My teaching approach
Second language acquisition can be seen as a process of understanding and using a language for communicative purposes, therefore I would like to create and use a teaching approach concerned with the needs of students to communicate outside the classroom. The goal of my own approach is developing the ability of the learners to communicate effectively in the second language.
There is an infinite amount of ways to approach effective teaching. I feel that teaching any language can be enriched if the teacher is aware of these approaches, and is able to independently evaluate their relative strengths and shortcomings.
It is very important for a teacher to create an effective syllabus that helps students to learn. I would plan a syllabus which is communicative and based on three different levels. Level one includes topics and activities related to the every-day world of the L2 learners. They learn how to describe themselves and the people surrounding them in the target language. Level two presents knowledge about events, learners obtain skills and abilities to express their thoughts about certain things happening around them. The last part of the syllabus is concentrated on the ability to take a stand on a particular issue. Building the syllabus on three levels mentioned above fosters an intensive development of the ability to communicate.
In life we face a diversity of circumstances that require language skills. For the teaching of English to be successful, the four skills, reading, listening, speaking and writing, should be integrated in an effective way. These skills should be addressed in a way that helps students meet the standards the teacher set for them and develop their communicative competence gradually. According to the Oxbridge Method speaking and understanding come first. Speaking itself should be the aim in every single class, in every single activity. To improve the speaking skills of the learners I suggest involving speaking activities in second-language learning which involve language functions used by native speakers' outside the classroom. If learners have to adopt roles in a certain oral activity for example this will have a positive effect on the learning goals of the speaking activity, and an effect on participation in the activity. Such activities should challenge the learners to use the language functions, in order to unable communication outside the classroom. I believe adults can learn a second language almost the same way they learn their first language, therefore speaking and understanding should be the skills acquired with the beginning of the learning process, that way speaking and writing emerge as the acquisition process progresses and the ability to write and read will be achieved naturally and unconsciously.
Building the concept of my own teaching approach I realized I would like to pay a solid attention on grammar. From my own experience as a second language student in German I know that very often grammar-focused teaching gives the learners a feeling of certainty, which is a result of a efficient and systematic learning experience. The teacher who ignores this expectation by encouraging learners simply to experience language is likely to frustrate and alienate them. Let’s not forget that knowledge, and especially use of correct grammar is essential for a communicative act.
Not only grammar but also pronunciation teaching is an essential part of every language course. Not being able to pronounce words hugely hinders communication, especially since it is believed that, learners who are unable to pronounce words are also unable to understand them. Confidence with pronunciation allows learners to interact with native speakers and this is essential for all aspects of their linguistic development. Correct pronunciation can be achieved through many ways, for example giving the learners the opportunity to use their first language in a particular oral activity but pronouncing the target language with an English accent. Another way is to give the learners a task which requires active role playing and presenting a character with an English background.
As stated in the description of the Direct (Berlitz) Method the native language of the learners should not be used in the classroom. I agree on that point, because translation and use of the first language in class can encourage a sense of false equivalence between the two languages (L1 and L2) and it can impede automatic and fluent language use. Second language learners need to develop a capacity for inner speech in the second language. The term inner speech was used by Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky to describe a stage in language acquisition and the process of thought. It defines a form of internalized, self-directed dialogue: talking to oneself in silence. By creating a dynamic interaction between teacher and students in a pleasant atmosphere as well as organizing oral classroom activities we can stimulate the development of fluency and accuracy, which will gradually become inner speech.
Not being able to use the L1 in the class can cause anxiety. Anxiety, an affective factor identified as being critically important to second language acquisition, can be considered as a group of feelings of resistance, insecurity and discomfort, associated with the process of learning English. I believe that students can build self-confidence if teachers work on a more student-centred basis, taking into consideration learners’ previous experiences with the language. Learners should be able to unload their feelings of discomfort about learning second language if they were given the opportunity to talk about their previous experiences. Another strategy I got familiar with while I was doing the Oxbridge course I would call “The step-back technique”. It consists in presenting an old Target Language for the second time in class. Learners are acquired to response questions about a target language that was already taught, learned and positive results are expected. Realizing they have not fallen short of the teacher’s expectations and they have done well with the task, learners overcome their anxiety and are ready to proceed with the new target language.
A key aspect of teacher responsibility is to encourage students’ individual initiative, therefore I highly approve the standpoint formed by the Oxbridge method that one of the most important roles of the teacher is the playmaker. “A good playmaker knows how to organise the class game so that everybody participates and learns under his or her guidance.” - following this standpoint will lead to an efficient learning process, by simply improving the class dynamics and motivating the learners to reach the communicative goal.
I think making mistakes is an important and positive part of learning a language and I agree on the statement that only by experimenting with the language and receiving feedback students can begin to work out how the language works. This is why I would formulate a praising teacher’s attitude in the classroom. A positive attitude to learning is very important indeed and should constantly be encouraged – either through some kind of formal grading or, preferably, by means of indirect and informal encouragement.
I agree that authentic texts or materials are beneficial to the language learning process, but should be introduced at a certain stage. At lower levels (S1, P2), the use of authentic materials may cause students to feel de-motivated and frustrated since they lack many lexical items and structures used in the target language. With intermediate groups I would use authentic materials, because they provide authentic cultural information and exposure to real language, which will benefit the process of language acquisition itself.
When creating a teaching approach it has to be considered that there are differences between teaching complete beginners and more advanced students and there are also different age groups. Teaching absolute beginners requires the teacher to pay special attention to the order in which new language is introduced. The language should be introduced to beginners through a well organized syllabus, which I already explained in the first part, divided in three general levels. That way the teacher will be able to systematically analyse their communicative needs and will be able to present the most versatile vocabulary along with simple structures for the learners at that stage.
Teaching adults differs from teaching children in many ways, but when it comes to second language acquisition age can not be defined as a negative factor. Children for example are not interested in the same topics that adults are interested in. Also the adult learners differ in that they have the ability to consciously learn grammar rules, on the other hand they have higher affective filters that the children. Having in mind the statements mentioned above I will organize topics that will correspond to the learners interests based on their age. Grammar itself shall be taught in the same way for both groups – implicitly, as explicit grammar teaching is not communicatively based.
Before I built the concept of the teaching approach I would like to use, I read a lot of articles in which other teachers share their own experiences. I realized that all this information helped me decide what should I put focus on while teaching. I believe teachers should have opportunities to learn from each other, whenever they want. If teachers get feedback from their colleagues, discover and collect new ideas together and share materials and activities they can improve the teaching process in so many ways . The Oxbridge system allows such collaborative work between teachers and therefore I’m looking forward to becoming part of it.