My Approach to Teaching English
It is agreed within the language pedagogical environment, that it is a grave mistake to teach a language only through vocabulary lists and the technicalities of grammar rules. This is due to the fact that it restrains the student from using their L2 (secondary language) with a high degree of accuracy and fluency. The general consensus (and such is my opinion too) is that for a student to acquire proficiency in a second language, the student must be put in several practice situations and given opportunities to use it to communicate.
It is with basis on this notion, that I form my opinion towards my approach in teaching the English language.
My approach would follow modern notions of Constructivism in terms of its theoretical identity. I believe that students will perform better when learning through their prior knowledge, beliefs, concepts or past experiences. These are factors of socio-cultural nature that students organize in their daily lives within their environment. To apply this theory, I would utilise the Communicative Approach (Communicative language teaching, CLT). These are its main characteristics:
- It promotes communication through making students learn to interact and communicate in the target language.
-Students get a chance to take part not only in the language acquisition but also on the learning process they are undergoing.
- The usage of authentic texts within the learning environment.
- Students' experiences are an important segment and contribute to the classes' content.
- Its method relies on linking the language used within the classroom to authentic activities outside it.
My approach would mainly target adults. This is because the theory supports that adults are more suited to internalize representations formed in their mind, in part due to the use of cognitive tools (such as books). These representations can be interpreted in adults as learning outcomes. Through this type of learning, the students can easily put the information give and discussed in classed into real context, through construction of knowledge. The social information environment is put into play through scaffolding offering support to students at the beginning, but is gradually removed as students start to internalize the concepts.
I believe it is vital to unlock students prior knowledge of the content being taught, as it allows them to contribute and participate more in class discussion or debate. It assumes that the L2 learners has working better working memory, conceptual and social development, command of speech styles, Through discussion or answers provided by students the teacher can demonstrate if they have retained previous concepts and hence be evaluated and assessed by the teacher. The liberty of discussion (real life topics) and the visual tools used within this method facilitate the students' capacity to learn through strong memory association, retaining the information on a long-term basis due to connections formed with their brain
This approach follows Psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus's conclusions in the sense that it promotes the improvement of memory by helping students connect the information the teacher is providing them with their prior knowledge.
Graphic representations, repetition and discrete correction in CL are used as mnemonic devices. The changing dynamic and role of the teacher and the student within the class allow the student to receive the information and “play” with it during spaced intervals.
When the teacher asks questions at the end to summarise the class or when he is receiving answers from a debate, negotiation or role-playing exercise he helps the student form a neural connection that catalyses memory activity and forms deeper neural connections. Adults tend to need more explicit learning and this approach, specializes and can be adapted to topics adults have a use for on an immediate or mid-term regular basis.
Through the exposure to students of different backgrounds and levels of proficiency in English within the CLT method, I believe the student forms sufficient neural connections in their brain and through their memory by listening to other say it in the correct form and apply it in a real situation. Nevertheless the teacher does participate, even though in a discrete manner in correction. Mnemonics applied avoids the student making the mistake because when trying to make a correlation with the memory, he will remember the correct form, or at least the one he is trying to use will not sound right to him. Combining this, with exclusive communication in English, seems like the obvious to avoid language transfer, over-generalization and simplification.
The specialisation within specific real-life topics, allows affective factors to be greatly diminished for adults. The information delivered by the teacher and used within the class is useful for the students' environment outside the class which is a great motivating factor. I consider the goal of students will to be obtain the highest proficiency in the section of the language that is most useful for them The maturity adults have and the decision to make a physical, psychological and even monetary effort inflate motivation through the opportunity to obtain a higher proficiency in the language through applicable content in their daily lives (intrinsic motivation). The fact that students work in pair and groups exposes even more of the benefits of the CLT approach, as it gives students opportunities to be exposed to students with different environmental and cultural backgrounds and students with higher or lower levels than them. This in turn would ensure that any content too difficult for them could be made easier with the help of a more advanced student. The opportunity to interact with other students normally allows the quieter students to participate more in class when put in smaller groups. However I am aware that students may not do so well in that environment and it is the teachers' role while monitoring, to ensure they activate the students participation or help them understand as much as possible. Therefore interaction with other students and the ability to communicate with them would have to be a pre-emptive goal.
I believe the CLT approach lessons promote the building of rapport due to the value of the students' input which at the same time, ensures a friendly relationship is created. The teacher and student reach a comfort zone which allows to have a good relationship with the students. The open debate and discussion provide a fun and engaging class allowing everyone to take part. It gives students a chance to partially escape their realities to have fun, which I believe makes students motivated enough to come back.
Within the classroom:
The CLT allows the 4 language skills to be applied: Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing (Macro skills) and all 4 micro skills: Grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, spelling. The following description of an example activity, will highlight how all these elements are present in my desired method.
Firstly, the level of grade in the language used is subjected to the students' prior level of English. If at first low, a more graded language is necessary. This is to compensate adult's difficulty in obtaining a neutral accent. Pronunciation is obtain through practice in class and through observation of teacher and other students. The class occurs always in an oral context whether the teacher is in a facilitator role or a monitoring role. Students tend to first learn how to speak and listen and this is what my method would promote.
A typical class would start with the introduction of a function and a topic, much like the method introduced by Larsen-Freeman and the US Information Agency (1990). An example would be: Function – Negotiation; Topic – Bargaining at a flea market. The teacher first introduces the scenario that the students will have to resolve amongst them. They are then exemplified with how the information they learn will be useful to hem. If the teacher can share a personal experience, this facilitates the integration of teachers into an activity.
Moreover, students immediately are asked introductory questions to the topic so as to introduce some of the target language whilst the teacher explains that the students will later have in what could be considered the main activity.
The teacher would then introduce an explanatory activity which helps explain the form in a inductive manner, gradually showing the students how to use the full form through example. The activity consists of students giving examples of a situation related to the one discussed in class (e.g. Questions like “have you ever bargained before” or “did you negotiate the price of something you bough). This also introduces target language and can do the same implicitly for grammar forms like verb tenses. Here the teacher is facilitating information even with student participation, which I believe is crucial to maintaining the student engaged. Also is correcting pronunciation of sentence composition.
The second activity would consist of getting students into groups and reinforce the scenario presented at the beginning of the class. Within their groups the students would discuss their topics and elect a team captain, who would present their results at the end of the activity. In some cases teachers could select students who speak the least to be captains in order to integrate them more.
When the results are presented the teacher wraps up the class with discussion of the results obtained and reinforcing correction as well as the target language to be able to assess the students' performance and verify if the learning outcomes of the micro/macro skills mentioned above were achieved. In order to reinforce reading and writing, compositions can be used as homework assignments and correct the following lesson. This reinforces the neural connections through mnemonics. The usage of realia such as graphs, maps, pictures, videos or physical game should be included in classes to help the student retain information and enjoy motivate himself in the content.
It is therefore my belief, that this method encumbers the highest amount of effective macro and micro skills facilitated to the student in the most engaging way. It is however my opinion that this method is more tailored to adults, mainly due to over-compensation that an adult L2 learner has to go through in terms of immediate cognitive ability. This is however compensated by their motivation and enjoyment which can be found in this system, specially when conditioned by the previously mentioned factors in an adults decision to learn the English language.