MY APPROACH TO TEACHING ENGLISH LANGUAGE:
High school´s corridor. My mates and I are waiting outside the classroom. Girls are chatting, boys are flexin´- everybody seems to be having fun. Everyone - except me. Why? An English class of course! One of the very few subject I both hated and didn´t understand. It was a typical a-boring-and-serious-teacher-in-front-of-a-black-board-type of a class. No syllabus. No interest in our progress. Way too much of material to memorize without understanding it. "Quiet! No questions asked! S*ut up and study!" - that is all I could think of while waiting for the class to start on that and any other day. And that´s exactly what turned me off until more-less July 2011 when I have arrived in Scotland and decided to give it a shot. This time - in my own way.
Suddenly everything has changed. And so did my approach to the process of learning. I quickly realized that there was no coming back. I have spent past 5 years living, thinking, speaking, traveling, sleeping, dreaming and dating in English. During those 5 years, I´ve managed to live in 6 countries and to meet an enormous amount of people coming from many different places. They introduced me to their stories, cultures, and accents. All of a sudden a simple need of a communication tool became a passion and an addiction. I have been recently introduced to the idea of TEFL course. I felt like I have found something I was looking for but couldn´t find for a long time. By connecting my experience as a student and Oxbridge´s as an incubator of amazing English teachers I have managed to develop my own teaching approach focused mainly on speaking and practical use of the language.
In the best possible scenario students will learn what we want them to learn. To make that happen we need to be very specific and clearly, state both teaching and learning goals. It will help us understand what a learner should be able to do after a class or a course.
Our students will have different reasons for joining an English class. Some might want to know how to communicate with locals while on holiday. Some might want to overcome their fears and simply start speaking in a language other than their mother´s tongue. With individual goals, they will have independent motives, needs, and expectations. It is very important that teachers recognize those needs and adapt to them. There are some other factors that can influence the learning experience in positive and negative ways and we refer to these as affective factors. For example, someone outgoing and confident is more likely to progress faster than a shy person. But even though student´s personality and personal problems are out of the teacher´s hands - we can still help them forget about their fears. The easiest way of doing it is to create a casual and relaxed environment during the class to make our learners feel comfortable. I can´t really imagine myself standing in front of a blackboard asking everyone to write down I wrote. I am a huge fan of laid-back atmosphere, usage of media (photos, videos), drawing and using colors. My favorite type of a class would be somewhere my student and I can feel like at home (coffee shop, student´s living room etc). And of course - let´s not forget about a teacher himself. To keep students interested in coming back to his class - tutor should be:
-creating fun and engaging activities
-have realistic expectations towards his students
-have an interesting personality
-build connection and show interest. Back in the days - when I was a dance teacher - a lot of students would keep coming to my class not only because I had a lot of knowledge but also class was funny and interesting. People loved it and those less talented made an amazing progress because they felt super comfortable around me even though they were surrounded by other dancers.
The English language has identified four macro skills that are of great importance for students to acquire a language - reading, writing, listening, and speaking. There are also areas of language called micro skills - grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and spelling. In my approach, I would prioritize speaking, listening and vocabulary. That is exactly what I was focused on while learning English and it allowed me to start communicating pretty quick.
Every good class should be planned. To do that, we use a syllabus - a combination of content distribution per person, learning outcomes per person and distribution of classes within a period of time. There a few types of syllabi we can use:
-task-based (my personal favorite). I also think that a lesson structure used by Oxbridge is the best one I have seen so far. Using quick questions to start the lesson and get the students warmed up (and used to teacher´s accent), then move into a topic of discussion with an aim to practice the target language I would have set out for that lesson, using perhaps some type of media (pictures, videos) given to the students as a handout to support the target words and help them visually as we practice and have conversations together and finishing up with "wrap-up" - a few final questions to revise the target language words – all together it makes perfect sense to me.
