Alicia Taylor

My teaching approach

As the world and people continue to change, the need and desire for new language acquisition grows.  There are many possibilities for people when they acquire a new language. Learning English opens up travel and cultural opportunities as well as education and job prospects. 

There are many different language approaches when it comes to teaching English and they continue to evolve. Some of these approaches I feel are very beneficial and then there are others that would not be my choice in the classroom. Two methods that do not appeal to my style would be The Grammar-Translation Method (GTM) and The Callan Method. They feel outdated and very restrictive, suppressing creativity and expression.  This goes against what I believe is the most important - learning to speak English. I feel that this is the basis of language acquisition and the GTM does not focus on communicating or developing skills to do this.  It is focused on reading and writing and students are not to make mistakes.  I feel that making errors helps the learning process and students may understand more of what they are learning if they can make mistakes.  Also, a natural consequence of speaking is writing and therefore I feel that speaking should be developed first.  This method feels very rigid, oriented on test-giving and does not embrace the student’s thinking for themselves.  The Callan Method I feel is outdated and very structured. It is considered a communicative approach which I like but I feel it needs improvement. This involves the teacher speaking in front of the class and the students repeating what he or she says.  This may work for low level students as they are learning so many new things at a rapid pace but I feel that as the student level goes up they require so much more.

I believe in teaching with a communicative approach and this involves many things.  It involves teaching English in its real context.  This is helpful for students to use the language they are learning outside of the classroom.  The student will not be in the classroom forever and they need to take what they have learned and apply it to their personal or business life.  I also like the fact that the communicative approach tolerates mistakes, which it sees as a natural result of learning.  Communicative approaches also develop the skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing, which results in a well-rounded learning environment.  This approach uses games and activities to help teach and acquire the four skills. I feel that games are part of a successful classroom experience as they increase communication, encourage opinions, debates and problem solving. 

The Oxbridge method embraces the communicative approach. It emphasizes speaking and understanding which means that writing and reading will naturally follow.  The Oxbridge method wants their teachers to have an active role in helping their students achieve their goals. They refer to the teacher as a “playmaker”.  The students are given what they need to achieve their goals but it is not just handed to them.  The students are set up for success by the teacher.  I feel that the system that Oxbridge uses also provides a very current method of learning.  I feel that the lack of textbooks encourages creativity in teachers and the building of a very large resource bank.  Textbooks can be restrictive and boring and act like more of a “crutch”.  However, I think that textbooks can be a great resource for a new teacher that may be lacking experience, but the lessons do need to be altered and updated as the activities are often repetitive and out of date.  I also like the fact that the class is done entirely in English and there is no use of the student’s native language.  I feel that this is a good strategy and helps the student embrace the new language from the very first day.  It is likely that the student is still using their native language in other aspects of their life and I feel it is important that it is left behind while in the classroom.  It encourages them to use English in so many ways and if there is trouble understanding or communicating it can be done by body language, further examples, synonyms, antonyms and even drawing.  In addition, I also like beginning each class with the quick question and the ending of the class with the wrap-up and concept checking.  I think that the quick questions would help get the students talking each day. It likely makes them feel that they are not learning at that moment but in reality they are.  They are communicating and listening at the same time.  The Concept Checking Questions (CCQ) also are a great way to end the class.  I feel that it is important for the student to leave knowing what they accomplished.  It helps them reflect on what happened during that class and they will not leave feeling that they are not sure what they learned that day.

I believe that a teacher’s attitude and teacher-student interaction is so important in the classroom and its management.  I feel it is important to know and use the name of your students.  I want to be an approachable teacher with a kind voice.  It is important for your students to feel comfortable and feel that they can approach you with questions or struggles in class.  It is also so important to be organized and well prepared.  All of your material for class should be ready to go beforehand.  All activity preparation required should be done before stepping into the classroom.  Organization also means that you are prepared for problems that could arise and helps ensure that you are comfortable and confident while teaching.

Two very important parts of teaching English are a syllabus and lesson plan.  A syllabus keeps you on track as it gives what will be covered in a course as well as dates and an outline.  I feel that the lesson plan is important for a successful class.  Jeremy Harmer feels that a lesson plan should Engage, Study and Activate.  I feel that this is perfect for the classroom and this ensures that the students are getting a well-planned, consistent, enjoyable lesson each time.  In the classroom, I want to engage my students with an interesting or exciting topic or question.  In the study phase of the lesson, students are learning the TL for the lesson and practicing it in real context.  The activate portion is allowing the students to communicate, practice and use it in a more free manner.

A typical 1 hour lesson for class would include (non-beginner):

            Intro to the class – 2 mins;

            Recap of the previous lesson -3 mins;

            Grammar – 15 mins;

            Vocabulary (TL) – 15 mins;

            Practice for students – 20 mins; and

            Recap of today`s lesson – 5 mins.

The introduction to the class and the recap of the previous lesson are meant to be brief.  The focus is on the TL, grammar and practice.  I structured this lesson so the students get to start the class off in an interesting manner, re-visit the previous day, have ample time to learn what needs to be done that day and practice it in a functional way.  The students can learn and practice grammar and vocabulary in many ways.  A few of the ways that interest me are role play, group work, board games, drawing games, pictures, body language (mimicking).  I think it is important to incorporate real life objects, recent news topics, online material and imagination into your lessons.

I believe it is important to also understand how different age groups learn as well as different levels of learners.  You would not organize a lesson plan the same manner for a beginner as you would a more intermediate student.  I have learned that it is important to practice repetition with beginners and gradually become more creative as you move up the levels.  Structure and repetition is important for beginner students as they have so much to learn.  When levels go up, things like activities, TL, creativity become so much more important.  I know that are some differences in the way that children and adults learn languages.  I see children as not being afraid of making mistakes.  It seems that may be more open to the knowledge and not as influenced by their native language.  Adults may be a bit more timid or afraid to make mistakes. A lot of the time adults do not want to feel silly.  This all affects how you teach these age groups.  However, I think that much of it is still the same.  You make different games for adults, different scenarios and perhaps you discuss more controversial topics.  You want to keep them focused, interested and motivated.  However, games are still an important aspect of learning and should be practiced.  Children may like pictures and funny questions and adults may like current news topics or short video clips.  I think as teachers get to know their students and their experience increases that this will all come quite naturally.  I will praise often for good work and correct mistakes that should be corrected if they are relevant to the lesson that day or are repeated mistakes.  I feel that sometimes a learner may make a mistake that is way above their level and it may be just too complicated to correct at the time.  However, pronunciation is very important in addition to the vocabulary and grammar mentioned in my sample lesson. Also, some errors should be corrected right away and others may be able to wait until the student is done talking.

Teachers are a valuable part of learning any new language. Language teaching continues to evolve which will create challenges for teachers however if we continue to develop innovative, current and exciting lessons for students they will continue to come to class. Learning English opens many doors and we as teachers help open them.  I am hopeful that my time in Madrid will give me the chance to bring the English language to students and that we both have a positive and rewarding learning experience.

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