Sona Houston

My teaching approach

I believe that there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to teaching English and I truly think that a teacher of any subject; be it English as a foreign language or Science, should be flexible and fluid in their approach. For this reason, I would choose to apply the Principled Eclecticism approach. This means choosing the techniques and activities that are appropriate for each particular task, context and learner. In other words, fitting the method to the learner, not vice versa. In my case this means taking elements mostly from the communicative approach apart from when it comes to teaching structure, which I would teach both inductively and deductively.

In CLT, language is the taught in the way as it is used in everyday life. Students are not expected to become expert grammarians as more emphasis is on learning to communicate through interaction in the target language. This means knowing how to use the language for a range of different purposes and functions as well as learning how to vary the use of language according to the setting and the participants The idea of appropriateness means that the student will not only learn the language, but they also learn about the culture and its use in social context.

It is inevitable that the teachers approach and methodology will be heavily dependent on the learners own objectives, motivation, needs and learning styles, and these factors will also have a huge impact on how quickly the student will progress. For example, an immigrant to the UK will need to be able to communicate in English in order to function in everyday society and will therefore progress faster that someone who simply wants to learn English as a hobby.

The majority students will most likely have various academic goals. Given that my main focus will be on teaching adult learners it is probable that many of my students’ goals’ will be career focused. If this is the case then the course would be built around teaching specific vocabulary related to that profession, e.g. legal language, financial terms; as well as situational activities such as, talking on the phone, attending a meeting etc. I would hope that most students’ motivations would be intrinsic as I personally believe this is a more genuine form of motivation but I am well aware that many will be extrinsically motivated to take English classes, e.g. passing the Cambridge exams.

Another important aspect will be to take into account the personality of the learner and the effect this could have on the student developing affective filters. However, this is something that will most likely only become clear as the course progresses so minor modifications may have to be made to the syllabus throughout.  For example, if all students have a fairly difficult time speaking in English in front of others, I would try to incorporate strategies into the lessons to help students feel more comfortable taking risks in language such as games, pair work as opposed to group work or speaking in front of the whole class etc.

I believe that the best way to develop a syllabus will be to first assess the learners motivations, goals and needs. To do this I would carry out a needs analysis in the form of questionnaires, prior to beginning the course, which would also allow me to gain an understanding of the students’ prior knowledge, preferences as well as any potential struggles.

Overall my gain goal would be for the students to learn how to communicate competently in English. I would aim to give more emphasis to oral communication and I believe that students should do the majority of the talking in class as is suggested in the communicative approach. To achieve this I would only use the target language in classes as I believe that this will be the biggest asset to developing oral and listening skills and avoids the students becoming dependant on falling back on their mother lounge.

I would of course incorporate all of the macro skills into the syllabus, including reading and writing as all are heavily inter –related. Therefore a more specific goal for beginner to intermediate students might be to talk about themselves with using correct vocabulary and pronunciation allowing for general intelligibility. For advanced students a learning goal may be to debate more complex topics using clearly organized ideas and supporting evidence in a vocabulary appropriate to the target audience.

As micro skills are heavily related to improving the basic macro skills, I believe students should receive instruction on all four however I would most likely spend less time on spelling. I strongly believe that vocabulary learning should be holistic. So rather than making the student learn long lists of words I would teach new words by means of speaking and writing (aka meaning focused output). However I would occasionally employ the use of some language focused instruction such as using word families in order to increase memory retention.

When it comes to organising the syllabus I would favour a primarily function based method as I believe this method is most conducive to communicative competence as students learn how to use language to for authentic purposes and may be motivated by the opportunity to use language to express their own purposes, ideas and emotions. I also think this method is particularly useful for beginners as it allows them to begin communicating in the target language at an early stage.

Some examples of units covered a primarily function based syllabus could be:

Introducing yourself, asking for directions, telling stories about the past, requesting information, offering, requesting, inviting.

To go into more detail, A typical unit might be Giving Advice. The content of the unit would include:

                     I think you should . . .

                        Why don't you . . .

                        If I were you, I would . . .

                        You'd better . . .

In keeping with this primarily communicative approach I would make use of role plays, pair work and group work. One such example would be the use of knowledge gaps. This refers to the fact that in real communication, people normally communicate in order to get information they do not possess. Eg Students practice a role play in pairs. One student is given the information she/he needs to play the part of a clerk in the railway station information booth and has information on train departures, prices, etc. The other needs to obtain information on departure times, prices, etc. They role-play the interaction without looking at each other’s cue cards. An example of group work could be the classic communicative classroom activity; the “jigsaw-game,” where the class is divided into several groups and each group has a different piece of information needed to complete an activity.

I would also make an effort to make distinctions between fluency practice and accuracy practice. When preparing activities focused on fluency they must reflect natural use of language and require the use of communication strategies through meaningful use of language in context. An example of this could be a role playing activity focusing on making a complaint. Errors of form would generally be tolerated during these activities so as not to hinder the students’ fluency but may be returned to later. On the other hand activities which focus on accuracy should reflect classroom use of language, meaning that the students will practice the language out of context and focus on practicing the formation of correct examples of language.

During these activities one of my roles will be to facilitate and then to monitor, and then to provide feedback on the success or otherwise of the communication and, possibly, on the linguistic performance of the learners in the form of post-activity error correction.

When it comes to the material I would implement into lessons, I would be inclined to use mostly authentic for advanced learners and adapted for beginners and intermediate students as I think most authentic materials eg newspaper articles contain too much unfamiliar language for learners to cope with and can often be too long or complex. I would however make extensive use of realia and flash cards with beginners as they play the role of  facilitators in teaching new vocabularies such as food, clothing etc.

In terms of how to teach grammar, contrary to the principals of the communicative method, I believe that there should be a balance between deductive and inductive approaches and that each method is appropriate in different circumstances. On one hand I believe the deductive approach would be more useful for a logical/linguistic intelligence learner. Personally I would rather learn grammar inductively because I, along with many others, find it easier to learn rules through patterns. However I do think the learner-centred nature of inductive teaching is an advantage as the learner is more active in the learning process rather than being a passive recipient and this increased engagement may help the learner to develop deeper understanding of the language.  An example of a structure based section of the syllabus could be:


 1. Going To,

2. Future: Will 

3. Future Continuous Tense 

I would then incorporate this knowledge into some function based activities e.g. expressing future plans using ‘going to.’




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