My teaching approach
How would you approach teaching English ?
My unique approach to teaching English would be a combination of skills from my previous professions, previous academic learning, current learning from the TEFL course and my personality.
There are a number of transferable skills, from my previous professions and academic study, that will help formulate my personal teaching approach. These are in addition to the new skills I am learning during this course.
During my career history, I’ve worked as an Employment, Training and Education (ETE) Advisor , helping clients, most had difficult barriers to overcome. Here I developed my skills as a motivator, it wasn’t enough just to appear motivated with clients. I had to find qualities within the clients, highlight them and convince them to believe in themselves. Thus developing self esteem. Likewise self esteem and motivation are essential for English students to succeed.
I would follow the principle of adopting best practice within the field of English language teaching. These approaches need to be tailored towards the needs of the students. After all a reflective teacher, thinks about how effective their approach is. If they are a good Teacher , then the students must be improving. If they are not then the Teacher needs to find out the reasons behind this, then modify their approach.
Traits from my personality that would help form my teaching style would be my patience, self awareness, self reflection, sense of humour, belief that the people can fulfill their potential in life. Being patient as a Teacher allows students space to grow. My sense of humour has always helped people feel comfortable. Being self aware allows me to know my own limitations and self reflection allows me to grow and develop as a professional. After all I don’t want to be a mediocre Teacher, therefore I keep learning and accept constructive criticism.
There are numerous approaches to teaching English, some of these are outdated and inefficient if they stand alone. An approach needs to be assessed by how it achieves learning and teaching goals, how the syllabus is organized and the role of the Teacher in class. If the Teacher is unable to teach efficiently or the student can’t learn efficiently, then we have a problem. However I feel that some modified elements can be included as a small activity or a technique.
The Grammar-Translation Method (GTM), may help some students who want to focus on written text, such as Professional Translators. The Direct Method may help those who want to focus on vocabulary. The Audio Lingual method may help those focusing on Grammar. The Silent Way may help students to discover the answer themselves. The Suggestopedia approach may help deconstruct barriers with learners that are shy . The Total Physical Response (TPR) method will help “Kinesthetic” learners as they will use different senses.
Considering secondary language acquisition alongside the Monitor Model from Krashen, my approach would encourage:
- Natural communication within relevant contexts to the student.
- Spontaneous usage within wrap up or finishing tasks.
- The student to be challenged within the Zone of Proximal Development, by making task progressively difficult
- Grammar would be implicitly taught after examples have been practiced.
- The student not to filter themselves by emphasizing mistakes are part of the learning process.
My approach would include positive elements from any approach, as long as they help the student. I would include the TPR , for activities that used Commands, I would use the Suggestopedia approach to help students feel comfortable. Any part of an approach that is boring or patronizing I would exclude. I have had personal experience trying to learn with the Grammar-Translation Method and Audio-Lingual Method. I enrolled on a Spanish course, slowly many students dropped out of the course. Eventually I dropped out as the approach left me confused, overwhelmed and demotivated. I had endless handouts but lacked the ability to communicate.
The purpose of learning a language is to communicate, so any effective approach must achieve this. My approach would encourage students to speak as much as possible. The most up to date research on English language teaching suggests , there is a logical process to learning a second language. Listen and understand first, then speaking, then reading and finally writing. They are all interlinked , however one can lead to another. For example if a student can speak well it will help him/ her write well. They are both productive skills.
Students will be encouraged to speak, if the activities are engaging and planned well. Ideally questions will have a context that is relevant to the student and not some obscure boring topic. My activities would draw relevant stimuli, such as songs, movies, pictures. For example a student likes comic books, I would use this to put a context to quick questions, vocabulary and topics to cover.
My approach would teach grammar inductively , after giving examples. Approaches like the GTM are not as efficient and they put off students.
I would teach vocabulary in a popular context so students understand and remember, as well as repetition within different sentences. For higher levels concept check questions will help, for lower levels I would use visual aids. I would encourage all levels to use the vocabulary to speak. Regarding pronunciation, I would encourage higher levels to pay more attention to intonation. For lower levels I would pay more attention to phonemes.
