Marí­a Melero de la Cruz





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 the SS.

 

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.


 

                                                                                                                      María Melero 



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