Kamila Yerzhanova

My teaching approach

At this age of the dynamic worldwide environment, the knowledge of a foreign language has become one of the most important skills to possess. Is there a perfect way to learn a foreign language?

The answer to this question would “so many men, so many minds”.

Indeed, there is no a single methodology that perfectly suits everyone’s needs; it depends on one’s motivation/objectives and initial level of a teaching language’s knowledge, as well as, there is a strong relation between one’s personality and techniques to be exploited during class. I also believe that to be a successful ‘teacher-student’ collaboration; it is vital to establish a sense of positive environment and trust because it is hard to focus on any process if someone feels anxiety or frustration.

When I was in school back in my country, I used to have a strong idea of teacher as an authoritative figure. Most of my classes were highly teacher-oriented, strictly organised and structured, with a tiny room for creativity. I would like to be perceived as more of a guide to one’s learning process or facilitate their learning journey, providing appropriate tools.

Depending on a level of teaching language possessed by a prospective student and pursued objectives, approach to the syllabus may vary. For example, for beginners – e.g. kids with general desire to learn English, it is better to start with structure based curriculum along with topical one. The structure based syllabus will empower student’s knowledge base, and exploring different topics (e.g. my family/ household/school) will enrich his vocabulary. Students would develop their writing and reading skills, being able to recognise grammatical structures and words. But, if the student is an adult beginner, it could be advised to use the same strategy in order to introduce grammar in a simple context, and further syllabus should be shifted to more relevant, situational syllabus. Often adults start learning a foreign language because of professional requirements, or other very particular reason, therefore a syllabus should be learner-centered. Nevertheless, I believe that during the first sessions, one of the must-do checks is alphabet/pronunciation. As most languages differentiate in the way, its letters are pronounced teacher needs to make sure that a student can recognise letters and corresponding sounds, as well as if he phonates them appropriately.

When dealing with younger leaners, a teacher would approach a class in a more dynamic/fun. The teacher needs to keep the process of learning engaging, active and exciting. As well as it requires a drop of authority, not to lose control over the class, there is a need to create a bilaterally suitable frame.

The class session would be structured to balance out a number of still and dynamic activities. For example, a class should be broken down into 3-4 activities, starting with a previous class review smoothly moving into a next topic. It would stimulate dialogue and show understanding of materials. Syllabus for kids should be consistent and logical, focusing first on a learner and his eco-system. The information would be adapted and complemented with a visual aid. The presentation of the unknown would be led in a form that triggers curiosity.  However, each dynamic quiz/game/activity would not exceed 5-6 min and follow by a concentrated and calmer half-an-hour session. About the younger learner, there is a need to create a bilaterally suitable frame.

It can be said that, in general, the most wanted language skill chased by any student is to be able to express yourself in a natural with full comprehension and, out of personal experience, the most optimal decision is to stick with the natural method, trying to eliminate usage of a native language. If a teacher and a student share a common language, translations would be avoided. The teacher needs to apply the maximum scope of TL as possible. Frequently it could be a case when a student finds it hard to understand the meaning of a word, and a teacher would consider intent to explain it without shifting to a common language, but using examples, guiding a student to a solution. But of course, using “simplest” language/ body language or cognates always helpful when a student is just beginning to study the language or yet not fully comprehend the material. Certainly, there is a need to create an effect of immersion into the language, as it is proven to convey better learning and understanding.

Before preparing any class, a teacher needs to state what he wants to reach by the end of a class.

Any class should be started questions that are leading to engagement and positive environment. Moving to the main concept of a class, present activities that would provoke usage of target words. Aim to make students to use concepts as much as possible throughout class.

Guiding yourself by Engage - Study - Activate (ESA) at first, a teacher would try to boost student's interest by creating an emotional tie, e.g. music, stories, challenging discussions. Next, a student needs to concentrate on structure or grammar. It can be micro- or macro concentration through examples, explanations; aims to emphasise the way language is constructed. And last, but not least, there is an activation. It is aimed not only on current material but instead; it would stimulate language usage in all s appropriate contexts like role plays or debates. If a student needs to empower his writing skills, then it could be writing exercises on various topics.

The teacher would keep in mind that any correction should be made in a constructive and smooth way. Depending on a student’s personality, it can be either done when a student finishes the thought by prompting a mini break, bringing attention to a mistake. In some cases, and I think it depends on the level of student’s self-confidence, students can be corrected in a process, as mistake occurs while speaking by a polite correction. If a mistake is repetitive, make sure that student is aware of it by recording it in a written form. Often, beginners tend to perceive critiques sensitively, that would be taken into consideration.

Most importantly it is not to forget to award and praise a student is needed. It boosts motivation and encourages the effort to study and be prepared for a class. To a certain degree, a teacher needs to open up a student, to stimulate discussions and emancipate a learner. Most importantly, it will develop a sense of trust, and that's a major contributing factor regarding effort and motivation.

Regarding assessment, the class would always be ended by going through concept check. If it is a preparation for a particular certificate or diploma, it is necessary to conduct academically structured checks, practising relevant tests. I think it is vital to have periodical tests in order to detect errors, problems and areas that are needed to be reviewed.

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