TEACHING PRINCIPLES AND METHODOLOGIES
My teaching method is primarily influenced by two factors: the age and language level of my students, I call them discriminating factors or aids to target the most appropriate teaching theory and method. They will be the subject of my first part. In the second part, I will emphasize the importance of also taking into account the affective factors in the learning of a new language. Finally, the third part will be dedicated to the practical operation of the teaching method after integrating all these factors.
1) Discriminating factors: age and language level of the student(s)
The age and language of my student(s) are very useful to select the right teaching practice to adopt, nonetheless, they play different roles in my selection process.
a) Age factor
I use the age factor as a mean to choose the adequate balance between behaviourist or cognitive theory. The behavioural learning theory is based on the idea that all behaviours are acquired through interactions of the learner with his environment using stimulus response followed by rewards or punishments to reinforce or diminish the targeted behaviour1,2. On the other hand, the cognitive approach to learning focus on “the understanding of information and concepts” using mental activities including thinking, remembering, learning and using language3. Now if we think about the factor age which is simply a measure invented by humans to define the biological state of an individual’s development, a child brain starts understanding complex concepts at the age of 6-7yo4. To this extent, it seems more appropriate to opt for the behavioural theory between 3 and 6 years old that does not require understanding concepts, and gradually integrate cognitive theory when the child's brain is sufficiently mature. As far as adult students are concerned, I rely essentially on the cognitive theory.
b) Language level factor
Regardless of the age, the factor language level helps me to target the proper teaching method between Total Physical Response (TPR), directive or communicative method. The TPR method is based on the repetition of a word or a sentence by the teacher associated to a movement to understand its meaning and acquire the vocabulary5. This method focuses mainly on the listening and communicative skills of the child. The teacher plays an essential role of motivator in this method. On the opposite, the direct method supports inductive learning and promotes the functionality aspect of the language6. It mainly targets the listening and speaking skills of students however the teacher have to be engaged to keep the student(s) stimulated. Finally, the communicative method uses real life topics to self-engage students. The teacher is then more withdrawn and acts as a conversation facilitator. From the lowest to the highest level of language, intuitively, it would start with the TPR method, then the direct method to conclude with the communicative method. However, for example, would the TPR method fit adults?
c) Age and language level factors’ interaction
Since these two factors are interdependent, they cannot be thought one apart the other. Therefore to conclude this first part, we need to make the link between them. Below is displayed a flowchart that shows their influence in the selection of the theory and method.
Figure 1: Flowchart to select the adequate theory and method by age and language level (theory and method of the same colours are related).
Connecting theories to methods, behaviourist theory involving stimulus response appears closely related to the TPR method with its emphasis on word/sentence repetition (stimulus) and teacher praise/disapproval (response: reinforcement/decrease of the targeted behaviour). The direct and communicative methods meanwhile, take root from the cognitive theory since they both required the use of mental activities including thinking, remembering, learning and using language.
2) Affective factors (motivation, attitude, anxiety)
Affective factors including “motivation, attitudes and anxiety"7 are also important in teaching a new language since they affect one’s potential to learn. Thus in this part, I talk about how these factors can influence the teaching practice and how it can be managed.
a) Motivation and goals are closely related
Goals setting have been said to give motivation although reversely I think motivation influences goals settings depending on the will of the student to learn a new language.
Generally, there are two options: 1)the student is motivated and has decided on his/her own to learn a new language (more likely to be adolescents and adults than infants) or; 2)the student was forced to learn a new language and, in this case, his motivation may fluctuate (children/adolescents/adults imposed to learn a language because of their company).
