My teaching approach
Teaching Principles and Methodologies
There are many teaching methodologies, some more effective than others. Perhaps the most utilised methodologies unfortunately do not take into account that many people learn English for a multitude of personal objectives – so I have developed a methodology which can easily adapt to these objectives, as well as a learner’s ability, age, and affective filters. Based mostly on the communicative approach I would focus on function and real life situations combined with a variety of useful language in my lessons. My learners would accustom to socialisation in another language through speaking with each other, as they make mistakes, aiding progression, and they also gain confidence in speaking English, which decreases the presence of affective filters (Krashen, 1980) on their learning.
The students are the main players in this learning environment, but surprisingly, in order for this to happen, the teacher has the biggest role in the classroom. I would work in a passive manner, simply simulating real life situations in my lessons and having the students communicate these amongst themselves. I would use a variety of target language when addressing my students, however this language must be graded according to the students’ abilities, as use of language either too simple or too difficult inhibits progress. It is essential that a comfortable environment is created for the students to question me, make a mistake, pronounce a word, or form a sentence. That being said, the creation of an optimum environment can only be achieved by myself as the teacher. To do this, I must be enthusiastic in my work, comforted by the knowledge that learning English is worthwhile for my students. I will give meaningful praise often and constructive criticism whenever I deem necessary (never excessively). Negative language will not be exercised in my teaching methodology as it decreases motivation and breaks trust between a teacher and learner. I will be ready to change classroom dynamics when necessary – by giving a gentle signal to the confident students to be a little more placid so that the shyer or unmotivated students receive the push they need to partake in the class more effectively. My students would be expected do most work in groups or with myself to encourage socialisation in English and processing information and speaking for the vast majority of the lesson. As mentioned previously, I would intervene to make corrections when I deem necessary and, reminiscent of the audio-lingual method, the student would repeat the corrected utterance. I believe this touch would encourage the retention of the correct target language in the mind of the student, which is a principal objective. With this method I would be able to teach those with a range of abilities and prior knowledge in English, as it is easily adapted to all learners.
The basic structure and syllabus of lessons would stay the same for all ages – a progressively challenging syllabus, heavily conversation based lessons, all with the learner’s own personal objectives in mind. For children and teenagers, I would choose to move lessons on at a faster pace to keep their attention on the lesson. Too much repetition or spending a lot of time on one task could result in boredom and demotivation, which would be affective filters on their learning. I would incorporate use of the total-physical approach by providing children with the opportunity to move, touch, see and hear language stimuli, into my teaching method, as they would be learning without realising, which is key for their progress. I understand that children also require a lot of praise from myself, as it further motivates (motivation itself is an affective filter and factor, and if it is high, chances of SLA are also high) young learners, and as I have learnt from my experience, they really do enjoy pleasing their elders. For adults, I would still incorporate the use of visual aids to enhance lessons helps the retention of knowledge through mental association. The total-physical approach would be more present in the lessons of adult beginners; they can visualise what they are trying to learn when words are not an option. Overall, I maintain that great care must be taken in treating children in a mature way and treating adults as adults, so not to patronise them or make either one of the parties feel uncomfortable.
In regards to level, Krashen’s Input Hypothesis states that a learner must be challenged with an input that is from the level above himself in the Natural Order, so that he can progress in his learning of the target language. Therefore, the language spoken in the class should always be a little challenging, which would call for the student to think and retain the information he is being taught. Repetition of the same language or using very simple language will not help a student improve in his spoken English. Therefore, I will grade my language appropriately to fit the level and the goals of the student. For lower level students, the use of body language, visual aids and slow conversation are key as these both make teaching more effective and are more reminiscent to the acquisition of primary language.
The course would have a basic structure for all students and all students, regardless of age, level or purpose for learning English. A challenge must be provided, based on learning vocabulary, discussing a topic of conversation, or improving their grammatical knowledge. In accordance to Krashen’s Input Hypothesis, the challenge must be provided for the student in order for them to advance in their studies. The said challenge must be appropriate and well thought out so that it can be beneficial to the students learning, i.e. not too simple and not too difficult. My lessons can also be tailored to my students’ personal needs, whether this is business language, language for travel, pleasure, to complete homework, to pass exams, etc. Considering the different motives of learning a language, the ultimate goal is to be able to communicate, and this is what must be kept in mind when teaching.
A varied use of video clips, documentaries, films or other types make the lesson more enjoyable and effective. They provide a good base to create questions and topics of discussion. The learner accustoms to using English in different formats, not just in face-to-face conversation. I would also use articles and literature, as students can see the language written down and this improves another macro-skill in English. Whilst providing them in solid form can encourage interactivity, it must be said that there is a wealth of learning materials online (YouTube, Google Books etc) and so providing them electronically may facilitate learning for both teacher and learner. A variety of media can reduce boredom of repetition in the students, especially for younger learners. Thus, the learners are attentive and motivated, lowering chances of affective filters inhibiting their learning.
Many academic institutions are piloting the method of no homework and more class time, to see how it affects motivation and capacity for learning. Harris Cooper, 2006, discovered that completing homework runs a positive correlation with performance in the learning environment. Many researchers protested that homework has no benefit for younger students and their happiness, and that this result was not trustworthy. Cooper himself concluded, “… think about homework the way you think about medications or dietary supplements. If you take too little, they’ll have no effect. If you take too much, they can kill you. If you take the right amount, you’ll get better.” Following my research, I would give no homework but recommendations to my students as to what they could do in their own time to improve their English. Considering the majority of my classes would be based on speaking and conversation, the ‘homework’ would be improving other macro-skills – listening, reading and writing, and through doing this, their micro-skills (grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, spelling) are also improved. Examples of these would be; listening to songs, watching O.V. films, reading modern English literature, researching the culture of English speaking countries, putting their electronic devices in English, writing a story in English, making friends with English speakers. As we can see, this ‘homework’ is not conventional, and is designed to motivate the student into bettering their English in a way that interests them. It is then the learner’s choice if they choose to carry this out.
The use of the mother tongue, or any other language that is not English, would not be permitted in my lessons. Many would argue that the use of mother tongue and translation would be of use in the first lessons to aid faster learning. Contrastingly, Primary Language Acquisition theories all conclude in one way or another that babies are able to pick up a language in a remarkably short amount of time, just by listening, watching and responding. I believe it is entirely possible for adults to do the same to acquire a second language. My learners should try and explain themselves, do a drawing, have no fear in making mistakes, and have their peers explain in English to avoid translation and interlanguage. I believe that if a student is not totally immersed English, learning is prolonged and it is made unnecessarily difficult to grasp, however much easier it is considered for myself. Students cease to learn and advance when they are not surrounded by English in every possible moment.
Assessment of progress would be made continuously throughout the lesson, instead of examinations, which hold no real value in regards to speaking fluent English. The most effective and worthwhile method of assessment would be done when learners are working in group situations, or with myself, and I intervene when I deem fit. I would conclude every activity with a few questions, so that both themselves and myself are aware of what they have learnt in the lesson. In terms of evaluating success, I believe there is only one way to do this, by asking has the student been able to use English for their own personal objective? For example, a businessman needs to take a conference call in business English. The evaluation lies in the question: Has he been able to do this successfully? If yes, then I have achieved my goal as a teacher and he as an English learner.
As a language enthusiast myself, I know how challenging a new language can be yet how satisfying it is once mastered. It would be my pleasure to facilitate the learning of English, a highly desired and spoken language, as much as possible. I believe that no measure of ‘intelligence’ has an effect on one’s ability to pick up a language, I simply must remain positive and enthusiastic in my work to keep the student motivated, and anything is achievable.