My Teaching Approach
When it comes to language learning there are an awful lot of aspects to take into consideration. Based on my experience in learning languages, observing classes and teaching activities, tutoring students and being tutored I found that some approaches work better than others in general, but it is equally important to consider students' individual needs and tailor our technique corresponding to those. As language itself and language learning are not static notions, in fact, they are constantly changing and evolving, it is important to try and keep up, to be constantly looking for new and more effective methods and teaching practices. Above all, it is essential to reflect on our teaching experiences and learn from them.
One of my most recent experiences thought me that my main concern as a teacher in a class should always lie with the student. Always. There are no exceptions. The material that I am going to teach is of secondary importance, how I feel as a teacher being observed is even less essential. The only way to end up with a class that is rewarding to me and beneficial for the student is the one where I'm fully concentrated on the student. It is important to pay attention to the student's individual needs. It is crucial to pick up on the pace of the student to have a well-fitted , perfectly paced class. I have decided that in order to deepen this thought, my mantra before classes is going to be 'just concentrate on your student'.
Having a look at older generations language learning habits,and talking to some of my friends I can realise an emerging pattern. There are many of them who have learnt certain language for years with no results, whatsoever. They have learnt the grammar rules, they know them by heart. They know how to spell words, they have a decent amount of passive vocabulary burdened somwehere in the back of their minds. Yet, they do not know how to help a starnger with directions on the street, nor can they express their thoughts in a foreign language in a convincing and relatable manner. As a learning outcome, I would like my students to acquire meaningful communicative competence, above all. By that I mean enabling them to communicate and even think in L2. When students are still using an interlanguage they often rely on their L1, which can lead to incorrect language transfer. I believe using only English in classes helps to minimise the effect of students' L1 on their L2 , via helping them shape their attitude to acquiring English.To achieve this goal it is very important to provide considerable input, and at the same time focus on output, too. I would plan my lessons to be interactive ones, practicing the language as much as possible. The ratio of input and output of course changes as students progress from beginners to more advanced students. Although, I wish to put my emphasis on communication and building students' vocabulary, by no means would eliminate teaching grammar from the language learning equation. I resent the idea of imagining my students scrouching over grammar books in the office/classroom. When it comes to grammar I have experienced that teaching/leraning functions and giving examples is the best possible solution. Functions easier to remember and practice, than the rules themselves. Before starting to teach someone, I find it important to ask what their goal is. There can be many reasons.Do they need a certification as soon as possible? Do they want to learn how to write emails correctly? Do they want to travel ? Are they only learning out of curiosity? In order to keep up their initial internal motivation I feel that we have to be aware of students' goals and feed their desire to progress in that chosen direction. Regarding motivation, it is essential to keep in mind that we should gradually move from easier to more difficult things and to always build on the knowledge already acquired. This will help students to regard English classes as a 'success story' and will also boost their confidence in using English, which could hardly be labelled as counter-productive.
Based on my personal experience as an L2 learner, I found it interesting to get to know more about the culture of the language that I wanted to learn. I think that culture and language are in many ways intertwined (i. e. culture/history related expressions). As a teacher I prefer to transfer as much cultural knowledge as possible, using implicit and explicit ways to do so. Concerning actual classes I prefer working with material that can be useful for all kinds of learning styles. Having activities for visual, verbal,aural, physical and logical learning styles can make a class more colourful, more memorable. I like the idea of observing different teaching methods, picking and applying the techniques that I find potentially beneficial.
As from a teacher's point of view one of the most important ways of improvement is reflecting on our teaching experiences. This is where a community of teachers comes in handy. When one is a part of such community is bound to share his/her own succes and failure. Teachers ask each others' advice and share best practices, be this a community of friends who happen to be teachers or a formally organised community. The constructive effects of the teachers not feeling as a lonely woolf simply cannot be overlooked. Having an organised community behind a teacher's back, such as at Oxbridge, can be a huge advantage.Systems make sure that we cover everything that is necessary for our students in terms of general English. In addition, using a cooperative system reduces administration and preparaton time radically, which I have to admit is quite motivating.
Most of the modern language acqusition theories stress the importance and usefulness of learning the second language in a very similar way to the L1, which is called as the natural way. Despite of this, not too many theories empasise the continous, daily input which is given in the case of L1 acqusition. As far as I am concerned I would definitely encourage students and give them ample opportunity to spend some time improving their English every day. Of course, in case we teach adults, we are taling about people with extremely busy lives, hardly having enough time to make it to their English classes. I do believe though that since they make this sacrifice,we might as well guide them how to make the most of learning English, how to maximise their improvement with minimum effort. The best way to to this, besides attending English classes is to engage with the English language every single day.It doesn't matter if this means 5-15 minutes only. This could embody itself in reading an article in English, listening to a podcast in the car, watching a short video, or even talking to a friend who speaks English. Furthermore, students can simply watch a movie or their favourite series in English with English subtitles , which falls into the category of leisure,and still is an implicit way of learning the language, which does not require special awareness.If I had a circle of private students I would create a platform for them where they can share their resources and can discuss anything connected to English. In addition, I would eliminate homework and ask students to signal what their daily activities were on an online platform.
As for children, I would teach using TPR and games, as often as possible. In addition, I think that consulting with parents could be beneficial in this case. They could encourage their children to play games online in English, wtach/read tales in English. They could try to incorporate English into children's daily life. Nothing proves this better than the number of people who speak English in some countries ( i.e. Portugal, Finland, Sweden) where children breath in English-besides their L1-from very early on in their lives.
In conclusion, I believe that via identifying the individual needs of our students and the desirable learning outcomes, such as succesful communication and acquiring cultural knowledge through independent implicit learning, we can choose the methodologies our students could undoubtedly benefit from. As I have experienced the role of the teacher is crucial both in terms of facilitation and motivation.As a teacher, I would like to belong to a community or institute that can provide a system, and/or the possibility of reflecting on my teaching experiences and discussing it with colleagues. Keeping all the above in mind, I would like to do my best to achive my ultimate goal which is to enable my students to communicate in English effectively.