OXBRIDGE TEFL CERTIFICATION
TEACHING LITERACY (BIRTH-GRADE 6) NEW YORK STATE CERTIFICATION
Elementary/Intermediate Reading teacher/Substitute Teacher - The New York City Department of Education; Pearl River, NY; Nanuet, NY; and East Ramapo, NY Public School Districts (2003-2015)
Independent Reading, Writing, History, & Science tutor - all ages (1999-present)
Elementary School Teacher's Aide/Teacher/Tutor (all subjects, primarily Literacy) - Wilmington, North Carolina Public Schools (2008)
Reading Instructor (all ages) - Institute of Reading Development, New York/New Jersey Metro Area (2003-2005)
High School English Teacher - St. Raymond's High School for Boys, Bronx, NY (2004-2005)
Elementary/Intermediate After School Instructor/Tutor in Reading, Science, Creative Writing, History - Nanuet Public Schools, Bronx NY (2000-2004)
Camp Counselor, grades K-4 - Ramapo Country Day Camp (Ramapo, New York), Clarkstown Parks/Recreation (Clarkstown, New York) - 1995-2000
Freelance Educational Materials Editor - 2009-2013
Master of Science - Education (Teaching Literacy, Birth-Grade 6) - Mercy College, Bronx, NY. Academic Achievements: Graduated With Distinction.
Bachelor of Arts - English Literature (Creative Writing Minor) - Fordham University, Bronx, NY. Academic Achievements: Fordham University Dean's List.
Accepted into the Masters of Fine Arts in Poetry program at The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, Boulder, CO.
My teaching approach
TEACHING METHODOLOGIES ESSAY (By Sean Grennan)
The task of teaching English to second language learners takes into account a number of considerations. Primarily, a teacher or language center/school must understand the needs of students, teacher roles/obligations towards said students, and overall approaches and methodologies needed to adequately instruct. In the following essay, these factors will be addressed with the aim of delineating a personal approach. Due to the fact that my pre-TEFL background involves language acquisition at the elementary school level, I have chosen to focus on this target age, however certain principles introduced can be applied to a wide range of ages and L2 levels.
My primary objective in teaching English as a second language would be for younger elementary school-aged students (from kindergarten-third grade) to listen, understand, and speak in the target language (English.) The student’s role would partially be that of an imitator, but more so that of a communicator. Under this framework, teachers are conversationalists and facilitators towards this end, modeling and monitoring correct speech in the target language. A student’s usage of interlanguage (a learner’s pre-acquisition output) would be tolerated as a necessary step towards fluency, however caution should be taken that certain habits are not fossilized, thus hindering any further progress towards fluency.
My teaching philosophy incorporates a number of approaches centered on certain (but not all) aspects of the Direct Method of second language instruction, in that the teacher should conduct instruction in the target language as opposed to the students’ mother tongue. Furthermore, instruction should gravitate towards developing oral skills by employing certain key characteristics of the Direct Method, such as
- Teaching vocabulary and concepts with pantomiming and realia (real life objects and other materials.)
- Teaching grammar inductively, meaning that learners will internalize rules as a result of exposure, as opposed to rules being taught before student utilization of language.
- Keeping the spoken language central in the classroom setting.
In order to achieve the above objectives, daily instruction would follow the Triangular Projection Model, which places a given topic of instruction at the apex of an imaginary triangle, followed by the introduction and employment of a second language’s vocabulary and structure. The pedagogical implications of this model are as follows: a lesson would begin with the introduction of a topic, (the top angle of the triangle) and vocabulary and grammatical/syntactical structures will naturally follow, precipitated by the employment of certain inductive approaches. Topics will be expressed by utilizing vocabulary, but the way in which they are expressed inevitably involves structure. My approach would thus include the exposure of beginning level students to basic vocabulary and structures that are needed for elementary communication. This would be achieved by a series of engaging activities (to be explained below).
The role of the teacher, according to my approach, would serve as both playmaker and facilitator. The instructor thus directs activities within lessons so that students are able to internalize language concepts, while scaffolding certain group activities within the students’ Zone of Proximal Development, an area in which a student is challenged to perform slightly above their existing ability with the aid of an instructor. According to educational ideas introduced by Lev Vygotsky, teaching towards a learner’s zone of proximal development ensures that a learner can develop new skills within a certain range. This can positively influence certain affective factors that influence language acquisition, such as a student’s motivation, and, more importantly, a student’s opportunity to succeed. Ideally, the instructor must be sensitive to each student’s needs and motivations, catering instruction towards each learner’s ZPD. In an exemplary situation, teacher's assistants (trained by the lead teachers) that facilitate post-lesson interactive play or discussion between groups/pairs of students would be particularly beneficial towards this end, encouraging students to speak in the target language through modeling and scaffolded conversation.
