Before studying TEFL at Oxbridge I had a different approach to how a language should be taught. That had to do with the methodoligies I had been exposed to; those were the methods I was familiar with.
When I thought of teaching, I saw myself standing in front of a blackboard in a class room.
That´s how I learned languages in high school and that´s how I learned Spanish here in Barcelona.
Ofcourse I had my own ideas to bring in, having a Theatre In Education (TIE) background. But I still had this classic picture in my head of a teacher standing in front of her pupils.
Oxbridge has opened my eyes and has taught me there are a lot of ways of teaching and lots of roles a teacher can have. Because of my own experiences, all the different methods we´ve discussed at the TEFL course and because of the many classes I´ve observed at Oxbridge, I have formed my own approach now to teaching.
When I think back on how I learned Spanish, I first think about all the grammar I learned. But when I think better, I remember that when I finished my one month Spanish course, I could hardly speak! I had learned all the grammar, but I hadn´t learned how to think in Spanish, how to practise different structures and how to apply them in the daily life: how to SPEAK!
I really learned speaking Spanish during my first job here in Barcelona, where I was forced to speak, even if it was with mistakes.
As an English teacher, I want my students to learn how to speak English, right from the start. Ofcourse I want to focus on all four macro skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing), but in my opinion ´speaking´ is the most important one.
Of all the different teaching methods there´s not one I agree with a 100%. I would like to implement a mix of 2 or 3 methods in my classes.
My teaching approach has a lot of similarities with ´The Direct Method´. It fits my vision on teaching, my background and personality. It´s in my nature to use a lot of gestures and to be very expressive in body language and during my job as an actress for children, I developed that even more. For young kids I would even use ideas from the ´Total Physical Respone´. Children are so imagenative and for them it´s helpful to link an action to a word and by doing the action themselves they will find it easier to remember the word in L2.
For adults and teenagers it´s enough to see the teacher mime the action or to have other visual aids to help them understand and remember.
I believe grammar is best taught inductively. Once students see and understand how a certain concept or structure is used, by giving them a lot of examples, it is not necesary anymore to completely analyze the grammar. They will understand how to use it themselves. Once you understand the function of a structure, it´s a lot easier to apply it.
To Speak English
I wouldn´t want to start my class with: ¨My only rule is that during my classes we only speak in English!¨. But I do believe it´s important to speak in the Target Language (TL) as much as possible. I wouldn´t want my students to become dependent on using their native language. Some things cannot be translated. I think the ´quick questions´ are such a great way of setting students´ minds into English mode, that it would be a pitty to break that up with use of their native language. I will always encourage students to try and explain something in the TL. Do you not know the word? Try and discribe it!
I understand that a student can feel the need to say something in his L1, but as a teacher I would always use the TL. In order for the students to understand me at all levels, I will have to grade my language to their level. I will have to take my choice of words, cognates, new vocabulary and my pase of speaking in consideration.
Teaching a language is never a one way street, also affective factors must be considered. Depending on which factor and how that factor impacts the student, my role as a teacher changes.
The students´ motivation has a big influence on their learning process. A student may not always be motivated to learn a L2. My role then would be to engage, inspire and challange my students. A big part of that is to show them what the use of English is and what the function is of what we´re learning in class and of course, to keep the class interesting and dynamic; active!
Also the learning environment has an impact on language aqcuisition. I don´t agree with ´Suggestopedia Method´, but what I do want to take from this method is that it´s important to create a comfortable environment, a relaxed ambience and to build good rapport with the students. I believe that will help them to be more receptive to learning a L2.
A teacher can have different roles, most of the time a combination of some of them, I believe. Different students may need a different role from their teacher. I see my overall role as a teacher as a combination of a guide, a facilitator and a playmaker, giving the student a central position in his own learning process. I want to make sure the class meets the ideal learning conditions, to lead the ´game´, to keep a good flow in all the activities and let the students go with that flow. Linking activities can be a part of that flow, so is flexibility to addapt to the students´needs.
I am a positive person and I think it´s important to bring positivity into the class as well; to encourage and engage students. Students should be let understood when they did something well. The focus should be positive, but there has to be space to correct errors. It depends on the student and on the activity how many errors I would correct. The correction should motivate the student, not demotivate. Activity-based errors I would always correct. But during a topic discussion I would only correct the most important errors.
It´s useful also to listen to the student´s interlanguage. Is there a mistake that this student always makes? Then it´s extra important to correct the error and explain or let them understand why it is not correct to say it that way in the L2.
I would like the syllabus for L2 learning to be a combination of a structure-based and function-based. It seems good to implement a certain strucure at a certain level, but together with a function that structure gets more meaning and becomes useful in real life and it could give a good flow while transferring from one activity to another.
For the structure of the class I strongly agree with the Oxbridge model and not with the way I have been taught languages (Grammar Translation Method).
I think it´s so useful to start the class with quick questions and to always have a combination of Topic, Vocabulary and Structure. This way a class will always contain a combination of all four micro skills; grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and spelling. In my opinion it would be good to work even more on spelling with P5 students.
When I can, I will always try to find a connecting subject through all the activities to make the lesson more fluent. Even the quick questions could be addapted to that subject.
I would like to choose a dynamic variety of activities, a combination of reading, sentence making, discussion, interaction between students, creativity, sound, pictures, roleplay and games.
What I like about the Oxbridge way of teaching, is that the traditional class room, text book and black board make place for a more informal way of learning and teaching with activities, a table that everyone sits at and a verbal way of introducing a new part of the TL.
For a one or two hour class I think it´s perfect to have students and teacher sit around a table, while doing activities. For a class of more then 2 hours I would have the students actually stand up during a part of the class. Just to keep them focussed and engaged. Games can play a big part in this too.
Especially for lower levels and younger students language games are a great way of learning. But always in combination with vocabulary and structure.
The wrap-up that Oxbridge introduced at the end of each class is a great way of assessing that class´ outcomes. The objectives would always be for the students to have understood the given vocabulary and structures and to be able to apply them.
For S1 it would be useful to assess the previous class outcomes, to make sure the students are ready to move on to the next step.
To wrap up....
I want to be an active teacher for my students and I want my students to be actively involved in the class too, depending on how long the class is and the hour of the day, I would sometimes lliterally activate my students. I want to create a comfortable, positive learning environment for my students.
In my experience most people are visual learners, so I would like to make a lot of use of gestures, pictures and real objects. Something that I always found very useful while learning a language, is listening to music. I would like to use that too along side visual aids.
My goal as an English teacher would be to teach people how to (verbally) express themselves in the TL and to guide them to develop that skill in an active way. My personal goal is to always reflect on myself as a teacher and to think about what I can do to become a better teacher.