My teaching approach
Skills: Success in L2 Teaching
Reasons for learning a new language vary
from student to student. Depending on
the learner’s particular motivation or goals, some teaching methodologies might
be more effective than others. This
indicates that there is no stand-alone best methodology for all learners and
purposes. Indeed, catering a teaching
method to each individual student will yield the most effective results;
however, this would be highly inefficient as it would consume too much time and
other resources. The best teaching methodology
then consists in balancing the learner’s particular needs with the teacher’s
resource restraints. This essay will expose
what I believe to be the generally most effective teaching methods and
There are some aspects of teaching that I
find fundamental regardless of goals. I
believe the student’s native language should never be used in class or with the
instructor. The instructor should have
ample resources at his or her disposal to explain things without translating,
e.g., realia, images, modeling, gestures and body language. These resources provide certain structure for
the learners, and can make them feel more comfortable when speaking in class. The
idea behind teaching in L2 is that it helps students rely less on their native
language. As they think more in L2, their fluency improves. Translating every word to their native
language is not the same as providing a definition.
Teaching students in L2 comes with a cost,
especially at lower levels. Defining
target language without direct translation takes more time. This means higher Teacher Talking Time and
lower Student Talking Time. The cost of
not translating then becomes a decrease in STT.
I think this cost is acceptable because of the long-term benefits of
teaching in L2. Increased fluency means
less mistakes and even less TTT in the form of corrections in the long
run. This combines well with a teacher
skill I consider extremely important: being the playmaker.
Knowing how to direct students to the
right answer in lieu of telling it to them has two main benefits. Firstly, by not telling the student the
answer directly, he or she arrives at it through a cognitive or deductive
process. This process is more didactic
and improves the student’s retention rate.
Secondly, arriving at the answer helps the student’s motivation. By
feeling that they came up with the answer on their own, the student’s self
confidence is also increased. This translates into more classroom participation
and feeling exponentially more comfortable with the material. These two
benefits highlight the importance of asking the right questions to have the
students come up wit the right answer.
The playmaker is essentially required to apply a simplified form of the
Socratic method for language teaching.
Self-confidence is an attribute every
teacher should try to bring out in his or her learners. The aforementioned playmaker role is one way
for teachers to achieve this, but there are more. The teacher should encourage all students to
engage in conversation as soon as possible.
As they become more exposed to conversation, they will feel more
comfortable speaking L2. This can be a
very powerful force if combined with an environment that is receptive and
tolerant of mistakes. In the long-term,
students will be less embarrassed of making mistakes and will be more
confident, using the language in more situations with greater fluency. Used sparingly, indirect positive suggestions
can also increase student self-confidence.
Conversely, excessive positive suggestions can lead to less effort from
the students because it can make them think everything they do is great, so the
teacher must find a balance. Making
students feel comfortable and engage in more conversation will help the teacher
gain the students’ trust.
I believe that the teacher must also earn
his students’ respect. If there is trust
and respect from the students, the entire teaching process becomes more
efficient. To earn this respect, the
teacher must show his or her worth. Many
factors come into play here. If the
teacher cannot properly adapt to the students and the teaching goals, or if
he/she simply is not fit for teaching, the students will lose respect. Ample
preparation before lessons is crucial for teachers. Not only does it prevent making mistakes in
class but it makes recovering from them easier. Preparation includes familiarizing oneself
with the lesson material, considering useful resources, and predicting
difficulties students may have with the material. The improvement in the lesson flow will be
noticeable, and the students will appreciate the lack of awkward silences.
Having a structured syllabus that lies out
the goals of each lesson is an important part of preparation. The teacher
should know what he/she has to focus on for a particular lesson, i.e., what is
most relevant for future individual lessons and for the underlying goals in
general. Of course these goals can vary
from company to company or school to school, but preparation never loses
relevance. For example, in teaching
younger age groups, preparation is vital because any second of inactivity in
the classroom means losing your students’ attention. On the other hand, not preparing for a class
with adults can result in losing respect and, if recurrent, even your job.
In terms of structuring a syllabus for my
students, I would focus on hearing and speaking as the primary receptive and
productive skills; writing and reading would receive more emphasis at more
advanced levels. I would make beginners focus more on grammar rules and
vocabulary. These can empower beginners to speak a little bit early on, forming
basic sentences and conjugating simple verbs. At this point, only the worst
pronunciation errors should be corrected, focusing more on actual grammatical
mistakes. Once the beginner has built a considerable base, more attention can
be placed on fluency.
Ideally, classes would be carried out with
activities that make use of ample resources and not just a textbook. Variety in activities will make it easier for
students to remain interested and engaged.
Dialogues, identity cards, memory games, and role-playing are all valid
activities. Non-communicative activities
like fill in the blank should be avoided; they are neither as engaging nor do
they focus on the primary productive and receptive skills. I find the Triangular Projection Model to be a
great way of dividing communication.
This is why I also agree with the Oxbridge method of separating classes
into Structures, Topics and Vocabulary activities. I have seen it in practice and think it is
effective at engaging students and teaching the basics.
All the methods, practices and resources
described in this essay constitute my personal take on language teaching. They have been collected from a wide array of
theories and established approaches.
Teaching in L2 is one of the most important things for students to build
fluency passively throughout the lesson.
I also described the importance of being the playmaker to deal with
certain affective factors that influence the learning process, namely
self-confidence and trust from the students. Earning the students’ respect was also
discussed, highlighting lesson preparation and adaptation to students and their
goals. If a teacher is able to bring
these skills and qualities to the classroom, the entire learning experience
will be improved, regardless of the goals or syllabus structure.