My own approach to teaching
There are different opportunities and ways of learning a language which are through studies, work, travelling, or interaction with native speakers. Perhaps they are good ways, but the best quality of learning is highly dependent on the teaching methodologies. There are also effective, motivating and engaging ways of learning which address the needs of millions of people who want to learn or improve their command of English; and this implies consideration to their age groups and specific needs.
As we have mentioned, teaching methodologies are crucial in teaching and have different outcomes. They are principles and methods used for instruction to be implemented by teachers to achieve the desired learning in students. For a particular teaching method to be appropriate and efficient it has to be in relation with the characteristic of the learner and the type of learning it is supposed to bring about. Some learners just enjoy learning English which is an intrinsic need; whereas others want to learn just to pass an exam, or because it is required in their professions. The latter are extrinsic needs. However, there are different types of teaching methodologies.
Firstly, the Grammar Translation Method in which students learn grammar rules and apply them by translating between source language and their own language. The students do not practice communication and there is little focus on speaking. It is considered an ineffective method.
Secondly, the Direct Method in which teaching focuses on oral skills, but with no emphasis on the study of grammar. The classroom instruction is conducted exclusively in the target language. In small intensive classrooms, oral skills are built up in a carefully graded progression organized around questions and answers which are exchanged between teachers and students. Only everyday vocabulary and sentences are taught, while grammar is taught inductively. However, there are some drawbacks. For instance, it requires teachers who are native speakers or who have native like fluency; and it was largely dependent on teacher’s skills rather than textbooks, and some teachers are not proficient enough to adhere to the principles of the method.
Thirdly, the Audio-lingual method which is similar to the Direct Method, but with no emphasis on vocabulary. This extensive memorization, repetition and over-learning of patterns were the key to the method’s success, as students could often see immediate results, but it was also its weakness.
Fourthly, the Silent Way is in which making extensive use of silence as a teaching technique. In this method leaners need to discover or create, and learning is made easy by using physical objects such as Cuisenaire rods; and also by problem solving; and using the target language. Students interact with each other, but silence of a teacher can prevent them from learning any active model. Furthermore, students may be confused with the symbol of coloured rods, and waste too much time with a concept that would be easy clarified by the teacher’s direct guide.
Fifthly, Suggestopedia in which teaching involves music, comfortable and relaxing environment. The teacher has authority of the classroom and is the source of the info. Students just memorize, but there is no comprehension neither problem solving skills which are needed in understanding and interacting in different unpredictable situations. In addition, it is impractical in the sense of the availability of music and providing comfortable chairs for all the class.
Sixthly, the Communicative Approach integrates listening, speaking, reading and writing (Macro skills) for communicative competence. Moreover, it is meaningful to learners and provides learning a language rather than through grammar rules. That means students discover grammar rules inductively. It has emphasis in real communication and learners are provided with opportunities to experiment what they know, while the teacher monitors and tolerates their errors.
Lastly, Total Physical Response in which there is coordination between language and physical movement. It is based on how children learn their mother tongue, and as such it tends to mirror this effect in the language classroom. The teacher as a parent says a command, while the students as children respond to it. Later, students can direct each other or the whole class. It has emphasis on teaching vocabulary, tenses, imperatives and story telling. It is fun, memorable and good for kinaesthetic learners. Moreover, it helps them use the target language, and there is less preparation for class. However, this method may be suitable for beginner levels and young learners, and we must bear in mind not everything is taught with it.
From the above mentioned methodologies, I suggest that the communicative approach is much more effective than the others because it has emphasis on all the macro skills. However, I do not oppose borrowing some techniques from other methodologies which best fit learners needs.
One of the integral parts of a planned course is the syllabus. Structure based; skill based; and content based are some types of syllabi. However, I assume that for a communicative approach, the following syllabi are to be considered. Firstly, a function based syllabus which helps students express their own ideas, notions, and purposes (activity: asking for directions). Secondly, a situation based syllabus which focuses on real imaginary situations in which languages occur (activity: at the metro station). Lastly, a task based syllabus which focuses on activities that are carried out when a target language is needed (activity: comparing given figures to identify similarities and differences).
There are different classroom activities. However, I consider some are much more effective for communication. For instance, a role play activity is a way of getting students to speak and they immediately apply content in relevant real world context. In addition, an interview activity gives students a chance to practice their speaking ability not only in class but also outside and helps them becoming socialized. Moreover, an information gap is a pair work activity. One student will have the information that the other partner does not have and the partners will share their information. Information gap activities serve many purposes such as solving a problem or collecting information. These activities are effective because everybody has the opportunity to talk extensively in the target language. Last but not least, we could consider some more activities such as describing illustrations; find the difference; and ESL games which will make a class more interesting and fun. In all any activity which is helpful for developing proficiency in speaking fluency, listening comprehension, as well as improving reading comprehension and writing ability through written or text chats should be recommended.
Teachers and students roles:
In a classroom there are roles carried out by the teacher, while others by the students. I believe that the most important roles of a teacher are to monitor, facilitate, tolerate errors, guide, assess and be a psychologist. On the other hand, the student’s roles are to be motivated; be willing to ask questions; be able to think how to learn; accepting corrections; and taking responsibility.
Teachers should specify their learner’s needs and goals before starting a class. For such reason considering learners level and age group are crucial. There are affective factors which have effects on the learning process. These factors include motivation, opportunity, the environment and personality. Achieving better results; expanding knowledge of the target language; relaxing environment; and anxiety are examples for each of the affective factors mentioned respectively.
Assessment and Materials:
Assessment is necessary, but which type is more effective? According to my observations, I see the formative assessment is ideal. It is an on going process and for this reason it provides information which can help instructions; and provides immediate feedback on students. There is no end of term exam in a formative assessment which I agree with because it has negative factors (i.e. anxiety) which could affect student’s progress.
When it comes to materials, I tend to believe that whatever helps in the learning process is vital. Authentic course books should be available as references. Moreover, we must understand that learners have different styles of learning i.e. visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. This means we should also focus on the facilities; for instance, the current language labs are more or less like traditional classrooms (i.e. students sitting on their desks facing the board). So in order to improve them, it is essential to provide wireless headsets, speakers and terminals. Having wireless devices makes it a lot easier for the teachers to order the way they want their students seated or positioned (e.g. facing each other or moving around). In addition, provision of widescreen TVs, interactive whiteboards, internet/server, PCs, tablets. These not only help a lot in audio and visual activities, but also help learners experience the use of language in real time events. All these make a class much engaging and fun.
To sum up, in my opinion, all the different teaching methodologies could be an integral to the communicative approach. For this reason, I consider that once a person is committed to learn a language for whatsoever reason, they should focus on the macro skills, and with teacher’s guidance, regular practice and interaction, they will gradually improve their command in English with much fluency and accuracy.