In the first case, it is easier for the teacher since the student may already have some long term objectives that he/she want to reach due to his/her motivation. To this extent, the teacher is more a facilitator who can objectively adapt his/her lessons to the student’s long term goals. In the second case, i.e. if the person is not motivated, the teacher needs to play a role of motivator and may have to set the student’s goals. In this situation I would tend to set short term goals and praise him/her regularly to demonstrate him/her that he/she makes progress and getting him/her motivated.
b) Attitude, a delicate factor
There is mainly two types of attitudes which are the more recurrent: a disobedient child or a shy student. For the first one, there is not much a teacher can do, at some point parents will need to be involved. With respect to the second one, it’s important to find the appropriate balance between engaging and overworking him/her. Shy students can get more confident if the teacher praise him/her regularly which can in return increase its participation.
c) Anxiety: understanding where it comes from
There is both factor at the origin of anxiety: internal and/or external factors. Internal factors related to anxiety emerge for example from a student that is highly demanding with him/herself or from the frustration of not learning fast enough. In comparison, external factors include pressure from the parents or language skill required for working in a company for instance. External factors are more complex to deal with since they are related to the client’s demands who is the one paying for the lessons here. Internal factors are easier to temper by the teacher by discussing with the student and encourage him/her.
3) Real class practice
a) [3;6yo]- low/medium level
• TPR method (behaviourist theory)
Activity: to play a song called “what can you do?” that successively enumerates action verbs such as jump, swim, play guitar, sing, sit, stand. The teacher and the students have to sing the song an mimic the actions at the same time. From my personal opinion, I practice it with my students and it works fantastically: now when I say jump even without music they jump because they know what does that mean.
• Direct method (cognitive theory)
Activity: to show to the students flashcards of numerous objects one by one. The teacher has to say out loud the name of the object on the flashcards and the students have to repeat them. Same here, I use it with my students and now when they see the object of the flashcard in the class environment like “bag” they show their real bags.
b) [3;6yo]- high level
• TPR method (behaviourist theory)
Activity: to play a song called “head, shoulder, knees and toes” that quickly enumerates body parts (head, shoulder, knees, toes, eyes, ears, mouth, nose). The teacher and the students have to sing the song and touch the body parts at the same time. I tried it in a trial class with students I did not know and just the fact of moving and listening to music I got their attention even though it would need to be repeated a few sessions before they can enunciate the body parts correctly.
• Direct method (cognitive theory)
Activity: to learn objects you can find in the living room. Project a picture of a living room with many objects (lamp, sofa, carpet, piano, television, books etc.) and write these objects on little piece of papers. Students have to pick one randomly, localize the object on the projected picture and pin it. I’ve just invented it and to be honest I can’t wait to try it!
c) ]6;14]- low/medium level
Activities such as the ones above (for the [3;6yo] high/level) can work for this category if they are slightly adapted for the age group therefore I am not going to expand on this.
d) ]6;14]- high level
• Direct and communicative method (cognitive theory)
Activity based on the Present, Practice, Produce (PPP) method To understand the concept of prohibition.
Introduction: Do your parents allow you to go out late at night? Can you smoke inside a shop? Are dogs allowed in a supermarket?
1. Present Show to the students a comics of a child who wants to go outside to play with his friends but he did not do his/her homework as a result his/her mother prohibits him/her from going to play with his friends. Ask to the students what is happening here in this scenario? Discuss with them.
2. Practice Show to the students sentences that express permission and ask them to turn them into sentences that express prohibition.
3. Produce Show to the students images of things that are prohibited in the daily life (smoking in public spaces, alcohol for minors, walking on the grass etc.) and ask them to talk about it.
e) ]14; adults]- low/medium
The method below (PPP method) can also be adapted for this category.
f) ]14; adults]- high
• Communicative method (cognitive theory)
I was co-teaching an adult who was working in the insurance. He was here to take French lessons that benefit to his work field. Thus we decided jointly with the other teacher that he would tell us in French all the steps required by his work. While he was explaining us, I corrected some of his mistakes, wrote the steps he was enunciating and some new vocabulary (that I would ask again at the end of the lesson). Once finished, I asked him to tell me quickly the present and past tenses of some of the verbs he had pronounced about his job. Soon thereafter the session was almost over as the student arrived a bit late at the session but if I could have done a final activity I would have picked a role-play: him doing his job and me acting as a new client interested in his services.
Conclusions • Age, language level are good tools for the teacher to target the right teaching method and practice. • Affective factors cannot be denied and need to be acknowledged by the teacher so he/she can adapt his teaching strategy. • Teachers must answer to clients’ demands (to a certain extent) • Environment, interests and needs of the students must be integrated in the teaching practice. • Teachers should always have a positive and encouraging attitude