Continuous learning – continuous improvement
My personal touch and why AIM-KAIZEN, my personal method, is probably the most beneficial approach to “teaching” for my students.
If it works for children it should work for adults. Children learn better when they like their teacher. This is a very simplistic statement since there are always other factors that affect our learning such as age, time constraints and affective issues, to name but a few. However, when we are relaxed and having fun, we usually learn without realizing it. This is one of the main differences between learning and studying. There are different ways how we complicate ourselves and our lives and that also applies to learning new languages. It is up to students to choose how to manage their learning but my responsibility as a teacher is to use my abilities to facilitate their learning process in a way that becomes the most natural, friendly, happy and enjoyable. Then the path of continuous learning will become a habit and a hobby. The child’s way, one step at a time, learning rather than studying.
We need to understand that students only spend little time with their teachers, hence it is extremely important that we couch them into the habit of making the most of every opportunity to “live” the English language (i.e. going to the cinema and listening to music) and that we ensure their time spent in class must be committed to total communication in English. This is one of my highlight from Oxbridge. For this purpose every detail is taken into consideration and a grading structure formed to ensure the system is adapted to the level of each student, from a basic S1 in which “S” stands for grammatical structure and continue with P2-elemmentary, P3-Intermediate, P4-upper intermediate, P5-Advanced.
I aim for my students to grow confident to achieve whatever they wish, to understand that everything takes time but eventually, with work, it can be achieved. Many factors will affect the learning process to determine how fast they acquire (as in natural language acquisition) their second language. A good teacher will couch them and point them in the right direction to achieve their goal. Not only but also beyond the class.
These are some of the points I expect to use in my system:
· Good habits, consistency and determination.
· Use English in a natural way from day one.
· Students interacting, speaking and listening in the class as if they were in a natural context. A mind-frame in English from minute one.
· The main focus, the goal will be in communication, getting the message through.
· Teacher Talking Time (TTT) is kept to a minimum, teacher is there for guidance, moderation, correction (always in a constructive way and depending of the situation. I.e. in a topic activity when we look for fluency we would leave correction to the end of the activity to avoid cutting the flow of the conversation).
· Syllabus of learning process structured gradually so S1 would be a Starting point, P2 will have to learn basic and so on stepping on the ladder of learning and continuous improvement.
· Great emphasis on breaking old learning barriers and making students feel engaged. while discouraging the use of L1(native language)
· We all learn in different ways, so we will always be requiring the teacher to actively assess and participate, this will be easy ideally with a class size ratio of 4 – 6 students…
· Errors are an inevitable feature of learning (& living I would say) even more; they provide valuable insight into the language learning process.
Receptive & Productive skills are equally important; receptive skills (passive) for understanding, (i.e. listening & reading), and productive skills (active) for communicating (i.e. speaking and writing). We process the language acquired and produce a message through speech or writing to communicate and make ourselves understood.
Own experience with old systems suggest that listening and speaking are the two aspects that take longer to master. During class we should focus on speaking since the other skills are learnt implicitly. Students should be encouraged to use other means that help them with this such as: cinema, music, games, reading newspapers.
Both productive and receptive skills will be developed in realistic and useful communicative contexts, and similar to learning our native language, learners will have intermediate level of productive skills before receptive skills are mastered. And all four aspects of language - speaking, listening, reading, and writing - can be equally focused on for advanced learners. This method can be applied to learners of any age and level.
The aim is to focus on listening and speaking for absolute beginners, then reading can be introduced for intermediate levels. Grammar structure will be taught by function from the early stages S1 and vocabulary will be introduced gradually trough Target Language (TL). The more confident in structure and vocabulary the student grows the more fluent will became and more able and happy to discuss topics.
Language areas we give more
importance to are structure and grammar, followed by vocabulary. As Students progress, we can work on fluency,
accuracy and pronunciation, introducing new vocabulary gradually. The
communicative approach is taught almost exclusively in the target language using
connections between words and the object or concept they represent, as opposed
to connections between the mother tongue and the second language.
