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Trinity Certificate in TESOL

Trinity TESOL Study Resource no. 3: Methods and techniques for teaching English August 2009
Whatever your reason for considering joining a Cert TESOL course, its likely that ultimately youll be hoping to teach, either here in the UK or in another country. . Naturally, then, youll be hoping to learn some of the practical skills necessary for this rewarding career, and teaching practice is one of the most important elements of any effective course of teacher education. Teaching skills are complex, and will vary with the personal style of each teacher, but there are certain basics which your course providers will hope to pass on to you, to help you to become not just a qualified teacher, but a good teacher. In this Study Resource, then, we will look at just a few of the methods and techniques you are likely to meet on your course, and suggest some ways in which you can prepare yourself before entering the classroom for the first time. Here are some of the questions you may be asking yourself: I cant really speak any other languages does that matter? Do teachers work from grammar books? I learnt to conjugate verbs at school but I cant remember how to do it now. Will that be a problem? How will I know what to teach? Im worried that I dont speak properly I have a regional accent, and I dont know if I can get rid of it Hopefully the following will go some way towards answering those questions.

What do you expect?

How many of these statements are true?


A We do not need to share a language with our learners. B We expect our students to sit quietly and listen to what we have to say. C It is necessary to give the learners a firm foundation in the grammar of the language - how it was formed, the different parts of speech, the different verb types - before we can expect them to be able to operate effectively in English. D New learners ('beginners') have to be taught in their own language until they have a good enough grasp of English to be able to understand our explanations.

Only A is true. What language do we use in the classroom? We use English, from the start. Much research, and indeed teachers own experience, shows that learners achieve much more when taught primarily in the target language (in this case, English.) There are some occasions when teachers have good reason to use the learners own language, but it should not be relied on as a method, and in most cases the teachers will not know the learners first language(s). The teacher is the best (sometimes the only) provider of comprehensible input - meaningful examples of the target language - available to the learners. This means that we have to think carefully about what we, as teachers, say to them in class - instructions have to be made using language which the learners can understand. Remember that actions speak louder than words! In TESOL, then, we use a lot of signalling, mime, pictures etc. to help where words would not be understood. This is particularly so at the early levels, although of course the learners, as they progress, understand more and more. So, you'll be encouraged to use visual aids, computer images, objects from life (we call them 'realia'), video and audio recordings to facilitate successful learning for your learners. As a teacher, youll learn to give simple explanations and examples rather than complicated definitions. This means, then, that you dont need to share a language with your learners. Often, these days, we have learners of different nationalities

sharing a classroom, so in any case translation would be impossible. We hope this will encourage those of you who are remembering rather anxiously your own first foreign language lessons at school. Just to prove to you that it CAN be done, as part of your course youll be given some lessons in a language unknown to you. Youll finish those lessons being able to do some simple tasks in that language, and the learning experience will have equipped you with some techniques for teaching complete beginners.
P reparat ion. If youve had experience of learning another language, think back to
the way you were taught. Are there any techniques which you might want to use in your own teaching? Much may depend on when you were taught, but also on the skill of your teacher.

Do we expect a quiet classroom? (Point B a bov e.)


Absolutely not! We teach language in USE - so we expect learners to try out the language in class. What better way than by speaking: to us of course but, equally importantly, to each other? You may worry that this gives them examples of English use with errors - but learner-learner interaction offers so many more opportunities for them to speak and to communicate an does purely learner-teacher interaction. On your course, you'll find yourself devising and organising activities where learners will work in groups in order to practise the new language you've taught them and to give them the confidence to use the language in real life. We use what we call an 'information gap' as the basis of lots of our activities. This is speaking with a purpose. There's something we need to know, and we have to ask someone else in order to find out. When you think about it, this replicates quite a lot of human communication.
Preparation: Preparation : consider what sort of language you use, where and why. How much of what you say is aimed at getting or giving information?

Learners enjoy this kind of work (as will you!) and enjoyment is motivating. We can't expect students to learn an active language by sitting passively and listening to a lecture on verb forms, for example.

What about the grammar? (Point C above.)


Again, we're teaching language in use, so we want the learners to be able to operate in the language. So, we teach them how to do things in English (we call this functional language). This could include things like ringing for a taxi, writing a letter of application for a job, asking or giving directions in a town, asking for help and offering a solution, greetings, making

arrangements.( Did you notice that all those titles had a verb ending in 'ing'?) Obviously, the grammar structures are contained within the functional language, but we teach from the initial perspective of doing things with

What can you do to prepare yourself before you start on a course?


language - not grammatical rules. Points A and D.

Listen to what you say.


How complex is it? Do you regularly use five words where one would do? How clearly can you explain things to others? Listen to yourself as
you give directions; try telling someone how to send a text message, or to use the TV remote. How easily can they follow what you say? How complex have you made the instruction?

