Almost any teaching handbook or course will include a detailed explanation of existing methodologies and approaches. And although knowing this is extremely important, it is naive to think that there is one perfect method that will solve all our teaching and learning problems.

Over the years, I have found that due to my own beliefs about the teaching and learning processes, I tend to favour certain strategies over others. However, I can say that my lessons usually include an eclectic mix. The question is “How does this mix come about?”

My current practice, after 25 years of experience, is a reflection of previous instances of trying things out and finding out what works best for me in certain scenarios. Therefore, I can choose to do Presentation, Practice and Production or Guided Discovery, depending on the target structure to be taught. I can also do Task Based Learning or Project Based Learning if the topic seems suitable. Dogme? Of course! And Communicative Language Teaching usually! I have also tried Test, Teach, Test, used translation strategies and compared L1 and L2 in monolingual classes. I also favour Teacher Talking Time sometimes if I feel my students may benefit from my telling them a story or experience.

In my early teaching years, I used to be much stricter about my lesson planning stage and the decisions I made while planning were seldom changed. Later, I started being more flexible and planned alternative paths to follow depending on how the actual class was going. These days, my plans are more of a loose guide that is filled up as the lesson progresses. I can do this because I am much more confident about reading and assessing the classroom situations and choosing what is best more spontaneously. This is possible because I have a solid knowledge base and a myriad of past experiences to back up my ‘instincts’.

A final consideration. When trying to achieve a more spontaneous and organic lesson it is essential to have a body of knowledge and experiences to fall back on, as well as to allow yourself to experiment with new options regularly in order to feed this bank of experiences. You could always do the same thing over and over but isn’t variety the spice of life?

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