My Approach …
Through Oxbridge TEFL course I have had the opportunity to see and study all the different methods of teaching English as a second language. I have had the pleasure of participating in live classrooms as a teacher and as an observer with students of all levels and age groups. To see so many wonderful teachers and their own individual teaching styles has lead me to understand that the teaching a new language is a constant evolving concept.
Embracing the technological era, the teaching method has changed dramatically and for the better in my opinion. With so many visual and vocal tools available at our disposal as teachers, such as youtube and the internet in general, we are able to replicate real life situations for the students. The classroom has also seen an evolution in the way the material and techniques are presented, to the role of the teacher, student’s participation and most importantly to the priority of how and what is being taught.
There are two very important aspects to consider when picking a method to teach English as a second language, the first is what is necessary for a student to learn to be able to communicate in an articulate manner. This necessity includes learning and utilizing grammar and the technical side of the language. The other aspect to consider is what does the student desire to express and is interested in conveying in English. To hold and encourage the motivation and interest of the student we must use a method that focuses on teaching functional and conversational language. Throughout this essay, I will express that an approach that emphasizes verbal communication leads to better results and creates a more engaging atmosphere, all while assisting the students in obtaining the needed language skills to communicate.
Leaving behind the traditional methodologies of learning structural and grammatical rules and emphasis more on communicative skills and the development of fluency is a much more suitable approach for the modern learner. There is still room for grammar and vocabulary activities, it's important to have good Target Language and good definitions to go with them, so as the students have good knowledge and understanding. The way the teacher conducts themselves will greatly affect classroom dynamics and teaching method. Changing the role of a teacher from a strict repetitive director to a calm role model who is there to guide and encourage the learner will yield better results. Providing the students with a learning environment which effectively assists them in acquiring the necessary language skills to communicate confidently in English, is one of the most important responsibilities of a teacher.
Other methodologies feel incomplete or obsolete, The Silent Way, Suggestopedia and the Total Physical Response Method seem impractical and disinteresting for most students. These methods are also limited, as obscure concepts such as security or empathy are almost impossible to enact, as well as grammar being very difficult to teach. Where as The Grammar-Translation Method and Audio-Lingual Method are archaic in my opinion, because their application of the rules and grammar comes much later in the teaching method. In both of these methods, the teacher is a distant and authoritative presence, telling the students what they need to learn. I do take away one important aspect from this approach, that student-teacher boundaries need to be maintained.
It important to divide students into language levels and age categories, to achieve the best results possible. Teaching kids and adults varies dramatically, both groups have different motivations, objectives and natural strengths and weakness when it comes to learning a new language. Adults often experience their first language interfering with the new structures they are attempting to learn, which is called interlanguage effects. Children on the other hand, often find new language acquisition much easier. Generally kids learn at a faster rate than adults, but at the same time are more easily distracted. Children don’t carry the same social fears or bad habits that develop over the years that often stop adults from engaging in conversation. Adults are also busy with work schedules or other commitments, which often stop them from fully committing to learning a new language. This is why I would use ESP (English for Specific Purpose technique) when teaching adults, because I know their time is limited. Usually adult learners have a specific reason for learning a new language, whether those reasons are career advancement opportunities or they are planning on traveling ESP is the most appropriate approach.
Take a method that replicates being in a foreign country like the Communicative Approach, it immerses you in the new language, in context of real life situations which makes it feel natural. This is why the Communicative Approach seems to be so appealing these days to both teachers and students alike. Students are learning functional language skills that they can put to use right away, which makes them confident and motivated to keep learning.
To care out this acquisition in the classroom is very difficult, because in real life situations the acquisition process is unconscious. The teacher must include and manage a proper lesson plan, while replicating real life communication. The idea is to create a dialogue between the students and teacher, who mainly guides them to a specific result. If done well, the conversation should feel as natural as possible, the students will not distinguish the difference between the teacher and themselves. The way this approach is designed is that there are no formal written tests or a way for the students to know the progress they have made. This is why it is important to tailor the topics and goals ahead of time and guide the conversational skills to those benchmarks, so the learners will have a way to gauge their progress.
I would like to use the Communicative Approach method in my teaching career, because from what I have read and observed, it is the most engaging and enjoyable method for students and teachers alike. When the Communicative Approach is utilized proficiently, the results are internalized by the learner. This will be the goal for all my class, where as I have observed that even in the Oxbridge system, a lot of the time the teachers are satisfied with going through multiple activities without giving the learners time to embody the material. Although I agree that we need to have a healthy balance of structure and vocabulary in the sessions, moving activity to activity only gives the illusion that the approach is being utilized. The teacher must allow room for fluidity and improvisation if the class calls for it.
As teachers we should always keep in mind the student’s needs first, that means adapting our lesson plans to their needs and interests. The only way we can have a successful lesson plan is if the teacher invest time to get to know the students and develops an affinity by understanding each student’s motivation and interests. Modifying the activity topics and style of teaching to the needs of the students will ensure maximum engagement, time to get to know them and building a rapport with each student. As each student’s learning styles will be different, whether it is visual, auditory, written or any combination of the three. I believe that incorporating written text and reading practice should be embraced within the Communicative Approach as long as it is relevant to the everyday world.
Below is my syllabus and methodology summarized, yet it is not set in stone. As I have mentioned above, learning and teaching a new language is an ever evolving concept and every student and teacher should keep an open mind.
Gamifying the lessons and incorporating role-play to create playful atmosphere. This will encouraged maximum engagement from students.
All lessons and materials will be done in full immersion and translating to mother language will not be allowed.
Active vocabulary is emphasized over grammatical constructions. Grammar is learned in context rather than specifically taught through dry exercises.
Correction to be relevant to the lesson and target language.
Authentic materials are used for both comprehension and cultural context.
Creating a casual atmosphere to encourage student interaction.
Attention is paid to the “triangulation” of language used in the Oxbridge system and lesson plans reflect this.
Verbal communication is emphasized, but not neglecting basic reading and writing that is required to navigate through foreign countries.