My teaching approach
My Teaching Process
The first step in my process of teaching is to understand the student’s motivation and learning goals for taking English as a second language (ESL) lessons. I would achieve this by active questions, as well as by observing the student’s behavior.
Step two would be to assess / evaluate the student’s current level of English. In most cases, this can be accomplished with a one-on-one conversation. Written, reading, comprehension and listening tests can be also used if needed. In addition, providing opportunities for students to assess themselves or see the results of a teacher based assessment can boost their motivation and confidence.
Step three would be to create a lesson plan customized to the particular needs and interests of the student. It would take into consideration the student’s age, level of education, profession or intended profession and current level of language, as well as some affective factors such as motivation, personality, opportunity, environment. The lesson plan should be following the syllabus but should be carefully constructed or chosen based on the individual student. Special care would be taken with sensitive topics.
Step four would be to deliver the lesson to the student, making sure to leave time available for free flow conversation (“How was your weekend?”) and special requests from the student. The intro phase should be gripping, in order to raise student’s interest and motivation. If the class includes more than one student, activities should be expanded to involve all students effectively.
Here are some of my areas of focus in lesson delivery:
- Structure – to provide a clear pathway towards the learning goal, both at a macro and micro level. It also ensures that learners know what is expected of them. For example, I like to set the objective of an activity by way of a quick clarification / set of instructions. Such as “Today we are learning how to ask questions”. Or “We will learn how to indicate time”. Then I would move on to examples. For higher level students I would start by saying a few sentences and ask them if they can guess what the lesson is about. I would assign homework whenever possible, as I believe it is a very efficient strengthening tool. The intent for a homework assignment is to stimulate independent study, and to that effect, the topic should, as much as possible, probe the student’s personal experience and / or interests.
- Stimulation – comes from a curriculum that highlights the relevance of activities that make learning interesting, so that they can progress. In order to provide variety, I would be using a variety of teaching methods and learning activities and encourage the students to take responsibility for their learning in order to become active learners (i.e.: apply learning to problem-based situations, encourage discussions). For example, games can engage a class with a low level of energy. They provide fun and motivation. They also have the potential to make use of life skills such as communication, cooperation and teamwork.
- Feedback – I strongly believe in providing information that lets students know how they are doing, guiding them from where they are to where they need to be. Giving students feedback while they learn has a very beneficial effect on student achievement. In this respect, I find that giving task-oriented praise is more effective than person-oriented praise.
A typical class structure would consist of 3-4 activities on various topics and touching on different macro and micro skills. When preparing the lesson plan, special care would be taken to allow time for free flow conversation and teacher / student feedback. As an example, below is the flow of a typical activity:
- Set the objective “We will learn about…”
- Warm-up - to focus the student’s attention on the lesson objective
- Present - to present the new information and check for comprehension
- Practice - use the new information. Question and answer, examples, scenarios.
- Evaluate - teacher to check the students’ comprehension of the new information (new vocabulary, grammar rule etc.)
- Apply - teacher elicits student to use the new information in a different context or new situation.
Special attention has to given to limiting teacher talking time, to encouraging student talking time by eliciting elaborate answers and conversations between students in target language. Good examples of that would be debates or brainstorming sessions.
Every item in my flow would require a variable amount of time depending on the level of the class. For lower levels, step 4 above may require a longer amount of time in order to absorb the information and ensure correct comprehension. For higher levels, step 6 may take the longest time and may include a role-playing exercise.
At the end of the class, a Q&A session would reinforce the topics covered and would allow me to determine if the goals have been met.
Some additional thoughts about my approach to teaching:
- Immersion is the fastest and most efficient way of learning the target language (TL). I limit the use of the native language as much as possible, with the understanding that there may be an occasional need for it at lower levels.
- I believe that a good rapport with the students is essential to the lesson. I am more successful as a teacher if I relate to the student and adjust my teaching method to his / her ability and needs.
- If the student has a special need for taking EFL classes such as English for a specific purpose, the lesson should be useful for the student. Focus on their topics of interest can prove to be a long-term motivator and is effective for adult learners.
- The teaching order for macro skills would be: listening, speaking, reading, writing. Note: I would identify visual learners, and allow them, even at early stages, an opportunity to view new vocabulary on the page.
- The priority order for micro skills would be: grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, spelling.
- I would introduce new language in a teacher-led approach, reinforced by examples and questions and answers to use the new language in context. Examples of Q&A could range from quick questions or true/false questions to eliciting elaborate answers, depending on the level. The teacher-led part of the approach should be limited in time, in order to avoid transforming the students into passive learners.
- An activity should be short, no longer than 15-20 minutes, and can include: games, role-play, questions and answers, brainstorming, discussions, etc. Activities should be inter-connected and flow easily.
- While grading is essential during all learning phases, use of authentic language is the ultimate goal; the intent is to use contracted forms where appropriate and use correct tense and grammar to be able to communicate effectively. That’s why during each lesson it is important to give students the correct base (vocabulary, target language) and support (classroom management, corrections) to achieve the goal of the lesson. Listening and watching authentic materials will help learners to develop their listening and oral skills.
- I believe that the teacher’s attitude, tone of voice, tempo of speech, facial expressions, postures and gestures have a huge impact on the lesson.
- The class environment should be relaxing and conducive to learning, with stimulating conversations about the topics being presented.
Step five is directly following the class; I would evaluate the class in a quick record, placing emphasis on: a) area covered; b) skills/areas where extra reinforcement was needed and c) student special requests. I would include a self-evaluation to reflect on particularly successful parts of the lesson as well as points that can be improved. This is particularly helpful if another teacher is conducting upcoming classes.
My Teaching Philosophy
Engaging my students and keeping them active throughout the class is extremely satisfying to me. With proper prior preparation and an active classroom accomplished, I believe that the syllabus takes care of itself. My ultimate goals are to effect a change by helping my students find their own voice, to inspire them and to learn a little something in the process. I love teaching :)