“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn” (Benjamin Franklin) - My teaching approach:
Having been a student myself, and a language assistant at the age of 18 in Salou, Spain, I have experienced what it is like to be both the student and the teacher. Three of my inspirations and those I have great admiration for are: Michael, an ex-colleague and English teacher; Gloria, an ex-colleague, close friend and Spanish teacher; and Mrs. Mathias-Baker, my secondary school History teacher. My approach will be influenced by them, those who as a teacher, I inspire to be.
Being a firm believer that making mistakes helps you learn, I intend to positively encourage my students to get things wrong in the classroom teaching them that making mistakes is the most valuable and most positive process to learning a language. As once said by Alexander McQueen: “You can only go forward by making mistakes.” Mistakes ensure that the learner learns what they need to do personally to improve which also, in turn, allows them to constantly grow in the language.
Another importance I place on language learning is full-immersion. An already excepted concept, full-immersion is the only way of avoiding language transfer and, maybe not right from the beginning, overgeneralisation, two of the major problems that non-native speakers have when learning a second-language. By having English as the only language spoken in class, the aim is to eradicate any opportunity for interlanguage to occur.
Grammar, therefore, will be taught inductively. Students will naturally pick up receptively (by ear) the grammar through extensive use of examples and will then be able to imitate the teacher without knowing the exact rules. Syntax will be taught deductively and grammar will be taught only when asked for by the student. Based on first language acquisition, babies are not taught morphology when learning their first language. Morphology is something they then learn at a much later stage. In this way we can avoid the common errors that many students make or unnatural speech they use when thinking too much about a rule they have learnt.
According to a BBC article, ‘How to learn 30 languages’, the best way to learn a language is by concentrating on the listening and imitating (speaking) macro skills. In my teaching approach, English is the only language spoken in class. However, I believe that the other two macro skills should not be neglected. As part of my teaching approach, I would include readings and written homework as self-study; the reading and writing macro skills are more beneficial when done alone. Spelling and vocabulary would be taught through homeworks as well during class time.
Pronunciation will be taught wherever possible, one hour a week will also be dedicated to learning the sounds of the language and positioning of the mouth. Renée Zellweger is said to have relearnt sounds so that she could master the British accent, she learnt how to round her vowels with a language coach (the telegraph). Renee shows that it is possible to learn an accent and to be very convincing in that accent despite having a different accent from birth.
Many people have many motivations for learning a second language, whether it be by choice, or by obligation, for leisure or for a certain reason. Motivations are different for everyone. Adapting your syllabus to cater for everyone’s needs is how you can target a wider range of audiences.
My syllabus is something I would implement in a school environment: In a private primary and secondary school, as well as in an academy. It would be available for many people as my teaching approach, all things considered, places more importance on how the teacher teaches rather than on the specific materials used and so I would try to keep the cost per class competitive.
Combining a qualification with a focus on obtaining fluency, self-expression and accuracy would target many students’ needs for learning a second language. I believe that fluency, self-expression and accuracy go hand in hand with the Cambridge exams.
My syllabus would follow the Cambridge English exams and provide all of what is necessary to pass those exams. I believe, although the ultimate goal is to become fluent with a native-like accuracy, students like having something to work towards and at the end of the course, if passed, the Cambridge exams are a recognised proof of achievement. The program would include a collection of four classes a week: Pronunciation, ESP, and two further classes with more general topic activities. The main focus is to become fluent with a high accuracy to native-like accuracy in English. Activities I would include throughout the year would link very closely with the criteria of the exams as well as for promoting fluency and accuracy.
I would assess the learning outcomes with wrap-up questions at the end of the class and a quick revision at the start of the next class in a form of a game. It is important that the students retain information and the main points of each class.
Assessments would include half term mini tests with a past Cambridge English exam paper at the end of every term. Students would be encouraged to do their own exam practise, though it would not be obligatory. Both teacher and student would benefit from knowing how well they are doing and where the student might be falling behind. It ultimately helps improvement.
For younger children, more activities would be done in a class. Younger children need more stimulation, more different things to think about as they cannot always concentrate as long as older students. I would play more games with the younger children. The games would have one of the objectives for the class. I would also break up the class into smaller sections with frequent breaks. As the class would always be in English, even from a very young age, it would not hinder the children to have regular breaks as they would still be listening to English. I would use 5 minute pronunciation videos or videos with cartoons in these breaks.
For older students more sophisticated topics can be discussed in class, and for adults more sensitive topics can be discussed. It is important to choose age appropriate topics so that the student can relate to the topic, helping self-expression, and enjoy the class.
Level appropriate activities would be easier to choose when following the Cambridge English syllabus as the material is already level appropriate.
Teachers would be aware of the language they are using. They would not use language appropriate for an adult in the teenagers’ classes and especially not in the children’s classes. The use of language would be very different depending on the classes. Teachers would also be encouraged to grade their language where appropriate.
The teacher would correct where appropriate as it depends on the student when correction is necessary. Getting to know the student is vital when correcting errors and how frequently you correct: some students do not like to be corrected and others do, some get put off very quickly and other do not. A correct balance would be encouraged. In the lower levels, fluency and being able to express oneself effectively is more important than accuracy so naturally less correction would occur in comparison to higher levels.
The student would be expected to speak the L2 all of the time once in class and to actively participate in class. Those who do not use the L2 would be asked to do so. If the student asks a question in their mother tongue, they would be discouraged through appraisal and encouragement of a question in the L2.
The best teachers will bounce off the energies in the room and will be able to create a fun, live, and jolly atmosphere.
The target language in each class would be practised through free speech and discussions first in small groups and then as a class. Through my game in the first five minutes, if the team loses a point and the other team wants to steal the point (one steal each), target language could be part of the steal question. A question relating to the pragmatics and semantics of the word.
A typical lesson would start with the first five to ten minutes engaging the students with either a gossiping session, a bit of small talk or a game. The gossiping session, for teenagers and adults allows you to build a good rapport with your students. Even though it is less focused, anytime using the language is valuable. It also enables the students to release anything going on at the time allowing the next 50 minutes of class to be focused. Small talk is very typical in England and is important for those learning English to identify and is a good way to get the student engaged and focused. For children and teenagers, a trivial pursuit game in the form of noughts and crosses is a fun way of getting the students involved, especially it is boys versus girls. It also encourages the students to keep up-to-date with public affairs as the questions will be prepared by the teacher involving a range of topics. Examples can include: Geography, History, Sport, Random and others. Random is a way of reinforcing the target language and vocabulary.
Activities would be Cambridge focused. The Cambridge English textbook would be used as a support at home for the reading activities. In class, more current texts will be used to aid discussions and group work.
One hour a week will be dedicated to ESP and Task-based Language Learning. These classes will be age appropriate. For children, it could be: how to ask for a cinema ticket, or how to play football. For teenagers and adults, it would be topics like: going to the doctors, job interviews, ordering food and giving presentations. One week the students will learn how to express themselves in a certain situation, and the following week they will have five to ten minutes to re-enact their prepared versions. This way they will act without knowing why exactly, but by imitation – a natural way of using the language. These activities will also help with providing phrases and vocabulary for the PET Cambridge English exam and other oral exams where being able to negotiate, suggest and discuss various options is assessed.
TEFL notes Day 4.