Teaching Skills Assignment (1500±300 words)
What I understand about teaching and learning a new language and what kind of teacher I would be!
Coming from a country where everything you listen to (TV, Radio…) is in its original version, always made me think that getting used to listening to a language is almost half of learning it, especially if we’re also able to reproduce at least some sounds, words...
Of course, like everything, it depends on a lot of other factors, like capacity of attention and absorption of things or interests, and so on, but what I mean is that our brain, while listening, is assimilating things more than we are used to thinking it does.
Without even noticing we are learning something and it’s a wonderful feeling when suddenly we notice that we start recognizing words, songs, etc… Like when we’re babies that before we learn to speak we already understand most of what our mother says. So for me, when we start learning a language we need to listen as much as we can, and then repeat it over and over, and even if we don’t know how it’s written at least we get to start saying things.
Still, if we want to learn properly a language, only listening is not enough, therefore I decided to learn how to teach, so I could know which other methods exist and how I could use them so I can be a good teacher.
When I think of my future as an English teacher I always see myself as a kind of a guide towards a good communication between different people, helping them to feel comfortable using the new language. I’ve never taught English before but, when I explain how to say things in English to my friends, for example, usually I use simple language and easy examples according to their knowledge and end up finding a good comprehension and excellent feedback.
So, before I try to explain how my teaching method would be, I would like to express that I would like to teach young kids, as I love working with them, but I also feel attracted by the challenge of teaching adults and for this I won’t use a specific method in my essay but still exemplify how I would act as a teacher.
As a teacher I would have different roles, especially according to each student needs and type of classes. Although we can use a bit of all examples, mainly I would be a guide, like said before, and definitely a playmaker. Excellent methods I would follow to relax students and arouse their interest and enjoyment for a new language, amongst other roles that I would choose according to the need of the moment. For example, in certain circumstances I would also act like a psychologist and a little bit of an agony hunter because I think it’s a natural human way we use to sympathize with other people and discover their needs or emotions. Also a good conversational method, using good topics and allowing students to speak freely, reducing the TTT, will help them to remember the classes and stimulate their learning and interest in participating.
As for the students, we teachers need to have their needs very clear so we can know how to put them into the right role. So we need to know since the beginning the exact purpose they have in learning a new language so we know the correct approach we need to have. Once again, depending on the level, if we have a student whose only intention is basic communication we won’t need to introduce complex vocabulary at the beginning and we can focus on daily needs and actions, professions, cultural facts… On the other hand if we have an adult that works in business, the TL would be more specific and complex.
There’s also a lot of factors that interfere with L2 learning such as the affective and emotional ones, L1, parents languages, etc…, that we need to have into account so we can figure out the best way to teach and make students understand the goal. For example, relating to parents languages I personally know two very different situations where one is a perfect example of a good language acquisition and use, and the other one is not so successful. In the first example we have parents with different L1 (Portuguese and French) both living in Spain. Since their son was born he was spoken to by his parents in their own languages, also being exposed to Spanish and Catalan in school, and all this combined with the English he was always used to listening through educational dvds and games. The result of this 9 year old boy being used to listening to different languages is that, very early, he started acquiring the acknowledgment of five languages, which was a small step for him to speak fluently and understand them, with a huge ability to recognize which language he was spoken to with and answering accordingly. For me this result was obtained mainly by not mixing languages, but differentiating each one of them and using them individually.
The other example is not so successful, at least for the early life of my friend’s kids, because there was a big mix of languages, using “Portuñol” which is a mix of Portuguese and Spanish, that didn’t allow a good distinction between them and caused speaking problems for the kids and they ended up needing speech therapy.
Mixing L1 and L2 in class is definitely not a technique we should follow if we want to be good teachers.
My teaching would be based on speaking only in L2 and towards young S1 students and the goals would be good oral and comprehension communication skills, and progressively adding the reading and writing skills, so students can start acknowledging and recognizing all basic forms of the TL.
If it was for adults, I would definitely follow their learning needs regarding the specific purpose they may have on learning an L2, like if it was meant for work language improvement or any other reason.
For both situations I would always start from generic to specific words, vocabulary, purposes in a progressive way according to student’s development and needs, which is used in the Oxbridge method.
For good reception and consequent understanding of the TL I would use mainly visual, audio and physical stimuli because for me these are the most important and easiest ways for a human being (either young or old) to learn, assimilate and memorize, and reproduce the acquired acknowledgment of something learned. Also, definitely, we learn much better when we’re not stressed or tense so, these are good stimuli which help to a more active but de-stressed, interesting and funny class, having in mind that we all have a kid inside and we all like to play.
I would help students to express their productive skills by allowing them to speak in L2 all the time, not caring about pronunciation and perfection at the beginning but progressively asking for it, when asking them to repeat TLs and spelling them every time needed or asked for.
When we start learning a language one of the first things that we learn is about presenting ourselves, greeting other people, expressing needs and asking for things. These are the pillars to start communicating in different situations and are usually the first things we get more interested in learning about a new language. But of course, if the purpose is more specific this is only an easy way to start introducing the TL needed to learn.
Having this in mind I would start introducing easy vocabulary and stimulating pronunciation to get students feel more and more comfortable with the language and progressively would introduce grammar using first small structures and once finding a good feedback transforming them into a more and more complex structures.
In the language area it is also important to have into account the interference students may have from other languages like their L1. What I mean is that, for example, if a student right from the beginning has problems separating his L1 from the L2, the effort for him to think only in L2 will be bigger and for that the introduction of grammar and structures must be at a slower pace, as he will need more stimulus on listening and speaking so he can get used to thinking in L2, or later on when he feels more comfortable using it.
My Syllabus will be structured according to the several factors that intervene with the student’s learning like age, level of L2 knowledge, if teaching in a school and what kind of school it is and which teaching method they use, the country and the culture. Also depending on the purpose and regarding the examples of students I gave (young and old) my syllabus type could be based in English for particular ages or for specific purposes. In other situations I would choose generic English and specific categories such as vocabulary, grammar…
For the lesson plan I’ll use every role considering the class factors. For example for young kids it would have to be a very pro-active lesson to engage students using a lot of visual and physical activities which stimulate them more and easily get their attention. Also depending on the country or culture I will definitely use more neutral examples, pictures, situations…, in the first place in order to show respect and still keep the interest in learning a new language, as we can use infinite activities and examples without confronting any cultural aspect.
The preparation will be focused on engaging students with quick questions and a good introduction to awake the interest in the topic to be learned presenting it in a natural context; introducing progressively vocabulary, topic and structures activities according the level with the appropriate pace and timing giving students the opportunity to use them; and finally putting students into different situations so they can activate what they learned in class and using the TL in a free way.
I would also use a big variety of materials for the class, such as images; songs; newspapers; magazines; drawings; games; projectors; etc…, always focusing on the types of students and their levels, according to their personal needs, which ones work better for certain circumstances and with which students to use them. For example if I’m teaching business TL I wouldn’t use a song as an activity, but would easily use it with kids if I want them to learn several words of the same family group.
After all my personal experience and learning process through this TEFL course, I’m sure now I have the right tools to start teaching English as a second language, willing to give my contribution to improve the teaching process, preparing my students to a successful future using English to open the doors of many opportunities around the world.
Signed by Susana Freitas
Barcelona, 28 january of 2014
Oxbridge TEFL Course