How clearly do you speak? We don't want you to practise saying 'it is'
instead of 'it's' or 'cannot' instead of 'can't' - these are regular features of everyday speech, and we use them with the learners. It is a feature of standard spoken English to run certain words together and compress some syllables. However, you may need to speak a little more clearly than usual in class and speak out so that you can be heard.-

By the way: no, you don't have to speak with perfect accent-less English. Regional varieties of English including regional accent (both urban and rural) are a fact of life, and there are many different varieties of English worldwide. Students cope astonishingly well with a wide range of accents (including listening to one another). However, dialect (a variation of grammar and vocabulary as well as accent) is a different matter. If you're a teacher of English, you do need to speak and write (in the classroom) within the recognized conventions of a standard variety of spoken and written English Most learners will want to learn what they understand as *the* standard variety of English used in an English-speaking country - the UK, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada etc.

If you arent sure about your own clarity - voice pitch, volume, pace, enunciation - try taping yourself and hearing yourself as others hear you (a salutary experience!!). It can be fun, though.

Practice:
Think about how you might explain the following vocabulary items to a group of students who have only a little English. There are lots of methods or techniques which don't rely on words. Most requests for clarification are spontaneous, so you need to think on your feet.
startled posy (of flowers) boots (footwear, not car boots!) huge sometimes

Suggestions: Startled: do something to startle the students (so demonstrating the meaning of the word); a simple sketch on the board; mime. If you know the word is going to come up and might cause problems, you might think ahead and find a picture on 'google image' or 'clipart'. Posy: a simple drawing is easy enough for most people to manage for this one - you need to make the point, though, that it's a small bunch of small flowers, as opposed to a bouquet. Boots: find someone wearing boots and point to them. If no one is, draw a boot, and point to other types of footwear being worn in the class, saying 'shoe' 'sandal' and then point to 'boot' so that it's clear there's a distinction (especially if your drawing isn't of a high standard!) Huge: hands and arms, voice and body language. So you can indicate with finger and thumb 'tiny', working your way up to arms stretched wide in all directions and 'huge'. Sometimes: not as easy as the others. A simple way is by drawing a quick and easy chart, showing the days of the week and three actions, e.g. clean teeth - a tick on every day, so 'I always clean my teeth'. Drive to work - no ticks. I never drive to work. 'See a friend ' - a few ticks. 'I sometimes see a friend'. Note that there is one method of giving the meaning of a word which we are not suggesting here : that is explaining it. This is because the words above are simple words, and learners needing an explanation for them are unlikely to understand your definition. Definitions can be more complicated than the terms they are defining!

Even with higher levels, we're more likely to put the word into a context which makes the meaning clear than to give a complex definition.

Points B / C above. Notice where you use language, and what you say. Think about where your learners are most likely to need the language, and the sort of contexts which are the most useful. (Your own experiences in a country where you didn't speak the language could help you here).
Practice Where would you be likely to use/see the following language? 1. Imperatives (do this, don't do that.) Lots of contexts - for example, in this country, learners frequently come across the language on the back of packets of things in the supermarket. so that would be a useful context for them to use the language in the classroom too. 2.'It is' and 'it's got.Often used to describe things, especially if youve lost them! so making a report of lost property, telling a friend about something youve bought, writing a sellers description in order to sell something on e-bay. 3.Present continuous tense ('I'm sitting; he's talking; they're playing etc) It's rare that we actually give a running commentary on what we're doing ' I'm walking to the door, I'm brushing my teeth..' So when do we use it? A useful context in the classroom might be saying what other people are doing at the moment in an office 'no, you can't speak to Mr Jolly, he's having his lunch; no Mrs Free is speaking to a customer '

Look for pictures, objects, games. If you're already committed to a course, you could start a collection of things which might trigger communication amongst your learners. Pictures of people doing things are particularly useful. Remember, though, that they need to be large enough for a group of people to be able to see them.
Practice
1. You have a set of Russian dolls. How might they be useful in your classroom?

Marys sister) 2. You're going to teach " 's " (possessive e.g. Shes Marys sister) What sort of picture might be useful?

Suggestions: 1. The most obvious is comparatives /superlatives (bigger than, smaller than, the biggest etc.) The dolls can also be used for descriptions - heavy, light, colourful, bright, round, tall etc. Useful for order of adjectives (yes, there is one - maybe you'd like to look it up?) 2. A picture of a family wedding is effective here - (John is Fred's son; is Craig's sister married? etc). Using a personal picture will give the teacher the advantage of knowing the relationships of the group pictured - easier than trying to remember fictitious characters in a book!

Resources: although teachers do make their own materials and devise their own lessons, there are lots of published resources available too. These help teachers decide what is appropriate to teach at a particular level, and provide ideas and materials as well as study resources for the students. Youll discover course books (for students and teachers to follow) tapes, video/DVD, reading texts, practice books, and teachers resource books of games, communicative activities, pronunciation and language practice. Of course, while youre training, your tutors will be guiding you to suitable resources. .

Summary: what you can do to prepare yourself for teaching. Listen to yourself Listen to others Consider ways of explaining without words Start a collection of useful pictures and items. Look forward to the experience youll love it!