There are many factors that influence how teachers approach their work and which particular strategies they employ to achieve their goals. The different situations in which teachers work have an influence on their teaching. For example, in some institutions teachers are more or less left to their own devices and are free to make decisions concerning course goals, materials, teaching methods, and assessment procedures. In other situations, a supervisor or program director makes these decisions, and the teacher is just someone who carries out their wishes. The teacher can assume very different roles within their own classrooms for many different reasons.A teacher´s role should include:
-A needs analyst - determining students individual needs (for instance - while teaching less advanced students we will be introducing new grammar, vocabulary while working with advanced learners we will focus on conversations and learning as much vocabulary as possible)
-A guide - teacher guides and directs class dynamics, guiding students on how to learn and communicate in English. Knows where they are taking their students, where they are going and what they are trying to achieve
-A resource - the teacher is involved in transmitting knowledge to the students.
-A playmaker- understanding the enormity of their role, having to talk discretely. Knows how to organize the class so everybody participates. I can tell you from my experience that teachers who didn´t present those skills were not able to teach much in my class. We were bored, overwhelmed with the amount of material and not motivated at all. There was no room for improvisation as all the teacher wanted was to finish the textbook.
What is also very important is to be well prepared for a class, be patient and understanding. Teachers should give enough attention to students, adapt to learners needs and goals, be flexible. Be able to manage the classroom, manage time well, and keep a good pace to the class.Students can assume a number of different roles depending on the method being taught and beliefs of the student/teacher alike. Other factors include - motivation to learn, ability to take risks, willingness, ability to think, acceptance of correction. What makes me a great teacher is my knowledge, experience with people, patience, and passion for language study - there are only a few things I like in my life more than English.
Examples of students roles :
- imitator - They follow the teacher’s directions and respond as accurately and as quickly as possible.
- passive learner/receiver - Students are receivers of the new information, which they record. They memorize the rules and the new vocabulary with their meanings.
- communicator- actively engaged in negotiating meaning and trying to understand.
- Self-manager- learner uses imitative and takes responsibility for learning.
We cannot forget to mention an importance of correcting students in a right way, assessments and the way we assess our students. A lot of teachers (looking at my past learning experience) is making their students feel uncomfortable by correcting them in a wrong way. The same happens with assessments. I´m sure all of us can bring up a memory of a test that was stressing us out. I prefer to use Oxbridge´s way of repetition of the material during the class and avoid any form of a formal test - just to keep the atmosphere as pleasant as possible.
And to wrap everything up - I want to be an active and innovative teacher for my students and I want them to be actively involved in the class too, depending on how long the class is and the hour of the day, I would sometimes literally activate my students. I want to create a comfortable, positive learning environment for my students. In my experience, most people are visual learners, so I would like to make a lot of use of gestures and media - photos, videos. Something that I always found very useful while learning a language, is listening to music. I would like to use that too alongside visual aids. I have learned a lot of words and phrases just by listening and analyzing lyrics of my favorite songs. My goal as an English teacher would be to teach people how to (verbally) express themselves in the TL and to guide them to develop that skill in an active way. My personal goal is to always reflect on myself as a teacher and to think about what I can do to become a better teacher. And because I am very passionate about learning English - I will keep growing every day.
These questions will be a mixture of questions about how they are and what they have been up to (to build rapport). Questions that are about what was worked on in the last class (enabling the teacher to see where the student is u to and what needs to be worked on) and structure questions that will be supplied to the system
Again this will be provided within the Oxbridge system. The first one I would choose would be one that may contain a game or matching pictures with vocabulary. This is because it will loosen the student up and get them into gear for more challenging tasks coming up
Going over vocabulary they already know and providing them with further vocabulary. Keeping this within the structure provided by Oxbridge and sometimes adding vocabulary where possible that would help the student toward their goals
If we have learned a large amount of new vocabulary then we will go over structures already taught and any new ones that the system prompts to teach.
I will choose an activity that will hopefully spark a debate and give the student a chance to use the new structures and vocabulary they have just learned.
This will be questioned in regards to what has been learned in that lesson. Getting them to use the new vocabulary and new structures.