My teaching approach
Teaching Skills Assignment
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
The four language skills are involved. Positive
The focus is on analysing the language, but not on
the real use of it. Lessons are boring, leading to lack of motivation.
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.
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.
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
Natural way of learning, with low stress levels.
Frustration is controlled by respecting each person’s rhythm. High
It may be too simplistic, only valid for low levels
and children. It would be difficult to introduce more complicated structures.
High motivation. Real world situations, rather than
Lack of accuracy. Writing skill may be left behind.
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,
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
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.
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