My name is Louisa and I grew up speaking Dutch in the Netherlands.
In order to write down my personal teaching approach as an English (second language) teacher, I decided to start by looking at my personal experience as a second language learner. As a child I was interested in American music, movies and sports, so when I started having English classes at school, I was motivated to learn. French and German classes were different; my motivation was extrinsic, which made it harder for me to learn. During my French and German learning process the teachers really made a difference, if a teacher could inspire me, I learned. I was taught English, French and German through the grammar translation method; which means that my teachers were using the Dutch language to teach us another one. I don’t think this was the best learning method for me because it taught my brain to always compare and translate everything back to Dutch and it’s hard to turn off. When I moved to Spain I learned Spanish through skateboarding. This was an effective way of learning because I was living in exercises. The downside of this was that I didn’t know what I was doing. When I took a Spanish course back at college in the Netherlands I was top of the class, this was nice.
In my opinion, the main keys to learning are “motivation and practice lead by structure if necessary”. Motivation runs the learning process and if a person is a 100 percent motivated to learn, they will practice no matter what. If a person is motivated for less than 50 percent, practicing will be harder and as a teacher you must try to inspire this person. The necessity of structure depends on the person; some people need to reinvent the wheel in order to learn something while others rather follow the structure that has already been invented. If you force people who don’t like structure to learn structure, you could mess up their entire learning process. Instead of forcing people to learn things in a certain way, a teacher should learn to understand their student’s learning process and guide them through it the best they can.
Based on my experience as a teacher, I had to find my own way of teaching by teaching while learning from students. As a teacher I take inspiration from different teaching methods. The Suggestopedia method is paying attention to the subconscious ways of learning. By using music, photos, videos, arts and playing games the students are learning a language. I have learned languages through song texts, movies, arts and skateboarding so I enjoy using these tools in my classes. The Silent Method lets the students figure out as much as possible while the teacher barely speaks. As a silent teacher you can see the students think which can give you a great inside to their learning process. I try to shut my mouth from time to time so I can observe my students learning process. The Callan and TPR methods both seem very effective for beginners. The teacher is talking all the time and is basically forcing the students to understand them. I like to experiment with the ingredients of both of these methods to see if it works on the student but I wouldn’t base an entire class on it. Personally, I think it’s better when the teacher’s roll is more in the background. I wouldn’t want to act like an authority figure because I want to create an environment where the students feel comfortable and safe. A teacher should be inspiring, enthusiastic, patient, smart, funny and friendly as it makes the learning process a lot more comfortable. When it comes to correcting, I always try doing it in a respectful and smart way because students should feel confident while using the English language.
As a teacher in action my first step is to figure out the student’s motivation and learning goals, which I would do by asking active questions and observing their behavior.
I'd ask them what they would like to learn and why. I'd ask them what they find a comfortable learning environment, what their goals and interests are and during the conversation I would observe their behavior (body language, maybe they are shy) to make sure that we understand each other well.
My second step is to figure out a student’s current level of English (if they’re not completely new to the language). I’ll test the skills by having a conversation so I can observe the productive skills (speaking and listening). After that I’ll test the student’s receptive skills (reading and writing) by asking her to read and write something. Once I know the level of the student I’ll explain her what I have observed and we can think of ways to work together. Personally I'm open to teach students from each level and all ages and I prefer to give private classes. My job is to figure out the best way to teach the student based on their needs and on their way of being most comfortable.
My third step is to create a lesson plan customized on the needs and interests of the student. Let’s say my student wants to learn how to write poetry but his English level is P3. I would suggest to use a structure-based syllabus mixed with linguistics and submerge poetry into the classes. I would motivate him to learn English by reading and understanding poems and apply them to the structure that he needs to learn to be able to create them.
An interesting lesson would be to use a poem (which I chose) that is written by one of his favorite English poets. The words of the poem will be used as the target language for the class. I’ll let him read the poem and figure out if he understands the meaning of the poem and the words. If he doesn’t understand it we’ll work on that first. Once he understands the meaning we can look at the structure and analyze the words in a grammatical way. As an exercise I would ask him to make different sentences with the words in the poem. I would observe and see if this method works, if it does I will keep fine tuning it and if it doesn’t, I'll find another way to make it work.
If I would have a group of 3 students and their goal is to learn how to write reports and essays for work. I would see if I could use a skill or task based syllabus as a guide and focus on writing. My lessons would be group orientated and I would choose subjects that spark their needs and interests as a person and as a group. I would probably ask these students to write me reports and essays as assessments so I can guide them in the process and help them with their needs. Let’s say if one of them has dyslexia, I would see how I can guide him with that next to using spelling correction on a computer.
If I would have a 5-year-old student that’s in English class because her parents want her to learn how to speak English, I would ask the parents and her what she’s into so I can find a way to get her attention and have fun. In this situation I would probably just speak English with her while playing games and going to the playground.
My final step as a teacher is to teach. In general I would probably start by asking if my student had a nice weekend. After that I would consider asking if he used any English outside of the classroom. This focuses on the purpose of our class and gives space for reflection. For each class I prepare the information from the syllabus beforehand so I will be able to freestyle and make the conversation feel as natural as possible. Whether I cover the subjective through open conversation, exercises, music or written exams depends on what the student wants. During the class I'll use active questions to observe the skills and make sure that my students understand what’s going on. The students should be learning while having a good time.
Creating a structured syllabus over a period of time is important when you’re setting goals. Without a syllabus you and your student will lose sight of what you’re doing and time will just fly by. Setting goals by planning a structured schedule gives you something to hold onto and will show that you’re making progress.
My personal syllabus as a teacher is a structure-based syllabus mixed with linguistics, it's well structured and explains the English grammar from basic to advanced. The information inside is clear and simplified and the order of the learning material logical and understandable. As long as I can follow the structural guidelines of the English language I can be as creative as I want. The syllabus I use for my students will always be focused on their needs.
The future of English teaching depends on humanity. There are many ways to learn English without a teacher, although learning a language on your own is not the same as learning one with the guidance of a teacher. As humans we should never stop learning from each other, especially if your profession is being a teacher.