Teaching English or French through communication
Diary submitted by Floriane S. Madrid
Teaching English (or another language) through communication : learn and create confidence in the classroom outside textbooks
(I’m studying to become a French teacher abroad but took part in the TEFL programme too, in parallel.)
When I started my internship I didn’t know anything about English and French teaching, and I was glad that there were textbooks and the school’s specific method to help me. Textbooks contain most of the grammar, conjugation and syntax points that we need to memorise to learn a language. All this theoretical knowledges is the basis of the process. However I’ve quickly seen that from a certain point, as a teacher you need to go beyond the textbook because either the student is bored with the text, the questions… or you see that he/she has strong grammar knowledge but he/she struggles to speak, to exchange ideas.
About this topic I want to develop two main ideas.
First of all, that whatever the type of classes (individual, in group), the student’s level (except for real beginners), it is very important to set up communicative interactions as a teacher, with the student(s). Even if he/she doesn’t have a lot of knowledge, vocabulary, we should try to get her/him to speak a few minutes in each class. For the beginners we could focus on a special topic, for example the one of the textbook, while with most advanced students we could widen the discussion. I think this way because of what I’ve experienced (and I still do) myself with English. I learned it in high-school with textbooks and a rigid method so at the end I knew more or less the tenses, how to form questions, sentences… but then, when I went abroad I wasn’t able to have a real conversation in English without stuttering, because I’d never done it in the classroom. Moreover, these interactions create trust between the teacher and the student.
Otherwise, it happened to me several times in my internship to have students that had a really good level in English or French, so after reading the text and answering the questions… we still had 20 minutes of class. At the beginning I was a bit confused, mostly in English, because I didn’t know how the student would react if I started a debate on a certain topic… But in fact I realised that the most simple thing to do was to listen to him/her when he/she was talking about the text and it was easy to know which topic could interest him/her or that would lead him to stand for or against something.
Also the teacher could be inspired by the topics in which he/she interested in.
For example, in an English class, the student read a text, a story about a bachelor party and a wedding. I saw that he was particularly uninterested in that story, so was I. As he had a good level of English, and as the text was full of stereotypes about relationships, women… I started to underline these stereotypes and finally we spent the whole class talking about many topics that were related to the text. For me it was a real communicative situation because both of us were standing for and against some ideas, and it had been a lot more interesting than if we had been stuck to the textbook.
To conclude, setting up real communicative situations is essential to make our students improve their level, whatever the language, because in fact we learn to use it in « real » daily life, not only to do exercises or read texts.
It could be in the form of a debate, to talk about travels, our habits… but it must be an interaction. By interaction I mean that even if the student has to practise, we have to participate too, he/she shouldn’t be the only one talking and she/he could see the class in another way, more like an exchange. In this way it builds trust between both parties, and for sure he/she will learn more vocabulary and gain self-confidence.
- CICUREL Francine. « La classe de langue, un lieu ordinaire, une interaction complexe ». Acquisition et interaction en langue étrangère. 2002. Publié en 2005: https://journals.openedition.org/aile/801
- Linas SEMISTRAITIS. Peculiarities of the Communicative Approach in Teaching English. 2003. http://webdoc.sub.gwdg.de/edoc/ia/eese/artic26/linas/3_2006.html