My teaching approach
My approach to language teaching will be based on the communicative method. This terminology does not refer to an actual restrictive methodology, but instead several approaches are used in the lessons depending on the age and level of the students but always focusing specially on developing communication skills, that means favoring speaking at the expense of other macro skills. This does not mean that listening, writing and reading will not be addressed in the classes. It means the better the speaking skills advance, the faster and the easier these other skills will be acquired as well.
Some students will come to class motivated only by extrinsic factors, such as passing an exam or prompted by their bosses. Others will have a real desire to learn English. Whether the students are in the class somehow unwillingly or they have a real interest in learning English, all of them should feel they are making a substantial and steady progress and understand that the time and effort put into the lessons will not only help them with their shot-term goals but also, having this new language competence will be a great asset during their whole lives.
Unlike lessons where the learning process is just a passive activity, my students will be active language learners, engaging intellectually, physically and socially in activities that allow them to learn and experience language in a comfortable, natural and interesting way, trying to mimic as much as possible real-life situations to which they can easily relate.
In order to engage students and make them active participants of their learning process, it is important to create a comfortable learning environment and recreate situations that they can easily extrapolate to their daily activities. This way, students can quickly see how the language lessons will provide them with a life-long ability to communicate in meaningful situations and not only with a batch of grammar and vocabulary soon to be forgot.
A combination of methodologies can be very beneficial to the students. I will take advantage of specific mechanisms from each method to improve the learning and teaching process and maximize its success. Some interesting methodologies I will use for our classes are, for instance, the methodology that can be really useful when teaching kids who usually have very little attention spam but could also help to relieve tension of Business English students who are used to a more rigid working environment. The methodology is useful to set up model language structures when we are dealing with very beginner students or when the time for instruction is very limited. We will use principles when it comes to learning materials used in the classroom and the creation of a positive social and learning environment, minimizing the affective filters and reducing the stress affecting the learning process. The main focus would be in the approach where language is learned through real communication, meaningful tasks, and real-life interactions.
If the lesson needs to be based primarily on communication, the classroom has to be a safe space where we can foster positive relationships among students and with the teacher as well. No bullying or peer undermining would be tolerated. Emotions and personality influence they way a person learns enormously, these variables and the student's needs will be taken into account just as individual student goals that will give provide content for the lessons. Unless the activity requires immediate correction, specially speaking activities, only positive feedback will be provided at the moment and, after the activity or the lesson is finished, I will go over the most important mistakes and pay specific attention to repeated errors that might become fossilized. All the instruction and the communication among students will be in English. Interlanguage will not be penalized because we will be trying to improve the fluency of the students not the accuracy, at least at the beginner and intermediate levels.
The classroom will not be a threatening space where the teacher is the authority, ideally, the teacher will be a playmaker, a figure that guides and organizes the contents, the time, and the students to make the most out of the learning experience. Students are expected to have participative and very active role. The little ones and the very beginners will start having an imitation role that will progress until they become communicators and self-managers. Self-management will mean in my classroom that the homework will be optional but beneficial. It will only consist in recommended articles, movies, songs, or videos that will give them an extra (fun) practice of the knowledge obtained and a boost of curiosity for future lessons.
As I will be focusing on communication skills, maybe printed material will not play a principal part in our lessons but still, I will provide some brief grammar sheets, as some students might benefit from having this reference material. Multimedia material on the other hand will be often used to present or practice new language structures or vocabulary as well as a warm up or introduction for a topic or situation. Videos, movies, and songs are interesting, easily available and a good way to engage students, specially the younger ones. Multimedia material online is useful not only to exposes students to real language, but also to introduce different accents and create a cultural understanding of the language.
The classroom will be set up in a way that promotes conversation and interaction among the students. I will try to provide interesting materials useful for language teaching. As I previously said, digital materials are important because they are easily available and also because it keep us current (it's easier to read the daily newspaper online than to find a newsstand that carries the Australian newspaper I need, for example) but it is also important to have real material (realia) that the students, regardless of their age, can touch and feel and play with. A computer, a projector, and speakers will be useful tools to illustrate or clarify some concepts and to share media with the students. When it comes to online lessons, ICT are obviously even more very important and I will provide plenty of material and resources so the learning experience is under no way diminished by the distance. When possible, activities outside the classroom will be planned, such as picnics, museum visits, movie nights, potlucks...
Planning a variety of activities helps all the students no matter what their learning styles are and I will try to address all their needs. The classrooms should have at the most ten students so they can be easily organized in pairs or smaller groups for some dynamics and individual time will not excessively slow down the whole class.
The curriculum design will follow the reference of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages as a broad guideline. I will use a syllabus based in both task and function content, as I will be trying to recreate a learning environment as similar to real life as possible. For my most advanced students I will also follow a content-based syllabus that we will be able to focus on their specific interests.
A typical routine in one of our 50-minute classes could be:
- Short group or pairs routines based on previous lessons as a refreshment (10 min)
- Brief introductions of new concepts. Q/A. Model structures. (10 min)
- Group activities based on the new concepts (20 min)
- Feedback, show and tell, questions (10 min)
Formative assessments will be conducted at the beginning of the year to gather information about or students and place them in the appropriate class according to their level. We will repeat this assessment at the end of the year to measure the progress.
The goal of many of our students might be one of the Cambridge exams. There could be specific classes to prepare them and mock tests will be performed to assess their proficiency. Other students will try to acquire competence in a specific area such as medicine or cooking; then, the syllabus will be tailor to address their needs.
Their new language competence will help the students to adapt to the demands of this increasingly globalized society. For young learners, lessons will mean leisure time that will eventually provide them with useful lifelong skills. Young adults will benefit academically and will be empowered by their improved language expertise, just as our adult learners will. For Business English students, success in their learning process could mean better jobs or new international opportunities.
I think the flaws I could have as a teacher for being a non-native speaker, for example in terms of pronunciation, can be easily overcome with a good use of ICT's but as a non-native speaker (and a adult learner of other languages) I know the difficulties that students will face and I will try to provide them with the best tools and to encourage and guide them in their learning.