The Most Effective Teaching Methodologies for Online ESL Teaching Mode
For the last two years, I have worked as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) at a Japanese high school. Along with my teaching job, I have volunteered at a weekly English conversation class, where I teach English to both children and adults. Next year, I plan to transition out of my ALT job and into private ESL teaching. It is most likely that I will do most of my teaching online, where I will be one-on-one with a student.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Bailey J. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
In this case, when looking at my experience with teaching English to various ages and studying for my TEFL certificate, what methodologies and techniques that I've learned can I best utilize as I transition into this new teaching environment? First, because I will teach one-on-one lessons rather than an entire classroom like I've been doing until now, some methodologies would be challenging to incorporate—namely, Communicative Language Learning, The Silent Way, and The Lexical Approach. Communicative Language Learning is where the teacher stands outside of students' circle and observes them as they speak freely. The Silent Way is similar in that the teacher says as little as possible as the students "discover" the language. Finally, The Lexical Approach ignores grammar structure in favor of vocabulary and phrases as the student's building blocks for learning the language. While this last option may be good when using a language app like Duolingo, it may lead to issues with an online class due to its proximity to Audio – bilingualism, in that it would require repetition drilling, which, in my experience with my types, is not something to spend too much time on when there are only 45 minutes on the clock.
Going back to the first two methodologies mentioned - Communicative Language Learning and The Silent Way - two methods that would require other students to lead the class; because online courses would consist of the teacher and a single student, these methods would not be beneficial to an online system. In an online course, the teacher must lead, and there must be a foundation.
From my ALT experiences with little to no background in education, I have quickly found that having an organized procedure is the best foundation for teaching.
Before I began my TEFL courses, I had hand-me-down lesson plans from former ALTs and then used them to write out everything I would do and say and the material that needed to be used. This worked splendidly when I taught fewer than 15 people at a time, but I found that as I covered more technical grammar points and was put into larger classrooms, I needed to have more than a general idea of what I needed to do.
From the template lesson plans, I learned that a class procedure almost always includes an introduction, a practice time, and an implementation time; I now know that this methodology is called Presentation, Practice, Production, or PPP. This teaching method is where teachers present the language point, the students then practice the point in a controlled study phase, and then are allowed to implement their new skills creatively. It has become the backbone of my current classes, and since I am used to this methodology, I would like to use PPP in my future online courses.
But would it be wise to implement this method standardly in a one-on-one online English lesson? Due to its lack of flexibility, impotence with higher language levels, and the fact that it's centered more on the teacher, it may not. Flexibility is essential when working one-on-one with a student since the teacher can and should adjust the lesson to the student's language level and comprehension of new subjects. When using PPP with larger classes, these adjustments aren't entirely possible. However, when combined with other methodologies, PPP may still be transferred to an online platform that focuses on one-on-one lessons—for example, creating a lesson plan that incorporates Communicative Language Teaching.
Communicative Language Teaching, or CLT, is a way of teaching that is regularly used in English Conversation settings due to its reliance on language functions instead of grammar. It is a popular method that utilizes role-playing and completing tasks, which is also used in the Task-Based Learning method. Both ways are helpful when making the class environment more comfortable for students, which is a situation I highly value; as a language student myself, I must be relaxed and be allowed to make mistakes because I cannot learn otherwise. Another method that primarily focuses on this is Suggestopaedia, where the teacher-student dynamic becomes more familial. These methodologies are essential for teaching language, and I've seen the lack of comfort in my high school work. For example, it's common for Japanese students to refrain from speaking in class - even when called on - due to the fear of making a mistake and being singled out in the class. Part of this is due to cultural differences and a lack of a comfortable environment when learning English. These students do not feel relaxed in their classrooms, and their retainment of the language suffers because they cannot correctly improve their productive skills. Students being comfortable in a classroom setting is essential, and it will be more significant going into an online environment.
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In conclusion, the following methods would be best utilized for transitioning to an online teaching platform: Task-Based Learning, Suggestopaedia, and Presentation, Practice and Production, in combination with Communicative Language Teaching. Each methodology has its benefits to teaching English and is the strongest candidate for creating online classes with a single student. The Communicative Language Learning, The Silent Way, Audio – bilingualism, and The Lexical Approach would be the least effective methods because they rely on other students and repetition drills, two processes that would not translate well to an online setting.
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