There are many different approaches, methodologies and models used when teaching English as a non-native language. Each of which originates from different psychological theories on learning and influences the way a lesson is taught and has their own merits. This essay will cover a variety of different possibilities for teaching English and how, using my own example, I prepare my activities to give students the most engaging experience when learning a new language.
One activity I have created, a vocabulary activity, that focused on: “The human body, posture and movement”. I decided to convey this topic through use of different martial art techniques and the verbs that are used to describe their actions. As a model for the activity I used the ‘Present, Practice, Produce’ (PPP) model. This was because this model has clear sections that build upon each other and increase in difficulty, simultaneously enlist different aspects of learning.
The ‘Present’ section of the activity is intended for the teacher to set up a situation for the student, in my example there are eight pictures or GIFs shown that illustrate different actions (e.g. punch, kick, strike, place) or body parts (e.g. torso, throat). The goal of this is for students to simply work out what word describes the pictures. Feedback can be given by the teacher in order to guide the student to the correct answer. This uses the direct method of teaching as it teaches concepts and vocabulary through use of images, whilst refraining from using the native language of the students. Also, there is a strong focus on oral communication in this section as students may converse together to work out what is shown in the picture and elicits a spoken answer from the students. Furthermore, the learning in this section is very inductive as students are using their prior knowledge to attain the correct answer, they are not simply given a list of words to read from, which may quickly cause students to lose interest. Moreover, the silent method is also employed here as the teacher can just take a step back from talking and allow students to work out each picture alone, although may mouth the word sounds. When all words have been covered the next section uses the vocabulary in a meaningful context.
Secondly, the ‘Practice’ attachment for the activity there is a mix and match of words and the pictures form the previous section. The purpose of this is so that students practise the new language in a controlled way. Also, this allows students to see the written form of the word to further consolidate their knowledge of the new vocabulary, aided with the use of comprehension check questions (e.g. What is a STRIKE with the foot called?). This section of the activity heavily relies on the direct method as it focuses strongly on student talking time by using their receptive skills that were developed in the first part of the activity, also there is a question and answer pattern in the latter part of this section as teachers check the knowledge of the vocabulary established. In addition, there may be an element of the ‘Suggestopedia’ method, via the use of images that encourage students to create sentences and practice oral use of the target language.
Thirdly, the ‘Produce’ attachment encourages the use of new vocabulary in an environment with greater freedom. The aim of this portion of the activity is to have students act out each of the verbs and use their new knowledge of the human body parts whilst listening to the teacher’s instructions. Then moving through the role play describe their own actions. This is to get students up and moving and disrupt the idea of the conventional English lesson, it helps students get engaged in the class and hopefully have fun whilst doing so. This methodology focuses heavily ‘Total Physical Response’ as there is coordination of language and physical movement. Teachers give commands to students in the target language, and students respond with whole-body actions and vice-versa. This can be hugely effective, especially if the class has younger students through building a recognition of meaning in the language being learned, and by learning the structure of the language itself. It is a very valuable way to learn vocabulary and form new connections in the brain to aid memory of the new information.
I created my activity through analysing different approaches and theories on language acquisition. One main approach that helped me form my activity was the behaviourist view on language learning. Behaviourism is a view that assumes a learner is essentially passive, responding to environmental stimuli. The behaviourist approach to language learning stems from the belief that students could learn a second language by being taught to produce the correct “response” to the appropriate “stimulus”. In the case of my activity the teacher provides the stimulus by presenting new vocabulary to students, who then respond by acting out the instructions. This is then reinforced either, positively by teacher praise, or negatively through light criticism. Eventually students make the association between trying to use the new vocabulary and receiving a reward (praise) making students more likely to use the vocabulary thus becoming more proficient English speakers.
On the other hand, cognitivism focuses on mental processes rather than observed behaviour when learning a new language; by means of strategies that transfer information. When looking at second language acquisition (the process which people learn a second language) the acquisition learning hypothesis states that it is very important for a meaningful connection to be made with the second language by natural communication. Activities that focus on this get students to comfortably use the target language, my activity utilises role play to help students learn the new vocabulary in a relaxed environment and connections are made between language and physically acting out the vocabulary.
Lastly, the cognitive approach to language forms its basis in that there are inborn structures in the brain for language learning. This was popularised by Noam Chomsky as he stated that humans had a ‘language acquisition device’ that gives a natural propensity to organise language heard. In relation to learning English this would suggest that vocabulary enters the mind and is then processed through natural systems that aid learning a second language. However, this view is disputed by constructivists, which would instead suggest that all knowledge is created; in languages it is up to the teacher to dispense information for students to make their own conclusion. Hence it is the teachers’ purpose in the classroom to provide students with knowledge of English grammar, vocabulary, structure etc to become fluent in the language.
After creating my activity, I had the opportunity to test it out on a class. Upon reflection I found that each stage worked has I had intended to varying degrees. The present stage of my activity worked well as students had to guess the meaning of each picture. This created a nice balance of student to teacher talking time as most of the pictures sparked conversation between students as they tried to work them out. However, some of my GIFs were a little unclear to students and required more help to get the answer from them, so in revision I will try and find some more accurate photos; but I would still consider this stage as working as intended because students were guessing and conversing with each other throughout.
Moreover, as the ‘present’ section was successfully this gave students a good basis for them to build on to consolidate knowledge in the ‘practice’ attachment. This mix and match ran smoothly with student knowledge being consolidated in the quick check questions that followed.
Finally, the role play was a good component of my activity. It got students on their feet and participating, although slow to start at first, once students were in the rhythm it was a fun activity. Students quickly adapted the task and were using the vocabulary to create their own role plays and sentence structures. Some students seemed slightly anxious initially, which is a disadvantage of using the total physical response method, but when other students became involved and practiced the activity there was a lot of discussion between students. For this reason, I felt that this activity was very successful in that students had fun, learnt new vocabulary and helped establish a rapport with the students that continued in the lesson, as it was an ‘icebreaker’ for further activities. In the end of lesson wrap up it was also evident that the role play had reinforced the vocabulary as students were acting out the movements of their own accord.
Overall, I think the combination of methodologies and approaches used to create my activity made it successful in my lesson and accommodated different types of learners. There are some minor issues that I will change but the activity will facilitate the students learning of the English language.