My teaching approach
What is it to teach? According to Google, to teach is “to show or explain to (someone) how to do something.” I intend show how I would go about teaching in a classroom of learners, in particular learners who are learning English. Whether they are beginner or advanced, I wish to be able “to show and explain to (them) how to” speak the language of English. Teaching a language can be challenging due to many different factors but if I can help strengthen the skills of a learner in any way then I have done my job.
There are many things I want the students in my class to learn however the greatest of these would be learning to speak the English language. I do want them to learn how to read and write as well. However, in efforts for the students to learn the most practical of three, speaking would be the most important to me. If they are beginners, I want them to at least be able to have a basic knowledge of how to interact with anyone they meet in their daily life. If they have prior knowledge, I would like to continue to fine tune their speaking skills. The best way to do this is practice. Once students have learned the basics, I believe practice and hard work on both their part and my part (as a teacher) are the only ways to improve their language skills to fluency or high accuracy.
The best way to find out the way to approach a class of learners is to find out the needs and motivations are of the students. Once I found out a little bit more about this information, I would be able to teach the class appropriately. Both needs and motivations can go hand and hand when it comes to learning a language. Motivations are what keep students going to achieve their goals, while doing that their needs are very apparent and specific as to what they need to do as well to achieve those goals. At the beginning of each new class, I would assess the class. I would ask them why they are learning English and what they are hoping to get out of the class. And from there I would try to accommodate to the best of my ability the needs of each student. Due to the fact that needs and motivations can change through a period of time, I would try to keep in close touch with the needs of the students. If I notice a change, I would approach either the student or the class and reassess.
Other factors I would keep in mind would be any affective factors that may come up within a class. This can affect the goals, but specifically the needs that a student may have. Their goals may remain the same, however if they are affected emotionally by having to speak up in class or giving a presentation for example, they may have more trouble reaching their goals due to embarrassment or anxiety. For students with a greater effect of these behaviors, such as being shy, introverted, anxiety or trauma from a previous class, it may be more difficult to be successful in learning a new language. These factors may cause them to put up barriers that hold them back from fully grasping the language. It may also cause them to not speak up in class which is the only way they are going to learn to speak. Further, another factor I want to bear in mind is that of learning of style. There are many different learning styles that can contribute to a student’s successful or unsuccessful time in a class. With the main three being visual, auditory and kinesthetic, I will try to incorporate activities that have to do with all three through our time together in a class.
There are many language skills and language areas that can be used throughout a course. I believe the language skill that would best fit one of my classes would be the oral method of communication. This focuses on listening and speaking, although said to be the most difficult to learn, I believe immersion into these two will teach their brains faster to comprehend what is being taught. If there is prior knowledge from another class, I also believe this method is a great way to challenge that prior knowledge and elicit words and grammar that they may not know they remember. The language areas that will be best for one of my classes would be grammar, vocab and pronunciation. These all have a direct effect on the way that we form our language and think about what we are saying in a new language.
Structure in a class is very important for both the teacher and the learner to remain successful throughout the course. This helps everyone keep on track with where the class is going. In efforts to maintain success in my class, I would follow a situation based syllabus. Due to the fact that my main focus is communication, this will help my students learn different vocabulary for different situations that are relevant and real. This type of syllabus would include activities like role play, repetition drills and interaction from student to student. The reason why I would choose these particular activities is because it gets the students talking. Yes, they can repeat what they have maybe memorized, however they still have to think about what their classmates are saying or what I am saying to them and find an answer to respond with. These would also ensure that the students are using the target language, English. If they are in front of the class or role playing with the teacher, it is much harder to use their mother tongue because they are talking in front of others.
Another piece to the success of a class is knowing how to correct any errors that students may make through the course. This can be a sensitive subject for some students, especially if they have had very critical or strict teachers in the past. There are many different ways and times to correct an error however it can become nagging if a teacher is always correcting a student. To me the best method seems to be to correct students on the grammar that has to do with the activity at hand. If it is a grand grammatical error, a reminder may seem fit, however correcting the grammar at hand may be the best. Also, remaining positive and encouraging is a great way to approach students when correct them. Further adding to what can lead to a successful class is knowing the difference between their roles and the teacher’s roles. I believe the teacher’s roles change based on what is going on in a class. The roles of a teacher may include a guide, facilitator, conversationalist, playmaker or agony aunt. The teacher has to be able to be a piece of any of the roles when necessary. The key is flexibility. Also, another key role for a teacher is being prepared, even if the activities change due to the class that day, it is better to be prepared than come to class and wing it.
As mentioned before, I would focus on the target language, English, in my class. I would not allow the mother tongue unless it was an absolute last resort. I believe interlanguage can cause confusion in the students mind. It can also lead to the translation of the target language into the mother tongue which is not an effective way to learn a language. I believe full immersion in a new language causes your brain to differentiate between the mother tongue and the target language.
There are many different ways to assess the learning outcomes of a student. I believe the best way is through tests, and in my classes, oral tests would probably be the best way to test the progress of a learner. I would set up a dialogue between students and also ask the students questions individually at a time set aside for their oral exam. If the main focus of the class is speaking, I want to hear what they have to say for their tests. I believe this type of assessment would let me know if they have grasped the concepts given in class. Also, whether or not the material I presented was too difficult or too easy for them.
Another important factor to deciding on the structure of a class is whether you are teaching beginners or advanced learners. For beginners, the class would have to be very simplified. You would have to use graded language and use easy association, maybe by using pictures, colors and gestures. Graded language would ensure that they are still grasping the language but also still able to comprehend what is being said. Advanced learners would need material such as real life situations with the real pace of speech. It would be important to offer activities that are both challenging and enticing so they do not become bored. Age would also need to be considered due to the activities and pace presented in class. When teaching children, I can use gestures and children’s games. With adult learners, using grammar and taking part in games that are more functional would be a better idea. Adults already know how to speak a language therefore they would need a more structured learning process for a new languages. It would be helpful to also teach them every day grammar and word usage.
In conclusion, my classes would be based on learning to speak English. I believe that full immersion in the target language is the best way for people to learn a new language. I hope that this essay showed you a little more of how I would structure a class for language learners.