Matriculated cum laude English (South African NSC level)
Outreach teaching through Libalele in South Africa
Oxbridge TEFL teaching course completed in Barcelona
Online tutor at Tutor2u
Advanced Programme English Certificate (South African ieb qualification)
Current BBA student in the final (third) year of studies
My teaching approach
I believe that the first step, as a teacher, in planning a lesson or teaching technique that leads to effective teaching and learning is to enquire about the student’s reason for taking the course and what he or she expects to learn from it, as an approach to finding out his or her motivations. Although different learners have different needs and these are specific to them individually, the majority of students looking to improve their English that I have come across in Barcelona so far, are looking to do so for conversational reasons. I would therefore have to align my teaching goals with these of the learners and present a class that is primarily conversational in nature. Fluency and a flow to the class then comes the the forefront as an important concept, and the grading of the language becomes important. I am aware that I can maybe speak a bit too quickly on occasion and would personally therefore focus on a good pace, but also on the pronunciation and clarity of words. Off course I would have some goals, as a teacher, of what I want the students to learn or how I want them to progress over a semester, but what I want them to learn should come in secondary in importance to what the aspirations of the students are themselves. I would therefore look to consider what the student’s want to learn and plan the style of my teaching and structure of my classes accordingly as mentioned with a more communicative approach for students who only wish to improve on their spoken English. Of the four main languages skills, the emphasis would therefore mainly be on the receptive side of listening and the active of speaking.
In terms of language areas, I would the place importance on, this would also be heavily dependent on the expectations of the students as well as level. Vocabulary included should relate to fields of expertise of students and where they need it most, whilst topical areas should follow a similar approach. Structure or grammatical issues are less dependent on situation and can be drawn up into a syllabus. This syllabus could be based loosely on some sort of text book and should include what grammatical areas should have been covered in each level and what level of grammatical and structural expertise a student should possess before advancing from one level to the next. The vehicular language of the classroom would be English and for the entire period, this is the language that should only be heard. This is because one of the main goals should be for the student to start thinking in the language, even if only for short periods of the class. This can be spurred by asking the student to try and explain a given word he may not know in English rather than giving the translation for his or her mother tongue; cognates, antonyms and synonyms can also be helpful tools for the teacher in this. Interlanguage should also definitely be avoided at all costs as this can lead to students being confused, especially if the applicable students speaks another, similar sounding language and so English should be strictly stuck to, also avoiding colloquialisms and slang for less advanced students.
If I consider the four main teaching methods I am aware of and have covered thus far in the course, I would immediately rule out the grammar translation method as it focuses on direct translation and the written word rather than the spoken one. Grammar and structure is important, however, but I do not believe that students who wish to become proficient in the language should learn it through any direct translation methods from another language but rather as a new language with a new
set of rules in itself. The Silent Way is also not a method I would incorporate too heavily when trying to construct an effective, conversational class, although I believe aspects of it are very important to consider and incorporate as body language is vital from the teacher’s side. The Silent Way and making use of body language and features around the class setting may be very effective when having more than one pupil and trying to get these to speak to one another rather than following the dialogue. I believe, as a teacher, it is arguably the most desirable situation to have two of the learners conversing with each other without needing verbal input from the teacher, as long as the conversation aligns somewhat with the topic being taught. I also see some practical implications in the ‘Suggestopedia’ method. I find it important to ensure that students feel completely at ease before starting the class for effective learning to take place. Simple things a teacher could do to ensure this comfortable atmosphere is a few short formalities at the start, knowing names and making sure that all students have equal opportunity to listen and be heard in the class. A method I personally am not convinced by but would even incorporate in a small way is the Callan method. Although I find speaking for students (that do nothing but listen and repeat) an approach that is too passive in nature, I feel that, for matters such as serious pronunciation problems, especially for higher levels, incorporating the Callan method may be a way to solve these.
In my view, the teacher’s role is then the facilitator of productive conversation whilst, ultimately, the role of the student is to do the conversing. This situation would require my attitude towards student’s errors to be rather lenient, although this would depend entirely upon the level of the student(s). Obviously, I would stress pronunciation of words more for a higher or advanced level, but may ask lower levels whether they understand the meaning of words more often. In my general approach, I am not fond of interrupting students during dialogue or any activity to correct and error but rather write it down on a piece of paper and go over the errors with students after the end of sections or activity, putting emphasis on common or similar errors. In my opinion, the age of the student should not necessarily play a role in the leniency of the teacher, but maybe in realia, in terms of the seriousness of readings, nature of images and other materials used etc. The teacher must always take age into consideration in making sure classes stay relevant for students and something they can and want to engage with.
Materials used should ensure that students stay engaged and interested whilst also being motivated to learn. On the teacher’s side, it is important to have a clear index of the target language that needs to be covered. This TL should be prepared by the teacher beforehand. It is also important for the teacher to have prepared and know the activities well to ensure an effectively flowing class that is carried out at the right pace. In terms of the students’ side, due to the conversational nature, I do not believe that many materials should be necessary. Visual aids that stimulate conversation as well as videos and/or texts that provoke discussion through differing opinions can be very effective and should be regularly incorporated but come secondary to me.
The focus should be on learning how to use target language in conversation. This can be done through introducing concepts in the warm-up and testing through CCQ throughout stages of the development at the class, with one final test for the students understanding during the review, consisting of wrap-up questions. TL words and
concepts should be drilled using repetition to ensure some sort of retention on the side of the students. Formal assessment should not be indicative of measuring a student’s performance because, ultimately, the student must be satisfied with his or her own project and should measure this success by the satisfaction they get in their English exchanges outside of the classroom. From my perspective of a teacher, I would however place an importance on how a learner progresses from class to class or meeting to meeting because I believe a student can become disheartened by, for example, staying in a single level for a considerable amount of time.