My teaching approach
The goal of learning a second language is a common one among many individuals, as language teachers there is a strong desire to have the maximum amount of impact and language retention in the students in order for them to effectively use and communicate in their second (or third) language. To facilitate this learning there are many factors that teachers would need to consider, their approach to language teaching as well as assessing individual learning styles and motivation can lead to a great amount of different teaching methodologies. While second language acquisition methodology has been a pursuit of many scholars creating a number of different avenues for teachers to model lessons upon, the actual results and effectiveness of these methodologies has been up for debate. However, the communicative approach has been widely viewed as incredibly successful, and it can be more so when combining it with total physical response instruction. Combining these two methods has the opportunity to facilitate a greater amount of language learning among both children and adults and will maximize their language attainment rate.
Communicative Language Teaching, also known as the Communicative Approach, rose into second language teaching methodologies in the 1970’s and 1980’s. There was a great push in both European and North American countries to learn a second language not only for functionality and for work, but for travel and pleasure. Many of the methodologies before this time was based in grammar translation and achieving mastery over the structures of the language. Bur Dell Hymes, the creator of The Communicative Competence Approach changed the way what it meant to have mastery over a language, while the structural elements of a language were still a great importance, the link to knowing how to use those structures in reality to communicate had a more practical approach, similar to how an individual learned their first language.
The Communicative Approach is effective in the sense that it takes an elements of progressivism and relies on the fact that active learning is more beneficial to the student than passive learning . When a student is engaged, rather than lectured at, language input and retention has a higher chance of succeeding. While the Communicative Approach can be extraordinarily effective for communication in speaking, it also has benefits in the other language skills as well. Because the Communicative Approach, focuses on taking language learning and putting it into practical situations for the students to recall upon later, so the student will feel comfortable with listening as well as reading and writing eventually. This method has emerged as a way of not only giving the students the ability to communicate but empowering them to feel comfortable and confident to do so which is incredibly important when learning and using a second language.
While there is not a huge reliance on lecturing grammar structures in the Communicative approach, there is an important note to make that students learning only through the communicative approach are more often and more likely to make mistakes with grammar structures as their language attainment evolves, while this is a natural part of the process, it can become discouraging for some learners, correction from the instructor becomes a vital part of the approach, however, correction should be appropriate and graded to the students level and abilities.
Another approach that focuses on language attainment similar to native languages is the Total Physical Response (TPR) method. TPR as a method was developed by James Asher, and is based on the relationship between language and physical movement, and while the target language is the one being spoken by the instructor, the responses from the students are all physical, meaning that it can be an incredibly valuable way of learning vocabulary, and certain grammar structures. While it mimics the way that individuals learn their first language, by having a great amount of input and little output, it still can rely on active learning because the student will need to respond, they may not have to create or speak in the second language, but there is action that is relied on in order for the student to show comprehension.
The TPR method alone can have its limitations, because the student is not encourage to speak for a while, and to have a greater amount of language output quicker could be the goal, it can be very effective with younger children as TPR is a way in which they naturally interact with the world. For adults TPR can be used in conjunction with other teaching methods but has a great amount of success when trying to teach idioms, or phrasal verbs, both are structures in English that any ESL learner will struggle with.
To truly attain a more natural approach to learning, it seems as if combining the Communicative Approach and Total Physical Response method will be the most effective way of language attainment in learners. Ideally in the ESL classroom using these methods input would solely be in English, the instructor would use and facilitate all activities in the language, and while the students would be encouraged to use it, graded language would be used in order for lower levels to understand, similarly, graded language can be used to push higher levels as well to push them into higher levels of comprehension. In order to create a well rounded syllabi for learners though these two methods it's important to have a clear goal for each of the four language skills. Speaking and listening in this classroom can be set up in practical ways that the students will learn, for example, in a children's classroom, if the target language of the unit revolves around food, it can be taught in a way where they role-play dinner with their parents, or a game where they simulate going to a supermarket. For adults, Interviews can be used to practice going to the doctor, as well as surveys can be used to learn language in the environment around them. While each of these focuses on speaking and listening, writing and reading skills can be put into the syllabus as well in order to reinforce grammar and spelling.
For interaction in an individual children's class, the first thing that should be done is a warm up in order to get the students thinking and responding in English, the ideal goal of this is to call upon their past knowledge so vocabulary or grammar structures from the last lesson can be used. The TPR method can also be used by giving commands or creating a game of Simon Says where the students react to the language being used. After the warm up, new vocabulary should be introduced, ideally six to eight new words for each class is the target, but depending on the level that number can be fewer. Vocabulary can be introduced in a number of ways, visually on the board, with the teacher pronouncing and students mimicking the sounds, with a discussion, or reading, as long as the children have enough contextual clues. After the new vocabulary is introduced and reinforced, then the teacher would move on to the grammar structures. First by using the communicative approach and modeling language, then by having the students mimic the structure and eventually evolving them into creating ideas the expressing themselves individually. Again, role plays where they have to change the language, information gaps and pair work all all activities that could help facilitate this language process. Finally to conclude, a game can be used to combine the vocabulary and grammar structure learned. Now the students will have to call upon what they learned in order to succeed, this can be effective for children not directly motivated to learn the language and that are being forced to, the motivation of winning the game will extrinsically motivate the language learning in a case where they don't have any intrinsic motivation.
An Adult class has the ability to run similarly, with a TPR warm up but more evolved than simon says, using a game such as pictionary or charades will set a laid back tone for the class in order to make the students feel more comfortable. Vocabulary then will be introduced, in a context so if they are learning about going shopping, they might read a story about the market, or have them describe in detail their last shopping trip, the words that they do not know, can be the focus of the lesson, along with three or four other words to round out the vocabulary. For teaching a structured, interview and responses can be effective however with adults it can be important to write things down as well if they are motivated to take notes and are visual learners, and language modeling again is incredibly effective. Lastly to combine learning, a game can be effective, but also, discussing a relevant topic, creating debate, or expressing opinions all all ways for them to practically assess and use the language.
For assessment in both of these cases, a focus on language usage and speaking is ideal, however, occasionally vocabulary and grammar tests can be used to fully assess the language output of the students.
Modeling second language learning after how one learns their first one is extremely important for creating individuals that can use a second language effectively. Both the Communicative Approach and Total Physical response, facilitate learning in a more natural way that can help students feel at ease. If the students are more relaxed and language learning is more natural, the learning will be more effective and the students will have a greater confidence when speaking. Reinforcing all four language skills is important when using these methods, but the main goal is on the speaking of the student and them being able to express their ideas, thoughts and of course personality in a second language, which should be the goal of both the teacher and the student.