My teaching approach
My personal teaching method
The reasons to embark learning a second language can vary according to a broad number of factors. Some students want to learn English for business, others for traveling, or others simply for leisure. Whatever the reason may be, the common denominator and ultimate goal of learning another language is to make communication possible. The teacher’s role, therefore, is to guide the student through a learning process that and model it according to the students to his needs. In all teaching scenarios, I always use motivation as a tool to assess and make progress in my students learning journey, especially in the lower levels. I talk to the students before beginning the lessons in order to become familiar with their needs and prepare the first class in that direction. In some cases it can be strictly conversational, in others, students will want to learn the grammar and rules behind every sentence. Having said that, in some cases it is possible to anticipate students needs and advise the student on the positive sides of studying all areas of the language. Of course, the teacher should always be aware of affective factors and try and create an environment where students will feel confortable and confidant. The ideal environment can’t always be found in a conventional classroom, therefore, the teacher should be open minded in considering other places to teach (in nature, walking around the city, in bars, going to the fruit market…).
The basic need of every student is to be able to communicate as fluently as possible in the language that they are willing to learn, in this case, English. I personally believe that in-person conversations are the most natural form of communication. Nevertheless, this is not always possible as the student will lack both the basic knowledge and the vocabulary. Therefore, having a fluent conversation or being able to express their daily needs in English should be the ultimate goal that both the teacher and student should aim for.
I like to use a well balanced and teaching method that will activate and engage students, I personally base my teaching on the Triangular Projection Model. This model allows the student to learn the three basic elements that are always present in every communicative act: Topic (we need something to talk about or express) Vocabulary (we need words to express these ideas) and Structure (we need to know how to organize words to construct a sentence). To complete my personal teaching method I have borrowed some aspects of the Task-based language learning (TBLL) that I have found most relevant. The TBLL method focuses on the use of authentic language by asking students to complete meaningful tasks in the target language. I believe that instigating student’s creativity is always a good way of both keeping their motivation high and getting them to express themselves in the target language. Also, I have experienced that in some environments – e.g. in company classes -, creative tasks have a very positive acceptance as it offers something different than what students to in their work hours. Creative tasks can go down to very simple and basic activities that don’t require any extra material (e.g. making up a city route). By using these activities, students are exposed to daily problems and stimulate new parts of their brain. I try to include at least a short creative task in each lesson and a long-term task that is transversal to the duration of the course.
The syllabus of a course is fundamental to keep track of student’s progress and to organize tasks according to their difficulty. Keeping the syllabus in mind is also useful to revisit and recycle older structures or target language and to make sure that students have acquired that knowledge. In my particular method, the long-term task consists on making a short film involving all the students in class. In order to make my method possible and to make the short film a reality, the syllabus should be arranged around a nine-month course and each lesson will consider a different aspect of the making of a short film. For instance, for writing a basic script you need to create a conversation between two characters, in this lesson I would cover the basic interrogative forms. In an intermediate and advanced level, a creative short activity is carried out in every class during approximately 15 minutes. These activities can be very varied (creating a utopian city, writing a short poem, describing your best friend, brainstorming a fictional script…) and will all build up to the final project.
At the end of the course the students would have to prepare – with help from the teacher – a short film in which they will all act out a part in English. This task is carried out during a whole school term and because of the amount of hours that it takes, it is impossible to complete using a rotational teaching system. The main material that I use for teaching is the Oxbridge application. Alongside, I also use videos, articles, paper cut outs and props. I have notice that by using these materials (e.g. viewing a video), target language appears naturally and, in some cases, it is fundamental for understanding the content of the topics.
The relation between the teacher and the student will be familiar, relaxed and friendly but always in a professional manner. As a teacher, I tend to evaluate the students mistakes and correct only the most important ones in order to not interrupt the conversation flow and to keep the students confidence high. Nevertheless, in higher levels, where mistakes happen less often, I tend to elicit correction immediately. Students should feel confortable and guided throughout the entire learning process and I always present myself as an approachable and friendly teacher.
The vehicular language I use in the classroom is always the target language, in this case, English. According to the Audio-Lingual Method, language learning is more effective when taught in the TL directly, without using the native language to explain new vocabulary or grammar. By using the target language, students are exposed to the rhythms and phonemes of the target language and therefore create a connection with it from the first day. Nevertheless, I don’t strictly stick to English as a vehicular language. In some cases (e.g. when I come across with a cognate) I will use the student’s mother tongue (Catalan or Spanish) to guide them towards the understanding of the word. Interlanguage is a very useful aspect to keep in mind and allows the teacher to predict and avoid future errors.
I believe that for a successful understanding of a language, both students and teachers need to take an active role. As a teacher, my aim is to assess and guide the students through their learning process. Teachers should act as a motivator by giving clear instructions, playing games and using humor is always a good option. I also approach my students personally by calling them by their names, this increases their attention and they become more open to what I am transmitting at class. I encourage all students to take an active role in class. With extroverted personalities, this doesn’t become a problem but it can be harder to achieve with introverted students. In that case, it is important to involve them in the activities and seek for a equal distribution of STT. I have noticed that keeping a positive and optimistic attitude and praising and encouraging students is very helpful for increasing students’ self-esteem and building their confidence.
Keeping track of students progress is a vital aspect of the teaching routine. By keeping a daily register the teacher can know what subjects are the hardest for the student and reinforce education in that field. Personally, I like to monitor the students progress by bringing up materials that have been used in the previous lessons and check that they are still able to use the structures and vocabulary in a correct manner.
Logically, the teachers approach varies depending on the students levels and age groups. For lower levels, I like to use fun and dynamic materials and avoid complicated explanations. It is always positive to let students express their thoughts and talk about subjects that they may find interesting, from general to specific topics, even in the lowest levels. In intermediate and advanced levels, I find it very stimulating to introduce new vocabulary that can be used on a daily basis and that will help students’ to express their daily needs.