My teaching approach
The Teaching Methodology of Layla A. Reaves
I believe that teaching is one of the most rewarding jobs a person can have. It also takes a lot of work and an experienced, prepared teacher who knows which methods work best to help the student acquire the L2 language. Personally, I believe that being a teacher who is adaptable, molding to fit the motivations, needs, and expectations of individual classes; dynamic, using her positive attitude to keep students interested and channeling that energy to create unforgettable classroom experiences; and most importantly, well-prepared—because even the most talented, engaging teacher will fail as a teacher and perform badly without a secure plan, will allow me to reach my full potential as a teacher and thus, provide the best learning environment for my students. I think it’s important to foremost be a guide for your students, leading the way and providing clues so that they gain knowledge inductively and can construct their knowledge based upon what they already know. Allow to me present the specific ideologies and methods I will employ as an ESL teacher.
How people learn
Of course as a teacher you have to consider the ways in which people learn. There are several psychological theories, but I lean most towards constructivism with a dash of behaviorism and cognitivism. I agree with behavorism’s practice of repetitive actions, praise for correct classroom outcomes, and immediate correction of mistakes. I practice a lot of these in the classroom and I think they do aid in learning, but I don’t agree that people learn by trial and error solely.
In that same vein, I do believe cognitivism’s assertion that practice is key. But again, it’s not everything when it comes to learning. We don’t just learn by observing others and processing the language mentally. I agree that we construct knowledge based on what we already know, like constructivism states, which is why I will do a lot of scaffolding in the classroom. Scaffolding will aid in creating links to that prior knowledge.
If the teacher can create strong links to students’ prior knowledge, students will be more likely to remember what they learn and not go home and forget it. If we want that short term memory to convert to long term, I think it’s better to connect with what students already know. For example, for an activity a student could be told to use root words they already know to guess at the meaning of words that use that word as a base i.e. using “create” to guess what “creative” means.
Factors such as motivation, opportunity, environment, and personality also greatly affect how people learn. I will attack this by using my energy to inspire motivation if it’s not already there. I’ll try to make things as interesting as possible. I will assign various out-of-the-classroom activities such as watching programs in the target language in order to expand their opportunities for exposure. My classes have a strict, no L1 use policy in order to optimize their learning environment and get them to speak in L2 as much as possible. Lastly, I try to encourage reserved, shy students more with praise and know to be more patient with them.
Learners’ needs, motivations, and goals
I believe that each class should have a personal touch, meaning that the teacher should cater to the respective needs, motivations, goals of her students because they differ from class to class. For example, a group of restaurant workers will need to focus on food and customer service related vocabulary and structure as opposed to a group who wants to learn English for fun or a group of high school students who need to pass an English proficiency exam by the end of the course. I think this personal tailoring is more beneficial to students as opposed to a cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all approach to teaching, because students will be more likely to get their needs and goals met and thus, stay motivated to complete the course.
Specifically, I need to do things in order to motivate students: be positive, praise them, have realistic expectations, have fun, engaging classes, and build rapport. It’s important that I understand that students’ needs, motivations, and goals are all intertwined and I need to incorporate them into students’ learning outcomes.
Prioritization of language skills
In reference to the four macro skills, I will prioritize listening and speaking over reading and writing. I think it’s more important for the student to be able to hold a conversation because most people contextualize whether you know a language based on your ability to speak it. If you can write and read in it well, but can’t speak well, most people will still think you don’t know the language well. It’s also what I believe is natural since the spoken word predates the written word. When we learned our first language, we had to listen first, then speak. We learned how to read and write well after we could speak our mother tongue.
When it comes to the micro skills of grammar, vocabulary, and spelling, spelling will take a backseat in the classroom for me. Grammar and vocab will be taught simultaneously.
There’s also the balance between accuracy and fluency. I believe that fluency is more important for the simple fact that you can still express yourself and be understood when you make a lot of mistakes, but I also acknowledge that too many mistakes hinder meaning. Personally, I’m more inclined to correct advanced students more since they already have a good degree of fluency. Beginners should focus mainly on achieving fluency.
In general, I prefer function-based syllabi above all, but since I am an adaptable teacher, my syllabus style may vary depending on the class. For instance, if I were teaching a group of scientist, I’d definitely create a content-based syllabus based on aspects of their scientific field. However, function-based syllabi allows students to learn to express themselves since it focuses on teaching functions. I believe this approach is best because self-expression is one of the main, if not main reasons why we use language. I want students to be able to be themselves in both their L1 and L2 languages, and they need to know how to express themselves in order to do this.
A situation-based syllabus comes in as my second favorite because it teaches via authentic situations, which is very practical and useful.
The well-prepared teacher
I’m a firm believer in the saying, “A failure to plan is a plan to fail.” This couldn’t be more true for a teacher. Students won’t even be able to learn effectively if their teacher doesn’t prepare thoroughly before class due to disorganization, nervousness, and not knowing the material well. This is why “well-preparedness” is one of the top 3 traits I believe I must demonstrate in order to be a good teacher. Being well-prepared means taking care of these factors: giving equal attention to students, reviewing and practicing lesson plans many times before class, adapting to learners’ needs and goals, being flexible, and effective classroom and time management.
Inductive grammar teaching
I greatly favor the inductive grammar teaching approach as opposed to rule-driven, deductive teaching. Quite frankly, deductive teaching is boring, which could lesson students’ motivation. More importantly, I just don’t think it’s an effective way of teaching a language. As a learner myself, I was taught the deductive way in Spanish for four years in high school. Could I speak Spanish after all of those years? No. It wasn’t until I took classes in college where the teacher spoke solely in Spanish and required us to speak solely in Spanish also that some things began to stick.
Inductive grammar teaching provides more communicative learning. Students learn to think and speak in the L2 language naturally as opposed to translating from their mother tongue. Inductive grammar teaching better simulates how you would learn a language if you moved to a country where that language is spoken. You speak and learn the rules as you go. However, I know that it’s not possible to teach completely the inductive way and students will probably benefit if the grammar rule is given explicitly sometimes, especially for more advanced levels.
L2 practice and classroom material
I’ll allow students to practice L2 a variety of ways: transformation drills, reading comprehension questions, memorization, role-plays, and open dialogues. I lean more towards more open practice that allows their input as opposed to rigid activities that they only memorize; it’s more interactive and memorable this way. The variety keeps things dynamic in the classroom.
Furthermore, I will incorporate as much realia into the classroom as possible. Again, it’s more memorable when they have to sort through a bunch of actual clothes when learning their names as opposed to staring at a textbook. It’s also more practical and simulates what they’ll actually encounter in the real world.
In conclusion, my teaching method takes an adaptable, dynamic, and well-prepared approach to teaching, borrowing from several already established teaching methodologies that are outlined above. I will almost exclusively use the direct method style of teaching a foreign language as from experience I believe it is the most effective and models the real world. I acknowledge that graded language and modeling is key with this teaching style. I look forward to being an adaptable, dynamic, and well-prepared ESL teacher in order to provide the best learning experience for my students.