Teaching is art. Like other arts it has its palette – palette of methodologies and approaches. And there is no right or wrong ones. It all depends on how skillfully they are combined in a complete picture (like colors in drawing) or a sequence of their use (like sounds in music) or used separately (like in a black and white portrait). In either way a methodology or a combination of methodologies can stand as a unique masterpiece. However the beauty of this masterpiece will solely depend on the artist - the teacher.
It is essential to master that palette to be able to use the right techniques in order to build your own effective methodology.
My native language is Russian. I learnt Ukrainian, English and French at different stages of my life with different approaches. And from my personal experience of learning languages I have noticed that language acquisition becomes most efficient when the teacher and the student/students reach their balance of trust and comfort:
All the affective factors are truly important for a successful learning. However there is one more that I would like to segregate and talk about it with an additional emphasis. And it is MOTIVATION. I believe that it is crucial to keep students motivated and willing to participate in classes, tasks, activities. In order to achieve that, we have to develop intrinsic motivation in our learners. The classes have to be more relevant to the students’ goals, personal interests, main concerns. This will raise their interest in learning and most importantly – keep them engaged. What was your least favorite subject at school? Do you remember how many times you got distracted at those classes by thinking about the upcoming weekend or just wanting the summer holiday to hurry up? You were not interested in that subject hence easily found other points of your interest to think about instead. Biology was my least favorite. And when I grew up I took a classical massage course. And how I wish I could go back to the school times and learn everything about the human body that I was wondering about or couldn't understand at the masage course. We were unmotivated at that time and a skillful teacher would easily notice that problem and try to get our attention by making his/her subject seem to be useful for us in future. I am giving these examples to show how important is to motivate our students. And even if it was not their choice to be at the English class, we can still find the way to get their interest in learning. I find it very efficient to induce students to engage English in their everyday life. In fact we are surrounded by “a lot of English” already: well-known Head&Shoulders, Star Wars, Tide, the Internet, website, Whatsup etc. Once students start paying their attention to the surrounding English they will get more excited to find out more. If you start a challenge you will be surprised yourself how many of them you were using not even realizing that they were common English words. Is hamburger one of them?
I started off with affective factors as I believe they should be the ones to be taken care of at the very start of learning in order to clear up both the students’ and the teachers’ minds for a successful interaction.
How to choose the right methodology? In order to keep the students motivated I personally would focus on such macro skills as listening and speaking with beginners up to the intermediate level. This will give the students the base for being able to work with more complicated material on reading and writing more effectively in future. This means that for the beginners, pre-intermediate and intermediate levels I would rely on the following methodologies:
If I am to create my own classes/courses I would like to emphasize that my approach will be based on making English a part of everyday life therefore we have to make it look rather realistic to our students. In this case the following methodologies will not apply:
Approaches will vary depending on the level and age of the students most of the time. Suggestopedia and Silent way won’t work for low levels. Suggestopedia may become more useful with adults as it requires patience and attention that young learners may be lacking. However, as nowadays it is desirable to be very flexible with our market, students can be divided into groups according to their goals and objectives. And in this case age will no longer be taken into account.
While teaching a foreign language we all face constant use of the native language by the students. This may create a habit of constant translation from the native language which is not a natural process of acquiring a language and it slows down the process of communication. I would avoid the usage of the mother tongue and even try to eliminate it.
The roles distribution between teachers and learners also needs to resemble to the one from a real life to keep the students in their comfort zone. Teacher-authority or teacher-assessor will only create a lot of tension in the learning environment. I see teachers as guides, facilitators, playmakers where teacher is creating the real life situations in classes and provide students with all the necessary assistance and guidance. Teacher can very effectively stand as a tutor: 1-2 hours in the evening can be devoted to the online conversation with the students: group chats for general questions, e-mails, personal messages. If students don’t start the group conversation teacher initiates it himself by talking about something abstract from the classes, meanwhile asking how the students are getting on with the home task or if students came across anything that made them wonder or helped them learn something new in English. Plans for tomorrow can also be discussed in the group chats, especially if there’s no English class the next day. This can give the opportunity for students to practice their writing and it may also expose them to 2 different registers: formal and informal. Students will be talking to each other informally, and formally to the teacher. Therefore students are communicators; they are self-managers when it comes to self-assessments.
I believe in the acquisition-learning hypothesis where language learning is subconscious. There must be a meaningful interaction through natural communication. Comprehensible input will help students to understand the TL through context, explanation, rewarding, visual cues etc.
And when it comes to the assessment we will have to create meaningful tasks related to real situations. Students will be put into various life situations (according to the course objectives). If the objective is to be able to communicate fluently in English – students will be constantly put into such. If the objective is to pass the Cambridge exam: real trial tasks will be given, etc.
As to the error correction during the classes I believe that the teacher has to develop his own system to follow: the system that will not be offensive or disruptive for the learners. Students will have to get used to the system and accept it as a natural learning process rather than feeling like they are being pointed out at their mistakes.
For such “natural/realistic” approach I would choose situation based syllabus and lesson structure. Everything will be related to real life situations. Every module/lesson will be repeating the TL and structures from the previous ones and enriching them. E.g.: after “Work” module talk about your family members’ professions in the next module “My Family”.
Ex: Syllabus: L2
Module 1: Presentation
Lesson 1: About myself (introduction, age, hobbies)
Lesson 2: Routine (Present Tense)
Lesson 3: Likes, dislikes (Negative sentences)
Lesson 4: Leisure time (preferences)
Module 2: Work
Lesson 1: My Job
Lesson2: My skills
Lesson 3: My past job (Past actions)
Lesson 4: The job of my dreams (Future actions)
Module 3: Family
Lesson 1: My Family (Family Tree)
Lesson 3: Resemblance (comparisons)
Lesson 4: Our house
Personally I would follow Oxbridge lesson planning. Learning Grammar implicitly is what can keep the learners away from boring rules and explanations. Learning the structures and broadening the vocabulary while having a communication with the teacher and actively participating in the class is what gives positive results and at the same time covers all the micro skills: vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and spelling.
Lessons should be based on multiple intelligence activities depending on the content of the exercise. Activities can include games, puzzles, quizzes, debates, competitions etc. This will keep the interest of the learners.
Encourage and award your students and yourself for the bilateral motivation. Try to make the learning process enjoyable for your students and enjoy teaching yourself.