The three most critical components in English language teaching are learners, materials, and teachers.

  

The three most critical components in English language teaching are learners, materials, and teachers. These three elements must interact to ensure the success of the whole teaching/learning process. When dealing with weak learners but strong materials and an experienced teacher, a positive result from the teaching process can be certainly expected. But, how can this be achieved?

 

In my class, students are given increasing responsibility for their own learning. That is my primary goal. My policy is not simply the distribution of worksheets which intend learners to be quiet and get on with their work. This cannot be classified as “teaching”. My approach encourages students to focus on long-term goals and specific skill-based objectives.

 

Hence, what do I offer my students? The answer is affect. It is a simple but workable approach. I do not allow students to raise their defenses against learning. Over the years, I have followed a number of basic principles of learning: modeling, encouragement, facilitation, and reward.

 

As for teaching materials, no one expects teachers to generate reams of new material for each class; instead, we are encouraged to supplement course books with commercially produced material or suggested activities on teaching websites. What tends to work best is material that engages as many of our students as possible, making them interested and satisfied because at the end of the day, language learning is hugely affected by feelings or the affective filter (Krashen, 2003).  Satisfied students are more motivated and are more likely to stay in their courses and actually benefit. My students are engaged and entertained but also challenged. This is when real learning takes place.

 

But what does it mean to succeed at language learning? Some teachers believe it means to exercise one’s abilities when practicing a certain skill. Others believe it means to perform and compete in an academic learning context. Both are correct but in all situations the burden is on the learner, as self-appraisal is essential. Our students need to ask themselves: Do I understand a native speaker professor delivering a lecture? Am I able to take accurate and complete notes in class? Do I get the main points of an academic reading or article?

 

Language learning is a lifelong journey which aims at enabling a learner to become competent not only in school or college but also for his/her entire life. Students embarking on studying academic English have many semesters of language study ahead. 

 

In order to ensure that studying is a motivating and valuable part of students’ education, it is essential to adopt an approach which takes into account their special characteristics and needs.  A number of key elements can enhance the teaching-learning process when working with students in an academic learning situation. They ought to be at the center of the learning process not the teacher. Our teaching and the learning process should be based on themes, ideas, and tasks central to our students’ individual interests and needs. This student-centered approach (Pedersen, Susan & Liu, Min., 2003) includes active participation and involvement as well as a personalized, autonomous approach to teaching.

 

When learning is experiential and task-based (Harmer, Jeremy, 2001) student learning is optimal. It becomes more meaningful, thus in the long run memorable. Debates, discussions, and interactive tasks allow students to practice English and at the same time acquire general knowledge or content. This type of learning is global, where students attempt to make sense of the context in which learning takes place using the English language medium as a tool for overall learning and acquisition.

 

Through building on schema or previously acquired knowledge, ideas, and skills from other areas of learning or even the first language, students move up to a higher level, namely from a general understanding of knowledge and language toward the construction of specific meaning. In addition to developing language skills, students develop critical thinking and learning skills and acquire attitudes, values, and beliefs which contribute to their overall educational development.

 

Our goal is to help students to learn how to learn, not just learn a language to pass a final exam. Unfortunately, some teachers expect them to be effective learners without teaching them how to study well and how to do well. They erroneously give them more and more practice doing the very same tasks over and over, expecting them to learn, but in reality they are not learning. They are only being trained to complete a number of meaningless tasks which they mechanically complete without much understanding. It is therefore important to help them become increasingly aware of new ways in which they can learn and new strategies which they can use to help them become better learners.

 

As a final step, students need an appropriate level of support and practice. At the beginning of the semester, students need a great deal of support to help them understand, respond to, and use the language effectively.  This can be accomplished through: a) the creation of clearly explained learning goals and objectives, b) the use of oral and written feedback, and the implementation of appropriate progress monitoring techniques. Students seem to learn easily, but they unfortunately forget easily, too. In order to ensure that students absorb, acquire, and digest what they have learnt, they need plenty of opportunities to practise, recycle, and extend the language skills they have learnt. Students’ awareness and understanding of English develop ahead of their productive skills.  Through exposure to language which is slightly above the level they can produce, Krashen’s i+1 (1984), students are given ample but varied opportunities to acquire language authentically.

 

In conclusion, it is essential to base our teaching of English on the above mentioned elements which take full account of students’ need, level of development, and the academic English language context in which they are learning.  In my experience, the above-mentioned ideas not only help to make learning English more meaningful and memorable for students, but it also makes the learning process of our students full of purpose and relevance. In the long term, this is more likely to ensure that their learning is a successful, worthwhile, and enjoyable experience.

 

Harmer, Jeremy (2001). The Practice of English Language Teaching. 3rd Edition. pp. 79-80. Essex: Pearson Education Ltd.

 

Krashen, S. (2003). Explorations in Language Acquisition and Use. Portsmouth: Heinemann.

 

Krashen, S. (1984) TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp. 352-357

 

Pedersen, Susan & Liu, Min. (2003). Teachers' Beliefs About Issues in the implementation of a Student-Centered Learning Environment. Educational Technology, Research and Development, 51(2), pp. 57-74.

