Isabel Boddy





My teaching approach

In order to make the decisions involved in designing my own method of teaching, I must first assess past methodologies and their strengths and weaknesses. 

The direct method focuses primarily on speech; reading and writing are based on oral learning first. This is similar in the audio lingual approach, where the main purpose of learning is communication, with speaking given the most attention. For me, this is a strength as I believe speaking is the skill that needs to be practiced most. Skills such as reading and listening can be practiced without realising by listening to people’s conversations, for example. On top of this, it is important to take into account that absolute beginners would struggle being asked to write before they even have a basic level of speech. A strong point in the direct method would be the fact that it takes all aspects of the language into account, working on all 4 skills as well as grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary. Therefore, my method would be similar to this method in the way that I would include a focus on all these parts of the language; however my main focus would be on speech. This is different to the grammar translation method, where written language is considered superior to speaking, and the ability to communicate is not a goal. I do not agree with this because, as I have previously mentioned, it is much easier to learn how to write once you already know how to speak and speaking will help you thoroughly in everyday life.

The direct method has great application to real life as the syllabus is based on current topics and affairs. In my method, I will try and apply learning to current situations, allowing students to learn how to discuss a subject which they may have to talk about in the future. This is why I will use authentic materials to stress the importance of language application to everyday life. I do not agree with using textbooks as the examples in them become dated due to topics such as politics and celebrity gossip, which are changing daily. These old examples are not as effective as they may be uninteresting for the students or involve vocabulary which they will never have to use. If we use recent current affairs and modern day examples then students will want to talk about it more. 

Similarly to the direct method, I would not allow the use of the native language in the classroom and I would avoid translation. This is what makes the Total Physical Response method good as it avoids this by being carried out completely with the students following mimed directions and actions. It is therefore good for teaching students vocabulary and makes the class interesting. Through my experience teaching classes, I have learnt that when teaching new vocabulary or target language, it really helps the students if I mime or act out the word. In my opinion, the advantage of this method is that it catches the student’s attention and helps them practice the language without being conscious of the effort they are putting in. However, there is one problem in that the success of this method depends on what type of students you are teaching. For example, if you are teaching in a company it is not appropriate to ask a student (especially a director of a company) to get up and start miming as they may not feel comfortable. However, this is perfect for a children’s class as it keeps them interested due to it having a ‘game-like’ approach. I will therefore adapt this way of teaching for vocabulary in my method, toning it down when teaching in a company.

Something that I believe is a weakness that both the direct and audio lingual methods have is the balance between vocabulary and grammar. The direct method puts emphasis on vocabulary over grammar, yet the audio lingual approach focuses on grammar over vocab. I disagree with both of these aspects of the methods as I believe that grammar and vocabulary should go hand in hand as we cannot have one without the other. In my method, I would therefore give these two aspects of language the same amount of importance rather than privileging one over the other. For example, I cannot understand how teaching grammar over vocabulary would work in the audio lingual method as students need vocabulary in order to be taught the structure of a language. My syllabus would therefore be equally grammar and vocabulary based although it would not be function based as I believe that telling students the form or function of what they are practicing can cause confusion and is not as important as them learning how to use it in context. After all English, just like other languages, has so many exceptions to its rules that explaining them will not be effective.

A further problem I have with the audio lingual method is the importance it places on preventing learners from making errors. Although I agree that errors have to be corrected in order to learn a language, I feel that over-correction can kill a student’s confidence or the fluency at which they are speaking. In my opinion, fluency is of great importance when trying to speak a language at an advanced level and helps students to sound more native. Furthermore, I do not agree with the importance of students getting the specific right answer, like in the grammar translation method. Language learning can be very subjective and what one teacher may think to be the specific right answer, another teacher may disagree. Referring back to my method, as long as what the student is saying makes sense I do not think they should have to give a specific answer.

With corrections, we must successfully separate the difference between a minor lapse and a consistent lapse. If a student gets something wrong once but it seems to be an unintentional slip and they do not seem to make this mistake again, then I consider that this can go without correcting.  However if a student is consistently making the same mistake over and over again it probably means that they believe it is correct and therefore this must be corrected. On top of this, if you do not correct a student on a mistake continue to make then you are allowing them to drill this mistake into their mind and it will be all the more difficult to correct later on. At the same time as identifying mistakes, we must avoid over-correction as this can affect a student’s confidence or fluency. If a student is giving their opinion on a topic you do not want to cut them off in the middle of what they are saying and ruin their fluency. It is best to remember the mistake and bring it up after they have finished what they are saying. In my teaching method, I would primarily encourage self-correction, which elicits the answers out of the students rather than the teacher giving them the answer. This can be done by either repeating what the student has said and pulling a face which demonstrates to them that it is not correct and therefore allowing them to make the correction themselves, or by creating an action such as pointing behind you to demonstrate that they must change the verb into the past.

Praise is similar to correcting in the way that you have to find the perfect balance. Too much praise may make your students think you are mocking them or that you feel sorry for them. However, it is important to praise a student if they have got something correct or have finally managed to do something they have always struggled with in order to boost their confidence.  If students are not praised enough then they may not have any confidence in class and may not want to speak.

 

I would approach the balance between receptive and productive skills by keeping the focus on listening, a receptive skill, and speaking, a productive skill. Of course there would be reading involved, and some writing if the student requested it, but the main focus would be on speaking and eliciting speech from the students. The listening would naturally come from the student listening to the teacher and students would be recommended to listen to music in the language they are learning. The reason for the main focus being on speaking would be that the students have ways of practicing the other 3 skills at home and in their own time but when they are in class it is best to use the teacher’s skills to their advantage and therefore learn to speak. I would attempt to make sure ‘teacher talking time’ was as low as possible with exceptions for beginners due to their lack of vocabulary. However, for higher levels it will be mainly the students talking.

To conclude, my method would use the aspects that I consider effective from different past methodologies. It would include the learning of all 4 skills, but mainly focused on communication and speech like the direct method and the audio lingual method. It would have an application to real life, using new examples every week. It would use miming, inspired by TPR, in order to explain vocabulary and I would encourage self-correction and eliciting from students. 



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