Oxbridge essay: Creating your own personal teaching approach
In order to design my own language teaching approach I am going to look at the theory of language and how I intend to teach it. Within this approach I will demonstrate the methods to be used to deliver the language teaching, showing my preferred types of classroom activities and techniques.
Each student has different reasons for learning English, which are determined by their goals. In my experience most students are learning for extrinsic purposes such as work, as English is the main business language. However, other reasons can be academic, as many bodies of further education demand English proficiency as part of their entry requirement for courses. Alternatively, many students have more intrinsic motivations i.e. they just want to further their social skills and understand movies and songs in more depth. When taking all of this into consideration, it is these goals/objectives that will form the basis of the course syllabus. A course syllabus provides both the student and the teacher with a framework for learning. As it contains the structure of the course the student can look at the lessons before and after, which allows the student to both prepare and revise at any time. This syllabus also shows the student the purpose of the language they are going to learn. I find that when a student knows what learning is in front of them, which has clear structures in place for achieving these objectives, then they become motivated and confident in the process.
I believe that confidence is one of, if not the most important influences in successful learning. I consider a confident learner to be highly motivated as they really enjoy their learning successes and subsequently grow from them. With this in mind I am going to tailor my approach towards communication and the flow of the language. I believe that once students have comprehensible English, they can then build their other skills around it for academic reasons if required. My approach would provide the building blocks for a more accurate learning approach at a later date. However in the short term, I believe conversational English for the purpose of communication is the first goal. As maintaining the students confidence in the learning process is so highly regarded the topics chosen for the syllabus would have to be current and relative to the student. They would have to take into account the students hobbies to stimulate personal interest in learning.
In order to prepare for this class the students level and age would have to be indentified. The purpose of their learning would be taken into consideration, but the focus of the syllabus is on confidence and their ability to communicate. A more advanced student would have their syllabus tailored more specifically to their goals, but the first goal is preparing for life in general. Nobody wants to look like an idiot on the street or in the office. General communication from my experiences in the business and hospitality trade is what lubricates personal relationships and advance you in your chosen career. A colleague will go the extra mile for a friend or someone they have built a connection with.
A second language can be acquired consciously and subconsciously. Second Language Acquisition is a theory of the process of learning a second language. The focus of this process is communication and it happens on a more subconscious level. An example of this would be learning English and then applying it to your every day life i.e. interacting with English speaking friends using the language learned in class. This highlights the importance of total or at least part submersion in the language in order to be successful. The teacher would have to highlight the importance of the student attending language exchange classes or if the purpose of the students learning was work based then practicing their newly acquired English skills would need to be heavily encouraged. If this was unavailable to the student then the teacher would provide activities that encourage group conversation to wrap up the class. The final task of the activity would have to develop freer practice in order for the student to show their ability to put the language skills in to practice.
If the class was a group class then the teacher could introduce the topic and target language then encourage the class to interact with each other whilst observing. As the aim is to improve fluency and language flow most error corrections would be left till the end. They would be included in a summary followed by wrap up questions to evaluate the success of the class. By not isolating the student and their mistake it would not show them up in front of the class and affect their confidence. The theory is that they notice the mistake themselves when the teacher re teaches those errors at the end. The only error corrections done on the spot would be pronunciation and tense related as they could lead to the students modelling from each other incorrectly. When teaching is done on a one to one basis it becomes more difficult to illicit group conversation. A way to get round this is to create situational role plays for the student to practice within.
The key macro skills in my approach are listening and speaking. The student and the teacher are going to be working on the student’s receptive micro skills and their productive micro skills, but not for writing and reading. Therefore the student will never be given materials to read and/or asked to produce any documents in writing.
Although there will be no writing or reading I do believe in the connection between the mind and the body, therefore there will be a physical and situational element to the approach. The Buddhist of southern china learned kung fu because it helped them to focus on their religious studies. I am not going to teach them how to fight but classes will occasional be taught on the move or during another activity. When the activity is on topic with the target language it will help the student to visualise and mentally associate the learning with movement to. As there is no writing or reading movement can be used far easer. Realia can be planned into the activity as sights to be seen or objects during a sport. An example activity could be playing pool where the teacher describes what they are doing and gets the student to model there phrases and repeat it when doing the same action. These activities would be chosen in respect to the age and level of the student. A child could be in a play park or at the beach, whereas a bar or a pool hall maybe more suited to an adult.
Pronunciation is of key importance in both listening and speaking. Constant correction of these mistakes is essential to ensure the student is comprehensible when speaking English. When working with a lower level student then little mistakes like the difference between `especial´ and ´special` would be ignored. The same would be said with the pronunciation of most of the cognate’s existent within the romance languages. Basically if it is understandable then it doesn’t get corrected. This is done to build the flow of the language. As students progress to higher levels then this error correction would become stricter. It is a fine balance but one the teacher is responsible for. The role of the student would be to imitate and communicate whilst the teacher models and sometimes drills the language in a communicative setting. Whenever the student does something correctly then praise should be given.
Continuous evaluation of the student during class and the wrap up will inform the teacher of the level that they have to increase or decrease their error corrections. The teacher’s attitude has to be upbeat and motivating and never patronising. The teacher’s language should be direct (sometimes mistaken for being rude, but not!) so as not to confuse the student with word out with their level of learning.
Vocabulary would grow in these situations via the context of the activity. Tenses and general grammar rules would be introduced when talking about today’s activity, next week’s activity and last week’s activity. Most grammar rules would be taught in a deductive manner. The aim is to improve confidence. If the student feels like they worked out the rule themselves they will grow in confidence.
My approach is very similar to the communicative approach. I am a big fan of it. However I feel that that the confidence of the student is not highlighted enough. Like my method it concentrates on skills that produce meaningful and real communication. I just want to take it even further and be a little more physical and environmental too.
Technology is changing in the world and some feel that learning languages is obsolete. Within five years it is expected that there will be apps and the hardware to talk to someone almost instantly with an in ear translator. However, that doesn’t transfer to everything in life. It is perhaps applicable for work purposes but can you go on a date with a head set in? It would be a little awkward! Conversational language will always be a desired skill and will always need to be taught. Development of this area of English is the future of English teaching for me. Other aspects of teaching are equipment and lesson delivery. Whiteboards are the latest thing but I am sure it won’t be long till all lessons are getting delivered in 3D from across the world. Keeping up to date with modern technology will be one of the hardest transitions for current teachers. The other issue for is the English language itself. It is constantly changing. Different countries struggle with different pronunciations, therefore the skills that may need most development in the future is listening skills to understand those different pronunciations.