My teaching approach
It is known that there is not one single best method for every one. So, that’s why my approach to teaching would depend on many factors that any teacher should take into account.
As Pema Chodron, a notable American figure in Tibetan Buddhism, says, “Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know”. That makes me raise the following approach on what I want students to learn.
Each person or student have a different reason for wanting to take an English class; and its reasons have to do with their goals. Then, depending on why they are in the classroom, they will have different motivations, needs and expectations. However, as a teacher, I also need to set the teaching goals and find a way to make teacher’s goals and students’ goals be in consonance.
Of course, students’ characteristics are extremely important, therefore, what I want students to learn will be influenced, specially, by their needs, motivations and goals. I also take into account the age of the learners, the
To achieve this harmony, in first instance, I will focus on how to motivate students, taking as a fundamental base their needs and goals and considering them that are constantly changing.
Each individual student needs to learn English for many different reasons (i.e. necessary for the job, for academic reasons, learning for fun), so, once I am aware of all his/her reasons, as a teacher I will set the topics, vocabulary and structures that students will need in order to satisfy their expectations. Also it is important to know that there are many different learning styles that will be more beneficial to one student than another. Neil Fleming, a important teacher from New Zealand who has been critical observed in more than 9000 lessons, claimed that there are three different learning styles: visual learners has preference for seeing; auditory learners best learn through listening; and kinesthetic learners learn via experience. Every single student may prefer one more than another. Therefore, the teaching method will need to be tailored to suit the individuals’ needs and age. In addition, I would consider the students’ personalities and their affective factors as a learner’s need because it can influence the learning experience in both positive and negative ways. Behaviourism is a learning theory that says that a behaviour or personality can be modified based on environments and consequences of it, creating the right environment and positive reinforcements. This theory helps teachers to control the atmosphere and manage potentially undesirable reactions and personalities in a classroom and help students to focus.
As a result of positive encouragement and motivation, students will be inclined to focus more. So, the learning outcome will be of better quality. As a teacher, I keep students motivated through putting a lot of energy into my teaching practices and giving positive reinforcements. It is also important, to have realistic expectations, nothing demotivates a student more than a lack of progress. When I plan a class, I am aware of what students can achieve by the end of the class. Otherwise, I may risk frustrating students. That does not mean not to challenge them. As a teacher, I give students the chance to see their own progress and success. To make students have fun I feel it important, to engage with them on a personal level, making jokes, listening to them, building rapport without losing respect and relating topics to each individual interests.
Language skills are also important to consider when acquiring a language, and increase their fluency of it. I consider Listening and Speaking are the most important skills to teach and the most beneficial for students (Communicative
Language Teaching Methodology, 1980), being that the oral communication is the most used way of communication. Firstly, a student needs to hear repetitions of new words to be able to repeat it and pronounce it properly. Then, students understand the meaning and they are able to use it in a certain situation or context. Speaking and Listening is primary for any student to ask for information and express ideas and comprehend and understand the information they are receiving. Simple words and clear speaking is needed for beginners, such as similar words to their mother language and short questions and commands. More over, I consider Reading and Writing are also important but not as much. Reading helps to build new vocabulary, which in turn will improve Listening and Speaking skills. Writing is needed to take notes, writing essays or articles, emails, etc. In this case, as a teacher, I will show students models, as examples.
Areas of language are skills that support language skills and help to improve the accuracy in language. To teach Grammar to students I would teach it how to express a concept providing before a list of examples rather than as a set of rules. It is known as inductive teaching. Simple and useful sentences would be used to show beginners how to do to express the concept in question while complex and subordinated sentences would be used to teach structures and its functionality to high-level students. Vocabulary can be taught in different ways. I would teach them new words by family words such as professions, house items, sports, etc. to make students easier to remember and use them. Never giving a big amount of new words, that will not help students to memorize them. It is also good to relate the new vocabulary to previous knowledge or situations that they may have had (Constructivism, Learning Theory). This skill will improve and help all the language skills. Pronunciation has to be checked from the very beginning to gain the clarity of being understood (related to Speaking skill). Spelling errors tend to come from phonology of English being that for Spanish speakers words sounds as they are spelled and they are spelled as they sound.
The syllabus must be clear from the beginning of the course. Under my approach’s view, I would organize the syllabus through the distribution of the following categories: structure/functions, vocabulary and topics. These categories can be practised and taught through oral communication or written communication, depending on the student’s needs and goals.
For example, a normal class for intermediate level and one hour of duration would be the following. The number of activities would be around 4 or 5. I would choose a warm up activity such as quick questions to increase fluency. Then one activity about structures (i.e. first conditional) to learn how to use it, followed by one vocabulary activity (i.e. weather) to learn new words in a context, and finally one listening activity related to a topic (i.e. the weather forecast for the next weekend) to get used to listen to different English accents. These main activities would be interactive ones, where the STT is longer than the TTT. To wrap up the lesson I would review the TL and pronunciation mistakes that have been happening constantly through the lesson through some questions or asking students to give some examples using the specific TL word.
As a teacher, I know that my role can also have a powerful influence on the learner’s development. For that reason, it is important to be well prepared before a class. Taking into account my approach, my role would be such as a guide and playmaker. I would drive the lesson to achieve the learning and teaching goals. As I mentioned before oral communication is priority so, the students would take more speaking time than I, as a teacher. I would also interpret learner’s reactions and responses in order to adapt and, if it is necessary change, the class. It is also of vital importance to organize the class time and control the execution of the activities. As a teacher, I also need to manage the students’ errors. As a rule, I would let students’ correct themselves, creating awareness, except in some cases such as pronunciation mistakes.
Students can adopt a number of roles. In all the cases, as a teacher, I must know how to deal with all of them in order to ensure that they are learning and achieving the goals. I must make sure that all the students participate in the class and keep or even increase the motivation of every one.
I believe that the vehicular language of the classroom must be the language that students are learning. Therefore, the mother tongue must be avoided. If they want to learn a new language they must practise the language in question and avoid mental translations to increase fluency. Furthermore, students tend to use and build sentences in the same way as their mother tongue. As a teacher, it’s necessary to explain when a message is conveyed inaccurately (interlanguage).
The assessment system will depend on the purpose of the course. There are many formal ways to assess the learning of a student such as tests, checklists, etc. Assessment is also needed after every class in order to revise what students have been learnt to ensure their understanding and assess effectiveness of the teaching.
The differences between teaching beginners and advanced students are also important to take into consideration because it is necessary to grade the language in the classroom to make instructions and explanations understandable for the students. The age of the students makes a big difference when choosing materials to work with students, basically, because the preferences and likes are completely different.
In conclusion, I can state that it is not possible to follow one rigid method. It is necessary to fit the method to the learner. This means choosing the techniques and activities appropriate for each particular task, context and learner, with a focus on motivation and helping learners become independent and inspired to learn more and more.