My teaching approach
Learning a second language is something that
takes a lot of time and dedication. Besides, it is not only the SS who is
making the effort to improve little by little but the TT’s job to try and make
learning a foreign language easy, entertaining and productive. Accomplishing
your goals after doing one activity is as rewarding as the feeling of having empathized with the SS because both of you had a good time in the end.
After having gone through the different
methodologies, teaching skills, students difficulties and so on, I will try to
develop the methodology I would use in order to teach.
There are many different teaching methodologies
from the old ones focused on grammar to the ones based on media material and
self-learing and CD-ROMs.
To me, the most interesting ones are The Direct Method, The audio-lingual Method,
Total Physical Response and Communicative language teaching. However, they
have their strengths and weaknesses.
From my point of view, the direct method is of
benefit because of its use of its use of objects (realia) and pictures to help
the SS understand the meaning not making use of the SS’ native language at
all. A good way of understanding the new
vocabulary is demonstration. However, they stress vocabulary over grammar; I do
not agree with this because I think that both are important as long as they are
taught in context and based on the function of the grammar point. It is very
important to have a wide range of vocabulary but it is crucial to make sense
when talking using the different tenses appropriately. With this, I do not mean
the rules must be taught, yet not to leave grammar points behind. In this
method, syllabus are based on topics; from my point of view, it is better to
structure a syllabus in vocabulary, structure and topics; in topic’s activities
is where one practices what he or she learnt before (vocabulary and grammar).
The last weakness I encountered was teaching writing skills. I do not think it
is really useful since as long as you are able to communicate, you will be
perfectly able to do any writing afterwards.
Concerning the audio-lingual method, I
completely agree with the audio/aural method since these skills receive most of
the attention. Grammar is induced from examples and as I said before, I think
how structures work is crucial. However, this might not help to be clear
enough; sometimes SS repeat what they hear but do not really know the meaning
or function in a sentence. This method also considers important to prevent
learners from making mistakes from the beginning. It might be wrong to
interrupt them when talking but if the same mistake is made several times, it
is better to intervene.
The third method I selected is TPR; I support
this method being used with kids. Meaning is covered through actions and SS
learn observing what the TT performs, in this way, children learn while having
fun. Nevertheless, this method cannot stand on its own because the SS never
speak or communicate which is the main purpose of learning a language. I would
be useful to learn basic vocabulary and get the context through motions but
this method cannot deal with further vocabulary like abstract words.
To conclude, one of the most interesting and
inclusive methods is the communicative language teaching. It is based on communication
and the target language is the vehicle to communicate among each other. The
entertaining element is also included because it makes use of games (let’s say:
role plays, matching pictures with words, challenge the SS with a quiz in
groups, etc). Grammar and vocabulary is learnt from the function and content.
This method sets a task: they have a goal- ex. Make SS learn habits and
routines. It is understood as the introduction of the present simple tense
together with its time references (every day, every week, etc); then, they put
an input showing the function of the new structure (ex. A text) and finally
activities related to the goal. This method develops the four skills:
productive (speaking and writing) and receptive (listening and reading).
The only remark I would make is that errors are
tolerated. As I said before, TT has to consider whether it needs correction or
not because some mistakes should not be ignored.
My teaching methodology would be a combination
of the strengths I highlighted from these four methodologies, but based mainly
on the last one.
Practising the four skills we mentioned before
is essential to acquire a language. However, being able to communicate is of
the utmost importance. Speaking and listening must be boosted; writing skills
come afterwards. The role of the TT is crucial to approach listening and
speaking skills; the TT is a facilitator, a controller, a coach, etc. Speaking
practice is basically in all the activities, but when the aim is for the SS to
gain confidence and fluency, any activity where SS have to debate, defend an
idea, play a role or just give an opinion will work.
