My teaching approach
I firmly believe motivation is the foundation of foreign language learning. When I think about my personal experience learning English as a second language, motivation played a major role. I remember downloading the lyrics of some of the songs I liked the most in order to understand their meaning. By doing that I was able to learn new vocabulary and also how to form sentences. Therefore, motivation is the key in a language learning process. I also take into account that not all learners have the same background and drive but, through motivation, I would want students to find a good reason for learning English rather than just meet a specific requirement for their education or career.
The first thing that springs to mind thinking about my teaching approach is student’s needs. Why the student is learning a language? What is his/her goal? Everyone wants to learn English for a variety of reasons. For example, some want to travel, some are applying for university so they have to take a language exam, some have to learn English because they work for an international company. Whatever reasons students might have, I would adjust my teaching approach to their learning goals. For example, in the event of a student preparing for the TOEFL exam, I would focus more on grammatical and structural elements rather than a student who is learning English in order to travel, who would need a more communicative and conversational approach. If a student is learning business English, I would focus more on a vocabulary centered approach.
I think a syllabus is a very important tool in order to describe the course objectives. It is a very useful guideline for the course content in which one can list all the different types of material that will be used in the classroom, the learning outcome but most importantly what is the purpose of the course and what students will acquire at the end of it. I would also use a wide range of tools and activities such as: books, videos,and online newspapers. Examples activities from a text book would be a text about the most beautiful places in the world with pictures and very detailed descriptions of these places. Then, students will be asked to answers questions to check their comprehension of the reading. Furthermore, they will be asked to describe a place they have visited by using newly acquired vocabulary found in the text.
I feel that activities like these contain a little bit of everything, structure, topic, vocabulary and it is a more interesting and fun way to learn the language actively without leaving aside the effectiveness of a textbook.
I strongly believe that the use of classroom media, in the means of videos, is a very useful implement in the classroom especially in this day and age. Example activity would be having students watch a video about the refugees crisis in the European Union; while watching the video they would summarize the main points by taking notes and also pay attention to the pronunciation of the new words. Once the video is over, they will be asked to read out loud what they wrote down by pronouncing it as close as possible to the person who was talking in the video. This will be very good to practice pronunciation and it would also be a good way to check their comprehension skills. Throughout these activities, students will be able to practice all four skills, speaking, listening, reading and writing.
Use of TL in the classroom is vital. Practice of L2 should always be performed in the class. In this way, students would feel more comfortable when they have to speak in L2. Sometimes it can be difficult, and we indulge ourselves to use L1 in order to explain difficult concepts. Although, in some exceptional cases the use of L1 could be useful, it should be very limited and not let students get used to it. If they do not understand, a good way would be to use words or expressions they have learned previously or that they already know when explaining something new. During my past experience as a teacher, sometimes students were really looking for the meaning of a L2 word in their own language, or just wanted to find out if that word was similar to their native language. When asked, I translated the word for them and they were able to memorize it very quickly, especially if it was a cognate because it looked and meant the same in their native language. But again, this can be questionable, because it depends on the teacher’s skills, if he/she knows their native language or not. Therefore, translation could be used but only to a certain extent. As I stated above, the use of L2 in the classroom must be a priority with some very exceptional cases of L1 use.
As far as teacher roles are concerned, there are two that I prefer the most. The psychologist and the guide. For the psychologist role, I would pay special attention to students in need, I would do my best to help them out by dedicating them extra time. In my opinion a great teacher is one who is able to make succeed students that fell behind rather than make succeed students who are already on top. Also, the teacher is a guide, someone the students can look up to, a facilitator in the class who can leave a positive impact on them. Based on my experience, errors are a good way of learning something new. It is certainly an uneasy situation for the teacher to find out how and when to correct mistakes. For example, during my learning experience, when I made a mistake and the teacher corrected them right away, I promptly memorized how to spell a word correctly and when asked again I did not make the same mistake. But, most of the times I felt insecure and it also discouraged me if I had to keep reading or talking. For instance, if students are reading something and mispronounce a word or many words, I would not stop them right away because I believe it would slow down or even jeopardize the pace of the lesson. I would just correct it once the activity is over or write it down if they make more than one error, so, I won’t lose track of their learning process.
In my opinion the best assessment approach is the formative one since it gives students ongoing feedback in order to monitor their learning experience. It is also a useful tool for the teacher as well that he/she could use to improve their teaching style. During my personal experience, I find out that the summative assessment does not really work very well, because, it only evaluates student learning at the end of a specific unit. There are many factors to take into account when taking a final exam or doing a final project, such as affective factors, like student’s attitude towards exams, anxiety for a test. Therefore, the summative assessment only evaluates a specific part of the class, while the formative one evaluates the class as whole and it is a way to monitor student’s learning by providing constant feedback and start improving from there. For instance, if a student did well throughout the whole class, worked hard to improve areas in which he/she was struggling but did not do very well in their final exam, they will still be able to get a good mark in my opinion. If they showed dedication during the whole length of the class, I would never judge their learning outcome by just focusing on a final exam.
The most challenging task as a teacher is to teach students with an age difference and different levels of English. For example, with children I would use more fun/task based activities. I would provide flashcards with images of animals and they will have to place the card on a poster. On the poster, there will be empty gaps with names of animals, in which they will have have to place the card that corresponds with the animal’s name. In this way, their brain is stimulated by associating images with names and the learning process is very easy. As for teaching adults, I would focus on real life situation and provide vocabulary linked to everyday situation. For example, an activity could be to write a shopping list and then go to the supermarket and ask for information on how to find a specific product. Depending on the level of the students, I would grade my language constantly. In this way, they will be able to practice L2 effectively and also learn how to ask for information. For an advanced learner, I would use a more colloquial approach; I would put them in the spotlight and lower the teacher talk time to as little as possible. For a lower level, I would avoid using technical or difficult words. I would speak slowly and put much more emphasis when pronouncing a word that might sound a little difficult to understand.
To sum up, I believe we have the ability to really make a positive impact on students by applying these strategies accordingly. By doing so, we will prepare them to step outside of their comfort zone and to be able to talk end express themselves as effectively as possible. As I stated at the beginning of this essay, I would try to make them understand how great and useful it is to learn English and be a part of the international community, now more than ever it is vital to be a part of it, and only by learning English we can achieve it.