Innovation in Language Learning
Teaching qualities involve the general teaching competencies and other competencies that are specific to ELT (English Language Teaching) contexts, which are considered necessary for you to achieve the goals and targets of a lesson. These are the qualities that make your students aware that you are doing the teaching practice in the ‘right’ and ‘proper’ way. These are also the qualities that help you achieve the ‘effectiveness’ in your teaching ways. Let’s have a look at these one by one.
Teaching Quality No. 1: Good Preparation, Clear Aims and Objectives
Teaching is like playing in a drama. If you prepare hard enough, then any possible ‘deviation’ and impromptu action from the script will create less panic and chaos compared to when you prepare inadequately, and depend solely to your own intuition on the stage. Of course, there are situations when teachers need to use their improvisational skills to make the environment livelier and more engaging. However, many experiences show that the more prepared a teacher is before a lesson, the more likely she or he succeeds in dealing with the unexpected things in the real classrooms.
No matter you are a curriculum-based teacher or an intuitive and improvisational type, good preparation always gives you the best of your teaching practice. Good preparation involves a lesson plan to carry out, language points to deliver, tasks to assign, aids to use and class management scheme to apply. This also includes anticipating potential problems, and the ways to handle them. In short, good preparation involves thinking over and anticipating everything that may happen from the start you enter the classroom to the moment you leave the class door.
The best way to have a good preparation is practice. Due to the limited time and availability of the room, it is not always feasible to have a practice in the real classroom of the lesson, but if you can, then it would be a great advantage for you to spend a few hours before the lesson. There are basically two basic ways of preparation; one is real practice, and the other is mental practice. If you do the previous, then you can do it in a certain room, and start delivering the lesson from the very beginning to the end, as if the real students were present there and watching your actions one after another. In this case, it is highly recommended if you can practice with all of the materials, tools and facilities available. If possible, an audience of few volunteers would be an advantage to be your ‘students’ for feedback. You must practice not only with the academic contents of the lesson, but also with using the supporting tools and materials. You must get ease and flexible in using them. If necessary, you can also time every single sequence of your lesson running, so that you may get the feeling of the ‘real timing at work’ during your teaching practice.
The mental practice involves more of your thinking process. You may sit down in a comfortable chair in a quiet room, and start thinking and imagining your teaching practice step by step while you are examining the materials and aids or tools in hand. Unlike the previous one, mental practice can be so practical and time-friendly as you can arrange your own time of practice as well as the length of time you are going to do it. You can even have the mental practice minutes before the lesson! However, it is always wise to spend time adequate enough to prepare before a lesson. What you need to do during the mental practice is basically the same like what you are doing in the real practice, only that you just have to make it by yourself, maybe in front of a computer or mirror, and pretending to talk and explain language points as if the students were there!
One important start of a good preparation is having clear aim and objectives. Aim refers to the general purposes of the entire program or course, and objectives refer to a more specific and concrete description of these purposes. As you prepare the lesson, keep asking yourself: “How’s this material relevant to my students? What are my aim and objectives?” Aim and objectives are neither just to finish the material nor just to make a variety of fun tasks to make your students cheerful and happy. Rather, aim and objectives should give your students something beneficial and meaningful in the end of the lesson and program. A good language institution usually has provided the lesson with the corresponding curriculum along with the aim and objectives in its syllabus. Once you have them, then you can select the materials or supporting ones. Most probably, the curriculum has also specified the materials to use. You may have more materials than you need, so you need to be very selective with the materials, and always tend to look for the specific language points, which can develop your objectives and help achieve your aims. Please keep in mind that the fewer language points that you prepare, the higher chance your students could remember, and thus, the more effective you could transfer to your students. Some language points that you prepare may be directly or indirectly relevant with your objectives. If that is the case, then you should keep the best ones, which are strongly connected to your objectives and truly meaningful to your students, so that they can get the real value behind the points, and thus gain benefit of your lesson.
Next, you should arrange your language points in logical order. Again, this may depend on the details of the curriculum and syllabus. However, to achieve the best result, due to the dynamic nature and uniqueness factor of your students, you may decide to modify the sequence of the presentation. It is always best to ask yourself: “Will my students follow the logical line of the language points that I will teach? Will they remember and easily practice the points that I will explain?” Hence, you could line your language points chronologically or topically or even situationally, possibly in accordance with the teaching approach you are applying like PPP, Task-based, or Communicative-based. Please bear in mind that whatever approaches you plan to use, please choose the one that best achieves your aim and objectives.
One more thing, your students need to feel that you are actually doing all aspects that support the aim and objectives during your lesson. You need to make clear to your students what your aim and objectives are, and this is usually explained best at the beginning of the lesson. However, it is not enough to share these verbally, you also need to show how these purposes are being linked and connected with the language points and aspects while you are teaching, so that the students could see a clear ‘map’ that specifies the ‘bridges and roads’ of whatever activities or tasks being conducted. The better students know where their position is in the continuous flow of learning process in your lesson, the less likely they will get ‘lost’, and the bigger chance they are willing to be lead by you voluntarily. In your preparation, try also to practice the switching from one language point to another without apparent gaps and confusions between them. It has to flow naturally and engaging enough, and thus gives little time and chance for your students to get ‘busy’ by themselves.
Last thing to do in your preparation is the refining process. Think of the additional games, video clips, songs and music that help sharpening your language points. Think of the assignments, tasks, homework, exercises that contribute success to the lesson. Also think of the opening that will draw your students’ attention to the ‘practical value’ behind your lesson, and prepare also the encouraging closing that is consistent with your aim and objectives. Finally shape your whole lesson into a very effective teaching practice. (Al)