No single teaching method suits all students. Shane English Schools worldwide use a variety of teaching methods depending on a number of factors. Teachers can choose the best techniques based on students age, level, course material, and location.
The Eclectic Approach of Language Learning
Shane English Schools’ Rising Stars book uses a combination of multiple teaching methods.
The eclectic approach is noteworthy for being incredibly flexible to the needs of its students. Shane English School recognises that one style does not suit all students, especially at younger ages when students are still unused to classroom routines and etiquette.
Therefore, the Very Young Learners programs at Shane English Schools are designed to be responsive to the needs of both full classes and individual learners. And though teachers will have the ability to adjust a curriculum to their classes’ needs, Shane English Schools programs for Very Young Learners focus on three main topics to teach English in a variety of contexts.
With an early focus on rudimentary reading, writing, speaking, and listening, Shane English Schools lay the groundwork for more structured language learning in the future.
Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) is a common method of teaching a language in the context of another subject. Teaching other subjects like maths in English gives students a useful context in which to use their language without the formality of structure language lessons.
Shane English School’s approach educates the whole child in more than just the English language. Its Character Education elements instil good manners, respect, and emotional growth. Like CLIL, the character education elements provide another context in which to apply students’ recently learned language.
Eclectic Approach at Shane English School
The Rising Stars series of textbooks uses a variety of different teaching techniques: we don’t say that there is one best method to teach very young children because we know every child is different! Instead we teach a variety of lessons in a variety of ways. This means that our lessons are fresh and interesting, and we appeal to every student. All our teachers are trained to continually assess the progress of every student and we will find the way to teach that most benefits your child.
In the target language lesson, we concentrate on the meaning, form and pronunciation of that lesson’s vocabulary and grammar. We will introduce the meaning in a variety of ways, according to what the words are. We might use visuals like flashcards, we might use mime to demonstrate actions or emotions and we present a situation when we teach the character education lessons. The key thing is that we present the words in a way that is interesting to, and makes sense for, the children. We don’t just show the children the meaning, we check they understand and only when they understand the meaning of what they are saying do we work on their pronunciation.
When we teach children grammar, and especially when we invite them to speak freely and spontaneously, they make mistakes- that is natural. If we don’t invite them to speak freely they will never master using English, they will only be able to copy after the teacher. When the children do make mistakes, we simply show them the right way to say what they want. When they do use the correct words, we praise them and reinforce their learning.
In this lesson we want the children to apply the learning from the previous lesson. The illustration in the textbook gives us lots of chance to talk using the target language and we can also use picture books, songs, realia, mime and flashcards, as appropriate. We encourage our teachers to introduce variety into their lessons to appeal to all their students.
In this lesson we want the students to personalize their language. We don’t just talk about what food the character in the books likes, or what abilities the animals in the picture have, we help the children talk about themselves. At first, that might just be a one-word answer to our question and then we show them how to give the full answer. After they have heard the question many times, the children will be ready to ask each other. Again, that might only be one-word “Cake?”, instead of “Do you like cake?” We help the children with the correct form and when they use it, praise them. Soon, all the children can use all the target language.
To teach phonics we use an 8-step method which starts with the children reviewing known phonics. We then help them listen and identify the initial sound in a common word. We let the children listen because we want them to understand the sound for themselves- children who can distinguish sounds go on to become better readers. After the children pick out the sound, we practice it. When the children are practising, the teacher is making sure that each student’s mouth movements are correct to make the desired sound. Only when the children can say the sound correctly do we introduce the written form and we blend the new sound with known phonics. We let the children play a game or do a fun activity that incorporates the new sound and then move onto the bookwork. By teaching each sound in this way we build upon the children’s existing knowledge so that they can apply it to new forms. By looking, listening and playing. we appeal to all learning styles and create an effective phonics lesson.
When we teach the writing lesson we don’t just tell the children to open to the writing page and leave them to get on with it. Instead, we demonstrate for the children what they should do on the board. As we demonstrate, we also maintain a dialogue with the children about what we are doing and how they should complete the activity. That means the children have to listen to instructions, which is an important learning opportunity. As we maintain a dialogue with the children, the demonstration becomes the basis for a meaningful conversation with the children, encouraging them to use their language spontaneously.
When the children’s level develops, we rely less on visual and more on verbal instructions. This requires greater listening skill from the children. We also help the children to do the activity with an increasing amount of English interaction. We teach them vocabulary like page, pencil and eraser. We teach them structure like “Pass me the__” and “Please may I have a__”. In this way, the writing activity becomes the focus of a lot of important language study.
The maths lesson is an example of English language teaching done using the increasingly popular CLIL style of teaching. CLIL refers to Content and Language Integrated Learning. As the name implies, when we teach CLIL we are teaching two subjects at once- in this case English and maths. As the children are already naturally beginning to be interested in maths, this is an ideal subject to use for CLIL in our lessons.
