My teaching approach
4 Active Skills Approach
Over the years, new several teaching methods have been developed in order to move away from traditional teaching techniques and discover more effective alternatives. Methods such as direct methods, Callan, silence way and suggestopedia were created in response to traditional grammar translation methods. However, the two main approaches adopted by language teachers nowadays are “deductive” and “inductive”. In the first approach teachers are the only source of knowledge and give direct instructions to students who limit themselves to follow teachers ‘guidelines. While, the second approach aims at inviting the student to participate actively in the class and interact with teachers and other pupils. The essay aims firstly, at describing a new potential teaching approach called “4 Active Skills Approach” and explaining why this would be beneficial for students. Secondly, the author will express how he envisions the future of English teaching.
In order to design the most suitable approach, it is indispensable to identify and analyse the objectives and the desired outcomes of the school. A deductive approach, for instance, could be beneficial if the objective is developing reading and writing skills. However if lessons aim at improving speaking and listening abilities, the inductive method would be the most appropriate.
The 4 Active Skills Approach is inductive and student – centred, as the main objective is to develop a class where not only the teacher talks, but on the contrary, students are the main protagonists. The main goal is to teach students how to communicate, how to express themselves in different situations and develop solid listening skills. However, as the author recognized the importance of the morphology and syntax, the 4 Active Skills Approach focuses as well on teaching grammar structures, in fact the 40% of the teaching hours are dedicated to the development of lexical and morphological skills.
The general characteristics of “4 Active Skills Approach” Language School are the following:
- There are 6 different levels: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2
- Lessons are taught exclusively in the target language
- The duration of a single class is 55 minutes
- All students (no matter what level) have to attend at least 10 classes per week to receive the certificate and pass to the next level (usually 2 hours per day)
- Each level consists of 10 weeks lessons (80 hours)
- The school offers classes only to 16+ students
- Specific purpose classes are also available (general business, tourism and hospitality, science, medical professionals and arts)
- Four hours a week are dedicated to the analysis of grammatical structures
Each level has a syllabus, which represents the summary and outline of all topics and activities to be covered from week 1 to week 10. Syllabuses are extremely important, as they contain all useful information related to the course. 4 Active Skills Approach School has two different syllabuses; One for General English (GE) Course and another one for English for Specific Purpose (ESP) Course. Despite the fact that GE and ESP courses have different contents, both syllabuses have to contain the same elements; a biographical and contact information for the instructor, course description, course contents, course materials that the students will need to participate in the course, course learning goals, description of method and approach used by the instructor, grading policies, assignments, weekly learning outcomes and course schedule. Syllabuses consist of 6 hours of dialogue – based lessons and 4 hours of structure – based lessons. This idea developed due to the need of providing a full and complete knowledge of speaking, listening, reading and writing. Although syllabuses are vital for the effectiveness of the course, lessons will never be successful without a good preparation. In other words, instructors have to always plan activities ahead. Planning lessons has several benefits; firstly, teachers tend to be more relaxed and confidents as they always know what is coming next; Secondly, lesson plans enable teachers to improve their timing; In addition, plans are excellent aids to continuing improvements. Furthermore, teachers should always decide the aim of the lesson. Commonly the aim is to practice a particular language point or introduce new vocabularies. Also teachers should select the key language and choose the right activities.
As mentioned previously, activities and topics change depending on the level of the class, as well as leaning objectives and outcomes. In beginner classes such as A1 and A2, students learn basic vocabulary and grammar rules. Lessons are taught through the use of visual material (pictures, posters and flashcards), realia, songs and games. In B1 and B2 classes, students continue to learn through the same tools, but they are also asked to create conversations, debates and express their opinion about topics of different genres. Students at this point should be able to structure sentences in the present, past and future without any problems. Finally, C1 and C2 are classes that focus mainly on increase students’ fluency, widen their vocabulary knowledge and improve their pronunciation. Classes consist of analyse topics taken from current newspaper, magazines and news channels.Moreover, the four hours focused on grammar have also an important role. Grammar structures and rules are taught actively through reading, writing and the use of the blackboard. Students, in fact, are invited to write examples on the blackboard, write texts in pairs or groups, reading poems and narrative books, play grammar quiz etc. The 4 Active Skills Approach tries hard to convert boring grammar classes into a fun and interesting experience.
