My teaching approach
Student: Joseph Maussen
Date: January 21, 2017
How I would approach teaching English.
From a very young age I always liked the English language. It´s perceived ease-of-use combined with the promise to be able to go anywhere in the world and talk to people appealed to me. The fact that, at the time, my father worked for an American company and frequently visited NY for business meetings added to my curiosity to listen attentively whenever English was spoken.
So when I was asked by Oxbridge to write an Essay on how I would approach teaching English with a personal touch it triggered long forgotten memories of my first English teacher and her lessons. When comparing these memories with the current methodologies used to teach English as a foreign language, although at the time I was quite happy with my teacher, I realize there are interesting contrasts which I will use to make a strong case for the modern methodologies which put as strong emphasis on student involvement and motivation.
The overall approach I would use to teach the TL, independent of age, is primarily based on the concepts of Engagement. Engagement creates involvement, motivation and commitment, crucial elements for students to focus, participate and reduce anxiety levels when making mistakes. In order to get student to become engaged I will try to create an atmosphere where students are invited to talk about topics they feel positive about. These topics can be related to a hobby, an event, future plans etc. Obviously I will not be asking students every lesson for their main interest that specific day but I will do my best to keep notes on their hobby´s and other interests they mention. Like this I will be able to connect study material and exercises with their interest and thus foster engagement levels during their presence in the class room or online.
The primary learning goal will be for students to be able to engage in conversation. I will therefore put great emphasis on Speaking and Listening Comprehension skills. A primary evaluation will consist of a short interview (either online or face to face) to determine student´s proficiency levels and classify their needs and motivations.
Secondary learning goals will consist of writing and reading.
Given the fact that conversation is the overall learning goal I will focus study material around activities that develop both conversation and listening skills.
ORGINIZING THE SYLLABUS
When organizing the Syllabus I will first determine the following:
1. Entry level
a. Depending on students entry level the Syllabus may be adapted accordingly. For example Level 2 students will require “simple language” when explaining exercises and often they need the teacher to focus on motivation more than Level 4 or Level 5 students.
2. Objectives, Teaching, Learning and Skills Goals
a. The syllabus states the Learning Goals. These are as follows:
i. Speaking: proof of vocabulary, use and understanding of idioms, proper use of grammar and sentence structure, allowing accurate communication of ideas when speaking about a self-selected topic.
ii. Listening: the ability to be able to listen to and understand relevant details in various listening contexts. Students will be able to Understand and discuss ideas delivered in academic lectures and social conversations. Paraphrase the ideas of classroom lessons and turn them into coherent and well developed notes
iii. Reading: The ability to read “level appropriate” materials to develop a sense of a text’s meaning. Determine the author's purpose, intended audience, tone and the text’s general context. Recognize and understand a work’s thesis or theme and the methods of organization used to support the thesis or develop the theme. Summarize, paraphrase, synthesize ideas from what they have read.
iiii. Writing: Students need to be able to demonstrate basic competence in writing and be able to produce short stories and/or essays. Students need also to be able to use effective word choice, vocabulary, grammarand sentence structure allowing accurate communication of meaning in their written work.
3. Class size
a. Depending on the size of the class the Syllabus may need to focus more on working in small groups (for big classes) than in small classes.
4. Course duration
a. Depending on course duration the Syllabus may be more “loaded” with goals (for short courses) than courses with a longer duration and thus a little less work load.
5. Way of Teaching
a. The Way of Teaching has a big impact on the way a Syllabus is organized especially when determining how to teach students their TL.
6. Mother Tongue(s)
a. When organizing the Syllabus it is interesting to know if students come from a diverse background (many different mother tongues) or if all students will be from one country (often the case at Spanish schools).
7. Students Needs
a. The Syllabus needs to specify, according to the students Entry Level what their needs are. This will depend on the students age, job and personal preferences.
a. In line with Students Entry level the Syllabus needs to define Grammar goals.Students need to develop and demonstrate proper understanding and usage of grammar structures and Tense Systems such as Present Tenses (Present Simple, Present Continuous Present Perfect, Present Perfect Continuous), Past Tenses (Past simple, Past Continuous, Past perfect simple, Past perfect continuous) and Future Tenses (Future simple, Future Continuous, Future perfect simple and Future perfect continuous).
