Marie Heneghan TEFL Essay
The “linguistic turn” in language describes the ways in which language is the focal point of our understanding of the world and has shaped our understanding of history. If language shapes understanding, its role in creating meaning becomes essential in teaching someone a new language. The function of language—above the form—becomes paramount. For this reason, my approach focuses on the function of language in Second Language Acquisition (SLA). Based on the theory of teaching methodologies and my own teaching experience, the following essay explores my teaching methodology, which I discovered through reading theory, careful reflection and practical teaching experience. My methodology is based on the Communicative Approach, and I aim to adopt the role of facilitator, guiding students in the process of participating in meaningful communication.
Since my teaching is based on the Communicative Approach, I base my activity design to draw on students’ inductive reasoning. In creating a structure activity to teach, the grammar point I focused on was communicative and contextualised throughout the activity in the situational context of planning a weekend away. My objective was to teach students the “to infinitive” of purpose, focusing on the function, which is morphology, pragmatics, pronunciation, and syntax. I modelled my activity according to the Present, Practice, Present (PPP) teaching model, and I was also sure to include the ESA model as an essential part of my activity to make it interesting for students.
My activity targets students’ micro skills, specifically speaking and listening—the Audio Lingual Method, based on the theory of Behaviourism. In the I created introductory questions to activate prior experiences and to draw on students’ inductive reasoning. The first stage presented examples of the “to infinitive of purpose” in conversational context, showing examples of what people would say while planning a weekend away. In the “present” stage, I presented examples of all eight of the key verbs (also the target language), taking into consideration visual learners by including some pictures around the theme; including pictures was also a strategic choice to engage their interest and to follow the ESA model of teaching practice. I presented an explanation of the grammar rule at the start of the “present” stage, since this particular rule was not highly technical. The morphology was important in this stage, and the structure of infinitive in the positive and the negative was emphasised, along with its location in the syntactical structure. Based on Schmidt’s Noticing Hypothesis, I included the rule for students to notice the rule and to help them develop their interlanguage. I also considered the Proximal Zone of Development in my lesson planning, aiming to present the grammar point in context alongside vocabulary they would not know to allow students to take control of their learning, but I still maintained the varieties close to a P3 level.
The second, “practice”, stage of the activity included sentences with the incorrect use of verbs to assess if they acquired the information of the first stage and to test any false beliefs and assumptions students have about the particular grammar point—a key element of Constructivism. I also included this as a problem-solving activity for students, drawing on the theory of Cognitivism, which identifies learning as a participatory experience. The second part of the “practice” stage involved transformation drills, relying on the Callan Method of transforming a sentence into the target grammar point. In the “produce” stage, the activity included a role play with the vocabulary list of the target language (the to-infinitive of purpose) in the attachment. Students were instructed to plan their own weekend away in a role-play scenario, which focuses on their macro skills of the language—fluency.
During my first lesson, I taught a group of five students. I opened the lesson by asking quick questions to activate previous knowledge and to help them recall previous learning experiences, which one of the foundations of Constructivism. I tailored the quick questions at the start to suit the lesson and to keep it authentic, while still ensuring they were not open-ended. The quick questions is also a way to activate their inductive reasoning. In this part of the lesson, I kept the theory of Behaviourism in mind, and I was sure to make eye contact with each student and smile, in order to build rapport. I was also careful to make sure each student had an opportunity to learn and practice to maintain good rapport and ensure a good learning experience. In the first part of the activity, in the “present” stage, I explained the to-infinitive of purpose, by also drawing on the blackboard and reading the structure out loud and circling the infinitive, taking the auditory, kinaesthetic, and visual learners into consideration. In the second part, the practice stage, students did successfully correct mistakes, and I asked them concept check questions at the end of the “practice” stage to ensure they acquired the knowledge; this method of assessing the students’ knowledge is essential in Constructivism.
In my lesson, I adopted the role of facilitator, asking students questions to assess their acquirement of the language, and asking other students to answer any questions that arose. Students made some errors, and I corrected them on the spot, thereby using the Callan Method of language teaching. I asked them for other examples, by asking “why do you use…?” There was one student who had difficulty remembering, and all students would often revert to “in order to”, and I encouraged them to exclude this, asking them to repeat without “in order” in the sentence, using the Callan Method of repetition as important in language learning. With the student who was having trouble remembering, I tried to ask her more focused questions, and focused on simpler examples for her to decode. I was sure to only questions in the L2 language to employ the Direct Method. Students would look at each other sometimes for translation or revert to Google, and I would ask them to explain the word to me in English to maintain an English-speaking class. In the “produce” stage, I asked two students to call each other and do a role play while planning for a weekend away. Students were shy and anxious, and I encouraged them by also participating and pretending to call, giving them some examples to aid them, which, again, draws on Behaviourism to build good rapport. In the final stages, I asked questions based on the difficulties students had to assess if they acquired the language and to correct any final errors.
While the lesson went well, I realised that the activity required some amendments, particularly in its early stages. Students took some time to understand the notion of a “to infinitive of purpose”, and, on reflection, I realised including a term such as “to infinitive” can appear dauting. While I was teaching, I noticed the looks on their faces when we read the first part of the “present” stage; they looked too confused, and the ZPD was too large. Students were only adopting the student role of communicator to a a small extent, and would sometimes revert to the role of imitator. I shortened this gap by including an additional “present” stage that includes a table with pictures introducing the target language. The section does not explain any grammar but asks students to pay attention to why and how the structure is being used, drawing on inductive reasoning and enforcing the Communicative Approach and the Cognitive teaching method. The first part instructs students to notice “the words used describe why we do/use something” and then presents it in a table format. This way of presenting the material also uses the ESA model more effectively, focusing on presenting material in an interesting, stimulating manner. I excluded the grammar rule in the second present stage, and I also focused more on addressing the issue of context: “We are going away. Why are we going away? We are going away TO HAVE a relaxing weekend”.
The second teaching experience of the amended activity was more positive, since the student—I only had one student in the class—never seemed overwhelmed with the amended activity, and the additional stage ensured confidence and less anxiety. By focusing more on inductive reasoning and making the activity more according and ESA model, the student acquired the L2 much quicker more effectively, which boosted the affective factors such as anxiety and self-confidence. My role in this classroom also shifted more to a facilitator role, since the student adopted the student role of communicator. The Silent Method is a teaching methodology I would like to develop more in my future teaching, since I am often tempted to interject and answer questions for students, instead of remaining silent and providing time for them to solve the issue, or guiding them in problem solving, rather than answering the problem.
In my future teaching, I want to encourage students to participate more in their own learning and to self-teach. As such, I want to design activities that encourage problem-soling and decoding the language of L2. As part of my classroom teaching practice, I want to focus on fulfilling the role of facilitator by asking more questions, as opposed to providing answers. The Silent Method is a skill I want to develop further, to ensure that students acquire the language more effectively, and thus develop a teaching approach that is student-centred.