The importance of the English language in today’s world cannot be understated and there are an ever expanding growing number of students attempting to learn this language. As an English teacher it is important to be aware of the best available methods when teaching English. This essay will attempt to show a method which is designed to bring absolute beginners up to an advanced level. The method will use a predominantly communicative approach. The four components of the English language focused on when teaching will be phonetic, lexical, grammatical and cultural. All four components will be linked together and thought in an engaging way which gives as much power to the student as is possible.
When teaching English to beginner students who have come into contact with the language for the first time it is important to focus on the student’s acquisition of the phonetic component of the language. In the communicative approach taken with this teaching method it is in this early stage that the teacher should emphasise corrections of phonetic speech. The phonetic component is what first allows students to communicate. Therefore, the teacher’s objectives in the first stages of student learning should be to simplify as much as possible the other components of the language. In this process very basic structures will be introduced such as greetings, introductions, basic descriptions, professions, frequently used basic adjectives along with the simple tenses of the most frequently used verbs such as: to be, to have, to go, to walk, to use etc. Activities should be designed using these verbs along with basic frequent nouns - house, car, park, work, holiday etc. -,frequent generic words – this, that, those, here there etc. – and common adjectives; the function must always be kept in mind: familiarize students with the sounds of the English language and help them to develop the ability to communicate. While correction must take place on all major mistakes, special emphasis must be put on correcting phonetic errors which hinder the production of intelligible communication.
At this early stage the communicative approach will be utilised to develop student’s acquisition of the language. The activities will be designed using both receptive and productive methods. Native language can be used to some extent while also introducing cognate words which will make it easier for the student to advance while helping to give confidence at a crucial stage. The teacher must constantly be aware of the anxiety and fear which students can have when learning a new language. Students often can be shy, timid and embarrassed when speaking in front of a group of people, especially when at beginners level. Activities must be designed which help to alleviate this anxiety and fear. Also, there must be a break from traditional methods which sees the teacher as a strict, authorative figure who drills students in a rigid way. Rather, the teacher should see themselves as being a facilitator and an intermediary between the students and the language that they want to learn. With this approach the teacher focuses their attention on analysing the student’s strengths and weaknesses. The teacher as a facilitator must become aware of what needs the students have to develop their abilities and what kind of activities will best help them to acquire, develop and activate the new language. As much power as is possible must be given to the students in order to allow them to be independent within the activities which are developed. However, at complete beginner level this power of student independence will be somewhat limited. The lessons should follow the harmer method of engage, study and activate, with ideally no less than 4 hours of lessons a week. Within one month the objective of familiarising and developing a good ability to produce the phonetic English sounds which allow communication should be realised. While completing this objective the students will have learned simple tense formation, basic adjectives, nouns and generic words.
When the students advance to the next level the objectives change to developing their scope of communication while also improving comprehension and most important introducing them to tense formations. At this level more attention will be paid to the other three components of language important at this level: lexical, grammatical and cultural. However, once again there must be a break in the traditional methods of teaching grammar as an isolated part of the language. Grammar should be seen as just another component of the language and it should be thought through the use of functions rather than through teaching complicated terminologies. At this level the much grammar which will be focused on is tense formations, introducing students to more irregular verbs. Students will be given the ability to create sentence structures using all twelve English tenses. In this teaching method there will be a heavy emphasis on developing student’s ability to use the English verb tense system. However, it will be thought through the traditional method of memorizing tables. Rather, it will be introduced into lessons by being put into contextual examples. Students will be first given the grammatical rule but will then be given examples for when it used. Visualisation strategies will also be used in helping students identify when and where different tenses are used. Look at the following example for an idea of how this will be done. The function of this lesson will be to allow students to express pass events using different past tenses. This will be in a lesson after students have previously learned and used the past tenses. The following exercise would be to develop and cement their knowledge: The symbols represent a tense and will help students visualize and develop a schematize tenses.
First the students will be given a sheet with the proper grammatical explanations for the uses of the tenses. Then to clarify and simplify the grammatical meanings they will be given the following representations:
Past simple (¯) Past perfect simple (¿) Past continuous (…) Past perfect continuous («). Then the students will be shown a text where all tenses are used and it will give them use in context along with visual aids which further help contextualise the grammatical explanations.
Yesterday I woke(¯) at 9am. I had(¯) a shower then made(¯) breakfast. While I was eating(…) I was listening(…) to the radio and I was looking(…) out the window at the rain. At 10am I left(¯) my house and took(¯) a bus to a conference. While I was sitting(…) on the bus a woman was telling(…) her friend about the holiday she had been(¿) on the previous week. She was taking(…) during the whole journey. When I arrived(¯) at the conference I went in and there was a man on the stage speaking(…). My friend told(¯) me that the man had been speaking(«) for almost twenty minutes and that he been talking(«) about the benefits of positive thinking. My friend had heard(¿) him speak the day before so we decided(¯) to skip the rest of the talk we went (¯)for a coffee.
In this example the students are given all the materials needed the study past tense uses, with schematised visual aids along with examples in context. To activate the studied material they could be asked to play role games or question each other the whereabouts of the people in the text. Here we see grammatical concepts being incorporated into lesson plans as just another component which is simplified and clarified through examples. The students would advance using this kind of method until they covered all verb tenses, introducing them also to auxiliary and modal verbs. After one year of classes the students should of have mastered the tense system which is the skeleton for learning any language. They will still have difficulties with the number of irregular English verbs but will become more proficient as they advance.
At this stage the students would be considered to have an intermediate level. More complicated structures can be introduced always using the harmer method of ESA. At this level the cultural component will have more importance than at beginner levels. Things such as age, needs, reasons for learning, professional fields etc. will come into play when designing activities. It is also at this stage when comprehension can be focused on. Audio and video clips of the language being used in English speaking countries will be used. Having the base of a good working knowledge of the verb system the students will the foundations of the English language. It is up now to teacher to give the students the correct material to start building upon those solid foundations. Students will be encouraged to become more independent. Activities will be focused on student participation. The second syllabus will have the objectives of helping the students become proficient speakers with a greater knowledge of irregular verbs, along with the final grammatical concepts which will bring them to an advanced level.
At beginners level it is crucial for the teacher to give the students the ability to begin communicating without overloading them with too much information. The phonetic component of the language must be focused on when correcting students. When students have become proficient in using this component the teacher should be ready for the most important part of the student’s development. At an upper beginners level the students will advance by focusing on structure and verb tenses. The activities must always be engaging and have student participation. The teacher must be able to identify and assess students’ needs as they progress through the different stages. As they move into intermediate level other materials such as video and audio clips will be used alongside the activities already being made. Grammatical concepts will be thought in an engaging way giving the students as many tools as possible to allow them to progress. With the communicative approach used in this method the students should be competent speakers when finishing the intermediate level.