Approach to teaching a language
Teaching could be separated into 3 main parts of teaching which includes approach, method and technique. Teaching approach could be often looked at as a personal philosophy of teaching. Teaching method is considered to be a practical realization of approach. For example, in Oxbridge, main teaching methods include structure, vocabulary and topic activities. Technique that will be used when teaching also has to be considered, which is the way it is taught, which includes little sneaky tricks we know and use in the classroom, e.g. role plays, games, etc.
Since the beginning of the teaching times, a lot of methods and approaches have been created in order to acquire the best outcome. I would like to discuss and analyse the main 6 methods and then combine them in order to create my own approach of teaching a language.
Callan method, which is a fast and effective way of teaching, focuses on specific structure and content. This method ensures that students are listening to English all the time and speaking as much as possible. Questions asked include target language and also material already seen in class. Callan method lessons are fast as teacher delivers questions at slightly above natural conversation speed. This ensures that students quickly learn to understand English without translating it, thinking in English from the start. Lexical/grammatical syllabus ensures that students improve vocabulary and grammar step by step, always expanding their knowledge of the language. Maximized student involvement are the main reasons for its success. This approach is very fun, engaging and effective.
Grammar translation method is derived from the classical method of teaching Greek and Latin. Students learn grammatical rules and then apply them by translating sentences between the native and target language. The required translation is word for word, which is not very practical. The goals of this method include enabling students to read and translate literature and to further their general intellectual development. This method has no theoretical basis and was rejected by scholars.
Direct method, contrasts with previously discussed grammar-translation method. It encourages learners to use as much target language as possible rather than using the native language. This approach focuses on improving oral skills, through many methods and techniques. Teaching structure and vocabulary, using visual materials, question-answer patterns are all the reasons why this approach has been very commonly used. It engages students through repetitive patterns and direct questions.
Suggestopedia method is when the teacher introduces grammar and lexis of the content of the text, which is often provided in both languages, native and target, which means that meaning is conveyed through the mother tongue. Sometimes, the text is read and acted out by the teacher, with classical music in the background, while students relax and listen. This method aims at teaching material in a playful way rather than analysing lexis and grammar in a direct manner. Many believe this approach lacks scientific evidence and is criticized by many.
Total physical response is another approach, based on coordination of language and physical movement. It is based on vocabulary rather than grammar and structure. Commands are given to learners in target language, while students are expected to respond with whole-body actions. This method is popular within beginners and young students, as it involves a lot of movement and acting out.
The silent way, is the last approach I would like to discuss. This method focuses on learners autonomy and active student participation, using silence as a tool to achieve this. A mixture of silence and gestures are used to focus students attention, to obtain response and to encourage them to correct their own errors. It uses structural syllabus and teaches a small number of functional and versatile words. This method continues to be influential, and focuses on the area of pronunciation.
Using ideas and methods that already exist, I will create my own approach with an aim of making it as effective as possible when learning a language.
Learning target language through many different techniques and methods is the main goal of my approach. As a teacher, I believe teaching should be fun, engaging and effective. In my opinion, what matters the most, is how the target material is presented to the students, and how it is explained. Practicing is also very important, and has to be effective and engaging, otherwise it is easy for students to get bored.
It is important to figure out why a student is learning the language. Motivation and affective factors are key factors that affect the attitude of learner toward the target language. For example, if a person is learning a language because their boss is making them do so for work related reasons, it might not be as effective as someone wanting to learn a language for personal reasons such as for example meeting someone they like, and not being able to communicate properly. Therefore I believe that motivation and attitude towards target language is really important.
Language skills which are speaking, listening, reading and writing are all very important when learning a language. Although I believe every student should be evaluated individually so that the teacher knows what skills to focus on the most. However, this can only be applied in private/small classes, as it would be hard to focus on everyoneâs needs in a class with a big number of students. Therefore in my opinion the main language skills that should help everyone is speaking and listening, as being able to communicate in real life is more important than writing or reading in my opinion.
Grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and spelling are all very important language areas. It is hard to single out the most important as grammar and vocabulary are necessary to at least have a basic understanding of the language. I think it depends on how the student wants to use the target language. For example, a person is required to answer the phone and communicate with clients in target language, of course grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation are very important, but if the person is required to write emails in a target language, I would focus more on spelling rather than pronunciation. Therefore I think the reason for learning should be evaluated before deciding what areas to focus on.
Teachers roles are very important, and if not completed right, it can affect the process of learning (the way students understand, learn and take in (new) material presented in class). For me, the most important role is that by the time the class is over, students understand the function, structure and form of the new material. It is vital to make sure students have no doubts on how and when to use a new word/phrase. It is also important that the teacher gives equal attention to all students. Teaching involves a lot of roles which include planning, giving instructions, interacting with students, preparing material and so on.
It is important that students carry out their roles in the classroom and outside, when going over the material covered. They should be active participants in their education to ensure best outcome. Contributing to class discussions, helping their peers, asking questions, expressing ideas, etc. are all very important factors in the learning process. It is also very important that students feel motivated to learn and are mentally prepared to take in new information and work on their own (assignments, revision, etc.)
Vehicular language should always be the one that you are teaching, in this case English. Sometimes, of course there are exceptions and you have to explain certain things in learners native language (if possible), for example the level of students English is too low to understand the concept teacher is trying to explain. It is very important that the teachers grade their own language, and make sure that the words/verbs/instructions they are using are not too hard to understand for the students they are teaching. Also, it is necessary to understand the difference of comprehension between different level students (e.g. P1-P5). For us, native English speakers, the language seems simple and we are not aware of hard words/phrases/etc., whereas for English learners, we have to remember that they are only learning the language and it is vital to grade our language according to the different levels (P1-P5). Not grading your language could cause confusion and upset amongst the students. It is important to try and think of an easiest way to explain various concepts. Visual aids and hand gestures are also very important.
We are all used to assessment in schools, colleges, universities, etc., and I think thatâs why most people have such negative outlook on education, even when it comes to studying for a subject we actually like. Therefore, in my opinion it depends on the student and the motivation behind the reason of learning English, whether they should be assessed or not. If the student is learning English for personal reasons, I believe they should not be assessed as they shouldnât feel pressured to learn and study. If the student is facing a deadline, (for example they are moving to a different country and want to be at a certain level by the certain time), I believe that assesment might help to achieve their goals, because sometimes we all need to be pushed out of our comfort zone in order to achieve and improve even more.
If I had to create a 10 week syllabus for a beginner, with my current understanding of teaching, this is what it would look like:
Week 1: Common useful vocab (name, surname, date of birth, colours, countries, nationalities, what, where.., etc.
Week 2: Introduction of simple important verbs (to do, to go, to be, to do, etc.)
Making simple sentences with vocab seen in week 1. (what is your name ? where are you from? I go to the cinema. I am a girl, etc.)
Introducing present simple.
Week 3: Introducing more useful verbs (eg. To eat, to like, to want, to play). Introducing present continuous.
Week 4: Introducing past simple + future simple(covering regular and irregular verbs).
Week 5: Conditional tense
Week 6: Introducing past continuous + future continuous.
Week 7: Introducing modal verbs + adverbs + adverbs of frequency
Week 8: Idioms
Week 9: Perfect continuous
Week 10: Perfect simple
I would use a combination of all methods discussed above, but I mostly prefer Callan and direct methods of teaching. My classes would be fun and conversation based, while covering important grammar and vocabulary as we go on. Visual aids, role-plays, texts, videos, etc. are absolutely essential in order to make learning fun and effective. Pronunciation is also another very important aspect of learning a language, which can be practiced by for example grouping similar words that sound the same.