During my TEFL course a few different methodologies in teaching English were made known to me. They included The Callan Method, The Silent Way and Suggestopedia. Whilst I initially thought they were all pretty much nonsensical (in particular the latter of the three), after watching each technique and analysing its structure and productivity I concluded that they were not as bizarre as I’d first deemed. In fact, my own way of teaching will more than likely include parts of each method; the parts that I feel would be the most effective and have the best impact, which I cannot pinpoint entirely as every student is different and what may work for one, may not necessarily work for another. Having said that, I believe that communicative language teaching is the most effective approach to use with a majority of students and using simulations and tasks to help students with communication, play a vital role in the classroom.
If you are teaching a large class I do not think that one particular single approach would work for the entire class, due to the fact each student will have their own way of learning therefore, it would make sense to tackle it with a heterogeneous approach.
In regards to whether or not grammar is important, as it is the crux of a language, anything you learn without it will not have any consistency. Grammar will provide the learner with the structure they need in order to put their message across. It would be difficult to convey ideas to their fullest without a good command of the syntax of a language. There are some teaching procedures that teach grammar in its entirety and others that teach the communicative approach with very little or no grammar. Finding a middle ground is probably the key here as past studies have shown that students who have been exposed to an all-grammar-orientated approach could recite the grammar by heart but, if asked to express basic information, they would hesitate too much and go through all the grammar rules in their heads before coming up with an answer to a particular question. On the other hand just speaking, without actually learning why we say things, is not good enough either. It could be useful for very advanced students who just need to brush up their second language, but for those starting from scratch, it would be quite vague without consistency. I guess the issue here is not whether grammar is important or not but rather how it should be presented.
A lesson plan is essential in assisting a teacher to be specific in their teaching and can help prevent situations where they have to improvise explanations. A lesson plan should cover:
• objectives of the lesson
• directions for the tasks
• conclusions to the activities (introductions are not necessary)
• the target language to be covered
• the media to be used to support the lesson
A lesson plan also serves to evaluate the lesson after it has been given in terms of:
• objectives and phases covered
• were the activities logically sequenced and did they have a smooth transition?
Before we begin each lesson it is a good idea to ask the students a couple of (open-ended) random questions each to get them ‘warmed-up’ and to ensure that they deliver the correct reply. To introduce the students to the topic you are going to work on you can have them guess or surmise what the material will be about and if they fail to use the appropriate target language, then you may provide it. This is a good way to elicit vocabulary that may be required for them to know in order to be able to understand the topic. After providing students with key expressions on the topic, follow a progression such as this:
1. Provide them with exposure to real language and real situations, in context.
2. Focus initially on gist, not form.
3. Focus on more specific meaning.
4. Analysis and classification: after making sure the students have a good understanding of the target language, have them focus on particular items that may be important for them to learn (i.e. grammar) and teach them how it works.
5. Give them exercises whereby they can practice the new words/sentences.
6. Provide them with opportunities to practice what they have learned and create situations that will encourage them to improve on what they have studied.
7. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
You will notice that I have outlined quite an eclectic approach, starting with a communicative situation focussing on understanding the gist and leading up to more detailed information later. Once the meaning is clearly understood, we can then teach the grammar that the students will need to learn. The advantage of this approach is that by the time it comes to dealing with the grammar, the students will have a clear idea of the context in which it was used. In any case, with any methodology you choose to use, it is important to grade the students skill level and independence. For example, you may not want to use audio linguicism or grammar translation with students who are more familiar with grammar and vocabulary as, it would be fruitless. Irrespective of this, the way in which you teach does not automatically make you a good teacher.
A good teacher should
• enjoy teaching. You cannot be a good teacher if you do not like what you do.
• be active and engaging because most people (children in particular) need somebody who makes learning a pleasure. Also, children love games which are good way to encourage them to take part in lessons.
• be able to motivate students. Motivation is one of the most important aspects while learning and people who are well motivated become eager to learn more.
• have good rapport and interaction with a class because it is essential to have a pleasant atmosphere in the classroom. In addition, I don’t think it’s good for children to be scared of their teacher; they must like him/her in order for them to be more open, receptive and involved in lessons.
• be able to correct students without offending them or affecting their enthusiasm. This can be quite difficult to do as it could make the student not want to speak for fear of making mistakes. I will always tell my students that they shouldn't be scared of making mistakes as nobody is perfect, and by me correcting them, they should see it as a positive thing rather than a negative.
In any teaching method used, practice can be very beneficial. I would even go as far as saying it is necessary to learn English well. The problem for many learners is that speaking or writing a foreign language means making a lot of mistakes, which can put people off of wanting to learn. If English isn’t your native tongue and you are writing a letter quickly in English, you could write (incorrectly), “I want cook dinner” and whilst writing as you are also reading, the incorrect sentence becomes ‘harmful’ for your brain; if you said it wrong to begin with, the next time you say it you will be more likely to say it incorrectly as you will remember the way you previously said it and then it will become a bad habit. Such bad habits can be difficult to disregard; even if somebody at some time points out your mistake you will more than likely concentrate hard to avoid doing it again, and then the bad habit becomes stronger – every time you speak or write with mistakes, you reinforce those mistakes and, as you repeat them, you develop bad habits. This is why it is very important to correct students fairly early on in the stages of learning so that they learn to speak (and write) correctly and eradicate mistakes before they become embedded. And, let’s face it, who better to correct than a teacher; many native speakers will want to avoid an awkward situation when someone makes a mistake by pretending it didn’t happen, out of politeness.
To conclude: in general, I believe all students are potentially capable of achieving most learning objectives, provided that certain conditions of learning are met such as, adequate feedback, sufficient time on the task, an awareness of the introduction of the material under study and, of course, an appreciation on the part of the teacher of the ethnic context in which the learning is embedded. With this in mind, information about what styles and methods teachers and students employ in order to solve problems can tell us more about the context of learning and teaching, than just knowing that the student has given the correct answer.