It's not easy to be a Teacher

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Teaching a language is teaching to know the world, someone said. There are different approaches that help teachers to be updated with the last researches in the linguistic area.

Most of us recognize that communicative activities are great opportunities for learning. But what goes into making a communicative activity a success? The truth is, the success of communicative activities is almost always determined by careful planning of the lessons that the teacher does before the students begin the class.

To teach English from a communicative approach means that the students can use the language in real, meaningful situations with genuine exchanges of information by interacting with their partners. The main implications of this approach are the tasks and functions because the teacher has to offer purposeful tasks in meaningful contexts that show the language as it is used in the world outside the classroom; that's to say to teach what the students can do with the language they are learning.

Does this mean that we don't have to teach grammar any more?

Absolutely not. As teachers, we have to develop a conscious-raising approach which integrates the holistic aspects of language, and we should provide our students with opportunities to be aware of the differences in the language by evaluating, selecting and making adaptations of tasks in the materials.

On the other hand, a project-based approach integrates the four language skills. It is necessary to set up previous work by activating students' schemata. This type of approach offers the opportunity of recycling and consolidating language learnt at previous stages, most of all when it is carried out to round up a unit. Developing students' skills through project work has a great advantage because students use the language as a means, not as an end in itself. They realize that they need more tools in order to use the language in an authentic context and that's a great opportunity to provide them with the vocabulary or structures they demand. A project-based approach fosters collaborative work and other interpersonal skills as the students work in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. But all the positive features of this approach have to be framed within the learners' interest and needs, otherwise it would be useless and highly time consuming.

The content-based approach integrates language and content. It is easy to find a link between the approach and the concerns of the socio-cultural theory. English can be taught from any subject content of the curriculum which allows the students to become aware of the integration of the learning process at school. This integration can only be conceived by the articulation of contents and the responsible engagement of the teachers.

Finally it should be stated that extreme decisions are not good; there must be a balance between the different approaches to teaching English because all of them pave the way for autonomous learning. We, as teachers of English, must be aware of all the different strategies and methods we can count on to help our students reach the main goal of learning a language: to communicate effectively, that's to say "to use" the language rather than "to know" it.

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