My teaching approach
When you get immersed into the world of teaching languages you might get quite overwhelmed by the wide scope of possibilities on how to carry on this profession successfully. The traditional ways of teaching have been left behind long ago, and new modern methods and approaches are taking over. I personally think most of these new ways of teaching can be successful, but you just need to find your own place in this endeavor. As long as you are convinced with what you are doing and you really love it, there is no reason to think that your approach will fail. So the first thing to consider is that a positive attitude is a must in a teacher.
Now is time to think about your students. When I think of language lessons I think of school, the traditional and unsuccessful ways I was taught English, and that I only managed to succeed because I was really willing to learn it. Motivation is then, one of the key aspects when teaching a language.
Another important factor for a teacher to consider is how the students are going to retain all the information you are giving them. Learning a language is not an easy task, it requires a lot of effort by both the student and the teacher. To learn is not memorizing rules and structures, and then filling blanks on paper sheets or doing exams. To learn is beyond that. Is getting familiarized with the language and its culture, is to feel it, use it, to think in the TL. One of the educational theories on how people learn that I rely the most is Constructivism. It states that people learn by building on their prior knowledge of the world. It emphasizes the skills, beliefs, concepts and experiences of the learners and uses them to create new knowledge. Translated to language learning, students must take control of their own learning and the lessons must only be scaffolding that will help them build their own interpretation of the L2. So students need an active participation in class, they need to discover the rules their own way and produce TL as much as they can in order to actually learn a language.
Despite the fact that each student will probably have different reasons to learn a language, one thing is for sure, he or she will be using it in the real life and most of the language communication will be carried out orally. So students need to get engaged with what they are learning, and be convinced that what they are doing is actually useful. We must plan our lessons to bear a relation with real life, bringing activities and tasks that might represent real life situations. However, we must consider that those situations must be of the students interest, so knowing your student's environment is also very important. Get to know your students, ask them questions, investigate, and bring to class material that is of a certain concern for your SS. That will keep them engaged to the classes and ease their learning process.
Not only your student's reasons and goals must be considered when teaching a language, but also the affective factors. Motivation is one of them and as I mentioned before is one of the keys of learning a language. Another important affective factor is the environment. The teacher must contribute to create a good and familiar atmosphere in class so the SS feel comfortable to participate and produce language. The teacher also needs to be aware of SS's personality and manage each of the students according to that. For example, by controlling the participation of the more extroverted SS and sparing embarrassing situations to the introverted ones.
In real life most of our communication acts are performed orally; we can read, we can write but that is a small percentage compared to the other two macro skills which are speaking and listening. So in language learning I think is basic to consider that, and focus our lessons in those two macro skills.
When it comes to the micro-skills, pronunciation must be also a strong point to consider. English is a language in which pronunciation is quite particular, having not a clear set of rules and usually depending on arbitrariness. So an emphasis on pronunciation from the very beginning is crucial (through correction and pronunciation activities) to not having issues in the future.
Of course, vocabulary is also essential when it comes to language learning, but it must be introduced step by step, only the words they are going to need for that lesson and not more in order to not overwhelm the SS and cause them to forget the words they have learned.
Another micro-skill and one of the most important we must consider is grammar. Grammar should not be explicitly introduced to class but rather "concealed" into the lesson's activities and tasks. Instead of explaining the rules of a structure we want to present in class, we must introduce the structure through context and examples so the learners first contact with that structure is its function. Once they learn when that structure is used, the students must notice and deduce how to use it without any explicit explanation. This is the so-called inductive teaching and is a good way to retain new concepts and actually learn how to use them.
Now, taking a broader perspective, the course should be structured according to the learner's capacities. The lessons should go step by step, not too fast because SS might get frustrated and not too slow so the students do not get the feeling that they are not learning enough. I have a great sense of flexibility in what refers to the course structure, and each situation will demand different ways to organize the course. However, in a general perspective, the types of syllabus that I think fit better to my way of teaching are the structure-based syllabus and the situation-based. The first one allows the course to advance progressively by presenting structures from the simpler to the more complex as the course goes on. And the situation-based syllabus, which focuses on real situations where language occurs, provides a sense of certainty contributing thus to the motivation of the SS. It also allows to present vocabulary only focused on a specific subject so we are not providing the SS with off-topic information.
Going deeper into the structure of our course, the classes should also have a sense of progression. To begin the class it is always a good idea to use "warm-ups" (short off-topic games or activities to break the ice and get students attention). Is not always necessary to use them in every class but from time to time they will really contribute to a good atmosphere in the group. The first and one of the most important parts of the class is the contextualization. By this term I refer to an exchange of questions and answers that will take the students to the day's topic. Then it should follow some activities that will introduce structures and vocabulary related to the topic which will be needed to carry out the last part, the task. In the task SS will need to achieve a certain goal in groups by using the TL. To end the class it is always important a bit of reflection in what has been done in that day. So the last 5 minutes should be spent revising what the SS have learnt that day (a small "wrap-up") and commenting the mistakes they have made during the task.
In these lessons SS must be very active and it will be prioritized the interaction between them. The teacher will only act as a guide by providing context and instructions to the class, and correcting some of the SS mistakes. So the protagonists of the class will be the learners and they will be the ones producing most of the language. When correcting mistakes, the teacher will try not to give a direct correction but rather force students to self-correct by questioning what they are saying.
During the class only L2 should be allowed. Only in certain situations where the use of L1 might spare some minutes of explanations it will be permitted. If the teacher makes a great use of the L1, SS might get used to it in class and they will not make the effort to comprehend certain concepts. Also certain forms in the L2 are better not to translate because certain concepts of one language might not correspond to the other.
When it comes to the assessment, it should be carried out implicitly. By that I mean the teacher must pay attention to SS's performance in class and based on his own judgment decide how the SS are progressing. I would try to avoid any type of exam or test because I think they are quite artificial and might not always represent the student's proficiency in the L2.
To conclude, as a general idea, a teacher must find his own way of teaching but always considering the points mentioned in the previous lines. Make classes participative because producing is how people learn a language. Focus on the skills that SS will be really using in real life. And of course enjoy teaching and make SS enjoy the process of learning a language.