Both dialogue and structure - based lessons follow the 3Ps (presentation, Practice and Production) structure. The following plans are examples of how a dialogue-based and structure – based class should be organized.
Dialogue – Based Lesson
- To practice grammar points
- Present 9 new lexical items
- Read a text and check comprehension
- To give opportunity for creative use of L2
NEW VOCABULARIES: ironmonger, goods, tools, corrugated, iron, wire, concrete, screw, wrench
GRAMMAR POINT: People + their (possessive adjective)
WARM – UP (10 min)
- Revision of the previous class with flashcards (words: hammer, nails, wood, cement)
PRESENTATION (10 min)
- New vocabulary (flashcards + images)
- Introduce New grammar point
Example: People buy their tools at the ironmonger
PRACTICE (20 min)
- Students reproduce grammar points
- Pre – questions on text
- Loud reading
- Analyse text and identify problems
PRODUCTION (15 min)
- WH long answer questions
- Discuss questions
- Small piece of concrete, 4 flashcards, short wire.
Structure – Based Lesson
- To practice past simple and past continuous
- Present 9 new lexical items
- Read in pair a journal article
- Write in pair a journal article
NEW VOCABULARIES: ironmonger, goods, tools, corrugated, iron, wire, concrete, screw, wren
WARM – UP (10 min)
- Revision of the previous class : Past simple and Present Perfect
PRESENTATION (40 min)
- Explain tenses structures and functions
- Provide several example using the blackboard
- Students are asked to write sentences on the blackboard using new tenses and vocabulary
Example: I was buying some wires, when the ironmonger hurt himself with a screw
PRACTICE (20 min)
- Students work in pairs and read in silence a journal article
- Students identify and analyse vocabularies and tenses
PRODUCTION (60 min)
- Students work in pairs to write a journal article using past simple, past continuous and new vocabularies
- Students correct each other work
- Students read articles loudly to the class
- Textbook, journal articles and grammar book
A well – organized syllabus is essential, however it is not enough for the success of the lesson. Teachers ‘attitude, preparation and material selected are extremely important for student motivation. In order to motivate learners, teachers should ensure opportunities for students ‘success by assigning tasks with the appropriate level of difficulty, should give frequent and positive feedbacks, help students feel that they are valued member of the learning community, create a positive atmosphere, show enthusiasm and positive energy. Furthermore, in order to stimulate intrinsic motivation, teachers should choose activities and materials based on topic that can be relevant to students. Some successful activities, for instance, could be: the analysis of science articles; the discussion of current issues such as global worming or urban pollution; expressing personal opinions about unusual cultural characteristics of a specific tribe; analyse the impact of tourism in developing destination.
In terms of material, the best option is to use current and updated sources such as magazines, newspapers, videos and documentaries. Also, narrative books and poems can be used for grammar classes. Additionally, extra activities and topics should be always prepared for each class, as it is advisable to provide other choices if student look bored or distracted.
Technological development will continue to improve English teaching. Internet is not longer seen as a source of information but it is used in order to create and develop contents for a wide variety of purposes, such as blogs, forums and wikis. English teachers need to keep updated about new technologies and try to use new tools in their lessons. Collaborative system will also have a significant impact on the future of English teaching. Collaborative system allows students from different part the world to join and work together. Teachers will get used to work in a virtual multicultural environment and direct collaborative projects. This method of teaching can enrich both students and teachers, as they tend to share new ideas, cultural bonds, different experience and opinions.
In conclusion, the 4 Active Skills Approach aims at teaching and improving speaking, listening, reading and writing skills. Lessons are taught in the target language by using an inductive and student – centred approach. The school offers two main courses; General English course and English for Specific Purpose course. Syllabus and teachers are the two elements that lead to the success of the school. The syllabus need to be well – structured and interesting, while teachers have to create a positive environment, motivate students and spent time to prepare activities. Moreover, English teaching will be affected even more by new technologies and digital tools. Finally, collaborative system not only will contribute to the enrichment and evolution of teachers, but also it will change the way students learn and interact.