My teaching approach
How would I run my own english language school?
To begin with, we must consider the four aspects of language: Reading; Writing; Speaking; Listening. Of these aspects, reading, writing and listening can be self-taught to a degree, and thouguh the help and guidance of a teacher would improve these somewhat, the development of language production is immeasurably improved by contact with a teacher. Therefore, my approach to teaching English would put the focus of each class on speaking, particularly fluency, and the focus of work outside of the class on the other facets of language.
This would require as a preference the student’s interest and willingness to speak in front of the class, as that is what language is for, however the student, though encouraged to do so, would not have to speak should he/she not want to. The class structure and learning philosophy would fit any student’s motivation. In cases where students wish to learn a particular skill, such as writing letters =P or ordering in a restaurant, the course can cater for it as long as it is in keeping with the level.
A practical rather than technical approach to language is key for students to improve their fluency, and my approach would demand that students do the majority of the speaking in the class and would consequently demand that the teacher keep his TTT to a minimum. The teacher’s role would be that of facilitator and resource in class. The teacher never strays from speaking English, yet does use his knowledge of other languages, if he has it, to aid teaching by way of the intelligent use of cognates. The syllabus would include activities which would encourage students to look between the languages and find patterns in the roots of words (such as the suffices ‘-mente’ and ‘-ly’; ‘-dad’ and ‘-ty’; etc.) in order to foster and analytic approach to languages. A reasonable knowledge of a romance language such as Spanish would therefore be a preferable quality of the teacher, but not a requirement, as there is still plenty of value in a teacher who speaks only English. The teacher must, however, be cognizant with a variety of teaching methodologies and approaches.
My approach would have the teacher act as a resource insofar as students may turn to him or her for a definition of a concept or piece of unknown vocabulary, again only ever in English. If the teacher uses Spanish in class, it may lead to the class relying on the teacher’s knowledge of Spanish and thereby hinder the learning process. The teacher should, in fact, not do much of the talking at all, and act only as facilitator to the class. With the exception of S1-level classes (which I will discuss later), the exercises and activities done in class should be formulated in such a way that the students are as much a part of the learning process as the teacher. For instance, in an activity on reported speech, the teacher would ordinarily read out a sentence, then ask the students to put it into reported speech. Instead of this approach, which is a valid one, I would suggest that the teacher, after having engaged the students and had them study how to put a sentence into reported speech, read out the first sentence, and ask the student to his left read it in reported speech. Then, the student would read out the next sentence and ask the student to his left to put it into reported speech, and so on. In this way, the role of the student changes, and would lead to more engagement and understanding of the activity and the concept it teaches, while the role of the teach is simply to control the execution of the activity. I would encourage as much peer-to-peer learning as possible, and eventually have small portions of the classes led by students who had previously prepared material. Studies suggest that people retain, 90% of that which they teach others. While this is unverified from an educational psychology standpoint, it is a good selling point of the method to those who would be either participating in or thinking about enrolling in this English school.
My approach would suggest that the teacher correct mistakes only when they 1) are the key vocab or grammar that is being taught in that very class, 2) are repeated basic errors or 3) have been covered in a previous class. However, a reasonable number of noteworthy mistakes should be written down. If the class is 3 students or less, the teacher can write each student’s mistakes on their respective ‘mistakes sheet’. If the class size is above 3, after class the teacher would put the mistakes on a flashcard website such as Quizlet for the students to learn for the next class. The teacher would then tailor some starter questions using these mistakes. Other homework activities would be a goal-oriented (such as: what are the three main topics of the news report; name all of the times the teacher says should, could or would and define their function; write down any words you can’t understand/don’t know; etc.) video or audio file to be discussed in the next class, or a written exercise, possibly textbook-based, to grasp an appreciation of written English. However, the principal focus of the syllabus would be on speaking. So, the analytic side of the learning process would take place outside of the classroom, while within the classroom the focus would be on interaction and experience.
Both the S1 and P syllabi would comprise 4 12-15 minute slots per class. I believe it is important to keep the class as varied and dynamic as possible in order to keep the student motivated by the very structure of the class, rather than rely on the the personality of the teacher to engage the class, which cannot always be guaranteed. Therefore, each of the 5 activities would rely upon various approaches and methodologies, often elected not so much for their effectiveness but rather for their provision of a different approach to boost student engagement. This would demand the teacher’s prior training in various approaches and methodologies. Overall, students are encouraged to talk among themselves as discussion is key to the school’s philosophy since its principal belief is that experiential learning is the most engaging, and therefore the most effective. I believe that the approach of having 5 varying sections of the class would apply equally (maybe particularly) well to children.
