Thinking back to when I was a student in high school, many different teaching methods were practiced. Some of these methods worked well in engaging students to learn, while others proved to be less effective. Many (if not most) teaching methods are outdated and obsolete in today’s modern media driven society. People need to be stimulated in different ways. I believe that the use of textbooks will always have a place in education, even in some cases of language learning. Textbooks serve as a good foundation for learning a second language but don’t really motivate students to talk and build confidence. Most people would agree that , “please open your textbooks to page…” was always a dreaded way to have a class started. The overreliance on textbooks to teach a class is no longer functional for learning languages. Students need to be stimulated in a more effective manner. Especially kids and young adults who tend to lose focus and get distracted more easily than adults.
I would strive to investigate the interests and desires with regards to language learning of the students themselves. There may be specific topics that they would like to learn in English. Perhaps they are medical students and would like to learn English medical terminology. Maybe the student works in a business or law firm and would prefer to focus on vocabulary related to his or her career. Students may have interests in other specific fields such as sports, art, and music. Even in classes with multiple students which have different or conflicting interests, teaching can still revolve around such topics, possibly striking up interesting conversations and debates. The most effective way to explore which topics interest the students most is by asking them directly either before the classes begin (giving enough time to prepare a relevant syllabus) or by asking them during the first ‘introductory’ lesson (allowing me as a teacher to make amendments to the syllabus).
Furthermore, the students’ expectations from the teaching process are extremely important to know. Whether they require good writing skills solely to pass a Cambridge examination or whether they would like to be able to hold a conversation with their English speaking friends can also determine how I would teach the student. In many cases, a student would probably like to be able to speak, read, listen, and write in English. I tend to give more priority to listening and speaking rather than reading and writing. I have learned from personal experience, having studied a foreign language in high school for 4 years without achieving fluency, that there is a lack of emphasis on speaking practice. Therefore, the structure of my course would mainly focus on speaking. Most activities will be centered on speaking practice utilizing a wide variety of resources ranging from current news reports to engage the students to discuss, debate, and give opinions on matters, to oral vocabulary exercises and the use of videos. I generally favor such content based syllabi in which topics of interest are covered. Furthermore these day-to-day syllabi are not to be followed that strictly. Should the students become engaged in a heated conversation, discussion, and/or debate, I would encourage them to continue as opposed to stopping them because there is still a vocabulary activity to be covered in order to keep to the class schedule /syllabus.
Although deductive teaching has been the norm for decades in terms of language learning, even as recent as when I was still in high school 7 years ago, I believe it is highly flawed. While I appreciate the need for students to understand the rules, patterns, and principles of the grammar they are using, I think that it constrains the students to focus too much on these strict rules without any use of imagination. Through inductive teaching, students are allowed to notice the rules without analyzing the structure. Examples of similar sentences would be given to the students which should stimulate a thinking process allowing them to connect the dots and notice similar patterns. This would ideally lead them to use their creativity to make their own correct examples and utilize the structure correctly in conversations without having to think of the rules beforehand. Naturally, the students would be given a nudge in the right direction should they fail to see the patterns in the examples given.
An average teaching hour would be comprised of a variety of activities. Firstly, introductory exchanges (asking the student how his/her week is going, how their weekend was etc.) would always be made allowing the student(s) to feel comfortable and at ease while still fully engaged in the lesson. This can also help the student practice the 3 different tenses by simply asking “How are you doing today?”, “What did you do last weekend?”, and “What are you plans for Christmas?” for example. This would then be followed by some revision exercises on topics covered in previous classes and new exercises pertaining to vocabulary and structures. I would then introduce a relevant topic for discussion, like something recent and newsworthy that is related to their personal interests disclosed beforehand. For example, if one student is a fan of a particular football team, perhaps there was a recent transfer of one of their players. I may ask that particular student how he or she feels about this.
Generally, L2 would be the main language of instruction, and the expected language from the students. Especially in higher levels (P3 and above) I would opt to discourage any use of L1 and try to dissuade students from translating. In S1 and P2 groups, there may be some instances where the students may ask if a ‘x’ word they read or I say is ‘x’ word in L1, to which I would probably confirm or not. I would however try to move them away from the technique of translating at an early stage. My language will be graded significantly for lower levels so that the transition from the use of L1 to L2 can be made smoothly without much confusion.
When it comes down to making errors during a lesson, they should always be addressed, whether immediately or at the end of an activity depends on the class. Lower level classes like S1 and P2s may sometimes lack confidence to attempt speaking in English (especially adults). The last thing I would want is to break their confidence by constantly correcting them in front of their peers as they try to speak. It might be best to wait until the end of the activity. Especially since many of the errors might be repeated pronunciation errors or grammatical mishaps. I believe that it will come down to an individual student basis. After getting to know my students, I will be able to pick up on whether they are confident enough and that would determine the manner and frequency in which I would correct them.
Lastly, I also feel that although grouping them according to age or level is necessary in most cases, it may make learning more difficult when they probably have a wide variety of interests. Someone who has little interest and/or knowledge in advertising for example will probably lose concentration easily if that is the topic of discussion. They may even feel insecure and less intelligent if they cannot engage in a debate or discussion about a topic to which they have no interest or knowledge. Therefore it is extremely important to alter the teaching approach depending on whether the group being taught is at a beginner level or more advanced. I find that advanced students take more pleasure in practicing having conversations and just talking about real life as opposed to doing activities to practice vocabulary and structure. Therefore, I would limit these activities in advanced classes, instead focusing more on topics, discussions, and general conversational exercises. While beginners need more vocabulary and structure exercises, I wouldn’t want the class to become stale and too repetitive. Therefore I would still try to include some basic topic exercises for them to practice and become comfortable speaking in English.
Assessment will be made continuously and without the students’ knowledge. I don’t believe much in standardized testing although it is common practice in most institutions. Students can easily become nervous and stressed out during such examinations and their results may be a poor reflection of their actual abilities.
Through my approach, I hope to aid students learning by giving them the necessary tools and confidence to engage in English conversations.