Marta Munóz Pérez





My teaching approach

 

 

 

 

 

Teaching Skills Assignment

 

TEFL. Oxbridge

 

Marta Muñiz Pérez

September 2012

 



Introduction

This essay has been written as part of the TEFL course taken in September 2012 with Oxbridge. It intends to make a critical approach of the main teaching methods, analysing pros and cons, in order to establish which would be the most important features on developing our personal method and syllabus.

Firstly, we will introduce the topic by discussing language skills and aims on learning a language. Secondly, we will have a look at the different existing methods and analyse their pros and cons. Finally, we will outline the main characteristics we think our teaching method should comply.

The importance of language skills

When we learn a second language, we want to learn how to communicate in that language. There are four language skills: two productive (speaking and writing) and two receptive (listening and reading).

Listening and speaking come in a natural way. When we were babies, we all learnt first listening (through understanding and ideas association), and at some stage, when we were ready, we started to speak. Reading and writing are skills that we learnt later and by a very different process (at school). Repeating this pattern on the acquisition of a second language would seem natural and appropriate. However, it is not as simple. First, we are no longer babies; second, we are not totally immersed in the second language as we were on the first one; and third, now that we are able to writing and reading, why should not we take advantage of it?

A second issue to take into consideration, is that we are all different, and not all of us learn on the same ways. Obviously, we need a model in order to develop a teaching method, but we have to be aware that the same method may work on very different ways depending on many factors. Thus, the age, cultural level and degree of motivation of the students, among many others, are essential factors.

The goals of the students should be another key element on developing and applying our method. Most students will be looking for plain communication. In this case, listening and speaking should prevail over written and reading skills. In other cases, such as more advanced and specific levels, writing and reading may be the main focus.

Teaching English: Analysis on some different methods

The Grammar-Translation Method is based on writing and reading skills, and involves little or no oral communication and listening comprehension. The ability to communicate is not a goal. Written texts are used, and the goal is to translate. Originally used to teach dead languages, such as Ancient Greek or Latin, the vocabulary is taught by translation to the students native language and grammar is extensively taught.

The Direct Method emphasizes vocabulary over grammar. The purpose of learning is communication. The four skills are worked since the beginning, although oral communication is the main one. Grammar is not explained but learnt in context, and pronunciation receives special attention since the beginning. Translation is not allowed.

The Audio-Lingual Method also has an oral approaching; however the main methodology is drilling the students on the use of grammatical sentence patterns. The aim is to learn how to use the language. First structural patterns are acquired, the vocabulary is learnt afterward.

The Silent Way method subordinates teaching to learning and allows the students to find their own way of learning. The teacher stimulates and guides the students, who learn through problem solving activities.

The Suggestopedia method tries to free students of natural fears and barriers on the students’ minds. The method considers four essential factors: the provision of a comfortable learning environment; the use of soft Baroque music as background; elimination of the psychological barriers on the learning potential of the students; and encouragement of the learners assuming new roles or names in the target language. The teacher assumes a role of complete authority and control in the classroom. Students work from dialogs in the target language with a translation on their own native language.

The Whole Language method looks for the integration of all language skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening). It bases on the fact that babies acquire language through actually using it, not through practicing its separate parts. The best model of acquisition is through the real use of the language.

Total Physical Response: The TPR method is based on the coordination of speech and action. It follows a principle stating that the more often or intensively a memory connection is traced, the stronger the memory will be. The method is mainly developed for children, although it is also used with adults. The first aim is listening, once comprehension has been developed, speech comes on a natural way, exactly the same way as the acquisition of our first language occurs.

The Communicative Approach requires integration of the four language skills. It is based on the idea that learning a language comes through having to communicate real meaning. Lessons are usually topic or theme based, with the target grammar hidden in the context, being the topics related to real world situations. Communicative competence, rather than accuracy, is the main goal.


Method

Pros

Cons

Grammar-Translation

It is an easy method for teachers with low knowledge of the language and/or little interest on their students learning. I see no pros on this method.

There is no learning of a second language.

Direct method

The four language skills are involved. Translation is not allowed at any stage. It is a natural way of learning.

It may be not too demanding and not easy to apply with advanced learners.

Audio-Lingual

The four language skills are involved. Positive reinforcement.

The focus is on analysing the language, but not on the real use of it. Lessons are boring, leading to lack of motivation.

Silent Way

It can be fun for students (good for motivation). Learning process based on self-correction and problem solving (leading to a well established acquisition of knowledge).

As a teacher I would find it terribly complicated. Difficult application.

Suggestopedia

High motivation. Focus on relaxed and comforting environment, and on reassurance of students’ skills.

Students do not learn how to communicate on a second language, but only listening and translation.

Whole Language

Natural learning process. Holistic view, integrating the four skills.

This is not a functional method to be applied on 2 or 3 hours a week. Immersion needs time, and it cannot be replicated on hour-length lessons.

TPR

Natural way of learning, with low stress levels. Frustration is controlled by respecting each person’s rhythm. High motivation.

It may be too simplistic, only valid for low levels and children. It would be difficult to introduce more complicated structures.

Communicative Approach

High motivation. Real world situations, rather than artificial language.

Lack of accuracy. Writing skill may be left behind.

 

 


Conclusion

We can extract some conclusions from the analysis of the different methods above. Firstly, the aim of any teaching method should be the students’ ability of communicating in a second language. There is little use on knowing how to translate or spell correctly, if we are not able of communicating on the target language. Therefore, communication should be always the main target. In order to learn how to communicate, real life based activities should be top priority.

One of the main difficulties when choosing one method is that not everybody responds on the same way to the same stimuli. Whatever the method, the characteristic features of the student or group of students have to be taken into consideration. Thus, the method has to be adaptable in function of different levels of motivation, cultural background or maturity of the students.

Motivation is key on the teaching/learning process. Creating a good environment, looking for interesting topic or activities, or trying to have a good time regardless the conditions, should be one of the principles of every lesson. Constancy and continuity are extremely important when learning a second language. Gaps occurred in the process (holidays, students giving up due to lack of time) should be somehow approached. Reading habits may be good help in these cases.

All methods have pros and cons. No one method is infallible. Thus, in developing our own method we must always look for an eclectic approach.

In any case, the main goal of a teaching method should always focus on communication and learning on the most natural possible way. We all learnt our first language not by studying or analysing, but only through natural use. We are no longer babies and we cannot repeat the process with our second languages, however we can look for an equivalent approach. Said this, it is important to focus primarily on listening and speaking skills. However reading and writing should not be left behind.

Personal approach

My personal approach would be based on the points highlighted in the conclusions. I believe motivation is one of the most important attitudes on learning. What is learnt with passion is learnt forever, and what is boring is quickly forgotten.

The four skills are equally important from my point of view. Natural learning is also important, therefore listening and speaking would be the first skills to be developed. However, once we know how to read and write in our own language, I see no harm in introducing these skills on early stages of second language learning. Reading is a great source of vocabulary learning, besides reading and writing are great help for those of us who have more visual than auditory memory.

Regarding the role of the teacher, I consider that personal skills are essential. Each student is different and the teacher should be able to analyse what are the demands of each student. As I have said before motivation is key, and the teacher must put all effort on keeping high spirits among the students. Positive reinforcement is essential.



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