Throughout my experience, I have come across various methods and different approaches toward teaching. Teaching English as a foreign language requires specific methods which I will aim to highlight in this essay.
The reason we learn another language is to be able to communicate, communication however is not only speaking the language, it is being able to transmit emotions and needs in the most comprehensible way available. Before utilizing any teaching method or approach I would focus my attention on the student and what exactly their goals are. All students are different and not all students respond to the same teaching methods and unfortunately in this modern day world, time is of the essence. We are no longer at school and we don’t have 5 years to learn the language. In light of this I believe making an effort to understand the student before is essential not only to optimize their growth as a student but also to create an enjoyable experience. As soon as the learning experience becomes a chore we lose the student.
Allowing the student to “take control” empowers them and opens the door to creativity, creativity leads to an enjoyable experience thus making the class a memorable experience. Teaching through communication, as they do in the Oxbridge system is an excellent method to engage the student. The target language can be chosen to fit the students needs, wether it be business English or simple every day situations, no one likes grammar but with this system they learn the grammar in a functional way. The target language can be repeated throughout the class using different exercises and if the class has more than one student these exercises will benefit them in different ways depending on the student demographic. I would begin through demonstration. An interactive exercise allowing the students to engage with each other or with the teacher, this helps to lower their inhibitions and creates a good platform for the rest of the class. In this format, students witness a real or simulated activity in which you use materials from the real world. These materials may include artifacts and objects used by individuals in a specific line of work or from an every day situation.
Demonstration also helps their pronunciation, something a reading exercise would not achieve for example. However, as I mentioned earlier, no student is the same and a reading exercise creates a visual memory which for some is an essential part of learning. Reading and writing also allows the student to self correct and as we all know, we can only learn from our mistakes.
In the classroom the teacher is not the all knowing master of wisdom and we must remember that the students can share their knowledge too! Having the students engage with each other gives them more control. Collectively a group is more knowledgeable than one.
One method that can be used but I personally would not favor it is the Silent method. The Silent method focuses on the student and the Teacher is largely non verbal. This promotes self correcting which like I mentioned earlier is an effective way of learning. To some extent, this method puts the student in control but at the same time the student can also feel like he is underachieving. This method creates limitations and can slow the learning speed down. Some aspects of this method can be used and incorporated into the Oxbridge syllabus if used as a “tool” and not so much as a “method”
Another method is the Callan method. This method focuses on the speed in which a language can be learnt with the use of repetition of target language and grammar and quick fire questions. This method creates an intense atmosphere and can be a good way of creating a platform of basic knowledge. The speed however, and the intensity can form a negative vibe in some students as the may fall behind. A lot of students will feel insecure and this method may cause them to be taken a back and not speak out about it. Additionally the Teacher and the Students may likely fail to form a bond.
Having highlighted certain teaching methods and personal experiences as a teacher, we can come to the conclusion that each method has its “pro’s” and “cons.” If we were to take all the pro’s from these methods and put them collectively into one syllabus then we can achieve a successful teaching method. I would also like to add the participation of the students in creating the syllabus as I believe this would help us identify their needs and give them extra motivation as they feel more part of the learning experience and ultimately learning exactly what they want to learn.
The Teachers role in the classroom is as important or perhaps even more important than the syllabus. I believe that if the student is not learning then that directly falls on me and is my mistake. Preparation is key but not only on classroom material but on each individual student, A teacher should be able to identify the students needs and apply the motivation and the teaching method necessary to give the students the maximum experience. Whilst applying these methods the teacher should always be focused on creating good rapport with the students and giving them a safe working environment. As Teachers we now have a wide range of tools available, we should aim to use these and not forget that we can learn from the students too!