June 2014 - December 2014
UIMP Language Assistant
Oxbridge TEFL course
Before moving to Barcelona, I was a Nanny for two families in London, working with children from the age of 2 to 9, so I have a lot of experience working with children. I also was a Sunday School teacher in my local church for children aged 0 to 8.
GCSEs:English Literature, English Language, Spanish, Art, Textiles, Music, Religious Education
iGCSEs:Maths, Biology, Physics
AS Levels:Geography, English, Religious Education, Biology
A Levels:Geography, English, Religious Education
My teaching approach
There are many elements to creating a teaching method and many avenues which have to be explored. An evaluation of the most common currently used systems is a good way to understand the importance and infact unimportance of parts of different methods and achieve a greater understanding to develop a good method for teaching a second language.
I think that vocabulary holds more importance than grammar, and that pronunciation is also an important part of speaking a correct and natural Second Language. I feel that if the student learns the grammar specific to the sentences they are learning to construct, with the vocabulary they have learnt first, then the student can elicit and apply their own ideas of grammar to the second language they're learning. This is similar to the Direct Method, that states that vocabulary is more important than grammar, and the grammar is taught within using the second language to communicate. The Oxbridge system also uses this same view in respect to grammar and vocabulary. However, the Audio-Lingual Method, despite being similar to the Direct and Oxbridge methods in terms of learning a second language in an oral based fashion, is very different in terms of its views on grammar and vocabulary. The Audio-Lingual Method believes that learning grammar is more important that vocabulary. The two opinions are at exact opposites. In the Audio-Lingual system they feel that the vocabulary will follow the learning of the grammar structures when It comes to creating full sentences and using the second language to communicate. I personally agree with the ideas of the Oxbridge system and the Direct Method in this respect. I think that if the grammar is learnt first the students can make grammatical links to their first language and use it incorrectly in their second language. By focusing on vocabulary over grammar, interlanguage (which is where students use their first language structures and apply them to learning the second language) can be avoided.
The Grammar Translation Method is a structure-based approach to learning a second language. In this method the idea of communication and speaking is not important. This seems very strange to me as what would be the students reasons for learning a language if not to communicate. Purely learning grammar rules really has no use if you have no plans to use them through communication. And can the grammar patterns even make sense if the student doesn't know the meaning of the words they are using within the grammar patterns? I don't believe a student who learnt from this method would ever be able to claim to speak the second language, as their knowledge of the second language is merely in structures. The Content-Based, Task based and Participatory Approaches are situation based systems. I think these methods can be useful and of course can allow the students to speak well, but only to a degree. If the student has no specific reason for learning a second language except for interest or general communication, can they learn the second language using this method? And if a student has specific interests or needs, does it limit them to specific situations? For example, someone who had learnt English specific to business, travels to an English speaking country and needs to use the bank. How would they know how to communicate in this situation if they only spoke English specific to business? The Audio-Lingual Method, the Direct Method, the Communicative Approach and the Oxbridge system are all dialogue-based styles of teaching a second language. A dialogue-based approach promotes a more natural learning of the second language as the existence of almost every language is to communicate and dialogue.
It is very important that the teacher knows their role in regards to the student and there are many different roles the teacher will have to undertake. The teacher will need to be a psychologist and read students reactions accurately. They will need to be able to guide the class dynamics and guide the students in speaking the second language effectively. The teacher needs to be a coach and hold the extra knowledge the students need, and also needs to organise the activities and class time. It's important for the teacher to be able to quickly assess and address doubts that the students may have related to the English language and to be able to listen and be understanding when the students have a problem. It Is imperative to be good at starting conversations with all types of people and to keep these conversations flowing but the most important role the teacher has, is being the playmaker. The teacher, as the playmaker, needs to be aware of not taking over the class and keeping the appropriate amount of Teacher Talk Time, and needs to know the best way of organising the class so that everyone participates and learns. The role of the student is also an important part of the learning process and is largely assigned to the student by the teacher. I think the the most effective role for the student is to be a communicator because essentially this is the most important part of speaking a second language, but before this role I feel the student needs to be an effective imitator to understand the basics of the language. Both the role of the teacher and the student are largely determined by the attitude of the teacher in the classroom. I believe for the most effective outcome for the students learning process, is for the teacher to have an energetic and positive attitude. The current existing methods that most agree with my ideas in this area are the Oxbridge and Direct Methods.
I think it's really important to use materials specific to the students needs, learning styles and class dynamics. I feel that realia and imagery and games can be used to create a fun and uplifted class dynamic in all types of classes. Pictures and visual realia can assist visual learners, while kinaesthetic learners can benefit greatly from realia and games where they are actively involved, and auditory learners can also find that games are a great way of learning the second language. However, I believe that all types of learners can benefit from a balanced combination of these teaching techniques. I don't believe traditional methods of reading from text books and simply filling In blanks and working through the book is a useful method of learning a language. As a child, when learning our first language, we never use a textbook or workbook. We play games, sing songs, draw pictures and play with objects, so surely this method can be transfered to learning a second language?
There are many reasons as to why people want to learn English these days and as teachers we have to be able to adapt and deal with all of these, as the different reasons can effect the learning process of the students. English has become the chosen language for business and science across the globe so recently there has become a higher demand for English to be taught to employees of companies and medical services. This can sometimes be tricky as the students may have no interest in the language and no interest in learning it as their boss has been the one to arrange the lessons. In these circumstances the teacher would need to gauge the students interests and learning styles to try and interest them. On the other hand the student may value their job and see the importance of learning English, so they are very keen to learn and make the most of every lesson and some see it as an opportunity to have free lessons as the company pays for it. Some children and teenagers may also be disinterested as their parents have made the decision that it is useful and enrolled them in classes. Again with these cases you would need to make an extra effort to interest the student and also with children and teenagers to make it visual and fun, using a lot of games so that they almost forget they are learning. Although some children may be very ambitious and know that the career path they want to go down requires a certain level of English. Due to globalisation people are migrating all over the world, and some people may have family and friends who are now living in English speaking countries and they want to be able to communicate with them. These students are going to be very keen to learn and improve quickly.
Some people think that certain learning techniques can only be applied to certain ages and certain levels of language learners. I personally disagree. I worked for six months as a language assistant at a Berlitz school so the Direct method was used. The levels of the students varied from beginners to very advanced, near native speakers and they were between the ages of 18 to 30. Every student enjoyed and felt they benefitted from the Direct Method, where no Spanish was to be used in the classroom and everything was learnt through games and conversation. Also I have observed classes whilst being an Oxbridge TEFL student, where the teacher has used the same techniques used for teaching 10 year olds, to teach adults taking lessons with the company they work for, and the adults loved the methods of games and interesting conversation topics as opposed to writing out pages and pages of grammar rules.
I think it's vital to understand the importance of different teachers growing and developing their own tone of teaching within the boundaries of the method in which they are teaching. Collaboration of work and preparation between teachers is also key to a great teaching method, as all the teachers are on the same page and there is no confusion for them and the students will be able change teachers seamlessly and not lose out on anything, and if anything gain from the individualites of each teacher.
I personally would design a method which is communication based and uses a wide variety of realia, games, pictures and music to teach English. I would also focus heavily on vocabulary and pronunciation over grammar. I think this system would suit people of any age and any level. I think the teacher would do best to focus on assuming the role of a communicator and a playmaker and the student would also play a communicative role. I believe that in this new day and age the world is becoming very technological and almost everything is done using a computer of some sort and almost everyone has access to advanced technology, and that we should try and use this, as teachers, to our advantage. Technological interaction may be the new way of combining visual, kinaesthetic and auditory learning styles into one.