An appropriate syllabus gives an overall context to learning and integrates one class into the next. Different syllabi may appear distinct , however in practice it will be more beneficial to integrate them to shape teaching and learning goals. My approach would firstly draw on a function-based syllabus, as students will be able to express themselves. Secondly draw on a situations based syllabus as the TL can be used in context. Finally I would draw on a Task based syllabus as it helps students to carry out activities. These all help the student to put their language into practice.
The format of a lesson plan of my approach would look as follows:
Learn new Vocabulary & apply in relevant context
Listening & Understanding
Improve pronunciation via reading
Formulate relevant Questions & Answers
Constant emphasis on Speaking
Starter – Quick Questions / Recapping on previous lesson
Vocabulary – Brief Intro / Formulate Questions with new Vocab
Grammar – Implicitly taught, after use of examples
Reading / Listening exercise – SS to read and Question each other about article
TPR – To give instructions/ Commands
Role play – Eg professions
Session review / Wrap up
I would modify my approach according to the students. If they are children or adult beginners. I would use games, songs, miming, role play and plenty of realia. Especially for children I would use activities that are fun and quick paced, to prevent boredom and misbehavior. My instructions would be very simple, I would emphasise modeling answer, I would use more repetition and rely more on my gestures. When introducing new words I would use cognates, use them within the most relevant context, use miming, use images and example from popular culture.
I once heard a Teacher say :
“A good Teacher, makes the Student fall in love with the subject”
For beginners I would try to achieve this conveying the idea, that learning English is simple and fun. Tasks would be simple, allow immediate use and communication and vocabulary would be versatile. The tasks would start in general format then become more specific. Such as in the Four step system. I would start with a function first , then function + generic word, change generic with specific, then join the function with a noun in a sentence.
More experienced students have the advantage of more language to help them, so I would challenge them more, by progressively harder tasks.
If I have students that are Engineers I would include material that is relevant to their profession. The context of using the language would be different if I had a class of Customer Service Assistants. This way the new language can be applied in their own life.
An English Teacher has many roles that they can fulfill for the student, from these roles, the student can especially benefit from the Teacher being a Playmaker. An effective playmaker guides the students and gets them to perform. Like a good Director of a movie who directs the actors but gives them some freedom to improvise and be spontaneous. My approach would use role plays to achieve this where relevant.
The roles of a Teacher as a Psychologist and Agony Aunt allow us to empathise with a student , understanding why they may have certain barriers or difficulties. I have spent a lot of time in my previous career as ETE Advisor, listening to clients and paying attention to what is said and also to non-verbal communication. In the same way my teaching approach would accommodate students as individuals.
A good teacher has to be prepared, this doesn’t simply mean preparing a lesson plan and being familiar with it. It also means being prepared to give extra attention to a particular student. Also being flexible and prepared to adapt to the learners needs or last minute problems. For example if a student is upset because of their work, I may relax what I expect during the class.
My approach would include regular reflection. As mentioned earlier I have always been self aware and reflected about my practice. In my approach, I would review my own teaching internally. As well externally from more experienced colleagues. I would also consider student feedback, observe if they are engaging and progressing from one lesson to another, as well as within the lesson.
I believe if I have the relevant attitude, am properly prepared and choose engaging relevant materials the students will learn and I will be able to teach efficiently. Issues with classroom management will be less likely.
When looking backwards at the history of teaching, we see it has changed. I feel in the future it will continue to change. This is partly because language is dynamic and alive as is the profession of the teaching. With economic changes in the world, different countries will require more English Teachers , as it’s the language of the market. I feel good teachers and systems will always have a place in the future. Whilst poor teachers and systems may have a place, they will have a weak foundation. Teachers must evolve to meet market demands and best practices should receive more credit and be promoted. Collaborative approaches allow the sharing of good practice and constructive feedback amongst professionals. If a Teacher cares about learning then they must want to teach in the best way possible.