My oldest son was diagnosed with autism in 2011, and did not speak until he was around 4-5 years old. I the process of supporting his journey with occupation and speech therapy I often commented that I felt like I was teaching him how to speak English as a Second Language. I had prior experience; in 1987, my mother was the sponsor her mother, brother and two younger sisters as the immigrated from Vietnam to Europe. My mother, father, two older sisters and I shared a three bedroom home with my grandmother, two aunts, and my uncle for three years while they learned how to speak English and took university entrance exams to enter into nursing and pharmacy school. From the ages 8-11, I was responsible for assisting in the English instruction of my extended family. As I was learning the fundamentals of grammar, and drilling my own spelling words, I helped my family learn as well.
This is why I teach English. I understand the importance of language acquisition, for both young children and adults who relocate to a new country. I strongly feel that in order for students to be capable of acquiring language effectively, they must feel comfortable to take risks and make mistakes. How you correct students is as important as the act of correction itself. I have seen students begin to blossom as they relax, have fun, and participate in the transactional conversation of the lesson rather than awaiting information passively. My fundamental orientation as a teacher is to engage students in the material, facilitate knowledge acquisition and retention, and assist students in achieving their goals in digestible chunks that increase student self-esteem and confidence as they maximize skill mastery.
My teaching style is rooted in the Comprehension Approach (1980), but I also use elements from the Communicative Approach(1980). The Comprehension orientation aligns with my students, as I teach young language learners (grades K-12), and also aligns with my personal philosophy that teaching is as much about performance as it is concerned with transmitting knowledge that is memorable, usable, and durable. I like to incorporate realia, props, and I avoid relying on the student's native language to communicate concepts. This can be very challenging at times, when you have a student who is completely new to English and even learning how to answer the question, "What is your name?" can be difficult.
I tutor students outside of their regular school day and they can often be overwhelmed, tired, or just too saturated with their academic coursework to have the motivation to truly engage with the material. Finding reading material that is engaging and leveraging real-world scenarios that will offer opportunities for students to practice language patterns and dialogues that they can actually use can bridge the gap when I am trying to engage a student but their needs as a learner require a different approach. Students who are more introverted, and older students in the early to late teens, seem to prefer more of the Communicative approach.
Using Role Reversal from the Comprehension approach can help students quickly feel more confidence and mastery over the material, and in this case the teacher must enthusiastically offer praise and positive reinforcement while still making necessary corrections in pronunciation. Additionally, the Affective Humanistic Approach (1970) is an important foundation to my eclectic teaching style because it respects the feelings of students as they learn a language; due to my educational grounding in Psychology, I also try to make sure that students feel very comfortable and at ease with me. I work to make students laugh during class! Learning a language is about taking risks and making mistakes, and children aren't able to work at the edge of their comfort zone unless they are appropriately supported.
I use TPR (total physical response) with broad gestures, props, realia and pictures to identify the words in the target language. I give frequent rewards, and I try to have two reward systems per lesson; the primary reward system is associated with target vocabulary and grammatical forms, and the secondary reward system is used for excellent participation, inventiveness, or just to help motivate students to get through the last few minutes of the lesson when attention spans can fray for young children.
As a teacher, I ascribe to the 80/20 rule; class instruction comprises roughly 20% of our interaction time, but I am focused on getting students to approach 80% output. I teach English language learners as young as 4 years old, and when children don't have the language output skills in their native language yet, the ratio is often closer to 50/50. With those very young learners, I guide the student towards the 80/20 ratio as a goal. For young learners, the goal is to work towards independent practice, but most of the practice is initially done in lessons. According to linguist and educational researcher Dr. Stephen Krashen, young language learners can go through a "silent period" where they are absorbing more information than they can demonstrate with output. While this theory is still debated, some preschool aged children are simply more shy and slower to warm up to new teachers, and they may also be feeling separation anxiety and need more support or the presence of a parent.
My classroom's Language Learning Strategies must take into account that my students are studying English as an extracurricular activity. I tutor them after their school day, or on weekends. My students are either too young to attend school full-time, or they already have a packed schedule. I try to keep tabs on what the students are learning in their school curricula and tie the ESL lessons into themes related to their schooling to help reinforce the math, science, and social studies topics that they study in school. This will not only help reinforce their memory of the material from their academic curricula, but also assists in making new language knowledge more durable and "sticky."
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: University of Florida - Bachelor of Science, Psychology
Graduate Degree: University of Florida - Master of Science, Public Health Education
GRE Verbal: 167