My teaching approach
The best teacher I ever had was a primary teacher. She was soft but also firm. We regarded her as an important person and we could come to her for anything, as she was reliable, approachable and knowledgeable. Admiring her, I always thought her style was my aim. Obviously everybody is different, I can never become what she was, but there are a few things she will have taught me and others I found on the way.
I want my class to be a safe class for a student to feel comfortable. So often have I seen students not daring, or being intimidated. Feeling has much to do with learning. In my class students are the most important. They have to feel the confidence to ask a question and to speak in general. As learning a language, for me, is all about communicating I feel this is the most important I can bring to my classes.
Once the confidence has been established, the students can begin their learning. In this essay we were asked about what we aspired for as teachers. For me it will always come back the student.The teacher or their personality should only be serving one goal- the student’s progress. That is why in some of my classes I felt my style of teaching was serving the aim, in some others, I changed or twicked a little to make the most of the student. I am a quiet and enthusiastic person, I like for the students to speak in the target language, in one class for instance, they were also very enthusiastic, young and I felt that with their laughing and engagement they were learning at a good pace. I was using my usual style of enthusiasm, praise and high student talking time. In an other example, I had a shy older group who had to be there for serious business reasons. I had to talk more, I also had to bring up a more serious side of my personality and I had to slow my natural teaching pace. They didn't want so much praising. The teacher having to change shouldn’t be a problem, we should have a style that would include adapting to the student. Only the student’s progress matters.
Being able to adapt brings up another issue. A teacher can only do that if they
- respect a consistancy of some sort
reflect on their classes
- Have I reached the aims?
- What worked?
- What didn’t work?
We need as teachers to understand and recognize our students. Only then can we do a good job. I believe in calling everyone by name as much as we can, I believe in having the students at the centre of the interaction as soon as possible. When teacher’s do so they identify disparities in a class, the make sure every one takes part and they modulate their teaching to the students appropriate level.
Once the student is at the centre, feels confident and has a teacher who knows them and adapts to them, l will deal with teaching methods.
I come from high school teaching and there are a few techniques I would keep. The most important is that, having worked in very open departments, the preparation was crucial. I need to make the material my own to make it work. I usually use a syllabus to keep consistency, it can be from a book or any other personal source. Only when I know where I am heading, long term and short term, can I deliver a good class. It means also that only when I know where I am heading can I adapt, modulate, divert to get my class there. For instance, I was teaching three classes (12 years old) the same topic about daily routine. I was using a combination of smart board activities with a few games-Mime game, Simon says etc. The first time I presented it, I had never taught this topic before, and even though I thought I was prepared, I stuck to the activities prepared and felt the class didn’t flow well. The second class went much better as I had reflected and felt the mime game could be better used after a more settled time, I adapted the activities to introduce one after the other. The third class although I did the same activities as the second started to struggle, As I knew them, I knew they would need more time and kept the structure activity with just I and he forms. Those two classes were successful because as I had well prepared my activities, I could deliver them efficiently and I could adapt and modulate them to suit my students’ needs.
As well, I found from teaching big teenagers’ classes that the focus is the most difficult thing to get. I developed a few techniques that I think are very efficient with adults too. When the students are focusing on a challenge an anecdote or a game, they forget about their lack of confidence and speak more freely. I also personally find the classes more interesting that way and therefore would always try to see if a challenge or a game could be used. For example , for vocabulary, instead of asking a student-What things are there on your desk?, why not ask them to take turns until the last one stands. Or for a structure, instead of asking the students to make a sentence with each of the modal verbs, why not have them to play naughts and crosses with the modal verbs.The students will then forget that they are using the target language, they will all be involved and engaged.
Teaching means targeting every learners’ styles. There are learners who are more visual or more audio-receptive. I always try to get all of those memories involved by changing styles. Another learning style that is often forgotten (I strongly believe is the most efficient) is using kinaesthetic learning. When possible, I always try to cut the pictures, move, mime, have the student to do the same. First it means forgetting about your body image and self consciousness again. Then in my experience, the words and structures tend be better understood. For example, this afternoon my class didn’t understand the word “to find”, I made a paper fall, I stood up and said “oh look, I found a piece of paper on the floor”. And then I asked a student, putting a pen under their chair- “what can you find under you chair” She understood and answered. The movement explained better than anything else.
As well when explaining structures, like interrogations, two cards one with “I”, one with “have” are moved around to help the students understand how to change to “Have I”.
After considering the student as the most important and my teaching techniques I have to also consider the new English teaching methods I want to use.
As seen earlier, I use kinaesthetic methods from previous teaching experience. I think it should also be the way forward in the future for one extremely important reason- it allows teachers to speak only in the target language. When I used the example of a structure, therefore grammar, my traditional method would explain it through the students first language. With the use of movement, body language and sometimes some very strange faces we can avoid using any other language than the target language. If that is done, the students find this language is used for interaction and they begin to use it more. In high school, I found because the students were explained in their own language, they wouldn’t make an effort when asked to speak the target language. They had a choice, they shouldn’t have had that choice. Only then would they have improved their communication skills. I have always leaned towards this, and I intend to make it a rule.
One of the pioneering methods that I will begin to use as well is the quick questions. Before I used starter exercises but the quick questions allow faster settling. The students are asked to answer two questions to start the class. Most of the time those questions are silly, it breaks the ice and sets a tone for the class. The students can as in any starter activity, break from their previous activity and change their mindset for language learning. It is also a very good consolidation in one of the most difficult parts of the language- the question tags. It is not necessary to understand the questions which means that the lower level students are involved while the higher level students challenge the meaning as well.
As for the different methods that a teacher can use, I have shown how I have used what could approach a total physical response. I will always find communication as my main aim. However, I have discovered many methods during the years. Some of these methods need to be approached as completely integrated. I however feel that I will always use a combination of those. I explained earlier how the most important is the student. If I find that an activity used in a method can be efficient, I will use it. Obviously, I would lean more towards oral methods as they seem to me to be the most appealing to communication aims, but if I have students who need to sit an exam that requires translation -as in the Scottish system I worked with before- I will use this activity to help them reach their potential in that area.
In conclusion, teaching English has to be relevant in students’ life. I will always try to make it fun and interesting. I will always try to adapt my methods to reach potential and insure ease in communication. English is a language spoken all over the world, many will use it but also many will love it. If it is taught properly.