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Five things to enhance my teaching

My books 2013 198

1. BEYOND METHODS

The goal of using most teaching techniques and methods is for students to learn to communicate in the target language (L2). As language teachers we often question if we are going about meeting the goal in the right way. Any method we use is going to be shaped by our own understanding, beliefs, style, knowledge and level of experience.

It is true, however, that sometimes a particular method can be imposed on teachers by others, but ‘teachers are not mere conveyor belts delivering language through inflexible prescribed and proscribed behaviours, they are professionals who can make their own decisions (Larsen-Freeman 2001)’. 

They are informed by their own experience, the findings from research, and the wisdom of practice accumulated by the profession.

After over twenty years of teaching and trying out many methods (the grammar-translation, audio-lingual, communicative, task-based…) I have realized that teachers should explore various language teaching techniques and methods and should reflect on their beliefs and develop their own approach to language teaching. Moreover, teachers could devise for themselves a systematic, coherent, and relevant alternative to method, one informed by principled pragmatism. The ‘postmethod’ condition can also reshape the character and content of L2 teaching, teacher education, and classroom research. In practical terms, it motivates a search for an open-ended, coherent framework based on current theoretical, empirical, and pedagogical insights that will enable teachers to theorize from practice and practice what they theorize (Kumaravadivelu 2003) .

B. Kumaravadivelu – Beyond Methods: Macrostrategies for Language – Yale University

2. REFLECTIVE TEACHING 

FINAL

It is very important for us to become aware of the thoughts that guide our actions in the classroom and what we can do to help our students learn. With this awareness we will be able to examine why we do what we do in class and perhaps choose to think about or do things differently. After each lesson we should make a note of any bad moments in our lesson plan, and later when we have more time we can reflect on the lesson and think how to improve it; or we can make a note of particularly fine moments that we hadn’t anticipated and think how they came about. It is also very useful for us and our students if they discuss what they have learned in the class (they can evaluate their own success in learning the lesson) or they can also discuss the most interesting, challenging or the most difficult activity in the lesson.

3. TEACHERS HAVE TO BE FAMILIAR WITH THE LATEST KNOWLEDGE

Sources of teachers’ knowledge are:
•Courses (pre- and in-service)
•Conferences
•Reading (research, professional literature)
•Recommendations of colleagues
•Feedback from students
•Classroom experience + reflection

Teachers learn mainly from reflection on experience, not by applying research-based theories. In this IATEFL 2012 session Penny Ur discusses a selection of interesting research studies and their possible implications for teaching, with the aim of pinpointing when, and why, such studies may be more, or less, useful to the practitioner. You can hear and download this presentation here: Penny Ur, IATEFL, 2012 – It’s all very well in theory, but… The place of research-based theory in English language teaching.

4. CORRECTIVE FEEDBACK 

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As we can see from the Penny Ur’s IATEFL 2012 session: Research produces evidence that can be used to create practical principles for teaching, may provide new insights / information that hadn’t occurred to us, may contradict comfortable, but inaccurate, assumptions and may confirm our own intuitions.

‘Recasts’ are the least effective of oral corrective feedback strategies (Lyster, 1998).

This is something that confirmed my own intuition because I realized after a few years of teaching English to secondary school students that this method of correcting was quite ineffective. When correcting we need to involve and guide the student to the correct answer (elicitation, negotiation) instead of the most straightforward method of providing the correct answer. There are some other methods of error correction, and which method we are going to use depends on the type of error or how much time we consider it worth spending on the error and so on. For instance, we can repeat the incorrect answer (e.g. She know) a few times and give the student a chance to self-correct, and from my experience, they often can give the correct answer after thinking for a while. If the student cannot self-correct, we can ask the rest of the class to give the correct answer (peer correction). We can, also, correct the errors giving the similar example: if a student doesn’t know the opposite of sensitive and says unsensitive, we can correct him/her using the opposite with the same prefix emphasizing it: e.g. inappropriate.

5. EXPLORING TOPICAL PATHWAYS 

I think this presentation will be interesting to the teachers who don’t suffer from ‘Obsessive Grammar Syndrome (OGS)’ and who believe in talking in class with students. It is useful to those teachers who are used to hearing the words: tired, hungry, late, sleeping, etc. at the beginning of the class by their teenage students, especially in the morning. We can use the words to enlarge their vocabulary and as a warm-up speaking activity introducing a more difficult structured language activities.

This tutorial/presentation is giving an overview of how to prepare for flowing discussions leading out of everyday topics, catering to emergent language, and following up with structured language application activities.

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About ljiljana havran

English language teacher (General & Aviation English), passionate about learning and teaching. Curious, adventurous, a lifelong learner. Love: good books, music, lots of dance.

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