My teaching approach
TFL - Talking Football Language
Learning any second language can be very difficult, but if the approach taken by the teacher to encourage and motivate students is implemented in a guided, dynamic and open-minded way it can enable the students to learn in a steady yet swift manner.
My idea for my own teaching approach would be to teach ESP (English for a specific purpose) related to sport, specifically football. I believe there is a large number of aspiring and professional footballers who could benefit from this type of course. As there are many young footballers scouted around Europe/the world who move to Spain to learn to play football in various academies, a majority would probably have started learning English as a second language at their home-schools; the same can be said for professionals who have moved to Spain from elsewhere.
The course can also be taught to footballers who aspire to play in English speaking countries.
The course will be aimed at students aged between twelve and twenty-five years old. It will be affordable, allowing people who were not able to afford private tutelage at school to be a part of the course as well. However, the classes will not exceed ten people allowing the teacher to focus on the individual progression of each student closely.
The environment in which the students learn in will change, going from a classroom environment (the most likely classroom environment would be in the clubhouse of the football clubs of where the students are playing their football) to outdoor environments such as on a training ground. The materials used will differ allowing students who learn in different ways to learn just as well as every other student.
In my classrooms the teacher will act as a guide or playmaker, encouraging the students to talk without fear and to engage their minds fully during every class. The teacher must fully invest themselves into learning their students’ favourite ways of learning, they must also empathise with the difficulties of learning a second-language and the possible insecurities of their students. Therefore teachers must constantly reassure students that they are making progress, it is crucial that the environment in which we as humans learn is always 100% positive - I believe this begins with and can be heavily influenced by a teacher.
The course will commence at the beginning of the football season, students may be part of the course indefinitely and also start at any given point.
The content covered throughout the year will be solely focused on English specific to football. The main skills focused on will be listening, speaking and reading; each skill will be exercised and improved in a different, specific way.
Conversation is key for listening and speaking.
For example, in-game scenarios will be created and demonstrated, allowing students to practice their speech and listening skills. The pre-match talks and and post-match analysis are also examples of activities to cover in learning these skills.
The reading will be done when learning more technical terms, such as ones used when talking about different physiological parts of the body and how they relate to injuries in sport or about nutrition and dieting.
All forms of teaching will include conversation between students and between students and the teacher. The main aim of the classes will be for students to be able to speak to their peers in sport as if they were native speakers, therefore topical discussions specifically related to football will help them to be able to communicate amongst themselves.
The main activities which will be focused on related to game-day will include terminology and conversations about pre-game pep talks and coaching talks, pre-match warm-ups and stretches, on-field communication, common banter and possible interview practice. All of these scenarios will be tackled in a very practical manner. A lot of images, videos and audios will be displayed in class and the teacher will ask students for opinions, improving the vocabulary of the students by introducing target language for various scenarios. Also, in these activities the teacher will guide the students in learning grammar inductively and the students will lead the class while the teacher guides them.
The more technical terms will be looked at in a slightly less conversational way, but will still however be focused on allowing the students to speak. Things such as dietary needs, fitness routines and muscle terminology will be learnt in a more structured way. There will be a large focus on reading and understanding terminology, again the use of diagrams, videos and audios as well as physical demonstration will be important.
Focus will also be emphasised on pronunciation of words. One other possible thing to be dealt with in reading will be contractual terms which will occur often for young adults, especially those who can’t afford professional consultations, the common terminology will be read through, ensuring absolute comprehension by students.
Ultimately, the course will ensure that students are able to communicate with other English speaking footballers when it comes to football related topics.
Before joining the class each student will be graded with a short questionnaire, allowing the teachers to decide which group (beginner, intermediate, advanced intermediate and advanced) each student should be a part of. If students progress faster than others in their group, they will be promoted to a higher group as soon as possible. The teacher will have to use language appropriate for each level, meaning that the activities and target language used will be very different between beginner and advanced levels.
The classes will be strict on the fact that no native-language is to be used in class whatsoever. I believe this allows the students to fully engage in thinking in English, by forcing them to think of and use words that they know to explain words that they are wanting to learn, which will in turn better their ability to speak the language.
The type of English used will predominantly be authentic, however when learning written terminology classroom language will be implemented. In conversation a lot of colloquial terms will be covered, especially those related to football and its culture.
Correction of errors is a challenge for most teachers. The most important thing is to get fluency for students, but accuracy will always be focused on at some point.
During target language practice, the teacher will be instructed to correct grammar (and explain rules to students where necessary) and pronunciation errors on the spot.
During topical conversations and discussions the teacher will only correct excessively repeated errors in both grammar and pronunciation before the end of the class. Other mentionable errors will be written down on paper and the teacher will then come up with questions related to those mistakes at the end of the conversation, allowing the students to practice using the correct English before the end of the class.
If students struggle with motivation or with shyness in class, the teacher can try to change the subject to make the unmotivated student more interested.
Shyness is difficult to deal with as many students, especially older ones will be embarrassed if they can’t say what they would like to, this is something that must be avoided and it is the teacher’s duty to encourage the student to take their time and to not worry about being right as there is no wrong English.
A typical day in class will start with the students in a classroom, the mornings will cover special target language terms, allowing the students to recite and write down words that relate to physiology and diet, after this intense memory focused session a break will be taken.
A typical example of an activity that could be done with the students is to go through a diagram of the muscles in the legs. The students will have to learn the names using a diagram and then afterwards learn how to warm up and stretch each muscle effectively. After this demonstration the students will each have to name the muscles and point to them on their body.
On returning from their break, the students will then engage in watching a video of football highlights and asked to commentate on what is happening in each clip individually. The students could then role-play, imagining what each player in the clip could be communicating with other players purely from their actions in the clip. This will help the students to think as if they are in the game and to speak in a way that they would whilst on the pitch in certain situations, while also allowing the teacher to guide and help the students where necessary.
After this activity the students will be given an imaginary post-match analysis of their performance in a match, they will be given questions specific to their performance asked to come up with some short answers, allowing them to practice interview situations and with dealing with specific questions which are commonly asked in post-match interviews.
At the end of the day the teacher will join the students in their pre-practice warm-up and stretch, explaining every warm-up drill in English and also every stretch.
The progression of the fluency of students will be judged by teachers, therefore it will be up to the teacher’s discretion to decide when a student is ready to progress to the next level or not. The classes being small will be an enabling factor for this, allowing the teacher to spend time individually with each learner and allowing them to track their progress accurately.
There will be common memory tests which the students will have to study for on a fortnightly basis which will relate to the physiological parts of the course, but these tests will not influence the progression of the students, it will solely serve as a motivator for the students to learn the target language.
I feel that this approach will enable students to learn specific language in a fun and dynamic way, referencing traditional teaching methods such as the audio-lingual and direct method but also using unique techniques such as practicing English during actual football practices. The transformation for students will definitely be evident and I believe this approach will prove wonders in enable young, aspiring and also professional footballers to fit into the culture and also feel more comfortable around English speaking counterparts.