In quest for a new and innovative English teaching method, one that will be more effective than the ones that we use now, I am proposing a method that will increase students’ motivation and effectiveness of learning.
In the past, when the problem of language teaching effectiveness arose, the pedagogues and psychologists came up with some theories on language learning: behaviourism, cognitivism and constructivism. Later on, it was discovered that those theories are just an attempt to explain how the human brain learns and that learning is a far more complex process that our minds go through. This is when another theory came out, stating that there are some affective factors such as: motivation, personality, beliefs; which can be either positive or negative. We call the negative factors, filters, because they are the ones that filter the information recorded into the brain letting us learn only a limited amount of information at times.
In my opinion, one of the most important facts when learning a language is the existence or inexistence of another language in the human mind, so we’re talking here about first language acquisition and second language acquisition. There are numerous studies that tell us the differences between these two situations. For example, the infants distinguish by nature linguistic information from the non-linguistic, therefore by 4 months of age we can notice a higher interest for words, rather than noises and other sounds. Young children try to understand the meaning of the words through the context. Meanwhile, at a certain age, when the mind already has the native language, learning another one is a completely different story. So, scientists came with a theory composed by 5 hypotheses, about how we learn the second language: the acquisition hypothesis, monitor hypothesis, input hypothesis, natural order hypothesis and affective filter hypothesis. The complicated part comes now, because first language acquisition is unavoidable, you learn it either way, by the natural processes; but second language comes after, when you already speak your native language and the ability of context induction is not as It was when you were learning your first words.
The method that I am proposing is a method that combines many elements, most of which I have experienced before during my teaching practice and learning time. The new method is supposed to be interactive, dynamic, creative, student centred, visual and kinaesthetic.
In this method the teacher will lose its traditional purpose of information bank, and will rather be a guide for the students, a leader, a role model, a playmaker, a friend, a resource but also the students’ inspiration. It has already been proved that the traditional teacher was not as effective, and the role should change for better learning. Being a guide, the teacher should only direct the path the students are going on, not give them strict rules and tables to learn from. The playmaker is the teacher who leads the group and brings the students on the same side, brings them in a position from which they can score, learn the language. It is very important that the teacher is very well prepared in his or her domain because any question may arise from the students, but a higher importance has the general knowledge, which makes students trust him, showing confidence. The teacher also has to take the role of a friend, so he will get closer to the students, and this way they will trust him even more; you tend to trust your friends more than an unknown person. It is also encouraged to have activities outside of the classes with the students, going out to museums, to have drinks together, anything, because these activities bring people together. The role model is the teacher who influence the students’ behaviour, so the teacher must have an exemplary personality and manners because they are going to shape the students’ behaviour.
The new teacher model must treat all students equally, regardless of their gender, colour, sexual orientation or any other thing. He will need to be a good needs assessor, being capable of finding the student’s goals, but also difficulties, either “vocationally”, by looking on their face, or by using different means such as questionnaires, and of course common sense. The teacher has to manage time very good, being capable to predict the duration of the activities and to adjust (cut short or expand) the time. I also think that the teacher should be an animator, to bring energy in the classroom, increasing this way the external motivation of the students.
Another point in the teacher’s qualities would be flexibility. By flexibility I refer to the fact that the teacher should let the students what they want to learn and adjust the curriculum depending on their wishes and needs. This also refers to an activity, in which let’s say the starting point was future of communications, and by the end the students arrived to a completely different subject. It doesn’t matter as long as they are still learning English.
Moreover, the teacher has to be reflective on his work to constantly auto evaluate and receive feedback from the students in order to improve his lessons in the future.
A very hard to accomplish task is also to work differentially with the students, but it is one of the teacher’s most important abilities or qualities. In a group of different level students, the teacher should be capable to work with each student individually in accordance to their level.
Now that I explained how the teacher should be, let’s go on to the students. They should be self-managers, to decide by themselves what and how fast they want to learn. The student should be a researcher, to try to find the answers to his questions by himself before asking someone else. An active participant who actually does something, in contrast to the traditional old-style school student that has only a passive role in the teaching activity –to write down notes and be as silent as possible-. The last point that I will highlight here is the teacher-role of the student. This means that he can be a teacher for other students who didn’t understand something the first time, this way he will come with his personal approach, perhaps batter that the teacher’s, and at the same time will learn himself, what he’s teaching the other student. It’s a win-win.
The class where the educational act takes place can have any shape and any table arrangement, it can be indoors or outdoors, it all depends on what the subject is and how the teacher wants to conduct the activities. Some examples of table positioning are: circle, semi-circle, L, T, 2 parallel lines.
The class structure in the future English lesson is as following: 1. Intro – where the teacher also checks the previous knowledge, by using small talk. 2. Ice breaker – the action that will introduce the new subject (an intrigue). 3. Activities (2-3-4) – specific on the wished subject. 4. Evaluation – the evaluation takes also continuously but also at the end of the activities when the teacher and the other student will evaluate the outcome of the class tasks. 5. Feedback – feedback will be given by the teacher to the students but from the students to the teacher too.
To be able to conduct the activities the class will be equipped with loads of materials: from scissors, coloured papers, posters, glue, newspapers, balls, stickers, cards or toys to multimedia devices such as tablets, computers, video projector and speakers. The list doesn’t end here, these are just some outlines.
The problem of the homework is a much debated one. In my opinion, homework should be given as task to find an answer to a student’s question instead of giving the answer on a plate. Homework can also be given as preparation towards the next class, if they will have a project for example.
The assessment will be carried continuously by the teacher by supervising students’ activity, will be carried by the other students that were given a different task. The evaluation will also take place at the end of the activity when the students present their work i.e. project, pole play, graphs etc.
Based on the students’ age the activities should change. For example you cannot give a project to children younger than 10 years old, nor make adults watch cartoons. The tasks should be suitable for the age and interest of the students. Children will have activities that imply games, drawing, singing, while adults will have more elaborate tasks such as projects, research, role play, team work.
To end with I would like to briefly outline some possible activities to be carried in the class. The coffee shop method, is when more groups of students have to research different parts of the lesson, and then will go to other students’ tables and teach them what they just learned. The interview: the students will interview each other and then present the interviewed person to the others (this is a good activity in the first class to get to know each other). They will be asked to create posters, ads, projects, navigate using a map, to build a model etc.
Finally, as stated above, the new method will be student centred, will have creative and interactive activities, thought and designed by taking into account the students’ needs. The classes will look non like the traditional ones where the teacher is the authority and the students have a passive role. But the most important of all is to remember: The best teacher never stops learning.