My Teaching Approach
By Rowena Brannon
There are many different teaching methods when it comes to learning the English language. Different schools follow a different syllabus and teaching method. Observing and practising the different styles is the best way to discovering what works best for you as a teacher and for your students'.
Behaviourism encourages students to learn by using a reward system by positive and negative reinforcement and by mastering the language through repetition and drilling, and the teacher plays the dominant role in the classroom. For example if a student does well he/she will get good grades thus making the student want to get good grades, whereas if he/she gets bad grades it will make them want to get better grades next time. I think this method of teaching is beneficial to children of a lower age as it is about repetitiveness whereas this might not work for adults'.
Suggestopedia is another method of teaching to learn a foreign language at an accelerated pace for everyday communication by overcoming psychological barriers. The power of suggestion helps students eliminate the feeling that they cannot succeed. Students use their imagination and are in a relaxed, calm environment with music in the background. This method uses role-playing, acting and music for learning. Sometimes the teacher reads and acts part of a story with music in the background while the students sit comfortably watching. The teacher can also give them new names or identities and the student will respond to the teacher accordingly using the target language.
Both are completely different teaching methods and neither one of them is right or wrong as students have mastered languages from both. There are the extrovert and the introvert students. The extrovert students tend to be less shy and participate more during a class compared to the introvert student who could be anxious or nervous of speaking in front of the class. The trick is to get both types of students to participate during the lesson. That is why the classes should be fun and dynamic and not giving too much negative feedback so that they do not feel afraid to speak.
It is easy enough to sit and get lectured by a teacher all day but what will the student's have learnt? For some people this method works but most people need stimuli. When I was in school and learning a language it was very grammar and vocabulary based. I remember even though I had good reading and writing skills, my conversational skills were not very good, so when it came to doing a foreign exchange in Germany, I realised how little I could communicate. I am not saying the way I was taught is bad but as a teacher now I can teach my students the way I would want to be taught.
My personal approach to teaching would include various aspects from these different methods as well as the communicative approach and incorporate them. What I like about the communicative approach is that it is a broader way of teaching as opposed to other methods and the emphasis on learning to communicate in the target language.
Interlanguage is a rule based linguistic system that has been developed by a learner who has not reached bilingual status. For example someone who uses 'Spanglish' mixes some English and Spanish to aid in the learning process. Although interlanguage can prove useful when teaching beginners because there could be similar words (cognates) which, are easily translated as opposed to spending extra time trying to explain particular words.
The teachers' role should be as a guide and a mentor, which includes building confidence, making the students' aware of their learning progressions and giving the student's realistic goals and expectations. Each lesson should be carefully prepared and there should be extra time given to the students' who are in need so that they fully understand what has been taught.
When a student makes a mistake I would correct them but not in a negative way as that can be discouraging and make them feel that they are not improving. Instead I would correct them and when they respond with the corrected mistake then I would give them positive feedback and helping their motivation. I would like to make the lessons as productive and as fun as I can by using visual aids, music, role-playing, debates, games and conversation in different scenarios to deliver the language learning experience to all students of different ages and abilities.
Adults and children do not absorb information in the same way and these can vary from different ages and levels. If a student was learning English for future travels then that student would have different goals to a student who works for a business firm that needs to learn for business purposes. Each of the class preparations would be tailored to fit the students' needs. The teacher needs to assess each of the students' needs and goals. The business student and the student learning for a hobby would learn vocabulary to suit what they are trying to achieve.
As a teacher I would find out what my students' interests are and use them with learning English as it can help with their motivation. For example if the student enjoyed playing sports or watching films then I would choose topics to incorporate these subjects to interest them. I probably would not teach a topic about office supplies or politics to a young teenager whereas I would to someone learning specifically for 'business English'.
I want to be approachable, make my students feel comfortable and not feel under pressure but for them to be able to ask whenever they need help, but also knowing when they need guidance. I need to find out what my student's strengths and weakness's are so that I can alter their learning experience individually and see how they can be improved. In order to keep track of the level of each student, the teacher should follow a syllabus and give homework on a daily basis to see how much they have understood so that you can adapt your teaching method.
There are macro skills and micro skills when learning a second language (L2). Macro skills include listening, speaking, reading and writing. Micro skills include grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and spelling. All of these skills are important when learning a new language but with the different teaching methods they can be taught in a different order. I would focus on the macro skills before moving onto micro skills. I feel it is important for the student to talk more during a class than the teacher. If it was a beginner class then the teacher will be speaking more than the students' because at a lower level they do not have enough language knowledge to talk freely so the classes tend to cater to repetition.
For my teaching method I would teach the class entirely in English just like the Oxbridge model. The class would also start with quick questions to get each student to answer and this would be altered depending on what level they are. After the quick questions I would move onto an activity to get the students to think and talk about it. If it were a structure activity to do with future tenses I would create it to be about future summer plans as this is something that would interest most students. They would be discussing the subject without realising they have let their psychological barriers down by joining in.
Depending on the size of the class I would divide them into groups and using the vocabulary that is specific for that topic, make a game out of it by saying a vocabulary word and whichever student taps on the table first and uses the word in a sentence wins a point. This not only makes the lesson fun and engaging, but also helps them to learn the language. There is no point learning vocabulary out of context e.g. if the topic is about travelling then there shouldn't be vocabulary about furniture as this would confuse the students'.
To be able to transition the topics or structure being learnt smoothly instead of ending abruptly onto the next topic helps with the learning experience and to me shows that you are a good teacher. I would use a tablet or a laptop to show pictures or videos to teach different activities to keep the students stimulated, and even try and get them to learn a song in English with the music in the background to mix it up a bit. I can honestly say that I still remember the classes that were fun and engaging and not the boring classes. When it comes to ending the class, it is always good to do a quick recap of what they learnt and some quick questions on the topics that were taught.
I think it is good to follow a certain lesson criteria although it does not always go to plan, as some students are quicker at learning, while some need more coaxing than others. The lesson plan should be adjustable in case students show interest in a particular topic or want to discuss it further. There should be room for this in a lesson as long as you follow the syllabus and the students' are gaining knowledge and understanding of the language, which is all positive learning.