Whereas the previous blog post explored the overall role of the English language teacher, in terms of developing the cognitive, emotional, and social skills of pupils, in this post I am going to narrow the focus and cover the teacher’s role pertaining to the development of the linguistic capabilities of students through the use of engaging teaching strategies and methods for effective English language instruction.
Nowadays, teaching, irrespective of the subject, is way more than just results. Teaching is about fostering a love of learning and turning students into life-long learners. Therefore, the role of the English language teacher is to foster a love of the English language and create interest in the subject. Bearing in mind that the process starts in the classroom and it ventures out to the real world, teachers may adopt the following three-step model of fostering a love of the language: nurturing children’s curiosity about the subject, building children’s knowledge, skills, and patience with regards to conducting research, and encouraging their taking of a post-research action.
How does this model look like in practice? The lesson starts with a provocation (characteristic of the IB and Reggio Emilia approaches) to trigger students’ inquiry and ignite their curiosity (this could be a simple image, an object or an act). For example, when learning about second conditional (or the use of simple past tense when talking about situations in the present or in the future), students are handed a lottery ticket and first asked to imagine they own a winning lottery ticket. Students are encouraged to formulate a sentence using the familiar structure of the first conditional.
Next, students are instructed to tear or throw away their lottery ticket and asked to express their original idea in the absence of a ticket by adapting the tenses of the verbs from the former sentence structure. Things like torn apart/thrown away lottery tickets or noticing walks act as provocations to a process of questioning and exploration.
In teams, students continue by brainstorming and undertaking guided research (or “investigation” as I prefer labeling it in order to inspire kids to assume the role of detectives). It’s a well-known fact that kids like to explore and experiment. I have utilized children’s tendency towards exploration and redefined the research phase into a detectives game where students investigate cases and collect information/evidence. This is the strategy that always works for me in terms of engaging the students and sparking their desire to learn. I always strive to challenge my students and let them discover things for themselves so that the element of discovery and surprise can lead to the retention of the newly acquired knowledge.
Collaboratively we draw conclusions based on the gathered information and children themselves are expected to take an action. In this case, by talking hypothetically about what they would do in improbable situations.
The second aspect of teaching English as a Second/Foreign Language (or any other subject out there), is making the learning of the new language appealing and entertaining with the use of fun, yet challenging, activities. By being creative with the lesson plans, teachers are more likely to make the classes fun to keep the interest of the students. Knowing what appeals to children and how children learn language is essential for lesson planning.
I have developed a set of questions that help me plan my daily lessons. Some of the more traditional key questions include: “What do I want the students to learn? Why do I want them to learn it? What is the best way to go about doing this?” Nevertheless, the key guiding questions for my planning remain more non-conventional: “How strong is the fun factor of the lesson? Which part of the activity would make the kids enjoy the lesson?” At times, the way I measure the effectiveness of my lessons is solely by the smiles on my students’ faces.
As mentioned earlier, since the classroom lesson serves only as a starting point of the learning journey, the class needs to be engaging enough to lead to further exploration of topics…