In the maths lesson, we teach the children at 3 levels of understanding. The first level is to use concrete objects- pens, pencils, books. The second level is to use representations, such as drawings of the items. Finally, the third level of understanding is the abstract form such as the numbers and mathematical symbols. As we talk about each level of understanding we introduce the children to more (and more demanding) maths vocabulary, while also supporting their learning at a level appropriate to their development. We then recycle the maths vocabulary throughout our lessons: “How many pandas are there on page 27?”, “What shape are the flowers?”
In future lessons, we remind the children to use the correct language in the appropriate situation. When they begin to use the language independently we praise them and so reinforce their language development. The character education lessons demonstrate the kind of behaviour we want in our classes, allowing for effective learning in a pleasant atmosphere. They also give the children language they can use again and again, helping them communicate from their first days of learning English.
The PPP Method of Language Learning
Shane English School’s SPEC series is based on the PPP Method.
In Shane English School’s curriculum, teachers introduce students to a natural, easily-understandable situation which demonstrates the target language in use.
Each presentation includes one grammar point.
Teachers help students understand the meaning, structure, and pronunciation of the target language.
Students practise the new grammar.
Drilling helps the students develop accuracy with structure and pronunciation.
Using the target language in a game reinforces understanding. It helps with fluency and confidence, and it’s fun and motivating for students.
Student-centred use of language
The production phase helps the students use the new language in a
Shane English School uses games, interviews, role-play, quizzes and speeches in this part of the learning process. It brings the language to life and makes learning fun.
PPP Method at Shane English School
Our SPEC courses are for children aged 7-12. For students aged 7-10 we always use the PPP method. The PPP method is the most popular English language teaching method in the world and is taught in all teacher training courses. We use the PPP method because it has many advantages for children this age.
In each SPEC lesson we teach the meaning, form, pronunciation and use of 1 grammar point (the target language). The children practice the same structure intensively in a variety of games as well as in reading and writing activities. This allows the children to achieve complete mastery of that target language in all 4 skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing). Finally, when the children are able to use the grammar point fluently and with confidence, we integrate their new language with language the children have previously studied. That allows the children to build sequentially on their knowledge, without ever overwhelming them.
There are significant advantages to using the PPP method for 7-to-10-year-olds.
- Learn the language in manageable chunks. This is reassuring for the children.
- Intensive practice promotes fluency and confident use. Allows the children to use the language in a relaxed and non-robotic way.
- Focus on accurate grammar and pronunciation. Makes sure children can use the language correctly, as well as fluently.
- Learn the language in the natural order (listening, speaking, reading, writing). This is the order in which children learn most easily.
- SPEC lessons promote development of all 4 language skills, as well as vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation.
- Lots of opportunity to use fun games and interesting activities in the lesson- this motivates the students.
- Easy for the children and their parents to see progress. This makes it easy for the children to understand why they are studying and enjoy their lessons.
- Ongoing formal and informal assessment. Encourages the students to study hard outside of class.
In the presentation phase, we show the students the new vocabulary and grammar. We can do this in various ways- through visuals, acting and mime, description, realia or role-play. Doing the presentation all in English helps the students practice their listening and understanding in English.
After we have presented the new language we check that the students understand the meaning. As we present the same language point multiple times, we gradually help the students understand more and more about each grammar point. This is key to students’ ability to remember and use the language in future.
In free practice, we use a game or activity. This allows the students to use the language in a fun, meaningful and motivating way. The teacher will not tell the students what to say- this is the students’ choice. As the children interact together, the teacher checks how the students use the language. When children make mistakes, we help them to say what they want in the correct language. We help the students to use the language independently and spontaneously in conversation.
In the Production phase, we can use a lot of different games and activities. We might use language learning games, guessing games and puzzles, quizzes, speeches and presentations, interviews, drama or surveys. The activity will be chosen to allow the children to use the language point in a natural, everyday context.
In the free practice, we only use the target language, in the production the children can use any of their known language. This helps students to consolidate their new language with language they have previously studied. This is vital for the children to progress from basic question-and-answer patterns to using their language communicatively in real-life situations.
In the first half of the lesson, the students listen to and speak the target language. In the second half, we move onto reading and writing. We start with the SPEC textbook and listen and read dialogues that practice the target language. This helps the children to associate the language they are listening to with the written form. Written forms in English do not correspond to how we say words, so we need to explicitly teach our students to do this.
From SPEC 4 we look at longer reading passages, which use less repetition of the target language and more consolidation of previous learning. We also teach the students how to write longer passages, enabling them to write letters, emails, postcards and diaries. So much of communication is now done on the internet that it is vital our students can read and write fluently and accurately in English. Being able to do so gives our students economic, social and educational benefits which will serve them well in the future.
The ESA Method of Language Learning
The ESA Method is a useful tool in teaching high-level concepts to more advanced students with the EXCEL series.
In the engage stage, we generate students’ interest and retrieve prior knowledge. Every student will have a chance to speak in an activity that relates the day’s topic to them.
