Krista Zotos

My teaching approach

Teaching Methodology- Oxbridge

Krista Zotos

I always knew I have wanted to be a teacher, however it was not until recently that I began to formulate what kind of teacher I want to be. Through my studies of elementary education I learned of different methodologies and the numerous ways  you can teach and create a classroom environment.

This year was my first year working independently as a teacher. It was here, in my first classroom, where I left the background I was certified in and decided to teach English as a second language. Throughout this year my classroom philosophy and the way I teach has changed dramatically. I am no longer teaching students in their first language, instead I am teaching children who are learning English and Spanish simultaneously.

I decided to enroll in the Oxbridge course because I wanted to become a more effective second language teacher. From undergraduate studies in elementary teaching, and assistant teaching, I knew how to handle classroom management . aAnd I knew how to make content fun and engaging, but vI struggled with adapting the required curriculum to fit the level of my students. With the help of Oxbridge, I have been able to carve out the type of teacher I want to be and learn to alter my curriculum to fit the needs of a second language learner.

As a second language learner myself, I decided that I most likely would have the same goals and desires as my students, and use that as a basis to create my methodology. Our natural desire for learning a second language is to be able to communicate with someone. Whether it is a co-worker, family member or person on the street, a barrier such as language can make the most extroverted person become an introvert and cause much anxiety when making conversation.

Every mind is different, and everyone learns and utilizes their brain in numerous ways. Luckily, in the world we live in today we are very accepting of different learners and have created many ways to teach. My goal as a teacher would be to createing an environment where communication is the focus while integrating grammar along the way.

My methodology is a deep contrast to the Grammar Translation method. Though I can understand the use of translating words to help students better understand, students need to realize that they will not always have translation available and need to learn to use context clues and other elements to formulate an understanding. The method also focuses mainly on text, which for most second language learners is not the goal. Text and writing is an important skill to learn but by developing the ability to communicate first, textual understanding will come more easily.

From my own experience, I have found lessons that focus on grammatical structures leave learners confused and frustrated. The Direct Method or Berlitz method focuses on teaching grammar indirectly with the focus on the class being communicative. Their strong vocabulary based methodology is something  I too share. In order to communicate effectively you need to have a strong vocabulary background.. You may understand the person speaking to you but if you are unable to produce the necessary vocabulary, the conversation is over.

By using objects and demonstrative behavior the need for translation is forgotten. Students can quickly identify an object and match it with the new vocabulary word instead of using their mother tongue for support. The goal is to allow students to fully immerse in English and to prevent any interference their mother tongue may have on their acquisition  of the language.

I find as a learner and a teacher that I am able to create more of an engaging environment when I utilize objects and actions as mentioned in the Direct method. However, the method that mostly concentrates on actions is the Total Physical Response. No matter the age of the learner, whether it is a 60-year old or a 13-year-old, using all your senses to learn has proven to be more effective in understanding.

Learning and moving can go hand in hand. As an elementary teacher, I use brain breaks frequently throughout my day. By giving the brain a break from strenuous learning it allows the brain to recharge to prepare for new content. Unfortunately, in an hour class I don’t have the flexibility as I do in a full day class. Though the learners are older and have a longer attention span, the brain still needs moments to refuel and recharge. This is why I am supporter of the Total Physical Response method and have incorporated the majority of it in my own personal methodology. By moving for half of the class whether in skits, games, modeling, situations, the brain is still reaching the same goal that the brain breaks allow.

Adapting physical activity for the classroom creates a change from the repetition method that many second language learners are use to. My methodology focuses on helping students feel comfortable in the classroom and avoiding the monotony of the same activities and class procedures. With communication as the main objective, students need to feel relaxed and safe in the classroom environment. If students feel uncomfortable they will not want to speak or participate. This is why many people enjoy a repetition-based class because they are able to repeat instead of form their own sentences. The use of repetition can be clearly seen in the Audio Lingual method. This structure focuses on grammar but also on set responses to questions. I have noticed the effect of this methodology on some of my younger students. No matter who I ask the question to, all of my 45 students will respond, “I’m fine, thank you. And you?” to the question “How are you?” It is like clockwork. It was not until I took the course that I learned of this methodology and I made the connection. It is now a ‘learned’ answer and they say it without hesitation. Though I do not agree with the use of repetition in the classroom, the Audio-Lingual method does promote positive reinforcement and uses behavior to overcome barriers presented by a learner’s native language.

