Fundamental Principles for Language Teaching
No matter what language skill a teacher is targeting, there are certain basic principles that should govern the teaching of EFL in language classes. The principles that are dealt with in this article should be taken into consideration throughout the process of materials preparation to the actual teaching and implementation of the syllabus in the classroom.
The principles are based on the theories of learning, mainly the constructivist theory, the current approaches and methods to language teaching and the currently adopted principles of syllabus design and materials development.
Variety in the teaching approach is a prerequisite for successful teaching in language classes. By approaching the tasks and the activities differently, the teacher ensures that he/she’s meeting the needs of the different learner styles within the class. Having said this, all teaching should be within the communicative (in the broadest sense of communicative) sphere; that is to say, no matter what method you adopt as a teacher, the learners should aim towards the use of the target structure or function or skill in authentic real-life situations.
Whatever the approach is, teaching should lead the learners towards the ultimate use of the target structure, function, and notion or vocabulary item for meaningful and authentic communicative purposes. For this reason, specifying the target competencies for any lesson should be in the form of performance outcomes like ‘by the end of this lesson, students should be able to express/ ask for/ use/ say/ etc…’. Focus should also be on equipping the learners with real-life competencies such as ‘finding relevant information’, ‘delivering an effective presentation’, ‘compensating for lack of a word in an interaction’…
Having said (in different contexts) that the teaching of grammar and language functions should be text-based, the teacher’s role in the teaching of these two components should be that of a facilitator. The teacher should plan text-based lessons and guide the learners to notice the target structure/functions in the text. Then, the learners discover both the form(s) and the use(s) of the target structure/function. Adopting a discovery-based approach to the teaching of language enhances the learners’ autonomous learning, and trains them to, independently, understand the unfamiliar language in its further real-life situations.
All the content that is embedded within the lesson should be theme-related. The theme is at the center of all the skills. Therefore, whatever skill the teacher is dealing with should evolve around the same theme. In addition to the reading/listening texts, the grammar and functions lessons should also start from theme-based authentic materials. The topics that are to be dealt with in writing tasks should be theme-centered as well.
|CONNECT TO OTHER DESCIPLINES/CULTURES:
Linking the teaching of English to other disciplines/cultures enhances both language learning and cultural awareness. By linking English to other subject matters, you tap on the learner’s already existing schemata. This facilitates further learning, and boosts the learner’s confidence to use English by talking about subjects/topics they already know. It is also necessary to link language teaching to other aspects of local or global cultures. This brings language to the heart of real-life communication.
Teaching reading, listening and writing should move from testing-like classes towards a more focus on strategy training. Teachers are invited to raise the learners’ awareness to the type of strategy which is appropriate for the target sub-skill. It is recommended that teachers talk about strategies explicitly, model them, and subsequently ask the learners to practice their use. Each reading/listening or writing lesson should focus on the practice of one or two strategies at a time.