Oma Ramjeet





My teaching approach

The Dianamite Method

 

 

Second language learning (SLL) is the process by which people learn a second language (a language other than their native language). Many people find SLL important for travelling, working abroad, communicating with non-native speakers, and cultural exchange. There are many methods for SLL, some focusing on receptive skills (listening and reading), others focusing on productive skills (speaking and writing). A new, up-and-coming method focuses on both receptive and productive skills – the Dianamite Method. The founder of the Dianamite Method (DM), Professor Diana Ramjeet, realized that not everyone learns a new language in the same way, thus DM uses the different learning styles (auditory, analytic, kinaesthetic) to ensure learners are provided with the best opportunity for SLL. In comparison to other SLL methods (e.g., Suggest-o-pedia, the Communicative Approach, the Berlitz Method, etc.), DM is superior.

 

The Dianamite Method creates a positive environment for students to learn. Professor Ramjeet believes that, similar to the Suggest-o-pedia method, if the teacher creates a positive, open and relaxed environment, then students will learn the second language much easier than if they were in a stressful and negative environment. This is accomplished through the actions of the teacher. Each lesson begins with a smile and friendly greeting (as you would greet a friend or colleague). This sets the tone of the classroom; teachers are there to help, guide and listen to their students; teachers are not to appear authoritative or unapproachable. It is also important that teachers correct students in a way that students do not feel unintelligent or embarrassed. For instance, a DM teacher would not use discouraging phrases like the following: “You're wrong”; “Why can't you understand?”; “Do I have to repeat again?”. Instead, DM teachers must always remain calm, understanding and patient with their students. To be encouraging and show recognition, DM teachers would use phrases like: “Excellent!”; “Great work!”; “You can do it.”; “Don't worry, take your time.”.

 

One of the main focuses of DM is for students to use authentic language. In other words, DM wants students to use the second language naturally, as a native speaker would, in real context. For this reason, there is no translation and no use of the students' native language in class. Like the Communicative Approach and the Berlitz Method, all classes are taught in the target language. Even the very first lesson for beginners in DM is taught in the target language. The Grammar Translation Method (GTM) greatly differs from DM in that all lessons are taught in the native language and the target language is translated. GTM argues that translation allows students, especially absolute beginners, to understand the target language quite easily. The issue with GTM, and the reason why DM doesn't follow a similar method of teaching, is that, by translating the target language, students are not learning the language, they are simply learning about the language. The other issue with translating the target language is that some words cannot be directly translated. Some may argue that GTM is one of the preferred methods to use with beginners but Professor Ramjeet would disagree. With the aid of visuals (images, and video clips) it is much easier to teach a word or concept to beginners. All beginner classes are taught in the target language and with the use of visual aid.

 

As mentioned earlier, DM teaches both receptive and productive skills, however, there is a slightly greater focus on speaking. Professor Ramjeet believes that all four skills are important however, speaking tends to be the most difficult skill to learn or acquire in a second language. The Direct Method places a greater focus on speaking because, as Professor Ramjeet said, “If you first learn to speak a second language, the other skills [reading and writing] can be acquired with greater ease”. Speaking is encouraged from the very first class in DM. Students learn to introduce themselves and greet others in the first few classes. For higher-level students, speaking is a skill taught within real-life situations. By providing scenarios (e.g., ordering a meal, checking in at an airport or hotel, work meetings, etc.), students learn to speak within context. Vocabulary is grouped into themes and taught first to students. For example, there may be a lesson on vocabulary only relating to airports (e.g., suitcase, boarding pass, check-in counter, etc.). Students are then taught the structure (syntax and morphology) of a language. By learning the structure of the target language, students are able to connect the vocabulary to the structure to form sentences that can be used in real-life context (e.g., “I go to the check-in counter to get my boarding pass”).

 

Another method used to encourage students to speak is by reducing the teacher talking time (TTT). In other words, DM encourages teachers to act as instigators of conversation and only speak 15% of the time (except when teaching beginners, where the TTT would be slightly higher). The teacher acts as a mediator or coach during the student talking time (STT) by correcting pronunciation and grammatical errors, and providing material to further the conversation. The Callan Method is famous for its focus on communication. Like DM, the Callan Method also encourages students to start speaking the target language from day one, and provides opportunity for each student to speak in every class. The significant difference between these two methods is that students learn content and grammar through repetition in the Callan Method, whereas in DM, students speak authentic language and learn to construct sentences on their own. In DM students are provided the tools (vocabulary, structure, context) to think and speak in the target language. In the Callan Method, students are not given time to think in the target language, students only repeat what is told to them by the teacher.

