A reflection of my learning experiences in my teaching approaches

Miss Education

As a teacher, I only wish that I can teach my second language students everything there is to know about English in the little time I have with them throughout the year. But, as Mougeon et al. (2010) research findings state, there is only so much that can be learned about a language (or a vernacular) in a controlled setting like a classroom, and that notions about a language are also taught in other settings such as public environments (the shopping mall, the park, etc.) (Van Herk, G., p. 183).

As I reflect on my experience as a student learning French as a third language, I feel that I did most of learning “to speak” French outside the classroom while spending time with my friends at birthday parties or other social events. I believe that these outings are what helped me learn to speak French fluently today and enable me to engage in meaningful conversations with others. In French class, I recall having to do oral presentations or debates that were very structured, and usually pre-written (and for the most part learned by heart). The interactions between me and the rest of my classmates were more “unnatural” than “natural”, thus limiting my opportunities to engage in “realistic” conversations. As a result, they were not really helping me in speaking (it was more like reciting). This is why I feel that a lot of my learning to speak French has happened outside of my academic environments and I agree with the research findings mentioned above.

Also, this experience is the result of me trying to maximize my students’ abilities to practice speaking English by engaging them in group activities like role plays. I often try to put them in scenarios that are more “realistic”. However, my teaching methods do vary and I do often find my inner mentalist emerging when teaching things like grammar. Here’s why I am a little mainstream when it comes to the rules of grammar:

As a learner of various languages, I found it helpful (and interesting) comparing how languages function (rules, constraints). I made notes of what I can apply to all three languages and what I couldn’t, and that helped me immensely with acquisition of French. My grades went up, in particular in writing (I believe because I had more time to review my work, rather than in speaking). So now, whenever I present my students with a grammatical notion in English, I let them know if the rule is similar to one used in French or totally different. I believe the more competent the speaker, the better chances they have at being performant.

To sum up this blog post, I would like to express how important I think our job is, as second or third language teachers, to try and encourage our students to take part in extracurricular activities, or even summer camp, in different social communities (in this case Anglophone) so that our students’ social networks become less multiplex, hence providing them with more opportunities to learn their second language. Anybody else feel the same way? How do you encourage your students to practice English outside the classroom (What activities do you promote?)? My father felt that the best way my siblings and I can learn French was by taking us to his restaurant in a French Northern suburb where we would have no choice but the speak French to be understood… and that’s what we did for many of our weekends and holidays during our adolescent years.

 

 

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “A reflection of my learning experiences in my teaching approaches”

  1. Cynota
    Opportunities for French students learning English outside the classroom are hard to find, especially if the students live in a community where little English is spoken. I have taught outside the city where this was the case. The only options were movies, television and the internet. Most of my students learn English outside the classroom through online gaming. It seems to work as they use functional language to learn how to play, and many idiomatic expressions within the gaming narratives. It is not quite a natural exchange but close enough.

    My son went to bilingual school, learning French as a second language. He was on a mainly French hockey team, and took swimming lessons in French. Many French parents encouraged their sons to join the Boy Scouts at an English church, hoping for them to learn English. However, the English boys spoke better French, and the French boys hardly spoke English, the troop defaulted to French and the parents were disappointed.

    Like

    1. I agree with you that not all students have the same opportunities to engage in different activities that will help them learn a second language or a foreign one, particularly if that means changing environments completely. Watching movies or playing online games in English are some of many other ways I encourage my students to keep practicing their various skills in ESL. I have also taught in very “low income” schools and many of my students did not have Internet at home or let alone a computer. I just want to clarify that, I believe that one of the roles we have as teachers is to inform our students, and their parents, about the various ways they can practice a language and if need be, we can help them out by contacting the city’s library or after school programs that are sometimes even free.

      Like

      1. Miss Education says:
        I agree with you that not all students have the same opportunities to engage in different activities that will help them learn a second language or a foreign one, particularly if that means changing environments completely. Watching movies or playing online games in English are some of many other ways I encourage my students to keep practicing their various skills in ESL. I have also taught in very “low income” schools and many of my students did not have Internet at home or let alone a computer. I just want to clarify that, I believe that one of the roles we have as teachers is to inform our students, and their parents, about the various ways they can practice a language and if need be, we can help them out by contacting the city’s library or after school programs that are sometimes even free

        Like

  2. Dean Garlick

    Yes, I agree absolutely with what you’re saying here. By far the best way to improve speaking and listening seems to be in the meaningful engagement with native speakers outside of the classroom, in those situations where you are authentically aiming to achieve an immediate goal, even if that may be simply getting your point across in a conversation at a party! Classroom role-play situations approach this kind of authenticity and spontaneity, yet they’re still somehow lacking, as the frame is always artificial, and your interlocutors are generally also learning the language. To add an anecdote to this, I was taking intensive French classes here in Montreal and had reached the low-intermediate level. I was feeling pretty good about my ability to communicate in French in the classroom when one day there came a knock at my door. Standing there was a construction worker asking me….something. I couldn’t understand a word he was saying. Not a single syllable. I could only nod in agreement. In the end had to get a latino co-worker to explain the issue to me because his English was as lacking as my French. You can say what you will about some of the more intense varieties of Quebecois French, but it really did make me realize that I needed to speak to more people OUTSIDE of class if I really wanted to attain communicative competence here.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s