Listening can be put into practise through
short films, radio programmes or the teacher reading a text out loud, then you
can check is SS understood everything asking questions about that. Anyway, the
fact that the lesson is in the TL means also that the SS is acquiring this
skill. Readings can be very useful to learn new vocabulary and show the
function of the different structures. As for writing, it is a skill in which SS
do not really need any training. If they are able to communicate having gone
through topic, vocabulary, reading and structure activities, SS must be
completely able of doing any writing.
In order to approach all these skills, we have
always to take into account the SS level of English, SS difficulties and last
but not least their reason for learning.
First of all, it is very important to find out
why SS is learning English. Usually, the reason is the need to communicate and
they are interested in learning the TL for work, businesses, etc. However, TT
need to bear in mind that other SS are taking lessons compulsory and they
cannot stand learning the TL. In both cases, it is necessary to know what
motivates the SS most to catch their attention and make them learn and enjoy
the lesson (ex. Through a current topic of general interest). After finding out
what are the SS’ interests, TT has to be aware of the difficulties and
weaknesses to work on them and to fix them.
Let’s say that SS’s problem is
overgeneralization and keeps using false friends. The TT does not have to stop
the process of learning and just focus on this, yet keep with this process
introducing more activities to get the problem solved. If SS has a problem with
false friends, it might be useful for the SS to get used to them in context so
the TT has to prepare activities to keep on learning but also make the SS come
across with some of them- ex. False friends can be introduced in listening
activities and SS being asked to tell the difference and put them into
context). The same as for grammar and vocabulary activities in which the goal
will be a specific one but containing these false friends. The SS will progress
and also find these false friends in these activities to familiarize them with
As I mentioned before we need to know the SS
interests, attitude, goals and of course level of English to plan the syllabus.
The syllabus is the structure of the course and
is made of lesson plans. Maybe doing a test can be helpful to know the SS level
of English and weaknesses in sight. They must also tell you what are their aims
and objectives and what they want to have achieved by the end of the month.
Then, you can start your lesson planning. Let’s say our SS is P3 and wants to
become more fluent and needs specific vocabulary because he/she is a lawyer.
The lesson planning would be based on vocabulary activities, topic and
structure activities because the three skills are always needed. I would
alternate the lesson planning:
1st lesson: 1 vocabulary, 1
structure, 1 topic and 1 vocabulary.
2nd lesson: 1 vocabulary, 1
structure, 1 topic and 1 structure.
3rd lesson: 1 topic, 1 vocabulary, 1
topic and 1 structure.
To me, four activities in an hour are enough as
long as the activities are good and have valuable practice. Structure
activities are organised in function and meaning while vocabulary activities
are organised in semantic fields. Depending on the topic taught, TT has to do
the timing because maybe the structure activity is easy for the SS but he/she
finds it hard to learn some new phrasal verbs in the vocabulary activity. The
topics should be of interest to the student and dedicate a lot of time to
discuss whatever it is about since this is what the SS’s goal is.
For this reason, I prefer an activity to be
long but understood, clear and learnt by the end of the lesson rather than
rushing through more activities. It is also important to mention that the
activities should be linked somehow to keep the SS’s attention and in the end
of the lesson have time enough to do a wrap up and check it all was clear. That
is why TT needs always to time the lesson.
Whenever something is not understood the way TT
expected, he/she needs to improvise, to look for another way to make SS
understand without making him/her feel underestimated. TT has to be patient
because he/she will encounter many different types of SS (motivated, talkative,
shy, tired, lacking motivation or even rude). TT tries to establish a good
rapport with the SS; be friendly, cheerful, patient and always polite. If the
SS do not enjoy just ask them what they would like to do and have any kind of
activity and material prepared different from the ones expected to do
beforehand. Since I have previous teaching experience, I would say that SS love
doing games, especially those ones where the competitive element is present. If
the group is big and you can make use of a blackboard, make SS use it in games.
In my opinion, the material used has to involve
participation and fun. Not everything will be games but there is always a way
of making the lessons interesting: to practise structures talking about a past
anecdote, a role play about the worst date you ever had making use of the past
tense, etc. The key is preparation; TT has to be able to create good activities
and be able to improvise to help SS reach his/her goals.