AN EXAMPLE OF HOW A CLASS WOULD BE STRUCTURED
The following is a summary of key elements when structuring a “generic” class.
• Introduction: structure and content
• Way of Teaching, Motivation and Pace
o I would pre-define my teacher style prior to the class depending on thje size of the class, its level and the age of the students.
o Each class will have a set of words which meaning, context and pronunciation needs to be mastered during the class-
• Reading comprehension
o The class may have a piece of text which one or various students may have to read out loud after which questions related to the text need to be answered.
o The class may also involve certain tasks such as working in small groups to make a small presentation related to a certain topic.
Materials used during a class
Examples of materials used during class may be tangible materials such as papers and pens to draw of write, or intangible materials such as access to the internet to use services such as Google, YouTube or other web-pages with relevant content related to class activities.
THE PRACTICE OF TARGET LANGUAGE (TL)
My personal preference would be to encourage students to only use the TL during classes. Interaction conditions will vary according to the level of the students but basically I would allow students to use their mother tongue only when speaking to the teacher and not between themselves. My experience so far teaching English to students at Level 1 or 2 is that the tend to communicate more and more with other students using their mother tongue when there are no clear limits put on the use of the mother tongue. This requires both discipline from the students and motivational skills from the teacher because students at Level 1 and 2 may become easily discouraged when they don’t know how to express themselves and not being able to talk to other student to help them out.
THE TEACHERS ATTIUDE TOWARDS ERRORS
With a strong emphasis on student engagement, involvement and motivation, my attitude towards errors made by students during classes is quite important. It is obvious that the amount of corrections, the timing of corrections and the way of correction all have a direct and indirect influence on student´s motivation levels.
The amount of corrections
The challenge here is to strike a healthy balance between not correcting too often and neithercorrecting too little.
The timing of corrections
Basically the choice I have as a teacher is to correct on the spot or to correct later on. I prefer to make pronunciation errors on the spot but when a student makes a lot of these errors I normally choose to “skip” some of the smaller errors.
Ways of making corrections
Here we can distinguish between immediate correction by the teacher providing the correct way of, let´s say, pronouncing a word, or by giving the student two options to choose from. Another option is to ask students in the class if they have spotted the error and if they have the correct answer.
The teacher’s role here is to facilitate the learning process in the classroom in general and by providing a setting in which students feel ok about themselves to be corrected by the teacher or by other students.
The vehicular language of the classroom
During my classes the vehicular language would be predominantly English. I say predominantly because I am not an advocate of prohibiting the use of students mother tongue during class. Only when students start using their mother tongue too easily without an apparent effort to speak the TL will I kindly ask them to try and use the native language less.
How I would assess learning outcomes
One way of assessing learning outcomes is to ask student during the last five minutes of a class to summarize the material used during the class and to them to assist me in summarizing the material we used and the things learned during this specific class.
Regarding the language areas grammar, vocabulary and spelling I would use a more formal and structured way of assessing learning outcomes for example by asking students to prepare a presentation (pronunciation, vocabulary), to write an essay (vocabulary and grammar) or to complete a written exam (grammar, vocabulary and spelling).
How my approach would change considering:
• Differences between teaching beginners and advanced students
o When teaching beginners my approach would be to focus first on getting to know what motivates them to learn English. If motivation seems low I would try to find out what interests they have (hobby´s, sports, music, movies et.c) and make links between their interest and ways of expressing emotions related to their field of interest. If, despite of asking for their personal interests, motivation levels stay low I could use “advanced empathy” to develop a more positive bond between student and teacher. I could do this by asking them how it feels to be sitting in a class and not wanting to study English. As a trained Counsellor I am comfortable using this technique to connect well with people who would rather be in another place.
o When teaching advanced students I would give them more freedom compared to beginners when selecting topics they like and the pace they prefer to work at.
• Different age groups
o Depending on the age of my students I will include more or less games, music and play (more games, music and play for younger students). Delegating certain tasks will also depend on the age of students where adult students will be able to work more independently during classes (in small sub-groups for example) whereas younger student will need more direct supervision.