Paul Clarke

My teaching approach

Oxbridgetefl Assignment (Paul Clarke)


There are many methodologies for teaching English as a second language and in my own lifetime to date I've had some exposure to a few and am therefore in a good position to at least have an opinion as to the strengths and weraknesses of these methods. In Ireland it is now and always has been compulsary to learn Irish in the education system as it is one of the official languages of the State the other being English and for 95% of the population their native language. I studied Latin and French in secondary school and the method of teaching these two languages was completely different. For Latin the grammar translation method or the classical method was used. I can say that I never got to speak Latin fluently and indeed I believe that the grammar translation method acts as a disincentive to authentic discourse in the target language. The GTM method is I consider interesting, mathematamaitical and very structured it achieves an ability to read and write in a structured way for the learner but in the way of achieving authentic language communication skills it achieves little.


The Direct Method of ESL teaching was developed by Maximillan Berlitz and based on the theory that the second language learning or acquisition method should be the same as that for the first language or L1. I believe it is impossible to recreate the conditions under which we learned the first language we were totally unaware of grammar and indeed everything else and simply learned through exposure and input in a relaxed progressive natural manner. In the Direct Method we can nonetheless build up skills, structure in a progressive way while adding  much vocabulary thus enabling students to communicate from the beginning. Once communication has been established the challenge is then to practice, extend the vocabulary, structure and knowledge base of the students in other words to keep them in practice and challenged. The direct Method and Audio lingual Method have much in common with the primary difference being that the Direct Method focuses on vocabulary whereas the Audio Lingual method focuses more on grammar drills.

There is the silent method of teaching which encourages students to describe  the totality of individual actions required to complete a given task. The total physical response method where physical response is encouraged to enforce the learning experience and induce the insight.


The Oxbridge system is radically different from traditional methodoligies in three different aspects a) traditional teaching disappears and is substituted by constant encouragement to speak english and only english for the entire session b) The traditional teacher gives way to a system. c) The traditional book disappears and is substituted by activities which the PM uses to make the student use english. The Environment of teacher blackboard is substituted by a friendly environment where the student feels comfortable.


The Vaughan Method is worthy of consideration where short interesting, stimulating 2 minute exposure to the target language analagous with pill taking is promoted.


The TPR or Total Physical Response Method which is an animated gesture method for teaching young children will in my view always have a place in the teaching of language to children but outside this scenario its use is limited.


The merits of any given methodology must surely be measured against the criteria of how effective it is in achieving its goals.


Goals have also changed and whereas in the past literary language was considered superior to that of spoken language it is now broadly accepted that goal in the first instance must be to provide the SS with effective communication skills and so the league table in the success have also been radically altered.


To design a syllabus is to decide what gets taught and in what order. A language teaching syllabus invvolves the integration of subject matter ( what to talk about and linguistic matter) how to talk about it. The methodology is the method in which the syllabus will be delivered in order to attain the objectives and goals in the most efficient and effective manner possible Theory of language and theory of learning play an importand role in determining the syllabus. For example the theory of language learning espoused by cognitive code teaching would emphasise language forms and whatever explicit descriptive knowledge about those forms were currently available. A syllabus based on aquisition theory of learning however would emphasise unanalysed although possible carefully selected experiences of the new language in an appropriate variety of discourse types.

 Generally speaking, a syllabus need not be a complicated affair, but should aim at ensuring that material is organized into manageable 'chunks' while at the same time catering for opportunities to review, apply projects and reading, and facillitate time to apply evaluation or accessment tests. Designing a syllabus cannot merely be a process of dividing the total number of pages of the text book by the number of classes and setting the result as the syllabus. Of course given material or text books that must be delivered to a given class over a given period does certainly simplify the matter in so far as then it is a matter of the teacher accessing how he should prioritise and how much time the various elements of that material should be alotted. Developing a syllabus from first principles is a more difficult task and involves an accessment of where the students are at day one and where you would like them to be within a given time frame viz a vie there skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing. New vocabulary and new structure and function should not be intriduced simultaneously. Principally grammar should be taught inductively through the introduction of new structures and their function and in a way reflecting ever increasing difficulty or complexity.


My approach to teaching would in the first instance have due regard to what I have learned to date on this course. I would like to remember vividly about the importance of 1) Preparation which integrates all the linguistic and proffessional skills a good teacher should have like analyising the students needs, sellecting suitable material, timing etc 2) Punctuality which integrates all the social skills a good teacher should have such as manners, respect etc.and 3 ) personality.  I would give consideration to using at different times the best of all the methodologies to which I have been exposed and remember always the great resource of the internet where I can time and again revisit these methods viz a vie their effectiveness in attaining any goal I may have from time to time. I consider 1) as above preparation to be the corner stone in analysing the needs of the students, looking at affettive factors, interlanguage etc. It is vital to be a Reflective Facilitator to understand and be fully aware of the issues of the class before you in relation to grading and interlanguage are they for example transfering structure from their mother tongue to the target language are they using false friends ie words which sound the same in both languages but have totally different meaning.


I would hope that I will always recall the various roles of the teacher and carry out regurlar self inventory as to how I am performing in each instance. What I intend as roles in this context are that of guide, assesor, controller, organiser, resource, coach,playmaker, psychologist, agony aunt and conversationalist. I will need to always remember that I as teacher will among other things will be an affective factor. I will need to develop good raport and be empathethic. I in addition will have responsibility for the other affective factors such as cultivating an appropriately motivated environment, suitable material good class pace and balance ss participation equally.


I am extremely impressed by the Oxbridge System and even though it is a system and one individual teacher is only an element ( PM ) of that system I am sure I can adapt some of that system into my methodology. Of course the Oxbridge system is a communicative one and the communicative approach is practically the only one sought by English training centres worldwide.The focus of the Oxbridge system like many modern methodologies has turned from the teaching process to the learning process and the order of learning is rightly speaking and listening and then reading and writing. As a teacher this is the approach i would have in relation to productive and receptive skills. I would concentrate in the first instance on the productive skill of speaking and the receptive skill of listening in addition i would strongly encourage active practice of the language. Once each of these productive and receptive skills had been attained by the learner then they are positioned to go on and develop the other productive and receptive skills of reading (receptive) and finally writing (productive). I think that the factor of teaching talking time and student talking time is now indeliably imprinted in my mind as I take a class in the future and ask myself the question as to what level I am dealing with here I will vividly recall the ratio of teacher talking time to student talking time that should be approbriate for this level.


The use in class in my view of IT, white boards, authentic material drills etc are to be welcome. It is a matter in the end of what the suudents are comfortable with and what assists them in having the best possible learning experience.




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