 

Comments

Teaching strategies are not based only in one technique. I need more materials and hard work to deliver the lesson very well. I'm not familiar with the things that you're used to. Maybe I do not have enough experience to understand of all these.

I totally agree with you; teaching strategies are not based on one technique. In fact some strategies work best with a certain skill, like reading not writing. The ideas I outlined are general ones that work best for me in my teaching situation. I also agree with you that hard work is needed to deliver a very good lesson. But allow me to add hard work both on the part of the teacher and the student. Do you have a specific skill or area of teaching we can together brainstorm ideas about how to approach it in class?

Dear Rania,I absolutely agree with you  that  we must help students to learn how to learn. There are many  cases when teachers ' main goals  are  teaching to test , that is preparing them  for testing  which is one of the priorities but not  the only one. Teaching and learning should be meaningful. Very often students get correct answers but are not able   to explain why  they have got correct answers. This often concerns grammar exercises which they do mechanically , just filling in the gaps  and circling the right answer. I think this can be done through concept questions, peer correction and nominating students as monitors. Students should know why they are doing this task , where and how they can use it.With best wishes,Neli Kukhalesivhili     Georgia           

Your comments about teaching grammar are very accurate and the problem arises when we ask students to write even a short paragraph. This ends up as list of all possible errors in the English language. What is happening is that students may know the rules very well but are not aware of the meaning or usage. Obviously, there is a gap between knowledge and production. Our main goal as teachers is to teach students "how" to use or apply grammar not just its rules.

Dear RainaI am really delighted to read your blog. But it seems to be a mix of both a behaviorist approach and constructivist approach. I think the behaviorist approach has failed to deliver the goods in the class while teaching English as a second language or foreign language. I think language learning is not skill based but it is also knowledge based. I think teachers of English should make their children acquire second language rather than make them learn it. I believe in Krashen and think that child is the creator of language or knowledge.I hope you read my blogs 1. Learning and acquisition are different and 2. Narrative as a pedagogic tool published under the name vlnraojagatha.I believe that you are more knowledgeable than me. Please excuse me for expressing my opinions which may seem immature to you. I am not a professor like you but an English teacher in a secondary high school.Looking forward to hearing your prompt response.Yours sincerelyJvl Narasimha RaoAndhra PradeshIndia

Language learning is both skill based and relies greatly on previously acquired knowledge. Let me use teaching the difficult skill of reading as an example. Skillful reading and (critical) thinking if I may add are not natural abilities, but need instruction, guidance, and practice. Here are some suggestions to improve our students’ reading skills: a) Teach them how to read using specific strategies, b) Assess their thinking, c) Increase their cultural awareness, and d) Improve their language competence.  We all agree that reading is a major source of input. But what are some goals of reading? We teach reading to focus on what the learner gets in the form of knowledge, what the learner does with the knowledge, and what the learner should be doing after reading. In the pre-reading stage, the learner has to process the text which includes organizing text content/knowledge and identifying its main language components. During reading, he has to re-read, break words into components, pause, digest content and think about it, and may be paraphrase. At this point, we as teachers need to find out what’s going on in students’ mind at several points in the text. This is extremely important, as it will help our students in making predictions, comparisons, or inferences later on. In the final post-reading stage, we can have our students make oral or written questions about parts or about the whole text, summarize, fill in tables, forms, or charts, complete cloze passages, or even debate content. These are extension tasks, and I also recommend  role plays or even writing problem solution essays. I believe that language learning is skill based, but it is also knowledge based. Knowledge refers to knowing the grammatical rules of the language, its lexical collocations, and even the background culture.  

Dear Rania, Thank you for your prompt reply. But I can not agree with you. I think there is a lot of difference between acquisition and learning. I think knowing a language is different from knowing about the language. What you say may be useful at the advanced stages because they know about the language, but in the initial stages. It is the duty  of the teachers to make their children acquire the language. Language is primarily speech. I do not think teaching the rules of the language help the child or anybody speak it. No native speker learns the language in that manner. As a teacher of vast experience I believe that language, primarily, speech should be acquired non-consciously in informal and rich input contexts. yours sincerely, JVL NARASIMHA RAO Andhra Pradesh India

I certainly agree with you that there is a difference between learning a language, especially at a later stage of life and acquiring it at a very young age. On the other hand, we are dealing with EFL learners who attempt to study English at different stages of their life. I would like to mention here the Ego Permeability Theory (Guiora 1972)  which attempts to explain how second language learners succeed in achieving near-native like competence, and I also want to make reference to a very interesting article by Shumman 1986, dealing with the acculturation model for second language acquisition. Both say that success in language depends on a very important factor "personality" and this is related to affect, meaning the degree to which a learner is open to psychologically and willing to accept or take in a language. I find these ideas very interesting. Evidence in the literature is varied about how learners succeed in acquiring a language but most experts agree that being exposed to input makes a world of difference. I agree with you that our students need exposure and input in the form of speech.  It could be the news, movies, songs, or any other form to hear and be exposed to English.

I'm Mohammed Rawabdeh from Jordan. I'm glad to read all above useful information for effective teaching methods and strategies while teaching English to students. I got much benefit
Thank you rania

I am vey pleased to see more and more professionals from the Arab world accessing this site and making use of its varied resources to enrich their own teaching situation. Thank you for your message.

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