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Mariah Jessen

ESL 6963

Final Reflection

During the last two and a half years studying Teaching English as a Second Language

(TESL) at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), I have started to develop a

foundation off which I will and have tried to create my approach to teaching English language

learners (ELLs). I have found that combining multiple approaches may be the best way to serve

the diverse needs of my students in most classroom settings. These approaches include elements

from communicative language learning, task-based learning, and whole language. Language

learning, whether it is in a grammar classroom, writing classroom, or other classroom, should

draw on aspects of the importance of interaction which includes Canale & Swain’s (1980) further

developed model of Hyme’s (1978) concepts of communicative competence as well as working

within students’ Zones of Proximal Development (ZPD) and remembering the importance of

scaffolding appropriately (Brown & Lee, 2015, p. 79-80; Mitchell, Myles, & Marsden, 2013).

As I approached writing my 7 lesson plans for the accelerated 13 week session for a 1A

Grammar class I helped teach at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), I

kept the previous approaches to teaching in mind. Something I struggled with was finding ways

to make grammar learning interactive and engaging without falling into a routine of doing the

same things over and over again. An example of falling into these kinds of routines could have

been observed when I would do read alouds using the text books reading. I would always either

have the students take turns reading out loud or I would read it to them followed by inquiry to

determine their level of understanding of the content. One way that I could have improved this

protocol would have been to use group activities that asked them comprehension questions. The

problem with trying to do such an approach in this setting was this class was a fast paced class in
Mariah Jessen
ESL 6963

order to meet all the objectives laid out by UNAM for that course. They met 3 days a week and

they were learning up to 5 different kinds or aspects of grammar which did not leave much time

to spend on each one; Therefore, the focus was on trying to insure they understood and could

apply the grammar in order to pass the end of semester test. If I were to work for UNAM, I

would take time to discuss the structure of the class and objectives with the director to try and

better serve my students the next time I would: (1) focus more on the grammar that will be on

their exit exams for that level; and (2) focus on the grammar, whole language wise, that would be

more important as they move forward. One way that I succeeded in making grammar learning

more engaging was by using the multiple choice and unscramble the sentence games on Kahoot!

The students loved this activity and it took the pressure off of them as individuals as we weren’t

sure who was saying what until after each round.

Normally, when teaching grammar, I prefer to take the inductive approach to teaching;

however, with such a low level class and with the time constraints, I found it was better to use

the deductive approach when first presenting it (Thornbury, 1999, p. 29). Thornbury (1999)

states that two of the advantages of using a deductive approach is “it gets straight to the point and

can therefore be time saving...this will allow more time for practice and application,” and “it

respects the intelligence and maturity of many -- especially adult -- students” (p. 30). With this in

mind, after the students had learned the rule(s) and were working on homework, if they got stuck

or applied a rule wrong, I would try to elicit the correct response by taking the inductive

approach. In my video self-evaluation of this class, you will see an example of me trying to

achieve this while helping a student revise sentences for a project-based learning exercise I

assigned. The issue at hand was the improper use of the preposition “in” when she needed “at.”
Mariah Jessen
ESL 6963

Instead of directly telling her how to correct this error, I questioned her choice by using “in

correctly and then asked which one we should use for this context. She was able to come to the

correct preposition, “on,” without further help. The greatest problem I had with taking an

inductive approach was that it became a “teacher fronted, transmission-style classroom”

(Thornbury, 1999, p. 30) instead of a “teacher as co-learner” classroom that I would have

preferred to see (Richards & Rogers, 2014, p. 107). I hope to continue to try and find ways to

make grammar learning, even at lower levels, less teacher fronted and more of a co-learner

environment.

The project that I assigned my students was probably the best example and aligned the

best with my approaches and goals for teaching. For this assignment, the students were to write

four questions about either a holiday or activity using the present progressive. In retrospect, this

activity would have been better reserved for using the future progressive which was covered the

following week. Once they had written the sentences (it was assigned as homework) they were to

bring them to class for me to check for any major grammar issues. After their sentences were

approved, they were then to record their questions using either powerpoint or some other media

and then present it to the class the following Monday. The purpose of recording them asking the

questions in advance was that many of the students appeared to have high affective filters when

speaking and this allowed them to be in front of the class without having to feel overwhelmed

with trying to produce the language. I found that by allowing this, they spoke not only to respond

to the questions, but to ask comprehension questions and even try and make jokes. By allowing

them to record their questions, it seemed to led to a more authentic use of language than had I

made them strictly stick to the norms of a standard presentation.


Mariah Jessen
ESL 6963

Overall, teaching the 1A grammar course has taught me that I still have a lot to learn

when it comes to creating lesson plans and enacting them in class. I do feel that I could have

better prepared for teaching this class had I been responsible for teaching the whole class and

could have discussed any questions or issues with the director of the program. One of the

greatest problems I found was that only half of the grammar we had rushed to try and teach our

students was actually tested on the exit exam. Had I known in advance what was present on the

exam, I would have managed my class time and activities better.


Mariah Jessen
ESL 6963

References

Brown, H. Douglas and Lee, Heekyeong. (2015). ​Teaching by principles: An interactive

approach to language pedagogy​. (4th ed.). White Plains, NY: Pearson Education.

Mitchell, R., Myles, F., & Marsden, E. (2013). ​Second language learning theories​ (3rd ed.).

Florence: Taylor and Francis.

Richards, Jack C, and Rodgers, Theodore S. (2014).​ Approaches and methods in language

teaching.​ (3rd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Thornbury, S. (2000). ​How to teach grammar​. Essex, England: Longman.