Educational principles on which I base my classes

Before I go into my methodology, I would like to give you a preamble on a classic teaching method that has been relegated to being an old-fashioned method because of its ineffectiveness in terms of obtaining practical results.

The grammar-translation method, used since the 19th century, is based on studying grammar and making translations as the name itself suggests.

This method was grammar-centred, with grammar rules presented in numbered sentences in the student's first language with no real context. Believe it or not, with all the progress that the science of teaching has made over the years, the grammar-translation method is still one of the main ways in which languages are taught in some countries around the world. 

In order to explain what methodology I use to teach English and why I would like to offer the following reflection:

Throughout history, there have been many innovative methods that at the time have been held up as the magic and definitive key to learning a foreign language in the best possible way, such as The grammar-translation method, The Direct Method, The Audio-Lingual Method, Situational Language Teaching & PPP, The Communicative Approach, Alternative approaches & Methods: Total Physical Response (TPR), The Silent Way, Community Language Learning, Suggestopedia, Multiple intelligences, Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), The Lexical Approach, The Natural Approach, Task-Based Learning (TBL), Principled Eclecticism, Dogme.

All these methods and approaches hold an essential part of the truth, of the most efficient way to teach and learn, but none of them is the best in itself. Perhaps, in that sense, the one that conveys the idea that this paragraph supports comes closest to being the best, and that is the Principled Eclecticism.

From all the methods and approaches I have studied to teach English, I have compiled the following principles that I apply in my classes:

1. The teaching should all be in English, with a few exceptions where the translation of a word, phrase or expression can provide a quicker understanding by the student, save a lot of time and make the class more dynamic.

2. There must be a strong emphasis on speaking, for it is in speaking a language that the essence of the language lies.

3. Children learn to speak languages with no reference to grammar at all, therefore, grammar is not so essential as to be studied solely for its content, but rather as referential support in which to find assistance in understanding some structures unique to the English language which do not exist in other languages, in which case a brief grammatical explanation helps understanding and learning, but never should an entire class or all classes be based on a tedious, boring and unproductive study of grammar as the sole approach to teaching a language.

4. Emphasis should be placed on introducing learners to the new language in situations where they may need to use it.

5. Pronunciation, accuracy and fluency are all important elements in speaking a language properly and all of them should be studied and practised.

6. Communicative Approach

a) Learners learn a language by using it.

b) Authentic and meaningful communication should be the goal of classroom activities.

c) Fluency is an important dimension of communication.

d) Communication involves the integration of different language skills, not just speaking.

e) Learning is a process of creative construction and involves trial and error.

7. Language learning can be seen as a process of problem-solving and discovery in which cues, mime, pictures or visuals can often be used to check or explain concepts more easily than lengthy oral explanations. Classroom instructions and error correction can be shortened and simplified by using gestures.

8. Language learning is considered an emotional experience. Experiencing emotions while learning ensures that the learning process takes place more effectively and is comparable to a real-life situation where emotion plays an important role. The brain associates the word with the whole cluster of sensations, emotions, images, sounds, smells, and in short, with the whole lived experience that the word has meant for the person and stores it in the memory with all these intertwined elements.

9. Concerning the previous point, that is why it is so important that the classes are full of enthusiasm, telling real-life experiences, and memories, talking about things that interest you, that arouse your emotions, desires for the future, everything that arouses your emotions and that you like, food, travelling, hobbies, etc, and doing situational exercises where you simulate these real-life experiences.

10. Human intelligence has multiple dimensions. In 1993, Gardner proposed a view of natural human talents that is labelled the 'multiple intelligences model'.

1) The ability to use language

2) Logical/mathematical ability (ability to think rationally)

3) The ability to form mental models of the world

4) Having a good ear for music

5) Bodily/kinaesthetic abilities (having a well-conditioned body)

6) Interpersonal (ability to work well with people)

7) The ability to understand oneself and be introspective

8) The ability to understand nature

11. Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). This humanistic philosophy suggests that if the teacher establishes a rapport with their students and adapts his approach to stimulate them, learners will learn and retain more.

   1. Outcomes: To achieve success, students must have clear goals to work towards.

   2. Rapport: Teachers need to develop a good rapport with their students. This encourages learners to communicate successfully.

   3. Sensory acuity: It is important to teach non-verbal communication such as gestures and tone in addition to verbal communication.

   4. Flexibility: When teaching, it is good to have a range of skills and techniques available and be willing to use varied techniques with different learners. Mistakes are also viewed positively as evidence the learner is experimenting with language.

12. Learners are understood to have different learning styles or ways of processing information based on the sense they predominantly use to take in information, namely:

- Visual learners who respond better to visual stimuli.

- Auditory learners who rely on their sense of hearing.

- Kinaesthetic learners who learn through doing or feeling.

13. Lexical units occur frequently in language. Examples of these include idioms, similes, connectives (e.g. finally) and conversational gambits (e.g. Guess what!). Vocabulary items are not discrete and should not be taught as isolated words, but rather in 'chunks' such as fixed/ semi-fixed collocations or expressions. For example, instead of simply teaching the word 'light', it is useful to teach related language, different meanings and words that go with or collocate with the base word (e.g. 'light wind', 'light blue') and so on.

14. Language is a vehicle for communicating messages and meanings. The use of authentic texts is essential. The focus in the classroom is on listening and reading with speaking allowed to emerge later.

15. Communicative competence only develops carrying out tasks that require real-life communication, focusing on the language used in the task

16. Teaching can simply be Conversation-driven, focusing on the learner and emergent language. The language produced (along with any errors, missing vocabulary or grammar and so on) creates the focus of the lesson ahead.

Knowing English well will get you anywhere 

English Tickety Boo. Your meeting point for learning English, your gateway to success!
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