How would you teach, if you were able to choose?
When a person decides to expand their knowledge, through learning a new language, studying a degree, or even just reading a book, they make a personal decision to grow as an individual too. As Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle, once said: “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” Taking into account this statement, as a teacher it is important to keep in mind the affective factors, which influence students learning. Thus, a teaching approach has an impact on how well students learn. I believe it is important to create a class context where students can apply concepts and techniques taught, in order to remember and understand what they learn. To accomplish my goal as a teacher - to teach students how to communicate, think and write in a new language, by applying the input learned in class, to fulfill real tasks in authentic social situations fluent and effectively - I would use the project approach in my classrooms.
The project approach is student-centered, which under a specific theme, teachers work with an emergent curriculum, driven by the students initiative. By including students in deciding aspects of the course and choosing activities that are motivating for the age and interests of the learners, teachers are able to take into consideration students’ needs, reasons for learning, and motivation, in class and when creating curriculum. Active student participation is important so they are able to primarily work on listening and speaking skills; the course would mainly focus on these two elements. Gaining this understanding, promotes students to comfortably construct their vocabulary and spelling knowledge as they advance. This habit will increase pronunciation and grammar awareness inductively, from the start of the course. Reading, introduced progressively, will be a complementary activity. With the intention of helping students make strong links and retain information resiliently, the materials used in class will be realia. This authentic material, such as visual aids, creative use of sound and the use of reality will foster students to associate directly with their names.
This approach also includes communicative language teaching, which targets language fluency and student confidence, while finding ways to solve new problems as they come up. For this task-based instruction, scaffolding is also an essential piece in the process to build a structure or pattern from diverse elements putting the parts together to form a whole, as there is a gradual introduction of information based on previous knowledge. Learner's errors caused by several different processes, for example, borrowing patterns from the mother tongue, is common when learning a second and foreign language. To avoid the interlanguage phenomenon, or reduce occurrences of this sort, English will be the vehicular language of the classroom at all times; except if the inability to use the mother tongue disrupts class smoothness.
The course structure is based on a three-step process: firstly, students investigate and openly discuss previous knowledge of a topic/theme through open dialogues, role-plays and debates. These activities will give students the opportunity to explore concepts more independently than they would have with teacher-directed activities, fueled by their natural curiosity and motivation. Hence, learners will play an important part of their own education process by recognizing when they understand and when they need more information, while they connect the receiving new information. Then, after brainstorming and gathering all prior comprehension, the teacher will extract the information students have laid out, to create a situational and task-based syllabus and an estimated content guide of the following classes.
The next step, involves creating and thinking a way to represent the knowledge collected previously. This phase will encourage students to hypothesize and question their ideas. During the succession of classes, questions and challenges materialize; these are important clues the teacher will use to identify students difficulties. These can be used to introduce articles, and other reading material to initiate reading comprehension questions as a paired class activity. Teachers play a role of guiding and facilitating students towards working on those weaknesses – with transformation drills for example -, as they narrow ideas down, so as to develop a task/project. In addition, they must change the content of their instruction to include real-world topics and have students undertake new kinds of representations of the information they have obtained, to foster students dispositions of wonder and ask questions, take initiative in planning and carrying out inquiries, and to negotiate. At this point, students should be learning to carry out activities using the target language introduced in each class. To fulfill the purpose of students being able to use structural elements appropriately in different social situations, this step is essential to make students both more independent and confident, using the language they are trying to learn. Learning then becomes active and contextualized, in the process of constructing knowledge and not acquiring it. The result of this stage is a plan to fulfill a task or project, and understand the challenges that may lie ahead of them in the route to performing such.
The last step, will include students selecting, managing and assessing their own learning activities, as they work collaboratively in the classroom. The end result will be the culmination of the project outline and the execution of it. Some examples are: writing a recipe book cooperatively, plan a trip abroad together, or even write a letter and send it. In order to keep track of student’s growth, evaluation will primarily be based on task outcome using summative assessment – at the end of each project. Nevertheless, teachers will make careful observations and inquiries during each class to formatively gauge what the student’s next step will be. Regarding homework, students will be encouraged to further their learning outside of the classroom setting, using their new abilities in real settings but, they will not be forced to do so. Using new acquires As Chinese teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher Confucius said: “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” Like mentioned earlier, students take responsibility for learning, so they will have to decide whether or not to take action with the opportunities that will be presented to them.
Conclusively, courses will not have a restricted time frame. Classes may go on until the project/task is finished, which could be done promptly or take several months; it will mainly depend on the complexity of such, students level, and the subject or ideas presented. The length of the course will rely on learner’s ability to learn and achieve their goal. Hence, it will not be important to accomplish the task or project within a predetermined interval. Once the task is completed, a placement reassessment can be made by teachers to accommodate students and their learning needs. This will be important to take into consideration when teaching children, due to their rapid development and growth they may outgrow a level within a shorter period of time than was expected initially.