This positive reinforcement can also be seen in the Suggestopedia method. Again I believe a learner learns best when they feel safe and comfortable in their learning environment. Both of these methodologies promote positivity and making a student conformable. Whether the student is L1 or L4 they still need to feel at ease, no matter how advanced their knowledge is. My methodology fits well with Suggestopedia, because I feel we set up barriers that prevent us from learning and instead focus on the negative when learning. I see frustration every day in students in pronunciation or when they are unable to think of a word. Frustration may seem unavoidable but in an environment where the students know that it is ok to be confused or pronounce something wrong, they are more willing to try again.

On the topic of pronunciation and correcting errors, I believe while a student is talking silence is best. By letting the student formulate their sentences and think of the correct vocabulary, correcting should take a step back. When the student has finished, give the positive comments first and then follow with their biggest mistake. If they made more than one error, only focus on one otherwise the students will feel overwhelmed and create a negative response, when they should be proud of their work. When focusing on communicative skills, work on correcting pronunciation because it is something that students have to practice. Whether English is their second language or third, any language they have studied before will affect the way they pronounce the word.

As I mentioned, staying silent is key when students are talking. Leave them time to think after you ask a question. They usually just need time to understand the question and then create their response. If it is clear they are struggling prompting them is ok but not by giving an explanation. Provide an example and see if they are able to follow with their own. The Silent Method mentions that teachers should allow students to self correct and develop inner criteria with the teacher only observing. It is very important for students to learn to self –correct, however, this can prove frustrating at first when most learners like to know what they did wrong. For an L1 learner, they do not have the background to self-correct. They cannot listen for “what sounds right” because they do not have the necessary criteria to do so.

With my methodology outlined, it is easy to understand how my class will flow and what the main objectives will be. When creating a syllabus it is important to remember what you as a teacher want to bring to each class. The syllabus depends on the level of the learner, ranging from beginning to advance. It is necessary to outline the goals of the class and the objectives you will  focus on. In your syllabus you can give students your expectations for them as a student and what you hope they will learn during the course. Students will observe through my syllabus how the class will focus on situational learning and follow a communicative style. They will also see an outline of a typical class, and how it focuses on Jeremy Harmer’s lesson structure of Engage, Study, and Activate. I love this three-step lesson because it concentrates on how students learn new information best. The Engage part of the lesson can be achieved by asking students Quick Questions followed by a short video or song to get students interacting. By beginning with questions every day, students know that when they enter it is time for English. It gives their brain a few minutes to transition and prepare for learning. Quick Questions should also focus on content or skills learned previously, because each class will build off one another.

After the Engage section students will begin the Study portion. At this time you will use examples to show what students just observed in the introduction. This is where I would use modeling or objects to have students understand the content and how it is used. After the Study, students will have a good grasp of the function, and it is time to activate their knowledge. During the Activate portion students will participate in simulations, acting, debates or some form of communicative activity based on their level. After, each lesson the class will be wrapped up which will serve as a quick assessment of the students learning. By asking each student some form of concluding questions and using your observations from the activate section you can easily see which students are understanding the objective and which are still struggling. Students should not be aware of assessments. It is our job as a teacher, to be able to assess skills with out the learner’s knowledge, so that nerves do not get in the way of the assessment

Teaching can be a difficult task because a teacher is required to fulfill so many roles. They must be a coach, a guide, a resource, a psychologist, a friend and more. Because a teacher needs to fill many roles, I believe collaboration is key. Using other teachers as a resource or even someone to play student while you prepare is essential. There are teachers everywhere and no teacher should ever feel alone. We no longer need to reinvent the wheel. Sharing lessons, ideas, and classroom management advice makes your job easier and allow your focus to stay on the students and their needs.

I have realized that my goals as a teacher whether as an elementary teacher or teaching English as a second language remain consistent. I have to adapt the classroom to fit the needs of the learner but my objective is the same: for students to learn in a safe and engaging environment , filled with collaboration and lessons that adapt to each child’s learning type. There is no greater feeling than having the “magic moment” when something you said finally clicks and the student has a look of joy on their face. There is no greater gift and that is what teachers should remember most when they are creating their classroom, because in the end, knowledge is the goal.


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