A Teaching Philosophy for
Trampus Williams Shimashi, Ginowan City, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan Email: Principal@amerasianschoolokianwa.org Phone: 090-6862-3446
Let me start by stating my core values first; I believe in the golden rule (don’t have students do anything I would not do), I believe in being nice and giving positive reinforcement, I believe in being strict, and I believe in respect which I learned in large part from Japanese culture both to my students and from my students. Those core values underlie what I will do as a teacher. The following is how I would like to teach.
I think the ultimate goal for a student is communicative competence according to Bachman and Palmers model. This model outlines the ultimate state of the advanced learner, however for most learners they may not need to master every aspect of Bachman and Palmer’s Communicative Competence model. For example for a learner to be able to communicate effectively they may not necessarily need to master the Dialect, or know all the Cultural references of English. The average language learner will likely be happy gaining a level of communicative competence conforming to Canal and Swain’s model. Even though Canal and Swain’s model does not necessarily push the need to master dialect I believe that learning in the area of pronunciation is a must for the Japanese native learning English. For the Japanese learner I work on their pronunciations of letters like “r” “l” “d” “th” “fu” and “hu” I have found through my own methods of teaching that comparing common borrowed words in Japanese traditionally written in Katakana to the way it is pronounced in English is effective.
I believe a mixed method approach is needed to guide a student into a high level of communicative competence. The method I use to teach English would depend on factors such as the students’ age and level of English so far. I am process oriented at the first stages because I believe early stages require habit formation through multiple exposures before the language can be internalized. A native Japanese speaking adult ESL learner with no prior knowledge of the English needs input. English words via rote memorization (homework aspect) and say and repeat exercises (classroom aspect) to form a basis for the language. This method is often considered less fun however I utilize this method only briefly in classes and encourage my students from Japan to create flash cards and carry them with them and create habits of studying vocabulary. I believe this works because most people when they begin learning a foreign language have to gain a basic vocabulary first before associations between words, phrases and chunks can be made in the brain. Learning just one new word in a language is difficult for example to take the word “hello”, it may be difficult for some learners to learn this word if it were their first word. One reason for this is that some languages like Japanese do not have the “l” sound. Once a person learns the word “hello” through rote memorization (homework level) and say and repeat exercises (classroom level) it will make learning further words such as “small”, “tall”, and “whiffle ball” easier to learn. I would facilitate this in the classroom via the techniques from the Audio Lingual Method, specifically having students repeat what the teacher says in order to gain pronunciation and practice using the studied material. The say and repeat exercises could take many forms to keep the classes interesting. Total Physical Response could be a technique used at this stage as well. For this I would combine the say and repeat technique with TPR by having students do the actions I say and then they could take turns being the speaker while the class follows them. After a basic vocabulary has been established in a learner’s mind I use scripted role playing as a technique so students can begin gaining experience using the language.
A theory of language learning according to Richards and Rogers (2001) involves figuring out what the psycholinguistic and cognitive aspects are when learning a language and how to create environments that use those aspects. I believe the methods and techniques described above would continue to work until an ESL learner reaches a certain level of communication, and then I believe a shift in the students cognitive aspect occurs. I believe this because it happened to me when I learned Japanese. There is a certain point after many, many hours of rote memorization and role playing where a student stops thinking in Japanese and begins thinking in the target language. Another way to explain this is that a student begins to have the target language pop up in their mind first when prompted by questions or statements instead of their native language which they have to translate into the target language before speaking. I think this reflects Noam Chomsky’s idea of principals and parameters. Once a student is able to activate the switch in parameters naturally then a cognitive shift has occurred so the environment in which the student learns should shift as well. At this stage I believe new methods and techniques that draw from the communicative approaches will be beneficial in guiding a student into a higher level of communicative competence.
At this point content-based and task-based instructions are the two primary methods I would use. Once a student is able to think in the target language content-based and task-based instruction will give the learner experience in using the language they have acquired in different settings with different vocabulary therefore increasing their ability to communicate competently across a wide range of subjects and social settings. For the Japanese native learning English this level of language learning should involve the use of realia or real world materials. Material connecting the student to real life encourages further use of the target language. For example using current news articles is a great resource to connect the learner’s language to real life usage. These are usually the advanced classes at a university.
Bachman, L.F., & Palmer, A.S. (1996). Language Testing in Practice: Designing and Developing Useful Language Tests. Oxford
Canale, M., & Swain, M. “Theoretical bases of communicative approaches to second language teaching and testing.” Applied Linguistics, 1(1), 1980:1-47. Print.
Canale, M., & Swain, M. (1981). A Theoretical Framework for Communicative Competence. In Palmer, A., Groot, P., & Trosper, G. (Eds.), The construct validation of test of communicative competence, 31-36.
Chomsky, Noam. (1995). The Minimalist Program. MIT Press, Cambridge MA
Richards, J. C. & Rogers, T. S. (2001). Approaches and methods in language teaching. New York: Cambridge University Press.