Martin Pinotti





My teaching approach

ESSAY

There are many different methods and approaches related to teaching English as second language that haven’t answered the ultimate question among teachers: 

What is the best teaching method?

This essay will examine the Oxbridge System and its approach in relation to my own method. I will give a summary of some points of view about its usefulness and finally describe my method with examples and an activity slide.

I always wondered how a method would affect the main issues that a teacher must take into account while conducting a class. I believe those involve the students’ needs, the teacher’s approach and the choice of some or all of the communicative skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing) within one session and the syllabus.

The existence of different methods is subjected to the fact that not all teachers and students think they should cover these four skills with the same priority. As the needs can be different in many cases there will always be a different choice of communicative skills. For example, a student who wants to pass a grammar exam at a public school in Spain would only use a grammar translation method; that might mean a lot of reading, accurate writing and gap filling exercises. Or someone who only wants to learn how to communicate when going on holiday (i.e. ordering a drink and understanding how much it is), wouldn’t need to go farther from the Vaughan Method, consisting of drilling and learning fixed phrases as quickly as possible.

In my view, Oxbridge System is useful to learn English in a natural way, acquiring functions rather than memorizing them, urging students to perform well at speaking and listening without studying at home or making too much effort in mastering the language. It is fairly communicative and transmits enough self-confidence to students to avoid shyness when it comes to speaking (one of the main affective factors that stops students from progressing). Each session is broken down into Topic-Vocab-Structure activities, providing a good tool for the teacher to deliver a decent rhythm and pace, and also to engage students. Also the range of themes tackled at each session makes smoother and entertaining classes.

Teachers don’t speak Spanish in class, I believe it encourages students to make an effort in not using their mother tongue, pushes them to correct their own errors from different functions and not from structure, makes them use less language transfer and be more accurate when it comes to communicating those functions.

Different teachers give classes to the same group of people so the system takes responsibility of its reputation, keeping students from creating a personal bond with the teacher, focusing more attention on the classes and the learning process. Depending on the type of business a certain English school conducts,  rotating teachers could be an advantage (i.e.: students taking advantage of different accents or teachers going back to their countries in the middle of the course creating no bonding from the start). For a freelance teacher a close relationship with the student is much more needed.

The way the activities are conceived boosts the students’ talking time: input on questions, eliciting, games, discussions, debates, comments on pictures using target language, etc.

All these are Oxbridge System’s pros. Listening and speaking are the objective here.

What about the needs of the students? Are they all covered? What about the syllabus? Are the contents the right ones? Are the teachers aware of these contents throughout the course year? Are the topic-theme-vocab activities related to each other in any way? Is the so-called “essential Target Language” well graded for each session?

Not always.

Students’ needs have to adapt to the system instead otherwise. Many of them don’t know how much importance writing has in order to acquire a broader vocabulary and structure knowledge.

It is very important (always from my point of view, of course) that the teacher know his/her students so they can be properly assessed, and changing the teachers at all times doesn’t seem to be a good idea to follow a whole course assessment. For a decent assessment it is necessary to mentor their trajectory as closely as possible throughout the whole year along with a well structured annual syllabus. That syllabus must be lied out by the teacher.

All that will enhance a much complete progress assessment, crucial to fulfil all areas within students’ needs. Alternatively, a way to stimulate students’ ears towards different accents could be, changing the teacher only in one session per month or making use of technology: audio and video.

As I only taught a few lessons at Oxbridge I cannot assure whether is true or not but, it seems to me that all the course content doesn’t have much relation when it comes to dividing the activities into Topic-Vocab-Structure. One day I saw someone teaching the future simple to a P2 and two days later the same group was learning the present simple.

 Syllabus and contents should be well embedded and structured throughout the year with a progressive intensity, and the teacher must know it previous to the start of the course. That can facilitate anticipation towards the students’ progress and could be great source of alternatives. Therefore, when having a session in which the teacher has to explain a structure such as the present perfect, it could be easier for him/her to anticipate or pre-teach the present perfect continuous for the following week so the students are ready to tackle a new challenge by the following class. This also works well for the target language, sometimes it is not well graded (I have seen P4 students that supposedly had to learn the word “catch”).

At Oxbridge the themes or topics of the activities held in one session are not related to each other. In that way students can pay more attention and don’t get bored or distracted. That would help retain and acquire the target language much effectively for each segment of the activities and definitely strengthen students’ learning strategies.

What is my method about?

I strongly believe that students’ needs must be embraced by all communicative skills. In my view all communicative competences must be acquired at the same time and at each session. A good proportionality in the activities can meet all students’ needs and learning goals at the same time.

In order to achieve that, all classes must follow the same topic throughout the entire session.

Each skill will be approached within a time no longer than a quarter of the whole class.

All communicative strategies will be met with audiovisual resources such as video, audio, text reading and text reproduction. Video and audio pieces cannot last more than a minute and a half each. That would work for one hour class. For an hour and a half the teacher will add one more competences of his/her choice.

Wrap ups won’t last more than five minutes because all segments will be discussed at the end by answering questions asked by the teacher.

One activity equals to one communicative skill; therefore there will be a listening activity, a writing activity, a speaking activity and a reading activity.

There won’t be homework because in a whole class each competence will covered by an activity: writing, listening, reading and speaking. Each session will hold the target language related to the annual syllabus.

Each session will work around a “Task”; i.e.: “Weather and Climate Change”. All skills will be approached around that topic. (See attachment 1)

All tasks can be used at different levels as long as they are accordingly graded.

The syllabus will follow the guidance of the European Common Frame and should be laid out yearly.

The teacher talking time will be enough to direct the class in the right direction with questions, explanations and the use of the audiovisual resources.

Concluding, my method is not better than any other method. It can only help improve Oxbridge System.

Sometimes students tend to limit their needs to a smaller number of skills. This method encourages them to achieve much more and it tackles all receptive and productive skills at the same time with the same intensity and rigour.

I believe that the more skills you can acquire simultaneously, the better you can master a language towards bilingualism.

At the end of the day, people expects more than learning how to order a pint at a pub…

 

 

January

DIDACTIC UNIT 1

B2

Time: 1hr 30min session

General

Objectives

-Talk about extreme Weather

-Talk about climate change

Task

- Talk about the weather in extreme conditions and have conversations about the future of our planet

Pragmatic competence

Linguistic competence

Communicative Activities:

-Listening: An Australian weather forecast (video) + Testimony of an English environmental activist (audio).

-Reading: extracts of blogs about extreme weather conditions and the places where those happen.

-Speaking: What can you do to ease the climate change impact within 20 years?

Grammar, discourse, vocabulary, phonetics and spelling:

-Weather vocabulary

-Future perfect and future continuous

-Vowel sound

Contents

Sociolinguistic competence

Material:

Written>  Adapted Magazine Articles

Oral>  Listening : TV forecast + Testimonies

Spoken> Set questions

-Learn how to describe extreme weather conditions and differentiate them from catastrophes .

-Learn about the climate change and its solutions.

Functions:

Strategic competence

-Use of correct weather descriptions .

-Enumerate hypothesis about the future.

- Express  opinions.

Communication Strategies:

-Listening for better understanding.

Learning Strategies:

-Reading skills, use of future perfect through speaking, writing skills.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Activi



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