My teaching approach
After three weeks in the TEFL course I have been studying the Oxbridge Methodology and introduced to several other kinds. I have observed, co-taught, and am teaching. I have begun to understand what it means to be a teacher and that one can adopt certain aspects of different methodologies and tailor them to suit ones personality. I am a fledgling in the field of teaching, but have already begun to formulate my own ideas.
What does language comprise of? When you are speaking in your native tongue it is second nature, you don't think about how to say things nor remember how you acquired it, and more often than naught, don't even know why you structure your sentences the way you do.
Speaking a language and teaching a language are two absolutely different things.
What kind of teacher do I want to be?
Better yet, what kind of teacher will I be?
Only time will tell as my personal experiences will hone my skills and alter/form my personal methodology.
Over the years second language acquisition theories have evolved as have the teaching methodologies. Which one is the best?
It is up to personal taste and constant debate.
I have done some research and each, in my opinion, have their positive and negative points. I believe teaching is adopting, adapting, creating, and tailoring your own, but the foundation is rooted in previous research and experience, and can only evolve incorporating present knowledge and continuous research. I will discuss the points that I like about The Communicative, Suggestopedia, Approach, The Oxbridge System, cross-breeding The Learning-Styles Theory with The Multiple Intelligences Theory and what points from each that I would apply to my own methods.
How does one learn a language?
I believe that you learn by doing. Hence, I strongly disagree with the Grammar-Translation Method(GTM), unless it was used in a later stage as a supplement to a more communicative approach. It would strengthen an advanced learner's reading and writing skills, if this is what they are after, but first one must learn to speak.
The Communicative Approach teaches by doing. It makes use of authentic language, authentic materials and integrates the four skills, and focus' on communication.
The Oxbridge System builds on the communicative approach, and takes some positive aspects from other methodologies eg. It encourages self correction just as the silent way wants students to draw from their inner criteria for correctness. It wants to get rid of negative implications, calling to mind Suggestopedia desuggesting the negative association to learning a second language. Unlike the other's it put's an emphasis on the teacher's preparation. They believe that the teacher's system is responsible for the learning process. The system of teacher's that it has created is the embodiment of “Two heads are better than one.”
Suggestopedia believes that students will remember more if there is emotional meaning, and that language assimilation must take place before analysis. It takes into account different learning strategies, makes use of music, art, riddles, games,etc., the students immediately take on new identities for the duration of the course and the identity is based on a particularity of the language (it makes use/focuses on certain vowel sounds)
Perhaps adopting new identities could be an additional way of “changing the chip”, when the student is in class they are no longer themselves, they are someone from an English speaking background, with an English name and vocation. All the students must interact with one another via this alter ego. Quick Questions wouldn't be addressed to Jordi but to Grey Way, an astronaut. The students would be constantly role playing and drawing on their creativity and bank of English vocabulary to stay in character and answer questions from the point of their alter ego.
Learning-styles models are more concerned with the process of learning: how one absorbs information, thinks about information, and evaluates the results.
It believes that learning is the result of a personal, individualized act of thought and feeling. It recognizes the role of cognitive and affective processes in learning which could give us more insight into motivation related issues. Supporters advise in altering the learning environment to match or challenge the student’s style.
Multiple Intelligences There are seven intelligences: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. We all show varying levels of aptitude in the different areas, and no one is universally intelligent. It focuses on the contexts of learning and it's realtion to the disciplines. As teachers we must consider the differences at the individual level.
Neither theory can stand on it's own, but complement each other quite well.
I would like to figure out their learning-styles to be able to incorporate more activities geared to their styles, but also get the students to use and expand their minds with using different learning styles including those that they would originally avoid.
Before the course started I could send a link to a multiple intelligences website e.g. The Birmingham Grid For Learning, where the learners would answer a few questions. Once the questionaire was completed a pie chart would show their different levels of intelligences (linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal.), this could then be forwarded for analysis, cross checked in person, then applied to the syllabus and used as a tool when choosing/creating activities that would motivate and challenge them. Something that could be done in addition to evaluating their level and understanding their needs, especially for those students who are unaware of their needs.