Activities could include discussion, compare-and-contrast exercises, brainstorming, discussions, and more.
Learning through discovery
The teacher elicits known language or presents unknown language to the students.
With high level classes, we may introduce the language in a text
such as a story, newspaper article or letter.
Use the language
In the activate phase, we do a variety of activities which allow students to explore and use their new language.
Students might do role-plays, write quizzes, or play games. As they advance in level, they will make presentations, make radio or TV programs, have debates, etc. Writing activities could include letters, stories, or book reviews.
The teacher watches the students use the language. When there are problems we can do another study phase.
ESA at Shane English School
We introduce the ESA method with our higher-level SPEC lessons initially, and every Excel lesson is based on the ESA method. As with our other methods, ESA is widely-used in the world of English teaching and has demonstrable benefits for students who are moving from elementary to intermediate levels. With the ESA method, we structure lessons to replicate the way in which languages are naturally learnt. This means the ESA method has these advantages for pre-intermediate/ intermediate level students.
Though the ESA Method isn’t ideal for all ages and ability levels, when appropriate it has a number of advantages:
- Greater use of students’ prior knowledge. This helps students remember and use their previously learnt language as well as providing a starting point for their new study.
- Teaching contents are decided after assessing what students already know (and what they still need to know). Teaching is aimed precisely at students’ needs.
- Students discover what they need to learn before we teach it. This gives them a reason to learn and use the new language.
- More emphasis on learning by discovery. Students think about and learn new grammar and vocabulary themselves. This requires more effort from the students and results in longer-lasting, more stable learning.
- More exposure to longer spoken and written texts. This supports students to move away from a more childish question + answer pattern of discourse.
- Greater variety in the lessons- not stuck to a rigid structure. This keeps the lessons fresh and exciting for the students.
- A more “adult” learning atmosphere. This appeals to the students’ growing maturity and cognitive abilities.
In the Engage stage, we use activities to help the students warm-up before the major learning effort of the lesson. This means that every student will get the chance to speak in an interactive activity. We will use an activity that builds interest in the topic of the lesson. If the students are not interested, they won’t learn, so this is important! We also use activities that allow students to refer back to their prior learning, where possible. This keeps vocabulary and grammar that the students may have looked at a long time ago fresh in their mind.
There are any number of activities we can use at this stage. Some of the more common activities are language games, discussions, questionnaires, ranking exercises, brainstorming, etc.
The study stage consists of several distinct activities.
Activity 1: Elicit/ Present
In the first activity, the teacher elicits from the students what they know about the lesson’s language point. The teacher will discuss this information with the class and make sure everyone understands. After eliciting, the teacher will present any new information that the students need to know. Again, while presenting, the teacher will check on the students understanding.
The teacher ensures that students understand meaning, form and pronunciation, as with our SPEC lessons. With our higher-level students, the teacher also demonstrates connotation and colligation- is the word positive? What grammatical patterns does the word fit in? As well as helping the students understand that particular lesson’s language point, this phase prompts the students to think about English and enables them to discuss new and unknown language. These abilities are vital if the students are to continue to develop their linguistic abilities.
Activity 2: Record
In this activity, the students record the previous elicitation/ presentation phase in their notebooks. We do this phase because the active effort involved in the recording helps the students to memorize. It also enables the students to make their own personalized learning record. As well as being a useful learning tool, this is a good way to track progress and increase motivation.
Activity 3: Controlled Practice
In the next activity, the students do some kind of language work that is focused on the lesson’s main language target. Students at this age can read better and the activity will involve some kind of written work. Obviously, that means the students practice their reading and writing, but, more importantly, allows them to work quietly to build their understanding of the target language. At this point the teacher is helping students individually, targeting each student’s needs.
In the activate stage, we do an activity that enables the students to use their new language in context. This may involve activities that are similar to the production activity in a SPEC lesson.
However, as the students level and age progresses, the range of activities that we can do with them increases. Some example activities are presentations, speeches, interviews, surveys, information gaps, games (including language games), quizzes, role-plays, debates; make TV programs/ podcasts/ cartoons/ posters/ brochures; write letters, emails, stories, book reviews, restaurant reviews.
Basically, any activity which involves the students using the target language in an everyday context is suitable for the activate stage. This will naturally mean that the students use their new language with their known language and helps them to consolidate the day’s learning. The vast array of possible activities means that there is something to appeal to every student and the lessons are always fresh.
Sometimes in an ESA lesson, we mix the order up. Maybe we will teach in this order: Engage, Activate, Study, Activate. Why do we do this?
Firstly, our students have now been studying for a long time. Anything that we can do to keep the lessons fresh and interesting is valuable to provide variety.
More importantly, when students do an Activate stage before they Study, they can see for themselves where the gaps in their language knowledge are. They know what they want to say but can’t with their existing linguistic resources. This targets their learning very directly and gives them a reason to do the Study stage because they know what they need to learn.