Tutoring high school students in English grammar and literature
Italian Law Degree. International Baccalaureate diploma and American high school diploma
My teaching approach
When we aspire to teach a language, we should always design an approach that is original and that has to be tailored to a student’s benefit and his/her particular needs. Many teaching methods have been suggested regarding the learning process and, naturally, they differ in the techniques used to obtain specific objectives. No matter which methodology is applied, the end goal is always to adapt the teaching approach to what you actually would like the student to learn.
The ways we teach or implement a method and how we approach it are fundamental to a student’s learning process. Whether it’s a communicative one (which emphasizes meaning rather than grammar of the message put across), a grammar translation one (based on deductive learning and constant drills), a direct method one (a system relying on inductive teaching of linguistic skills), an audio-lingual one (which focuses primarily on developing communication), the Callan method (which relies on continuous drilling and repetition of activities), the Silent way (based on autonomous and monitored learning), a content or task-based instruction (which expose the learner to considerable amounts of language information), Suggestopedia (that makes use of various means to enhance the power of suggestion in learning), a participatory approach (which generates topics according to the learner’s experiences and realities), or any other kind of method, all are to be considered a mean directed to make learning a language easier for the student.
When preparing a lesson, a teacher has to formulate an organized syllabus directed towards the student’s linguistic competences. A good lesson planning ultimately reflects on the learner’s ability to positively retain the information they are being taught. The preparation, the selection of teaching materials, and the teacher’s attitude will obviously influence the outcome of a lesson. But, most importantly, a teacher must be able to understand a specific student’s need and adapt their approach according to the age, level and specific purposes of each individual. The organization of a syllabus for a lesson is paramount to its outcome. It has to consider what the student should learn, target the skills aimed to be developed, which language area it will focus on (being grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation or other), contain the right amount of practice material for the activity, and ultimately adaptable to the student’s needs. A final wrap up to the lesson ensures that a student has understood the concept and can now use it adequately within a given context.
I firmly believe teaching involves creative interactivity between teacher and student. You will have more success in putting your message across to a learner when you engage him in something he/she likes. The learning process has to be social and based on dialogue, encouraging discussion so that it helps develop and practice the new acquired knowledge. A lesson should target the student’s attention to the theme and content discussed. The context of the lesson aims to be personalized to what you want the student to learn. Of course, the capacity of retaining information about the new language varies significantly according to age, disposition, social influences, and the context in which it is taught.
When developing a lesson plan for a specific level, a teacher has to mold his role into the activity. The method must be adaptable according to whether you are teaching a beginner or a more advanced student. If, for example, the focus is on pronunciation, the tutor has to act as a model to imitate. On the other hand, if the strategy is directed to the development of listening and comprehension skills, the tutor acts merely as an executor and the student as a passive agent. The materials and props used during class activities also play a key role in the learning process. They should include pictures and images, games and music, practical and user-friendly exercises, constructive in-class dynamics aimed to encourage dialogue, and any other mean to enhance the learning experience.
I strongly believe that a teacher has to always analyze and evaluate a student’s so-called affective factors which might hinder the learning process. The learner is first of all a human being with sentiment. His/her attitude and emotional reaction will vary according to the personality. Obviously, the level of motivation he/she demonstrates to begin with is key. The success they will have in learning a second language vastly depends on their sheer determination, hard work and persistence. Age plays, in my opinion, a fundamental role in the learning process. Young children are normally in the best position to acquire a new language. This is because they already have a linguistic skill to base their assumptions on and are open to new ideas and concepts. They tend to be very receptive and manage to absorb like sponges loads of new information easily. Older students, on the other hand, in general might struggle more to achieve this level of knowledge simply because they might have a harder time to assimilate concepts. The student’s personality also has to be taken into careful consideration. A learner that is introverted, anxious or shy, will usually struggle and tend to make slower progress. Outgoing students, on the contrary, will not worry about making mistakes and have more of a propensity to involve themselves in an activity. The intrinsic motivation a student has is as well a very significant element since it will strongly correlate with his/her educational achievements. Clearly, students who apply themselves more and take pride in their progress will tend to do things better than those who don’t. But, in the end, students who are given continuous and appropriate encouragement to learn by their teachers are the ones that generally fare better than others.
My personal approach to teaching a second language would follow specific guidelines and practical application. To start, a good overall comprehension of basic grammar rules to build foundations is fundamental. After that, every single activity has to be turned into a communicative one since the primary purpose of teaching is to expand communicative skills. All other aspects of linguistics have to then be tailor-made to the student’s needs. The role of the teacher, being an active or passive one, changes according to the activity. He may be a playmaker directing the game or just simply a guide to help understand the concepts. Naturally, each activity in any given lesson has to be combined in different proportions depending on the level of the learner. At the end of each lesson, a “mirror” (as I like to call it) recap should be made in which students repeat to the teacher the concept they have been taught so that the tutor can verify their correct understanding of it. Teachers can also evolve and better their skills through collaboration and knowledge sharing of different experiences they have had with students. Bearing in mind all these considerations, it seems to me that Oxbridge model fully agglomerates all these principles envisioning an innovative and creative approach to teaching English.
In conclusion, there is no right or wrong objective approach in teaching methods. The main thing a teacher has to do is direct the knowledge that he has towards his students, encouraging and stimulating them in all assignments. He has to carefully bare in mind each learner’s need and personality to approach in the best possible way the teaching process. The teacher has to be not only a mentor, but also a role-model that inspires his students to learn through mistakes and progress in their comprehension and communicative skills of the new language.