Another important factor in the teaching-learning experience?
Learning a second language is affected by attitude, the teacher's attitude to teaching and the student's attitude to learn.
We can take something from Suggestopedia advocate Lonny Gold who said, “ Everything must be positive, even mistakes!'
Let's do away with negative psychological barriers against studying/learning and create a positive, relaxed environment that encourages the students to open up.
Mistakes will be made, it is part of the natural process when learning any language, I do not want to discourage the students by pouncing on every error, this would make them self conscious and slow their learning progress. Corrections would be meta-suggested/ done implicitly and the student's would be encouraged to self correct using their inner criteria.
I want the students to learn how to speak, to attain communication competency, to develop their listening and speaking skills , and only when they know how to speak shall we move onto reading and writing, which would be based on their oral practice. I want them to learn in a fun, relaxed, positive atmosphere.
As the teacher I would be their resource and model. They would be practicing their listening every time they hear me speak; be it activity instructions, reading stories, reading a topic, singing a song, or via repetition. I'd also be providing a model for pronunciation.
I would guide them through oral-based/communicative activities. Vocabulary and grammar would be taught implicitly through intonation, body language, and context.
Interestingly, a study done in the late 1980s (Reid, 1987) found the preference among English Language Learners for language lessons was Body/Kinesthetic. Another study mentioned by Lonny Gold was that language was acquired 38% by body language and 55% by context.
When I read these studies I though of Total Physical Response (TPR) where all the senses are involved, where TL is conveyed in actions, and students learn by observing and performing, yet this theory would apply more when working with children (eg. in a summer camp) and it can not be carried past the pre-intermediate stage. But it makes me think of incorporating kinesthetic activities into the class to enhance learning.
A hypothetical class could be:
• Greeting learners in their new identity asking 1-2 questions that make them think from the english identities stand point
• Warm up: Quick Questions Hot Potato, give the students a few quick questions that they will have to ask another student which they will choose by tossing an object (potato/ball/?) - starting them off with some kind of body activity to ease away any tension/make things fun
• use the triangle projection model where activities in different learning-styles would cover structure, grammar, and topics which would provide the fundamentals/TL that they could incorporate in the in-class discussions with their fellow students (comprehensible output). The teacher would remain an observer/editor/guide.
• Then wrap up the class either asking if they could articulate what they learned in the class, or by having the students ask one another questions of what they had learned (wrap up question tag), and encourage them to use the TL they had used, or as Oxbridge is doing now doing a general wrap up utilizing questions based on all the activities.
To ensure a class flows the teacher must recognize her role as a play maker/the conductor orchestrating the direction the class goes, their script being her syllabus.
The syllabus, just as the methodologies, would be an eclectic adaption of the different sorts of syllabi, adapting to the specific teaching situation, which is never the same. I would make a proportional-situational-task based syllabus. I would want the students to develop overall competence and use tasks relevant to their real world needs of the language which they would practice through interaction, I would hope to heighten the learner's motivation as it would be learner centered, rather than subject centered and that they would be able to induce the meaning by relevant context.
This kind of syllabus, which would also incorporate the results of the Multiple Intelligence's Questionaire to take learning-style into consideration would be difficult to create alone and very time consuming. It would need to be part of a system, that would continue experimenting and altering it accordingly to the learner's responses and continuous research, much like Oxbridge's system.
As you can see my methodology is influenced strongly by the Oxbridge system, and pulls a bit more from different methodologies. One of my major deviances from the Oxbridge system, is the use of the native language. I understand the reasons for eliminating it, but I could see its' advantages in lower level classes. Butzkamm points out, “It has as always been good educational practice to build on a learner's existing skills and competencies.” L1 provides an indispensable Language Acquisition Support System, instead of re-conceptualizing the world when beginning to learn a L2, we just need to extend our concepts on what is already familiar.