structures and make sure the students gradually acquire the complex structures leading to a clear understanding of the language. After, I would formulate the content-syllabus, which has to focus on interesting topics like music, sports, life, hot news and others as per interest of the students’ level and age.
Once my syllabus is formulated I would concentrate on lesson planning. For this we need to keep in mind what we want our students to learn and in what communicative situation they can use it. A good preparation of a lesson should include a variety of activities that have a coherent threat from one to another putting special attention in the activities related to speaking in real communicative situations.
My standard lesson plan for a beginner lesson will be implemented by following this class structure:
- Quick questions act as an icebreaker so the student starts to feel familiar with the language
- Revision of previous class with flash cards or some questions about last concepts acquired.
- Introduction to new material requires the teacher being centre stage and demonstrate through examples the concepts, ideas, skills or process that the student has to learn.
- Guided practice is where I engage the materials with the students.
- Independent practise is when they have to practise their new skills without my assistance. Role-plays, answering questions, solving problems are good examples of activities for this part.
- Consolidation of the new content At the end of the lesson I will reinforce the lesson objective and check the students understanding.
The grading of the language, especially with lower levels is a key part of the methodology. It is essential if we want to avoid confusion. It is important to bear in mind that there is a difference between implicit and explicit acquisition. For L1 acquisition, rules are assimilated from experience of usage rather than from explicit teaching and therefore do not require extense explanation. Nevertheless, adult acquisition of a second language is a completely different matter: implicit learning is far more limited and adult attainment of L2 accuracy will probably require additional resources of explicit learning, such as target language, concept check questions, and the use of a functional approach.
A teacher needs to be a guide and a playmaker, giving the right tools and materials to all students in order to make them independent and able to carry on with their learning on their own. Furthermore, another teacher role in class is to be a good listener, understanding your student’s needs, frustration, fears and opinions. Like a psychologist, the teacher has to interpret learners’ reactions and responses to stimuli in order to adapt the class and reach high effectiveness in achieving goals. Sometimes you might have to deal with difficult students and you have to make your way through them.
The attitude towards the class is also noteworthy. You need to be kind and polite, so they feel at ease in the classroom and they are not afraid to make mistakes and learn from them. Therefore, a good approach to errors and corrections should be taken into account. Not only this, we need to be an example for them so a good organisation and preparation is a must. This shows that you care about the student learning.
The students’ motivation as well as the perseverance in learning determines the acquisition of a second language. Motivation provides success and success motivate the student to continue learning. They have a compilation of knowledge and competences that we must detect and apply in our class so they use the language in situations that they are familiar with. We have to structure effective communication skills in the classroom to support the students. It’s a responsibility to build the learner’s confidence. My class will be student centred where their needs will be ahead of my goals.
The use of new technologies and real material can also be very positive. We can use many devices and discuss about many topics. But we always have to make sure that this is not distracting the students and making impossible to achieve the lesson aims. I believe that the most important skill a teacher should have is the ability to inspire and motivate the student to push his or her own boundaries.
Albert Einstein said: "It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge." This illustrates perfectly the way I understand teaching a second language: show students how to build language skills by making them actively speak the language, using different tools and resources that they unconsciously take on board
To sum it all up I want to stress that this growing desire to learn English and other languages implies that we have to continue searching for a more precise method or technique that enriches our teaching system. Attending conferences, reading articles and exchanging ideas with other colleagues can help us to become better teachers.
I would like to finish off by quoting Mr. R. Verdi "Good teachers are those who know how little they know. Bad teachers are those who think they know more than they don't know."