 

Reading is another important skill learned in the Dianamite Method. There is less emphasis and time spent on reading than speaking, nevertheless reading is still very important to the overall comprehension and use of a second language. Reading is taught using authentic text (text not written for teaching purposes). Materials used for reading comprehension are newspapers, advertisements, magazines, recipes and contracts, to name a few. For instance, students may read newspaper articles to discuss current events, magazines articles may be used to discuss the latest trends, and recipes may be read to understand different standards of measurement. Reading authentic text makes for a more interesting and fun class. Students learn about current events whilst learning to read, think, and discuss in the target language.

 

Writing in a second language is an important skill for students who are learning a second language for a specific purpose. For instance, some students learn to write in a second language for their work, others do it because they want to live in a country where the native language is their second language. In these cases, among others, writing is taught as an important skill in DM. The Dianamite Method only teaches writing to higher level students who can speak and read proficiently in the target language. Students learn to write by performing authentic tasks. Written exercises include writing emails (formal and informal), essays, resumes, rental advertisements, and presentations. These writing exercises are based on the student's objective which is determined beforehand.

 

Listening is a receptive skill that is neither less nor more important than the other three aforementioned skills. Listening is essential to learning any language (first or second language). If a student is not able to listen, how can the student retain and process information, and pronounce words correctly? Listening is an important skill that is necessary for acquiring the other three skills. DM teaches students to listen through repetition, and tone of voice. For instance, when the teacher wants students to listen carefully to an irregular verb conjugation, the teacher will enunciate and elongate the verb in its irregular form so that students recognize the difference between the regular and irregular form. Another example is when teachers want students to self-correct their mistakes. For instance, if a student says, “She play soccer”, the teacher will repeat the student's sentence in the form of a question and add emphasis to the word that is incorrect: “She play soccer?”. By doing this, the student will think in the target language and figure out how to correct the sentence on their own. If the teacher makes the correction for the student, the student will not develop communicative competence nor retain the correct information.

 

The Dianamite Method uses a syllabus for each level taught (beginner, elementary, intermediate, upper intermediate, and advanced). A syllabus allows teachers to keep track of covered material and monitor student progress. Each syllabus (except for the beginner level) begins with a review of the previous level. This is to refresh the student's memory and to allow the teacher to grade the student's level of proficiency more accurately. If there are some students struggling with concepts from the previous level, the teacher will recognize this from the review lessons and spend a bit more time reviewing these particular concepts. After the review, the syllabus includes a variety of lessons and activities to make the class entertaining for students and teachers. Rather than reading from a textbook, teachers are provided authentic text to teach the class (e.g., newspaper articles, popular songs, video clips). Teachers also create simulated environments to role play and give students the experience and practice of being in a “real environment”.

 

There are a variety of lessons that focus on vocabulary and structure, and topics that deal with real-life situations. Students are provided a textbook with the general lesson plan for their level so that they are aware of the vocabulary, grammar, or topics that will be discussed in each lesson. Included in the students' textbook are activities based on each lesson which are to be completed for homework. Homework is beneficial for the student's progress and helps the teacher and student assess whether the lesson was understood. Each lesson begins with a review of the homework where the teacher will ask students to present their answers. The activities provided for homework are short and should only take students half an hour (maximum). The Dianamite Method is for all ages and understands that some students may have homework from university or that some students may have work-related homework, or families to go home to. For this reason, homework consists of short activities that don't take up a lot of time. Each level in DM ends with a final exam. The exam is just to test whether students are ready to proceed to the next level. Exams usually consist of three sections, listening, oral and written. The beginner level only consists of an oral exam. Should a student not pass the exam, they may be asked to repeat a level or take a few refresher lessons before beginning the next level.

 

In comparison to the other second language teaching methods, the Dianamite Method is by far the best. Professor Ramjeet understands that everyone learns at a different pace and that we all learn in different ways. The variety of activities and materials used in DM is to accommodate all types of learners. DM uses diverse and interesting activities so that students don't feel like they're in a classroom environment. This method is for everyone!



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