The S1 syllabus would principally be comprised of modelling in order to grasp the rudiments of English. Again, the students would not use the teacher as the sole other member of a roleplay, as can often be the case; rather, when possible, they would follow a template with the teacher and then mimic it between themselves. However, student autonomy would obviously be limited as beginners are the level that relies the most upon the teacher. Considering modelling can be monotonous as is it fundamentally the mere acquisition of information, I would suggest using the direct method or even the Callan method, as it can be fun and energetic, and often leads to smiles. Another model of a class for learning vocab, pronounciation etc, would be to have a stack of cards which the teacher throws down one by one on the table. Students then have to say the answer, the first to do so getting the card as a prize. Learning in this sense would truly become a consequence of a game, which the students are focussed on entirely. In addition, there would be an emphasis on relatable objects and concepts using realia as well as other visual stimuli, all the while the material being adapted appropriately to the class and the language lightly graded to aid understanding of structure.
The P syllabus would be more dynamic and varied, as permitted by the level of the class. It would begin always with a question of meaning to the students (the happiest moment of your week? the most embarrassing moment of your week?). I would aim for a task-based exercise to make up at least one of the activities. The rest of the activities would be situation-based and function-based, and content-based (often per students suggestions). Whatever the activity, an attempt would be made to put it in line with the interests of the student, be it through personal topics, authentic material or current affairs. As stated before, the vocab learnt between classes would arise from discussion, as in that way the vocab is discovered empirically through practice. Smartly tailored task-based exercises would be commonplace in order to encourage the students’ autonomous language production, as well as the vocab being discovered through practice.
The overall aim of the language classes is to encourage students to speak, as there is no improvement without trial and error. The techniques and approaches are not only to aid learning but to keep the classes exciting and interesting; classes that students will want to participate in. The approach makes use of the teacher as a speaking resource rather than a spellchecker or lecturer, which I believe is the most effective role an English speaker can have on a language learner within an hour-long class.
Lesson Plan for a P4 Class
Objective - To get students used to talking for the lesson ahead
Description: A general question to the room: The happiest moment of your week
Time: 5 minutes
Issue: 07 - Expressing likes, dislikes, preferences and options.
Sub-issue: 05 - Preferences and suggestions with "would" and "rather, better, sooner, prefer, etc.": I''d rather, You''d better, I''d sooner, She''d prefer, etc.
Type of Activity - Structure
Objective - SS use with "would" and "rather, better, sooner, prefer, etc.": I''d rather, You''d better, I''d sooner, She''d prefer, etc. appropriately in context.
Description - Teacher reads a few sentences expressing meaning of phrases in question. SS are given three mini-exercises: A choice between 2 different things (music acts; things to do on a sunday; foods) where they must use the structures given to them; haggling for a price on an item; ordering a pizza to share by choosing individual toppings, expressing their likes and dislikes using the phrases
Time - 12m-15m
Issue: 11 - The world of work.
Sub-issue: 05 - Recruitment, selection, skills and qualifications.
Type of Activity - Topic
Objective - SS use structures and vocab asking and answering questions about their qualifications and experience
Description: T asks S first of a set of questions (what was your most difficult situation at work; what is your proudest acheivement; etc.). S answers, asks next question in the list to student adjacent to him/her
Time - 12m-15m
Issue: 12 - Expressing past actions.
Sub-issue: 09 - Present perfect vs simple past and the time expressions: ''ago, for and since, still, yet, never, ever, just, already’’
Type of Activity - Structure
Objective - SS use phrases expressing past events, using past simple and present perfect appropriately
Description - T asks SS about various events in the past to encourage debate (who was a better president/football manager/etc., the current or former // where is the nicest part of Spain?). T then asks questions that have footholds in both tenses (What have you achieved in your life that you are proud of? When did you do it and why?
Time - 12m-15m
Type of Activity - Structure
Issue: 05 - Expressing actions in the present (routines, customs and habits and temporary actions) Sub-issue: 04 - Adverbs of frequency: always, never, usually, sometimes, often, etc. Adverbials of time: once a week, twice a month, etc…
Objective - SS use adverbs of frequency appropriately
Description - T begins by have SS read sentences with all words to be studied. Then the students must fill in the gaps. Students must then compile a story of a routine of a man, one sentence at a time, using the adverbs of frequency, which they will have been told to write down. First sentence: James went to work everyday, and he was usually never late.