By: Linda Louise Stelluti
Language acquisition in itself is the process undergone to perceive, understand and communicate language. Second language acquisition happens through various ways depending on the different types of learners. The focus is on the quality of information and not the quantity. Learners must absorb the meaning and understand how to use it in context. There are many different methodologies of teaching. With all the knowledge of the modern times, teaching has become one of the most rewarding opportunities to help others in self-development and achieving their learning goals. These are my beliefs about teaching a language and achieving optimal results.
The class environment can affect learners cognitively and emotionally. A quiet and relaxed area to work in is key, it’s important that they listen and feel comfortable to participate actively in class. Although the intrinsic effecting factors cannot be controlled, such as their personal life, the classroom should be a place where they can focus their energy on personal growth and development. Active participation is strongly encouraged and students are prompted to communicate as often as possible. Positive reinforcement is used often to make the learners confident about their skills and open-minded about speaking in class.
Teachers should serve as a mentor in the development of students. Genuine interest in the personal growth of each student causes the learners to trust the teacher and engage in the lessons. The teacher’s goal is to guide the students and provide them with the necessary tools for optimal knowledge acquisition. They must make the lessons interesting and highly interactive. The main goal for the learners is to be able to communicate with accuracy and fluency. Speaking and listening are the most important factors when it comes to communication for English learners; reading and writing follows.
There are many different types of learners and it is important to cater to each individual’s needs. Each class incorporates visual aids and texts. Speaking is encouraged in every activity. Homework is assigned at the end of each class based on the lesson to ensure understanding. This helps target prominent difficulties in which to focus the future lessons on. At the end of every class there will be a printed handout list of the new words learnt that day. Two to three short activities or a small text to write (for intermediate to higher levels) that should take the students about 10-15 minutes to complete. They may also be advised to watch a short video before class for a discussion.
The types of classes are divided into ten categories. Kids classes will be divided into K1 (no previous knowledge of English) and K2 (basic knowledge of English). These classes will focus on vocabulary and structure. Most of the class activities will be taught using games, a lot of colors and visual support. This environment will be fun and playful; the kids should enjoy their time there. The themes will be based on kid-friendly topics such as music, games, animals, cartoons, sports, food, etc. Teens will be divided into T1 and T2. The classes will incorporate interesting themes that will engage the student; for example, social media, video games and popular television shows. It’s crucially important to keep the age in mind so that the themes are interesting and engaging. These levels will be vocabulary and structure based as well in order to create a solid foundation for the rest of their language learning. For adults, the groups will be divided into X1, X2, Y1, Y2, Z1, and Z2. X1 is the lowest level; the students have no knowledge of English. It will be very structure and vocabulary based. They will be learning the most functional and practical English, pronunciation is strongly corrected. The teacher must strongly grade their language and use lively hand gestures and visual support. Y1 and Y2 are intermediate levels, topics are introduced and the students are able to express ideas and have simple conversations at this level. Grammar and vocabulary are equally distributed throughout the lessons. Z1 and Z2 are advanced and these lessons are mostly topic based. Most of the class time will be allocated to discussions about current and thought-provoking ideas.
With every level it is important to be clear, concise and to grade language according to the level. When working on structure activities, language should be simplified to enable focus on the new structure instead of the vocabulary, since it is much harder to grasp. New vocabulary should be introduced in every lesson, vocabulary that is useful and relevant to the level and their everyday lives. Learners should never use their first language in lessons and must focus on speaking and thinking in English. It’s important not to use translations in class. Teachers are encouraged to use other means for them to understand new words, such as pictures, examples and useful context. Each lesson will begin with a short 5 minute conversation that recaps what they learned last lesson. The last 5 minutes of each lesson will be a short review and questions about the lesson. Consistent lesson planning, moulded around the students’ personal needs, will help the learners achieve their English goals in an effective and pro-active way. Each lesson should engage and motivate the students; they should feel comfortable about what they are learning and feel confident about speaking in class. Each lesson should be a new challenge and the activities should be entertaining but also effective in teaching new concepts.
The student talking time should exceed the teachers talking time in class in intermediate and advanced classes. In beginner levels maximal student talking time is encouraged. Since they cannot communicate freely and their level is very structured, the teacher will have to talk more during class then other levels. They should be asked a large number of questions per activity and given many examples to ensure that they acquire the new vocabulary. Communication in class is very important and every activity should be done orally. Beginners won’t be able to communicate freely, and since their classes are very structured, it’s important to make the students communicate between each other. The lessons will focus on developing four skills: speaking, listening, reading and writing. Students should have a small diagnostic-test every month to monitor their progress and locate areas of difficulty. This will help the teachers know what they should focus their lessons on based on the students’ needs. It is also very important for the learners to be exposed to authentic language and to be familiar with different accents. There are so many different English accents around the world that it would be useful for the students to be exposed at least one of two more accents.
There are various methods of teaching that have been used over time. In the 1960’s, the Grammar-Translation Method was introduced. Grammar and structure were the main focus and communication was unimportant. Reading, writing, drill-tests and memorization were used to acquire the language. While the students study a lot of information, the retention is low and the students are unable to communicate. The Berlitz Method focuses on vocabulary over grammar. No translation is allowed. This method revolves around demonstrations (realia and pictures) instead of explanations, and pronunciation is highly monitored. I agree that there should be no translation in the classroom and their native language should not be used. Pronunciation is very important as well.
The Silent Method involves absolutely no speaking on the side of the teacher; therefore the students do all the talking and learn self-correction. This method is okay for beginners, however in intermediate and advanced it can be very limiting, and I do not recommend it. Suggestopedia has a very interesting approach to teaching; it works by eliminating negative barriers. Barriers are in place when learning a new language. Negative feelings towards learning, bad past experiences and a lack of self-confidence can all hinder a student’s learning abilities. In this method, they create a cheerful environment for the students, music is played in the background, and they focus on awakening the subconscious learning. These are all things that should be considered when teaching; environment can affect learners in many ways. The Communicative Approach focuses on authentic language, new vocabulary, games and the development of speaking, writing, listening and understanding. This method is very modern and has a good understanding of second language acquisition. Focusing on communication skills and making activities interactive are very important in lessons.
The Oxbridge method is highly developed and is a modern approach to learning. They focus on communication, smooth language acquisition through activities and oral communication. Students should speak and understand the language first, the others skills will follow. The Oxbridge system of sharing teacher’s activities is the perfect way for teachers to focus on teaching the students as opposed to spending most of their time creating lesson plans. This can be very stressful and negatively affects the teacher’s energy levels. Although we encourage minimum teacher talking time, lessons are highly more effective if the teacher is energetic, enthusiastic and positive. Ideally teachers should have a wide repertoire of activities for different levels, topic, structure and grammar based.
I envision a great future for English teaching. It will be marked by an organized system and enriched by the collaboration of teachers who come together to support each other. The real goal is to help people learn English in the best way possible, and this can be accomplished by using the Stelluti method.