Maggie Griesmer
Certified English teacher profile

Maggie Griesmer TEFL certificate Maggie TEFL certificate


My name is Maggie and I'm from the United States. I currently live in Barcelona and I work as an English teacher both for adults and children, online and in-person as well.


I love to speak different languages and speak Spanish, Portuguese and Catalan fluently. I would love to speak French someday as well! I also love adventure, whether it be rock climbing or hiking in the mountains, camping by a lake, or playing sports; I love it all! Lastly, I enjoy playing the ukelele and the guitar, and singing as well!

My teaching approach

    I believe that there is no greater feeling than to successfully communicate with someone in a language that is not your native tongue. To be able to connect with another human being in this way is empowering and exhilarating. It is a feeling so sensational that it moves me to help others feel it too. It is my driving force both when learning a new language and when teaching my students.

    Just as I know this sweet feeling of break-through and victory, I also know the feeling of utter frustration that comes with learning a new language. Have you ever had a dream in which someone was chasing you, and no matter how hard you tried, your body just wouldn’t move? Unfortunately, learning a second language can feel a lot like that sometimes. For years, I felt this paralysis with the Spanish language. I spent too many hours in 25-person classrooms studying Spanish grammar charts and vocabulary lists, all the while being spoken to in English! It took almost eight years for me to begin communicating well in Spanish. On the contrary, with ten conversation-based classes and eleven months spent in Brazil, I became completely fluent in Portuguese. Between these bipolar experiences, it wasn’t hard to see what went right and what when wrong.

    My own journey with language learning informs my personal teaching method in significant ways. As a student myself, I know what kinds of challenges my students face in and out of the classroom as they work to learn English. It does not surprise me when students come to me, dismayed with public school learning methods and endless grammar lessons, asking to work on speaking and listening. For the love of language, we need to start changing the way we approach language learning!    

    Through my own experience as a student and teacher, it has become clear to me that the direct method, or the natural method, is the most successful model. One of the primary reasons that it works is that classes are held exclusively in the target language; translation does not form any part of the direct method. How were we, a bunch of apathetic teenagers, going to learn Spanish if the teacher was speaking English fifty percent of the time? Even quick and infrequent use of the learner’s native language, to confirm understanding of vocabulary for example, can interrupt the integrity of the direct method. The idea is to skip the unnecessary, but very common step, of translating from one’s native language to the target language. Use of the native language only serves to promote continued translation rather than stimulate direct production of the target language.

    Cognitive theorists agree, and suggest that observation of more skilled peers and native speakers is very important in language learning. In an immersive language environment, we have plenty of opportunity to observe and listen, as well as actively participate. At first students may not understand everything as they are still in the adaptation phase of cognitive development. It will take time to adapt to differing registers, vocabulary and cultural norms. But with time students will assimilate and incorporate new information, beginning to convert short term memory into long term memory. Lastly, students are able to perform spoken output as they enter the accommodation phase. These phases in cognitive development are accelerated by language immersion where translation is absent. The more immersed the student is, the faster their brain will be able to adapt and adjust to the schemas of the new language.

    Though the native language is not allowed, I by no means take on an authoritative role in the classroom. As a facilitator, I guide my students and stimulate them in the direction that might help. If a student in my class looks to me to confirm vocabulary by using their native language- it’s “refugiado” right? -I ask them to describe their understanding of that word in English. In this way, the other students and/or I can give confirmation of the meaning spoken in the target language instead of the native one.

    Another key aspect of the direct method is using language in real contexts. In my own teaching, I often use a situation- and function-based syllabus which allows the student to practice English in an authentic way. With role-playing games that focus on contextualized situations and functions, students use language that they would likely find quite useful in encounters outside the classroom. Role-playing games allow me to take on the role of play maker, guiding the activity to ensure that all students are given space and time to speak and practice the language. One activity that my students particularly enjoy is a role-play dice game. It can be modified to complement target language or discussion topics, but takes the same general format. In this case, I have tailored the game to focus on travel-related themes:

1. Restaurant

1. Make a complaint

2. Car Rental Company           

2. Confirm information

3. Train Station

3. Make a cancellation

4. Airline

4. Ask a question

5. Hotel

5. Apologize

6. Student’s Choice

6. Make a reservation

    The game is simple. One student rolls one die which represents the first column, the different places. The other student rolls a second die which represents the second column, the action to be performed. The students then role-play a conversation, which they may pretend is in-person or on the phone. The game can be modified to include larger groups, complicating the conversations with other game-players who might have to cause a distraction, interrupt the conversation, or take one of the players’ sides. This game is both fun and an excellent way of practicing the language in a real, authentic way. It also encourages spontaneity and improvisation, thus hindering translation and promoting direct production. This type of role-play game calls upon problem-solving skills, stimulating the inner mental activities of the brain that cognitivism so highly regards in language acquisition.

    We all have differing learning styles, whether they be visual, auditory or sensational, but we can’t deny the important of visual stimuli, and the direct method agrees. Cognitive theorists, such as R.S Fixot and Eric Jensen studied the importance of vision in the brain. In 1957 R.S Fixot, a neuroanatomist, found that “vision accounts for two-thirds of the electrical activity of the brain - a full 2 billion of the 3 billion firings per second” (ImageThink 2012). In his book called Brain-Based Learning: The New Science of Teaching and Learning, Eric Jensen cited similar results.

    Indeed, our vision affects our learning greatly, and in the direct method, objects and pictures are used abundantly to convey meaning and stimulate memory in the brain. They can be particularly useful in environments that don’t allow for much body language, as in online classrooms. The other day in my online classroom, I was able to stimulate my young students’ memory of a particular sentence with one simple object. The target structure was the following: “I can smell with my nose.” I held up a dirty sock, gave it a sniff, and did my best to show them a crinkled-up nose and look of unpleasant surprise. Their eyes became wide and they all began laughing hysterically. Once they’d calmed down, they produced the full sentence with big smiles. Not only did the object represent visual stimuli, but it also produced a physical sensation and response in the form of laughter. Between the two, their memory of the sentence and the target language are much more likely to solidify into long-term memory.

    Since the direct method focuses much more on speaking and listening skills, we as teachers must be more creative with the materials we use. Gone are the days of grammar books and endless fill-in-the-blank vocabulary exercises. This means that teachers must come to class more prepared with activities to stimulate their students. It isn’t every day that we carry target language-related objects around with us, and students might not appreciate us taking our dirty socks off in an in-person class! While preparation is important, the ability to be flexible and to improvise is also very important when inspiration and creativity strike.

    In my own classes, I love to bring authentic materials with me, and the students appreciate these real-world examples. On one occasion, on my way over to a class, I was listening to my friend’s self-authored music on my iPhone. One of my student’s objectives was to improve his listening skills and it suddenly occurred to me that my friend’s song would be the perfect opportunity to meet this goal. We listened to the song several times, repeating certain portions as we worked through the meaning of her lyrics. My student was so thrilled with the activity and the ways in which it challenged him that he downloaded her whole album the next day!

    Between the cognitive approach and the direct method of teaching, I feel inspired to challenge my students in ways that make sense for language acquisition. I want my students to leave class with tangible knowledge that they can use in everyday life. By providing an immersive environment where only the target language is spoken, I can help my students to accelerate their speaking and listening skills, allowing them to make progress that they can feel. By appealing to their visual and cognitive inner processes, I can feel confident that they will remember what they’ve learned. I believe that these methods are the best way to send my students off into the world in search of that ecstatic feeling- confidence and joy as they communicate and connect through the English language.



ImageThink. True or false? Vision rules the brain. (2012, November 20). Retrieved September 14, 2018, from