In teaching English as a foreign language, many factors have to be taken into consideration, all of which are determinate by the teacher´s experience and personality. Personally, I had the opportunity to go through a whole educational system, where English was taught as a second language, and I have seen many teaching approaches which allow to create my own foundations on which to build my personal approach.
I believe that the engagement with the students is one of the most important of the aforementioned factors. Showing interest and creating a close relationship with the learners creates the perfect environment to enhance the learning process. In order to achieve this, it becomes necessary to adapt our teaching approach, taking into consideration the needs and personality of each and every student as it is the only way we can assure effective learning of a second language.
An effective way of motivating students is to make sure their role is always an active one, which means ensuring they are constantly participating in the class in an interactive way. The methodology I would use to achieve this objective is communicative approach. At the beginning, students will start absorbing new words by listening, therefore improving their level of comprehension, always aided by visual materials, such as flashcards, photographs or videos. In this way, we avoid the need to translate from L2 to L1 when it comes to speaking. At these early stages interlanguage would be accepted, as the main goal is to communicate with basic vocabulary and structures (which will improve later on) that allow the student to be understood. As the students reach a higher knowledge of vocabulary and grammar structures, they can start reading, by identifying the words they already know. This will lead to the ability to write the words they have learnt by reading.
In this way, language skills are acquired in a natural process, similar to how humans do with their mother tongue. In addition, it´s assured that students will use the language in a functional way, empowering utilization of English in real life situations. Due to this reason, I would base a EFL course on a structure-based syllabus, where the complexity of the structures move from simpler to more elaborated. I would also combine it with the idea of a situation-based syllabus, focused on real or imaginary situations in which language occurs, for students with a basic English level, as it enables to focus learning goals to simple vocabulary and grammar. Moving to higher levels, I would use a topic-based syllabus, permitting flexibility to adapt different subjects depending on the interests and motivations of the students.
When using this kind of syllabus, there is a constant opportunity to use the target language in an interactive way, being the ideal situation to practice and include new words in the use of language. If we think about words in our mother tongue that we don´t hear often, we tend to forget it´s meaning as it isn´t a part of our daily life vocabulary. The same happens when a student memorizes a new word in L2 without using it in a real context, so it is the teacher´s responsibility to create situations where target language can be used.
I wouldn´t base the structure of the course on a text book, as I like my lessons to be mostly interactive, giving importance to listening and speaking, as I said previously, framed in a real context. The perfect activities to enroll this goal, would be based on debates, role plays and games, where the student is the main character of the lesson, and they get to express themselves using the target language in a fun and relaxed atmosphere. This would be part of a constructivist approach of teaching, where the students get to construct their own learning in cooperation. The teacher´s role would be then a guide who creates context and situations for the students to use English, and asses them by observing and organising different activities adapted to the student´s needs. I there are constant errors in the structure of sentences, activities should be thought to highlight the repetition of the correct way of the structure, as well as the repetition in target language.
The attitude towards correction depends on the level and age of the group that is being thought. In any case, at a beginner’s level, teacher´s focus shouldn´t be on mistakes but on the right production of language, as this will avoid the students being afraid of speaking and trying to express themselves. As the knowledge of the language grows, the different situations will provide feedback which will make students realise about their own mistakes, and favor their fluency on speaking. This doesn´t mean that the teacher is forbidden to correct learners at all; it is important to make them aware of pronunciation mistakes, providing guidance when necessary.
In my opinion, doing English grammar exercises makes learning process boring and discouraging for the students, as it doesn´t achieve the idea of an interactive lesson. I also believe that traditional homework has been wrongly focused, considering that is has been based mainly on writing and reading tasks. The homework I would ask my students to do, would be focused on the task to be conscious about the learning acquired in class, by identifying words and structures in different sources they can find in their daily life situations, such as songs, films or adverts. The point is to make realise the students that the language is used in real life, taking in account that English is one of the most spoken languages in the world, making the learning process meaningful and functional.
A continuous assessment is the ideal way to prove the correct learning of students. This would be carried out in two different ways. In first place, asking questions at the beginning of a lesson, about target language of previous days, provides the teacher information about how much the students remember about what they have already learnt. In addition, it can give a clear idea of what to focus on in the lesson, going over the contents that are still clear for the students, or on the contrary, moving on to new things as they have successfully assimilated past subjects. In second place, as a fixed point assessment, students would be asked to make projects about different topics, making a presentation where the teacher can check their improvement on fluency and use of target language. In this way, enough information is gathered to verify if learning goals achieved by the students, which are obviously adapted to the age, level and number of students of a group.
The most important idea that I want to remark is significance of the teacher´s flexibility. A lesson plan must be adaptable to the different needs of the students, realising what they need to focus on to improve their use of target language, grammar structures and speaking fluency, as they learn in a relaxed and fun environment that frames language in a real life context and situations.