My teaching approach
Nowadays there is a great number of approaches and methodologies on how to teach a second language, which will be mentioned and analysed in my approach in order to take the best out of them. This is to say that my approach will attempt to gather information from some of the most well known second language’s methodologies. To do this, it is imperative to briefly go through each of them and critically analyse them by extracting advantages and disadvantages. It is also fair to mention that my approach would be seeking to improve the student’s learning experience by making it more enjoyable and more effective.
It is also relevant to indicate that during this paper, the terms ‘this approach’, ‘this methodology’, ‘the approach’, ‘the methodology’ and ‘my approach’ will be used interchangeably always referring to the approach that I am coming up with and therefore when using another approaches I will attempt to provide their name in order to avoid confusions. This approach is also designed for general English students, therefore ESP would need an adjustment in the management of language areas and skills if needed.
There are also some other factors that are considered to be essential when building a second language teaching approach. Firstly, it will also be pondered that second language acquisition’s past studies will be taken into consideration to increase awareness on teachers and students on the matter, hence aiming to boost effectiveness on the learning process of the students. Moreover, aspects such as students’ affective factors, needs, and goals will be discussed to understand their impact on the acquisition process and to define course objectives. Furthermore, language skills and language areas will be reviewed to consistently develop the methodology showing the ones that are to be more emphasised and then briefly stating the reasons behind that.
Motivation as factor
There are nearly 7 billion people in the world and despite the similarities that characterise us, there are countless differences in terms of cultural values and beliefs among the population, which I believe are factors determining our needs and motivations. On the other hand, motivations can also be classified as extrinsic and intrinsic, the former one relates to behaviours that are driven by external factors such as physical rewards, and the latter refers to those behaviours that are originated internally or from inside of us, for instance when we like or enjoy doing something and as a result we engage on the activity just for fun.
Based on the mentioned principle, it would be said that being able to screen and assess students’, needs and motivations should play a crucial role when deciding how to approach and engage in a teaching practice to achieve the proposed goals. Moreover, it is important to establish the student capabilities and current level to again decide what would be best obtain learning goals in a shorter period of time.
Overall, the factors to be considered to develop the approach and methodology are what the students’ needs and motivations are and what their skills and level are. This is to say that I am unconvinced a single approach and method would fit to every single learner and therefore the teaching approach should be flexible and adaptable to the different circumstances of every student.
One procedure within the approach exposed in this paper is to early identify what are the students likes, hobbies and topics of interest so in this way part of the material for the lessons can be tailored to each student interests and this should potentially raise a form of intrinsic motivation on the student to actively participate and engage with the lessons. When having a class of many students, asking them to explain to the other fellows about the topic of interest for example, might be a good procedure as a part of the method. This procedure would be supported by the acquisition-learning hypothesis Stephen Krashen has suggested, where meaningful interaction through natural communication would be achieved.
The Grammar-Translation Method (GTM) is based on the principle of word-to-word translation, which I consider an approach valuable for translators, however it doesn’t encourage students to think in the target language, which in turn is one of the focuses of my approach. For this reason, little can be extracted from the GTM approach.
On the other hand, the Direct Method (DM) uses an inductive approach, which it is considered as very useful in my approach as the idea is to develop real-life activities encouraging just the use of the target language. These activities are proposed to be carried out at least once every four-to-six lessons, nevertheless when the activities are not achievable due to cost or time, they will need to be acted out during the lessons, where body language and real objects are encouraged to be used. This attempts to create a more real environment in the target language and input, which are ideas supported by the already mentioned Krashen, where he highlights the importance that comprehensive input has on a second language acquisition. Likewise, the Comprehension Method emphasises on the idea of building recognition of meaning by responding to actions, so the activities previously proposed in my approach are also engaging activities based on the Comprehension Method or Total Physical Response Method.
It is important to recall that my approach does not focus on grammar or at least at the very early stages, as I believe the students need to acquire basic vocabulary on the target language to then move on to the basis of grammar to effectively use it with the vocabulary already acquired. I also believe that it is more encouraging for students to find interest in grammar after having obtained the basic vocabulary; therefore they will be more motivated to learn grammar rules after. The idea of teaching grammar through functions is even more appealing to me (in my approach) as I consider this to be an inductive way of teaching grammar.
I would argue that my approach is mostly based on the Communicative Approach (CTL) and although I do not attempt to encourage reading or writing on the classroom as I consider these are activities that the students can carry out on their own, I believe the lesson should be purely based on interaction. Another procedure to be taken from the CTL approach is to encourage on the feedback and correction from the teacher, nonetheless with some modifications; the teachers should take notes of the students mistakes in terms of pronunciation and grammar, and discuss with the students at the end of each activity, giving the whole class the opportunity to interact, participate and self-reflect on the errors to avoid them in the future. This idea is supported by the behaviourist psychological approach that Skinner exposed. It is also argued that repetitive corrections during the student speech can lead to discouragement and lack of confidence to undertake the use of the target language. This is then the first role that the teacher should embark on.
It is also understood that the teacher needs to act as a mediator and guide when developing activities, therefore it is vital the previous preparation from the educator. The teacher also needs to act as a psychologist, understanding that every student is different and that he or she as a leader of the class has to enrich the students’ feelings of success. This is to emphasise on the positive effects that building confidence has on the students. The teacher must be a great listener and asker to always encourage students to speak and interact and also should encourage the use of the target language as the student becomes an imitator.
Hence, the use of the first language (L1) on my approach is not encouraged. Although some methods permit the use of it when student have little knowledge of the language, I emphasise on the importance that thinking in the target language from the beginning is a key factor on the acquisition of the second language.
The assessments in my method are to be made through placement tests and conversation to check fluency and pronunciation thus the students’ level would be identified before starting lessons and during the course. As mentioned earlier, the method is to be tailored to the student’s level.
Similarly to Oxbridge, I am aiming to set up five levels; Level one would be focused on vocabulary (50%) aiming to give the student confidence and motivation to speak what has been previously modelled by the teacher. Grammar and pronunciation would account for the other 50% in this level. From level two to five when the student has some vocabulary the focus would be shifted and grammar and pronunciation would take more importance and always focusing on listening but more on the interaction from the students. The second level would also attempt to encourage students to read and write as out of class tasks, which it would greatly benefit the student’s grammar and vocabulary. The forth and fifth level would seek to wrap up all the micro skills but would focus on enhancing output language skills (speaking and writing).
All in all the method emphasises on the interaction from the student, thus, speaking the is the skill the method focuses the most but always taking into account that the production of it needs an active input such as listening. The syllabus would be designed through real life situation and functions, which guarantee that although the focus is not grammar, the student would get familiarised with it inductively. The real situations would be constantly reviewed and enriched from student to student depending on the students’ interests and hobbies as mentioned at the beginning of the paper. Textbooks would not be used but rather material with images would be granted to students to help them associate concepts and written material in the same way Oxbridge does and structures the different activities.
In conclusion the teachers would play an important role on understanding the students’ needs, interests and abilities, therefore it is essential the educators constantly prepare with cutting edge concepts and also by being very creative when developing an appealing material for the classes. Furthermore the teachers would have to create a more spontaneous to make feel the student in a more natural environment. Last but not least I strongly believe that the future of English teaching will be focused on more real environments out of the class room and for this reason my approach looks to provide that when setting up activities in a real atmosphere.