My teaching approach
The Episodic method
The world is currently in the midst of a major change, due to one significant factor: the internet. It has changed the way we shop, we interact, we see things, we understand things and most importantly how we learn things. As the internet is still in its infancy, society is still adapting to the way the internet has changed things for everyone around the world. teaching has adapted to accommodate the internet with lessons being taught through Skype, and has become easier due to the ability to answer any question a student might have. Don't know the answer? Ask Google. For teaching languages to foreign students, this has made the role of the teacher a lot easier, and given them access to a wide range of tools to use in helping teaching English.
The internet has also led to the rise one of the most popular websites since it's introduction: Netflix. We can now watch what we want, whenever and wherever we want for a small price. People are starting to watch more and more films and television shows through Netflix because of their easy accessibility. According to facts and figures, over 32 million people subscribe in America alone, more than there is for basic cable TV. Netflix is taking over, and for some that is not such a bad thing. This leads me to my proposed teaching method, one that combines the addictive nature of the Netflix model with a fun and friendly learning environment that promotes discussion, vocabulary, activities and more: The Episodic method.
Using Inauthentic language authentically
As the most prominent part of the method revolves around language used in an inauthentic way, I plan to balance this with authentic language activities throughout the syllabus. This will help take the inauthentic language and re-adjust and re-order it in an authentic way. It has been shown in studies that watching videos in another language accompanied by subtitles can help bring students up to speed with their speaking and listening skills,and increase retention of vocabulary. I believe that this learning approach can be applied to anyone wanting to increase their vocabulary skills, no matter what language level they are. I myself, have little knowledge of Spanish, and have found that my vocabulary is increasing from simply watching television with Spanish subtitles.
The language skills emphasized through the Episodic method are listening, speaking, vocabulary and pronunciation, with particular importance in regards to the latter two. th Episodic method will help increase students vocabulary and their pronunciation of words as the use of language is a lot clearer when used in television as it is inauthentic. This gives the students time to hear how words are said clearly. Another functional reason behind the watch and pause method is that students will be able to hear how the English language sounds different, depending on accents from around the world. for example if the class material was the television show Peaky Blinders, students would be exposed to the Birmingham accent and its colloquial expressions. This would be different from say, Breaking Bad, in which accents and expressions would be different. This will help prepare students for the wide range of accents they might encounter in their lives, and give them a better understanding of each.
The Episodic method is aimed at higher level English learners, those at P4 and P5, who want to increase their vocabulary and understanding of English. I chose to exclude lower level learners as I believe this approach just wouldn't be suitable for them, as the pace of the class would just be too fast. There is no formal assessment at the end of the course, as the students are already at a higher level and the method is more informal in its approach. The syllabus will be comprised of videos for visual learning, and conversational discussion in which the students will utilise the target language in a meaningful way, which will utilise the Oxbridge method in its approach. Target language will be a central part of the syllabus, often times being of a hard standard as this course is aimed at high level learners. The syllabus will be easy to follow, and is designed to work around students busy schedules. Classes will be 2 hours in length, with the 1st hour of class focusing on units of learning. The units of learning will comprise of the episodes of television shows, with accompanying target language aimed at the students. The 2nd hour of the class will be the discussion and activity stage, in which students will discuss and do activities relating to the episodes just watched. There will be no homework given, as the focus is on in class debate and discussion. The syllabus draws on a number of different teaching approaches, mainly the direct method, the communicative approach, and certain aspects of suggestopedia, to create a hybrid teaching method more suitable for the aims of my approach.
After the students have entered class, we will take the first 5 to 10 minutes to discuss the previous episode, and go over the target language from the class before, in order to reinforce it. After this, the students and teacher will watch the episode together, with the teacher pausing the show when necessary to highlight target language for the class so that the students know which words are being targeted. This part of the class should take little more than an hour, as interrupting the video too much may get annoying for students, so a maximum of 15 minutes of pauses would be ideal so as not to interrupt the flow of the class. Students are encouraged to take note of any language they do not understand so as to discuss it after the episode has finished.
The second hour of the class will be devoted to discussion review and activities with the episode being the main focus of all these activities if studies activities will help the students with their authentic language acquisition, as we will be discussing these in a real context. Some examples of activities used in the second hour are:
- Discussion/debate about the episode.
- Reading or watching reviews of the episode.
- Utilizing target language highlighted throughout the episode in an authentic context.
- Role playing scenes from the episode using authentic language.
- Going over any language or vocabulary the students may have noted during the episode.
Finally the class will end with a wrap up where target language will be reinforced in the students before they leave. Homework will not be given through the Episodic method, although students are encouraged to begin watching films and television in English, or at least with English subtitles.
Teachers and students roles
The teacher's role in the class will be minimal with most of the talking time aimed at the students. Teachers will take a more active role during the first hour, as the target language needs to be explained and expanded on. Ideally the second hour will be devoted to the students talking time, with teacher interaction at a minimum, while getting involved when needed to link activities together, or helping push conversation if it is starting to lack. Ideally, the teacher will have a similar role as that in Oxbridge, with TTT at a minimum. Finally the teachers should have a good interest in film and television, as that is the crux of the Episodic method.
The role of the student will be to verbally communicate English as much as possible throughout the class. Good communication in English will be the main goal for the students, and doing this within the activities set by the teacher will help make a talkative environment that the students can feel comfortable in. As this class is for higher level learners, P4 and P5, English will be the only language spoken throughout the class, and the students should ideally have a good level of English speaking, reading and listening skills. Students should also be proactive in debates and discussions to help bring out different opinions, and make for an interesting environment in which discussion and debate will thrive. Forum, students should have an open mind in regards to what television shows will be watched, as many shows contain subject matters that some may find offensive. Students should also be proactive and take initiative by taking down any words they don't understand throughout the episode to discuss after it has finished.
As teaching is an ever evolving subject, I believe that experimentation plays an important role in how language is taught. As I have seen throughout the course, there is not just one concrete way of teaching English, but rather a combination of different factors to immerse students into a learning environment using different techniques. Suggestopedia uses the power of suggestion to put the brain into a relaxed state of learning, whereas the Callan method uses repetition and drills to learn. Neither are completely correct, but neither are completely wrong either. I believe a lot of the way students learn comes down to the students themselves, and what approach suits them best. I think that the Episodic method is a teaching approach for those who are more visual learners, who want to be entertained as they learn by giving them a reason to want to understand the English language in more depth.