What is English for teaching me
When deciding to start my tefl course at Oxbridge, what I knew was that I was going to learn how to be an English teacher and how to teach a class. I didn’t know what kind of teacher I wanted to be.
Having very little experience teaching, I had never heard of the different teaching methodologies, like the grammar- translation method, the direct method, suggestopedia for example and how each of these methodologies have a different goal and affect on lanaguage aquisition.
People learn languages because it opens door to communicate with foreign cultures, for business purposes, for travelling, university and better global understanding. Knowing a language is being able to communicate in that language, rather than having studied it and only being able to write it. Language teaching is a constant evolution of theories and approaches. More modern approaches, just like the Oxbridge methodology are based on a more communicative approach. Speaking and understanding goes first and the students are encouraged to give input. Unlike the Grammar –Translation method, which focuses on written text. Here the focus is in on grammar and very little attention is put on listening and speaking. It teaches the target language but not how to use it. Grammar is important in language acquisition to give structure to the language and to be able to construct sentences. Modern methodologies apply grammar but putting a focus on linguistic functions.
In the direct method the focus is only on vocabulary. Situations and topics are more important and there is very little attention paid to linguistic functions. In my own teaching method I will use in some sort a little of all of these methodologies. But putting focus on a communicative approach because it is the most effective. Teach vocabulary and grammar in a communicative context based on a way where the students are being stimulated.
In a good lesson plan the objective and goals should be achieved. From the moment you enter class your students must enter the English mood. Asking quick questions lets them warm up. In a one-hour lesson plan for a P4 level, the class should always start with quick questions. Then it should consist of three different types of activities a structure activity (10 – 15 minutes), where the student acquires the required grammar patterns to learn English and using it correctly. A vocabulary activity (10 – 15 min) providing students with a lexicon necessary for the purpose of communication and focuses also on pronunciation. A topic activity (10 – 15 min) this activity will allow the student to practice and improve fluency. These activities should be stimulating and engaging. Ending up the class with a wrap up (3 – 5 min) where target language is revised or tasks performed and analyse the tasks that have been performed. An activity should be introduced and guide the learner, in the activity the structures and target language are being analysed making sure the target language or structure is being understood. Then the student gets to exercise the target language or structure. We should create situations, exercises that will let a student use and practice what they have learned. Ending an activity with concept check questions. This way making sure that the objective of the activity has been understood by the student. All activities are performed in an oral way.
For beginners I would have to adapt the lesson plan, as they do not hold sufficient communicative skills. In this level there should only be a structure and vocabulary activities.
There are not many benefits in using a textbook. It is very important to prepare a class, as improvising will not necessarily lead to students learning. A syllabus should provide a context, defining the goals and objectives that have to be dealt with at a certain level. It provides consistency in the classes. Being well prepared for a class will substitute for my lack of experience right now. It can avoid unnecessary silence in class and make the class flow more naturally and focus on interaction. This is essential for their development, progress, self-esteem and self-confidence.
Using the right tone of voice (speaking clearly but not too loud), body language and eye contact. Instead of punishing errors one should praise and encourage when they accomplish a task. Never say no, but finding encouraging ways to correct errors, like letting students self correct instead of giving a right answer. Rather facing the students, than writing on a blackboard and giving you back to them. Sitting with them around a table making you attached to the students.
As a teachers motivation is very important, if you are not motivated your student won’t be either. A teacher must obtain a range of skills and roles. It is important for me as a teacher to be able to guide and direct a class, be a resource for the students, but taking in account that I should be able to do this in a way that all learners participate. A teacher’s role should be adapted according to what class you are teaching. Sometimes I should be more of a guide. At times a conversationalist, having a good topic activity for conversation where students will learn without effort. A playmaker at times, guiding the learners in a discrete way that make them ‘ achieve goals’, make students participate in a way that they reach their own goals. By adapting these roles I can manage and balance my classes according to a students needs, for example in the case of a difficult student that will try to challenge you.
It is good to know your students, by name and a little about them. By talking to them and finding out what level they are, their age, previous learning experiences and their previous background, just a couple of questions can clarify that. As a teacher you should be able to adapt you teaching according to these factors. Children learn languages much faster than adults. It is natural for them to learn a language and they don’t question rules and structures. They don’t translate literally and their lack of fear to speak makes them fast learners. Where as with adults, we may have to question what their motivation is to learn English and how much time and effort they are willing to put into it. Adult learners will experience that there is al lot more influence and interference of their native language on the language that they are learning also known as inter language. Other factors like pressure from work, lack of time, and stress not related to English class can interfere with their progress and/or motivation.
We have to ask ourselves what the motivation is for the learner. With children often they don’t learn a new language out of free will, therefore diverse and interesting activities to keep their attention and motivation are important. Therefore it is important for a teacher to understand the learning process and the tools that need to be achieved when learning a new language. Understanding what the objective is for the student.
As a teacher I must be able to find the right balance of student talking time (STT) and teacher talking time (TTT). For lower levels using visuals, examples, mimicry and lots of repetition will still keep TTT low and encourage STT. For higher levels the teacher guides and encourages the students to practice and learn giving basic examples but focusing on STT. Always grade your language, in lower level giving short and clear instructions, for higher levels lower your speed and focus on your articulation. Being prepared for classes and organize the syllabus. This will help to lower your teacher talking time, as you will be able to give clear instructions to the students.
Using my own personal experience in learning a new language, I think that in acquiring a new language verbal communication is the most important. So a class should be as communicative as possible creating a natural fun environment rather than making learning seem like a chore. Instead of using the obsolete methods like the Grammar translation method my style of teaching would incorporate modern methods of teaching where speaking and listening are emphasised. There is not one perfect way to teach and by gaining more teaching experience I can create my own approach to teaching. I want to be an effective teacher keeping in mind that’s things like at teacher’s motivation, preparation, confidence and being open minded are key.