My teaching approach
To know a language means to be able to speak it. Considering that there are over 6000 spoken languages in the world, I personally think that we are very lucky to have a “common language” that helps us connect with each other no matter where we come from, what cultural education we have or what language we speak daily.
Born without a language, a human being is capable of acquiring any existing language. In my opinion, the educational process should provide an opportunity for students to establish a strong sense of confidence in themselves, encourage free-thinking and creativity, as well as arouse a life-long interest in learning.
My personal approach to teaching English as a foreign language will differ depending on the age, level and specific purposes of my students. However, communication will always be the cornerstone of my teaching method. Every language represents a very complex system consisting of grammar, phonetics and vocabulary; prioritization of the communicative approach does not mean that all these disciplines are ignored. On the contrary, the inductive teaching method envisages introduction and explanation of grammar rules, vocabulary expansion and pronunciation improvement in the most effective and enjoyable way: through examples, interesting and interactive exercises, games or role plays.
Teaching material is also an important element in lesson planning and delivery of instruction. Pictures, songs or videos always work great for S1-P2 students and are usually warmly accepted by them. I would generally steer clear of using a textbook as a fundamental learning material, as both a teacher and a student get bored of the monotonous exercises and activities very fast. And boredom, as we all know, is highly demotivating.
I have a strong belief that all the lessons should be held in the target language. It’s a common knowledge, that the most efficient and effective way of learning a foreign language is by going to the country or area where this language is spoken and live there for a while. This way, language learners are bound to learn the language because it is all around, and there simply is no other way to communicate and reach their goals. Thus, for language learners to acquire foreign language skills, it is necessary to be surrounded by the target language, and to be in situations in which they need to use it.
Getting to know your students and identifying their needs go hand in hand and represent the very first step all teachers should go through. Some students want to learn a foreign language because it can help them get a better job or a promotion, others are motivated by their passion for traveling, etc. Reasons for learning directly affect an individual’s motivation and motivation is the keystone to successful learning. But no matter how different the students’ reasons for learning may be, there is one thing that unites all those who cross the threshold of the classroom: they want to learn how to speak. Therefore, breaking the language barrier is of paramount importance at an early stage.
Careful selection of activities according to the students’ level and grading your language is another key to success. If too difficult tasks are introduced in the learning activities, thus challenging students too much, they may feel anxious and overwhelmed; whereas if the level of challenge is too low they will be bored. The teacher’s role is, therefore, to strategically help students during activities and guide them along the path of learning. In my opinion, a teacher should be a friend or a guide, who is always there for the students to assist or correct whenever it is needed.
The syllabus is another crucial element of the teaching process. A lesson can be very well planned and successful, but if it does not belong to a major organizational category (course, syllabus, etc.), a teacher won’t have enough information about the “before and after” of that particular lesson plan. In that sense, the syllabus gives the context for each and every class.
If I were to design my own course, I would try to concentrate on introducing the structure, vocabulary and topic activities through the real-life situations. This means creating a context where all the learners feel comfortable to try.
When considering which activities to include in a particular class, a teacher should think about the students’ level/levels, their specific needs, what motivates them, and how the activities relate to the syllabus and objectives.
I would start my lesson (P4 students/adults) with the short warm-up session in order to change students’ linguistic chip into English. The warm-up would include the introduction of both teacher and students, as well as quick questions. If it is a 1-hour class, I would try to do at least three activities covering grammar, vocabulary and fluency.
The topic of the class: Shopping Time!
The structure activity would start with simple questions related to shopping, such as:
“Where do you usually buy clothes?”
“What is your favorite shop?”
“How often do you shop for groceries?”.
The purpose of this activity would be practicing the creation of the “WH” questions. I would introduce a list of the question words to the students and explain the meaning of the words they don’t understand. Then, I would have the students ask each other questions using the question words from the provided list. A true or false exercise would be the last bit of this activity followed by the wrap-up questions which would serve as a link to the second vocabulary activity:
“Do you usually TRY ON clothes before buying them?”
“What do you do when you RUN OUT of chocolate?”.
The objective of the vocabulary activity would be to learn phrasal verbs related to shopping (try on/run out of/pay for/sold out, etc.). I would read out some phrases containing phrasal verbs and students will have to figure out the meaning of each phrasal verb. After completing a puzzle exercise where students have to choose the right verb, I would suggest acting out some dialogues using the provided scenarios.
Wrap-up would also include questions linking the vocabulary activity to the topic one, such as:
“Do you usually buy clothes at regular prices or at BROUGHT DOWN PRICES?”
“Have you ever been RIPPED OFF?”.
The topic suggested for discussion is related to online shopping (pros and cons/ hazards/ credit card security/quality of clothes/trustworthy online shops, etc).
Regarding mistakes correction, I think every teacher will have different views on this and different ways of correcting their students. The danger of over-correcting is that students will lose motivation and you may even destroy the flow of the class or the activity by interrupting and correcting every single mistake. The other extreme is to let the conversation flow and not to correct any mistakes. However, if you are working on accuracy, on the spot correction is appropriate; but if you are concentrating on fluency, it is better to note all the mistakes down and discuss them afterwards.
Assessment of each student is not an easy task even for an experienced teacher. At the same time, it is not necessary to stick to one and only assessment method. I really enjoy the idea of self-assessment where students evaluate themselves, or teacher’s assessment where a teacher gives an assessment of a learner for work done throughout the course. Perhaps, choosing a combination of several assessment methods is the best approach.
It is extremely hard to define what makes a great teacher. Some would say a great teacher is flexible, creative and adaptable. Others would probably mention that it is a person who is able to establish a cordial rapport between himself and a student. I’m convinced that a successful teacher is the one who loves his job and never stops developing his personal and professional qualities.