My teaching approach
A good teacher should be organized, assertive and flexible. We are teaching people, and since every person is unique, every class should be as well. By providing the students with varied activities and challenges during every class, they will experience different areas to utilize their English skills in, and different methods to keep on building their knowledge.
Students needs vary from different levels and purposes. Why does this person want to learn English? For work, for literary purposes or simply to speak and understand basic English in everyday life? It is important to take this into consideration when planning our syllabus and general approach. For example, a student who is low level and wants to learn English for daily use might need more focus on vocabulary, pronunciation, speaking and listening. While structure and grammar is a central part of learning any language in all levels and for all purposes, it is important to prioritize different elements for different students. When teaching ESP however, one would need to use a more serious approach grammar-wise. The students in this case are taking the lessons to accelerate the professional side of their English. Therefore we need to provide them with the knowledge and confidence to construct more complex sentences with a high level of grammar. When teaching vocabulary in this case one might need to be more specific and use words and expressions directed to the students' line of work.
Another thing to take into consideration is the age of the student. Kids and teens have a harder time concentrating and maintaining their focus. Often it is the parents who are making them take the classes, so the kids themselves might have a low interest in learning. Teaching children can therefore be tiring and requires a well-planned lesson with plenty of activities and games in order to keep the kids on track throughout the entire class. For instance, children will always want to talk about their own interests and so it could be a good idea include activities that appeal to a younger student, like games, music and sports. When teaching an activity where the objective is to pair words with pictures, always make cut-outs so that the kids feel like they have something to play with. We have to try to connect with students on their level while still maintaining an authorative position. As a teacher you must continuously encourage and praise the students, not only correct their errors. Always let them know when they are doing a good job. When correcting faults it is very important to make it clear that you are correcting them in order to help them and not to lecture them in a typical "nagging teacher"-way. It is my personal opinion that children will be the most receptive to learning in an environment where they feel relaxed and know that it is okay to laugh and have fun.
One of the central parts of teaching is having a clear objective with each class. You want to keep your instructions as straight-forward as possible, especially when dealing with lower level students. Making sure students know what is expected from them makes it easier for them to do well and reach the goals you set for them, as well as the ones they set for themselves. You always need to be ready to take control of the situation if there is confusion amongst students. For beginners, this means being a model for students to imitate, and showing your students exactly what you want them to say, or how they should construct a correct sentence and what specific sort of answer you are looking for when asking a certain question. With intermediate students it means being more of a facilitator and conversation starter, as well as trying to steer the discussions toward a point of natural flow. Whatever level you're teaching you should always stay alert and try to divide STT equally between students, to make more introvert students feel included in the lesson.
At this point in my essay I would like to give an example of a syllabus the way I would plan it.
Start every class with quick questions that act as a natural introduction to the class and activities to get a general idea of the students' over all level.
A good first activity is always a topic. Reading an article, a blog post or a short text about a relatable situation is a smooth and relaxed way to start the class. It eases students into the language by first hearing it spoken to them while reading the words in a text. Then hopefully the topic you have chosen is interesting enough to stimulate discussion amongst students. If that should not be the case and the topic does not seem to work in the group, it is better to be prepared with an extra activity, instead of trying to force the first one to work.
Next you can move on to a lexical activity. For lower levels I would suggest using an activity with lots of pictures and words to connect to each other, whereas for an intermediate class teaching cognates could be suitable. For a higher level group of students it would be more fitting to teach idioms and longer sentences.
As a lot of students (and teachers, for that matter) seem to find structures fairly unappealing, I would suggest presenting a structure activity in the middle of the class, after students have been speaking English for a while and are getting in to the flow of the class. It will be easier to encourage further enthusiasm if students have already been actively discussing and learning. Structure activities for lower levels should include more basic grammar, like the different forms of "to be" and the simple form of the different tenses. While moving up in levels you can teach more complicated and advanced grammar like reported speech and conditionals.
A great way to round up the lesson is with yet another interesting topic, or a game. It should be something that the students can talk freely about in a way that makes them feel less like they are in a classroom and more like they are simply spending time with a group of friends. You want students to leave the class feeling like they had a good time and learned something, and not like they spent an hour in a stuffy room listening to a teacher going on about recycling and the past participle. In order to make the lesson feel memorable and to keep students engaged even at the end of the class when energy levels usually start to drop, a game is often a simple yet effective solution. Games can range anywhere from easy partner activities or a quiz, to a more demanding activity using total physical response as a method.
Before the start of the actual class (especially if it is your first time with a new group), it would be advisable to consult a previous teacher of that group. This not only to discuss lesson planning and optimization, but also to go over special needs of individual students. If teachers share an ongoing dialog regarding their students, the chances of catching the ones who are falling behind are much bigger and the groups receive a more comprehensive education.
Example of lesson plan for P4
Start off with quick questions, then move on to a topic, preferably a medium length news article or blog post about something SS would find appealing and interesting. Ask SS questions relevant to the topic and try to stimulate a discussion on the matter. Next I would present a vocabulary activity, trying to make the transition as smooth as possible. For a P4 group I would do an activity about idioms or cognates, both of which I think students find fetching and highly educational. As previously stated, this is the point of the lesson where I would present a structure activity, let's say an activity about modal verbs. The last activity I would want to do is a game of some sort, something to excite and encourage students towards the end of the lesson. To finish off the class I would do a quick wrap up covering all of the different activities.
I firmly believe that in order to be a great teacher one must possess the ability to grow and evolve together with the students we teach. Balancing a friendly and personal approach in the classroom with a high level of professionalism will bring the best out of the students. When we combine conventional rules and methods of teaching with our own contemporary and playful ideas, the teaching process becomes an interesting and fun experience, not only for the students, but also for us teachers.