This brings us to the design of the ideal learning situation, aimed at teaching a second language. The classroom, thus, must have centers (or activity-themed areas) geared towards verbal interaction. Examples of these activity-themed areas could be a building block station; a kitchen area; listening stations where sentences are presented in the target language; artistically themed areas where children can paint, draw, and sculpt; etc. These areas or portions of a class/syllabus serve to create an environment in which students employ the target language by role playing and conversing with peers and teachers about the content they create, while being challenged (just above their ability) to converse about their activities. This learning setting is reminiscent of The Cognitive Theory of Learning in the sense that students are participating in significant tasks while the teacher provides target language in order to introduce new vocabulary and to challenge students to utilize said vocabulary/structure.
Since the goal of introducing vocabulary and structure is an implicit one, students will firstly retain these features in short term memory, then, secondly, convert parts of what they learn via review and reinforcement, and thirdly, exhibit usage of this newly solidified knowledge in order to insure speech comprehension and creation. This sequence echoes a dominant model in cognitive approaches known as the Computational Model.
In my view, the methodology employed by the ideal setting for language learning is also constructivist in its theoretical approach because it emphasizes skills and interests that the students already have using a wide array of cognitive tools. Examples of these tools could include (but are not confined to) carefully curated, developmentally appropriate storybooks and poetry books (from which key vocabulary and grammatical structures can be isolated and introduced by an instructor with the administration of scripted lessons).
This brings us, naturally, to a focused approach in which these items can be utilized. In the case of younger children, my methodology would involve the Total Physical Response approach (originally developed by James Asher), whereby a series of vocabulary words are introduced via dramatization and storytelling facilitated by the instructor. This approach would serve to foster an active learning process as students construct meaning with the scaffolding help of the teacher in a "social information environment". Generally, the beginning of a class session would involve the review of previous vocabulary involving pantomime or dramatization, followed by an introduction of a small number of new vocabulary words, taken from a piece of authentic text such as a read-aloud of a folktale, poem, or a song. Following this introductory phase would be a teacher-led demonstration of a series of sentences/phrases from the aforementioned authentic literature that employ these words, while students imitate. The succession continues with the teacher again speaking the phrases while not acting them out, challenging students to pantomime on their own. This is followed by the instructor’s changing (or jumbling) of the sentence/phrase order with the aim of transferring the phrases from short-term memory to secondary or long term memory, as students respond to verbal prompts by engaging in the dramatization of the corresponding phrases/sentences. Afterwards, in order for the teacher to assess and learners to further internalize concepts, students will listen to recordings of the same jumbled-up sentences and will be challenged to label them on a worksheet.
After the beginning activities are conducted, (if time permits) creative center time can occur, with the aim of student-to-student and student-to-teacher interaction facilitated by the lead teacher and assistants. In an ideal situation (budget-permitting, of course), Formative assessment will be conducted daily during each learning center-oriented session by both the lead instructor and assistants (usually two per-class), who will take note of the activities taking place, paying attention to individual student progress or lack thereof. The information taken from these running records serves to evaluate the effectiveness of the syllabus with the aim of formulating individualized intervention plans that take into account what must be done to improve the syllabus content to address the needs of individuals. This, among other factors, necessitates an optimal class size of about six-ten students per teacher. It is my firm belief that the instruction, activities and resultant conversational approach will address multiple learning modalities, thus increasing student motivation and success.
To conclude, teaching English as a second language involves a wide variety of considerations. One must take into account the learner’s needs and motivations, and devise an integrative approach that addresses a wide range of learning modalities and conditions. My methodology caters to visual, auditory and kinesthetic intelligences, while stressing an active role of the student in his/her learning process. The aforementioned methods/approaches can be applied to older learners and more intermediate students in the sense that the Total Physical Response approach can be replaced by a conversational class format that begins with introduction of a topic (obtained from a narrative, newspaper clipping, etc.), followed by the exposure and practice of structure and vocabulary. The activity center-based portion of my framework will be modified to suit the age and ability of my students, whereby structured dialogue between students and teachers is encouraged, tailoring instruction towards each student’s zone of proximal development.
Barcelona, Madrid, Granada, Seville, Bulgaria, U.S., Italy, France, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Thailand, Japan, Turkey, etc.