My teaching approach
MY OWN WAY
I have been teaching English for quite a while (over 5 years) and from all the different methodologies I have seen, I took a little bit from one and the other and I created my own way of teaching.
Actually, I use the communicative approach, combining both the Direct Method and the Total Physical Response Approach, which I think, and I have also seen from experience, is the most effective way of learning a second language. I have noticed great results from students that started as Basic students and at the end of a certain time, they were speaking English very well.
The combination of using topics, real life situations with gestures, body language, and pictures to get students to understand the meanings of words, is really productive and efficient.
When we are babies, we learn our native language by listening , observing the context of things and repeating the sounds. That is exactly how the communicative approach works. You will learn by contextualization, which is the most natural and fun way to learn a second language, in my opinion.
For years, language teachers found ways to make a naturally exciting topic become a deathly dull one. Language teaching for most of the 20th Century was heavily influenced by the ‘grammar-translation’ of the 19th Century, which involved learning a new word or grammatical structure, translating it into your native language and memorizing it.
Teaching was based on a strict syllabus of what educators considered to be important, whether it was relevant to students’ needs or not. This led many people to think they were bad at languages and that they were not able to learn.
Then, techniques gradually adapted to be more situational, so grammar and vocabulary would be taught in contexts in which you might realistically use it. But the emphasis was still very much on reading, repeating and memorizing at that time.
The development of the communicative approach in the last decades of the 20th Century marked a major change in how languages were taught. The idea of “communicative competence”, which means - being able to successfully communicate – replaced grammatical accuracy as the main goal of language teaching.
The main focus is to make my students communicate in English, so I contextualize the topics to get the message and the content through.
What do I mean by Contextualization?
Contextualization is putting language items into a meaningful and real context rather than being treated as isolated items of language. Contextualizing language tries to give real communicative value to the language that learners meet. The context can help learners remember the language and recall it at a later date. Learners can use natural learning strategies to help them understand contextualized language, such as guessing meaning from context. It makes it much easier to remember, when something is put into a context. I really think that when you make students communicate through a context, the other skills, such as reading and writing, will naturally be developed.
Because of all these positive aspects mentioned above, and having proof that it works from my teaching practice and experience with students, I use this method to teach English and I have had outstanding performances.
A good example of contextualization would be providing an example sentence that uses a new word or even preparing a role-play activity where the students will use the target language in a specific context.
This approach is totally focused on the use of the Target language, so the learners’ native language should not be used in the class. No translation is allowed. I can’t see any good aspect of using translation in a classroom. Students won’t retain information as well as when it is contextualized.
The syllabus are based on topics and real situations and the grammar will be taught inductively for all levels, but for real beginners and lower levels, I think that presenting some grammar structures gives them some ground to start a conversation. So, I use it with them, but always focused on using the grammar in a context.
A good example of a class structure would be the following:
You want to teach students how to talk about hypothetical situations in English.
Always start a class by breaking the ice with some questions:
- How are you today?
- How was your day at work?
Then, you can start by asking them some questions using the structure that you want to teach:
- What would you do, If you won the lottery?
- Where would you be, If you weren’t working right now?
The next activity could be, presenting them some different situations where they will create hypothetical sentences using the structure presented.
After that, you ask them to create a dialogue in pairs and role-play it. Always focusing on the structure that is being presented in that specific class.
To present new vocabulary, I can use body language to explain some of them, I use synonyms and antonyms, which is also a good strategy but I always like to have some pictures to show my students.
You can finish by asking If the structure is clear for them, and making some other questions using what was studied.
Language is something that is always changing and, as a teacher I have to be aware of this all the time, as well as my students’ needs.
I have to know the students’ needs and motivation in order to prepare a good class. Actually, preparation is essential for a good and successful class in all levels and for all different types of groups.
Knowing your students’ abilities, what motivates them to learn English (work, business, traveling) and their personalities, is a good way to start. You always have to keep this in mind when preparing a class, because they might have different necessities and you have to adapt your class to what is important for them and to what will be more interesting to make them want to learn. You have to make your students be interested and motivated to learn, otherwise, it will be boring and they will probably give up.
With a group that wants to learn English for Specific Purposes, my class will be structured for that specific purpose, and the topics discussed would be focused on their needs. I might even structure a class at an appropriate environment for the topic. For example: The purpose of learning English is to travel around the world and to know how to communicate in several different situations while traveling. In this case, I could take my students to a restaurant and practice the vocabulary and topics in a real life situation. Or, present a dialogue at the airport, and so on.
Different ages is also something very important to take into consideration when preparing a class.
Teaching Kids is completely different from teaching adults. It requires more control from the teacher. Kids get distracted easily and they are more hiper, so my class has to be attractive to them. I use their language to reach them, and I always talk about things that they like, such as: video game and the latest social network. I also use games to teach children, because it’s an excellent way to get them focused on what they are doing and they really enjoy it. It’s a very effective way of teaching.
We learn much better, when we are having fun. This is a fact and it is not applied only for kids, but also for adults.
Once you win your students’ trust, you get their attention easily.
My teaching method has a Leveling test when students start. That way I can have an idea of their English knowledge.
The assessments will be done through students’ evaluation along the classes, taking into consideration, their participation, productivity and motivation in class. This is one of the Assessments, which is based on the teachers observations. It is done by giving feedback to the students every now and then. Feedback is something that I believe is very important in student’s development.
The grading would be based on this teacher’s assessment, which I think is the best way to evaluate a student. We, as teachers, know exactly what each student is able to produce. I don’t believe that grading through a formal test is really efficient, because the student might not be well on the day of the test and his production will not be the same. It is not fair for anyone to be evaluated based on a one day test. I think a more reliable evaluation is done on daily basis.
Based on this assessment, the student would go on to higher level.
Well, being a teacher is all about giving and receiving. We share our knowledge and we learn many things from our students, as well. That’s what makes this profession so wonderful. It’s about contact and interaction with people all the time, and since I am also a Psychologist, I love dealing with people.
The best thing about being a teacher is when you can see the student’s development, good results, and that you made a difference in someone’s life somehow, by sharing your knowledge.