These words describe my view of the ideal learning environment, whether it is a second language or another subject matter. When a teacher engages the students to the point that the class is fun and interactive, students “forget” that they are in a classroom. Thus, immersing themselves into the learning process without realizing it. The classroom becomes the setting where learning flourishes through collaboration of all involved. My goal as a L2 teacher is to provide such an environment, where assimilation of the new language occurs naturally through immersion and engagement so the student can feel confident to speak English outside the classroom.
There is no perfect method to teach L2. Differences in personality, background, motivations, lifestyles, etc. impact how a person learns. The best approach is that one that is flexible enough to cater to the ever changing needs of the students with the teacher being able to choose freely from an array of options and methodologies to use.
My main approach to teaching will be based on a combination of the Direct and Communicative methods with some touches from the Suggestopedia and Total Physical Response (TPR) approaches as I would like to teach kids up to 10 years of age starting from a Beginner’s Level. I believe that immersion and focus on building speech confidence are basic for success provided the students feel comfortable in their learning environment. Therefore, whereas the Direct and Communicative methods emphasize the target language in the classroom, no translation, prioritize speech and listening skills’ development, inductive grammar learning and encourages students to speak in the class via question/answer formats, role playing and debates…the Suggestopedia brings elements like soft music, warmth, environment setting and certain familiarity to the classroom…and TPR brings the coordination of language and body movement that are much needed when relating to kids.
The idea is to have the kids feel comfortable with me as their teacher and have them “think” in English as soon as the see me. My intention is to have their brains “switch” to English as soon as we interact, whether it is inside or outside the classroom. As their teacher, I am their “coach”, leader, facilitator and playmaker. The students learn through imitation in the beginning. However, as their confidence builds, they become more engaged and active participants in their own learning by bringing up words or topics they would like me to teach. Kids usually come to English class because of their parents’ interests. Therefore, the best way to overcome any resistance to come to “class” is to make the class fun, flexible, relaxed with a sense of accomplishment. A good idea is to give kids “homework” that relates to teaching their parents a word they learned that day.
My idea of a class is that one where the kids have as much “Hands On” experience as I can provide. Kids are active by nature and learn through role play, games and direct interaction through which I will encourage them to speak 75% to 80% of the time. My class prioritizes listening and speaking with some reading and writing. The focus is to build vocabulary mainly through repetition and association. Corrections to pronunciation mistakes are basically done with the teacher repeating the correct pronunciation afterwards. Some of the tools I will use to build vocabulary are flash cards, pictures, pantomime, gestures, objects and the use of white boards. I will engage them into conversation through question/answer formats, role playing, songs and reading short stories. The ideal class will be 1-hour long with activities that last approximately 10/15 minutes each. The class structure is consistent: it starts and ends the same, with a greeting and goodbye song, respectively, and the activities planned for the class fall in between. There will always be an activity where the teacher reads a book (short one). Reading is an excellent tool to expand vocabulary, enhance listening skills, teach grammar inductively, and teach context. Books come in a variety of formats and levels to accommodate any class.
Assessments are not a priority at this level as my intention is to have kids feel confident and relaxed while learning a new language. The best indication that the kids are acquiring a new language is their ability to “switch” to English during the class. It is my view that if this is accomplished, the assimilation and learning processes are progressing. For kids in more advanced levels it may be a good assessment to have them do some “situation-based role plays (i.e. restaurant setting: one student is the waiter, the other the customer).
In order to develop a Beginner class for students up to 10 years old I would use a combination of the Function and Situation based syllabi. The function-based syllabus provides the student the knowledge of the language to use when greeting, apologizing, requesting, etc. The situation-based syllabus provides the student the target language used in a specific environment (i.e. at the post office). An example of a syllabus is:
Unit 1: Socializing
-How to introduce yourself
Unit 2: My House
-In the Kitchen
-In the Bedroom
-In Living Room
Unit 3: Food/At a Restaurant
-How to ask/order food
-Names of foods
Below is a description of my class for kids 5-10 years old who are beginners in English. The setting can be their home, my home or a neutral place like a local library. For kids this age I suggest a 1-hour class, daily. However, if daily is not possible, a minimum of 2 hours a week would be required. The group size maximum is 4 kids. The 1 hour class will be split in spaces of 10/15 minutes with different activities to keep the kids entertained and engaged. A target language is chosen per class (in our example it is the parts of the body) and all learning materials and activities relate to it.
The 1-hour Beginner’s class example:
10 min greeting time Activity 1: I will start the class in a circle, sitting down, and sing a greeting song as this will cue the children that class has started. Every class for the first 2/3 months will start the same as they learn the song. The greeting song also works as a clue that class has started and a way to acknowledge everyone that is present. The song below:
Hello, how are you (3X)
How are you this morning?
Glad to see _____ (i.e. Marc) is here (3X)…how are you this morning?
This is repeated until every child in the class is addressed.
15 min Activity 2: practice greeting (Hello, I am _____) and vocabulary such as I am _____ (fine, tired, sleepy, etc.) with flash cards. The teacher leads them by example by doing the activity first then the kids follow. Each child picks a card. When their turn comes up, they stand up and say “Hello, I am Marc. I am sleepy.” depending on the flash card they got.
10 min Activity 3: Reading time (focus on target language for the class). The teacher reads a basic short story with pictures for key words (target language of the day). Children repeat the key words as the teacher points to the picture. At the end of the story, teacher asks children to say the word of the picture she is pointing to.
10 min Activity 4: Learn a new song about the parts of the body that are pointed out as the song goes along (i.e. the song “Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes…”) and then ask questions like “Where is your head?” and so on to each child.
10 min Activity 5: Drawing time. Focusing on TL, the teacher and the children draw a person as the teacher repeats the parts of the body.
5 min Activity 6: wrap up and goodbye song.
Teaching is a dynamic profession. It is always evolving to meet students’ needs, keep them motivated and engaged so that actual learning can take place. The best approach to teaching is that one that has some structure at its core but allows the necessary flexibility to adapt to different learning abilities and styles. The methods I have chosen are the Direct and Communicative Methods because immersion and speech development are key to assimilate a new language. However, the class will also have some touches of the Suggestopedia and TPR approaches as needed. A good teacher is a life coach who inspires students to take an active role in their learning… inspiration that lasts a lifetime.