My beliefs as a teacher: learning and teaching

Today I would like to discuss a deeper aspect of my beliefs as a teacher: how I assume we learn a language, and how this affects what I consider effective teaching. What follows is a list of beliefs I gathered from observing myself and from analysing how I myself learned my second (and third) language. They are by no means definitive or true, they just represent my impressions on a very complex, and sometimes mysterious process.

Learning

  • Formal instruction plays a crucial role. In all my experience with language learning, I first sat down to study the language with a teacher, and then put what I had studied into practice in a real-life context. Of course I know of people who have acquired a second language mostly by immersion, but if they have done so as adults they all lack some structures, vocabulary or nuances in pronunciation that formal instruction can give.
  •  Exposure is equally important. Formal instruction alone will not lead to full acquisition, which can only happen through immersion in the language. This is where the individual effort of each learner comes into play.
  • Noticing is the key to learning.
  • Some people acquire language more easily than others, but this does not mean they end up being more successful learners. I strongly believe hard work, a willingness to try and learn from mistakes and motivation play a crucial role in the learner’s success.
  • Automation is the key to fluency in a foreign language. In this sense, I think I can roughly ascribe to the Lexical Approach: “language is grammarised lexis” that needs to be memorised in chunks in order to be retrieved more quickly when necessary.

Teaching

  • As in point one above, formal instruction can be key to building the confidence of a solid base, before (or while) being massively exposed to the language.
  • While contrastive analysis with L1 can be very helpful, relying on translation and L1 equivalence is a source of many a errors and misunderstandings.
  • Learning happens more easily if the student feels at ease and motivated. Encouragement and positive reinforcement can have a beneficial effect on how a learner sees the language and the process of learning it, especially with YLs.

My beliefs as a teacher: role of the teacher

As part of the post series on my beliefs as a teacher, today I would like to discuss the assumptions and principles about my role and aims as a teacher.

As everything else, I am sure these ideas are in constant change, so that if I was to re-write this post in a year or even a month, it might sound partially or totally different. However, I like the idea of bringing how I see myself as a teacher into focus, partly because I would love to come back to this post in a while and consider what and how things have changed.Read More »

delta

Realisations

I am writing this quick post to share a realisation I came to this week.

After one year of worrying and studying for Cambridge Delta module 1, I finally feel it’s paying off. Even if I won’t pass the exam in December, I recently saw the fruit of all my hard work, which makes it worthwhile.

Namely, this week I felt confident and at ease teaching an upper-intermediate pronunciation class, which I would have been terrified of doing last year. I was also able to plan and deliver an intermediate-level study skills workshop, concentrating on dictionary skills and routine-building for language study.

Both these experiences made me understand how much I’ve grown in the past year, thanks to a supportive environment at school, CDP, as well as Delta, and how much I can still grow with the next modules and (hopefully) years of work.

I can now say that all that (supposedly free) time spent reading and reflecting was indeed well spent. 🙂

About mindfulness in ELT (again!)

Last year I wrote a blog post about what I perceived as a commodification of an amazing Buddhist concept: mindfulness, or sati. Today, I would like to go back on the topic, after I’ve recently attended:

  • a one-day Vipassana meditation retreat;
  • a two-hour training session on mindfulness for teachers.

I now feel I have familiarised with both aspects a little bit more, so I would like to update my previous post with some more in-depth considerations on the issue.Read More »

‘I don’t understand nothing!’

How many times have we hear this phrase coming out of one of our student’s mouth? The student who feels she can’t understand ‘nothing’ because she missed a word — or even a phrase — and so switches off completely for the rest of the listening activity, or of the whole lesson.

Recently, one of the tasks I have completed for Delta module 1 preparation asked me to suggest remedial strategies and activities to help such student, so here is what I usually do.Read More »