Think back to when you learnt language at school. Now try to forget most of the way that you were taught. This approach to learning language brings learning into the real world.
It mainly incorporates the Communicative method of learning, based on a number of principles. Firstly, it focuses on all four macro language skills, though this specific approach looks at Speaking and Listening in the classroom and Reading and Writing as pre/post work. Secondly, there is an emphasis on learning and speaking the Target Language in class, for instance, students will not be expected to learn cognates or language that is irrelevant to the course objectives. Authentic texts are used as material for class (e.g.. news articles) with less of a reliance on text books which can be too generic and go out of date quickly. Finally, students are expected to bring their own experiences and opinions to the class room and relate what they have learned to the âreal worldâ.
That's not to say that other approaches aren't used in parts of the curriculum, for instance the Direct Method will be used, whereby students are encouraged not to use their mother tongue, or the Audio Lingual approach where repetition of target Language is used to embed learning.
As well as the macro skills of language, the approach will focus on accuracy (Grammar and Vocabulary) and fluency (the ability to articulate ideas through discussions, debates, role plays) of the English Language.
While it is intended to focus on the four macro skills and other skills such as accuracy and fluency. The specifics of the syllabus is harder to define. Its important to focus on the relevant information in relation to the needs of the students. A needs analysis must be carried out before designing a syllabus. Why do they need to learn English? And in what situations will they use it? This can be done through interviews style discussions and questionnaires.
Students level of English also needs to be assessed, so that the material can be pitched at t he right level and teachers can adapt their style. This can be done through placement tests and through conversation to test accuracy and fluency respectively.
As students learn more effectively when they are intrinsically motivated, i.e.. they are motivated for internal rewards, rather than external factors like money or family expectations. There will be an initial class to discuss the benefits to learning English and what students can expect. Teachers will adapt their material according to these expectations so that they are met.
As well as motivation, other affective factors such as Personality can affect Students ability to learn. The syllabus will take this into consideration. For instance, Introverts by nature do not practice speaking second languages as much Extraverts, as Introverts typically speak less than their counterparts. Anxious students may also struggle to learn as fast as they may be worried about making mistakes and practice less. In order to combat that, all students will be given ample opportunity to practice their skills, for instance through role play where students are given allocated time to practice. The class environment will also be a relaxed one where students will feel less intimidated to make errors. And, in fact, students will be encouraged to make mistakes and self-correct or correct each other.
The structure of the course will be outlined after a needs analysis has taken place but it will include Vocabulary and Grammar activities to work on accuracy of the target language. Example of activities include blank filing exercises, games to keep students engaged, role plays or identifying names of images. All activities will focus on target language, in context to real life situations so they can be relatable to the students. Discussions will also take place on various current topics such as what's happening in the news, English culture and subjects the Students find interesting, identified in the needs analysis. The discussion will be guided by the teacher with the intention that the students do most of the talking themselves.
Materials would be a combination of online and physical. Material would be varied to accommodate different learning styles, such as those who are visual, auditory or kinesthetic.
Students will practice the target language by repeating words and sentence structures out loud. Teachers will focus on the pronunciation of words, with the aim that students can be understood.
Teachers will ensure that errors are corrected immediately for Vocabulary and Structure activities, as these focus on accuracy. In discussions, there would be less attention paid to correcting as the main objective is fluency and getting a point across. It is important to note that the teacher must elicit the correct response from the student, not give them the correct answer. Students who are told the correct answer are more likely to forget soon after the class. The Teacher's role serves as more of a facilitator than an instructor. The teacher may have the answers but will be encouraged to allow the Student to find the answers themselves through methods such as modeling, emphasis on words. Students will also be encouraged to correct each other. Students will be encouraged to make mistakes with the philosophy that people should feel comfortable to make errors and that they will not be judged or punished. The teacher is also there to guide conversation and so the Teacher Talking Time should be balanced so that all students have ample time to practice the skill. This isn't a lecture, but more or a workshop. Teachers will also serve to teach the culture of English speaking countries (particularly their own).
The Teacher will concentrate on teaching function first and form second. Function of the language is important so that the student understands the context and how it is used in the real world. An example of this is where a teacher will give examples of the use of the word in every day speech, rather than list the target language and ask students to memorize. Form is still important for accuracy and understanding rules of word and sentence structure, so will be incorporated into the syllabus.
Now that the Teachers role has been outlined, what's the students role? Students are encouraged to bring themselves to class, through voicing their own opinions and experiences. They are also encouraged to help each other through activities and discussion.
English language will be strongly encouraged to be always spoken, not to say that the mother tongue is not allowed as some students will use Inter-language as they develop their skill. But this should be used as a way to express what they are trying to communicate in a fluent way. Inter-language should be corrected for accuracy during Vocabulary and Grammar activities. It is important that English is the main language spoken, including through the instruction of activities and even through greeting at the beginning of class, as Students will learn not to rely so much on their native language.
So how will the students be assessed? The Learning Outcomes, that will be assessed, will be related to the needs of the students and the objectives of the classes. A multi level assessment method is important as this is a more reliable method of assessing the performance of a student, i.e.. there will not just be one method of assessing and will not just from the perspective of one person. Assessment of learning will also occur throughout the curriculum (again adding to the reliability of the assessment scores). Formal placement tests will take place at the beginning and will serve as a bench mark for the students original aptitude. They will also take place throughout the course. There will be Concept Check Questions (CCQs) to asses understanding of activities at regular intervals. CCQs will be recorded but will not affect the final grade, but more of a snapshot of class progress and students own insight into their understanding. Homework will be graded, but will not be a pre-requisite to the content of the class, as invariably students will forget to complete or choose not to, bringing the pace of the class down. Instead, homework will be optional and will focus on building skills of content that has already been taught. Homework will focus on reading and writing (including spelling), rather than Speaking and Listening (the focus of the classroom). There will be assessed activities with different learning styles being accommodated for. There will be a final exam but the final grade will not rest solely on this as there are many factors that effect performance on a singe day. It also takes more pressure off the students (again accounting for anxiety affective factors).
Students will be placed in classes based on level of skill and age (adults and non-adults). Activities of those who are in non-adult class will focus more on games, while adult classes will have more discussions as adults are expected to have the maturity to want to express opinions on various topics. Games will be used to create motivation and engagement, they also are effective as the learning experience should be a positive one as this increasing learning.
Splitting the classes up by level is also very important as the pace of the class needs to be consistent for the students. Those at the higher end of the spectrum will be less likely to feel bored and those at the lower end will also be able to keep up with the content. The Teacher will grade their language according to the level.
All in all this method looks at teaching English in a manner that is more human, more linked to real life and the needs of the students. By doing so, students are more engaged, more interested in learning and ultimately learn what they need to know.