Having previously done a Needs Analysis to assess students and give us a starting point, a structure syllabus will help us achieve our goals. Assessment and goals will vary as we move up in the learning ladder. There should be continuous assessment and goals will be updated accordingly. Vocabulary and grammar in the target language will be intermittently revisited and practiced. A wide range of activities will be rotated throughout each level, using aspects of every teaching method to accommodate each learning style (visual, auditory and kinesthetic).
S1 beginners will have activities such as the Callan Method practice which gives students no time to translate into their mother tongue and assimilates new content through repetition or drilling. As students gain vocabulary and basic structure function, games will be played to act out sentences, or scenarios. The more advanced the student, the more communicative and interactive the activities will become between students.
With a communicative approach as primary influence the teacher’s role will vary between acting, guiding, being a resource, an assessor, a moderator and a psychologist in a relaxed and non-dominant environment, directing the class dynamics towards a common goal. Students will feel comfortable as communicators and imitators and communication will be enhanced. The goal is to emulate how a native speaker of any language learns their mother tongue.
Teachers in the classroom will correct repeated errors without cutting the flow of conversation being careful not to kill the magic moment. Corrections will be tolerated as a natural learning process, and native language use will be discouraged with continuum praise for things well done and encouragement to try again when not so good.
Material used during activities would be authentic material or the closest to resemble everyday life situations and adjusted to the student needs according to grading from the previous Needs Analysis undertaken.
Drilling, games and dialogues: At starting point, S1 & P2 there will be more drilling, repetition, while at a P4 & 5 there will be more dialogue and discussion.
Outside the classroom students are encouraged to embed themselves in L2 popular culture in order to acquire the language. English, TV, radio… the greater the exposure the better and quicker will be the learning process. As I mentioned earlier, there is a difference between language learning and language acquisition. Krashen states that acquisition is unconscious and spontaneous and learning is conscious developing through formal study. Therefore, if an instance, such as turning on an English speaking radio show whilst doing household chores engrains language into the subconscious mind, this is something we must insist on.
We must be aware of difficulties that students may face. That is why is important to continually asses and analyze, and to understand why they might make particular errors or struggle with particular elements. Language interference is a key issue, particularly at lower ability levels. Try to confront this issue by focusing on vocabulary that students habitually find difficult or false friends. Find creative ways to engage students in order to deal with affective factors such as tiredness, apathy or some other problems students may carry with them. We must ensure that students do not end up feeling discouraged because of their affective issues. Encouragement and positive reinforcement are vital to enable a student to progress in the learning process. The Audio-lingual method correct students’ errors offering constructive criticism.
Learning outcomes and student difficulties, as previously mentioned are treated at a starting point with a NA and as an ongoing issue during the learning process; every class is an assessment opportunity. We are all individuals; we learn in a different ways, a Needs Analysis should tell us where we are and where we want to go (goals).
Should the approach change in any way considering differences between teaching complete beginners and more advanced students or different age groups? Again the main point is the communicative approach. That would be the same for everyone. The environment is set up to encourage student participation and make a student feel confident enough contribute in class. The teacher will praise a student and the use of learner’s names in the classroom is essential. Facilitating students with language acquisition in the way that this capacities are picked up by infants, by encouraging only the use of English (L2) and discouraging the use of native language (L1) we want to get into the habit of the use of English until the moment that we reach the “magic moment” in which without noticing students start to think in English. We must avoid “Interlanguge” the typical problems of translating and applying the rules from the L1 into L2.
Many and different systems have been used over the years. All are good all and all are bad, what is important is to understand the different approaches, and the ones that will come and to know your students and their needs. A Needs analysis will help the teacher to grade and plan objectives and the teaching approach. We start learning before we know it, before we are conscious, and we never really stop learning until our final days.
which means; to aim for continuous improvement embraces and fusions with the “Principles
of the triangular projection model” from Oxbridge forming the Continuous Improvement