The Year Four. In this essay, I will

The aim of this essay is to analyse my
personal experience teaching Spanish as a native speaker as a practice part of
the module Pedagogy of Modern Foreign Languages in Cardiff University. I had to
teach Spanish to four different groups of people who learn Spanish as a second
language from different levels: Beginners, Advanced, Ex-beginners, and Year Four.
In this essay, I will approach the analysis of my experience through the
exposure of actual situations in our conversation classes, associating it with
the theory we received in the lectures. Some of the problems I encountered
throughout this practice will also be presented together with the solutions we
gave to them.

                During
these few months, I worked along with a partner, making sure we prepared all
our conversation classes previously. One of the most important parts to succeed
is to prepare everything beforehand, even though there is often going to be
much improvisation involved. Preparing our classes before having them allowed
us to give a very fluid class, giving our students a sense of security. To
create a safe environment for the students plays a very important role, since
it provides them the opportunity to learn from mistakes by not being afraid to make
them. Once this sense of security is created, conversations will start to flow
to many different topics, giving way to improvisation.

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                Different
methodical approaches were used based on the needs of each group. While our
first aim for Ex-beginner and Advanced students was to teach them how to
express opinions and to debate, our first aim for Beginner students was to give
them the tools to have usual conversations in Spanish. Our conversation classes
were prepared based on the level of our students, making sure our activities
would be challenging for them, but at the same time we would have to make sure
not to frighten them with activities that would be too demanding for them. “Demand-High
does not mean making things more difficult”, said Jim Scrivener and Adrian
Underhill in one of their articles (Demand more
from students and they will learn more).

Something
I have learned when I attended the classes of peer observation is that students
must get involved in the sessions in order to assimilate the knowledge,
especially when the subject to learn is a language. The process of learning a
language involves practicing as a major part. Once students have received the
information, it is necessary to challenge them and make them show what they
have learned, making sure they fix these new concepts, as Alice and David Kolb
claimed when they assured that one of the most distinguish elements in the
learning process is the action (Learning Styles and Learning Spaces: Enhancing
Experiential Learning in Higher Education. 208). In these classes, I
also learned that there is no need to pressure students to answer right after
they are asked, but it is essential to allow them to reflect about it, and to
respect these moments of silence. Sometimes silence does not mean that they do
not know the answer, since there are some people who need the time to think
before acting. As we saw in the lectures, there are several learning styles
depending on each student: visual, logical, verbal, physical, aural, social,
and solitary (Richards and Rodgers 115, 116). Before learning
this, I used to use the same type of activities without realising that my
students may not succeed because these activities were not personalised for
each of them. The feedback we received from our students also helped us to get
to know what they would prefer to do and how they think they could improve in a
more suitable way. Therefore, we could focus on different things with each
group and guarantee that our students benefit from our conversation classes. At
first, our sessions with students from Beginner level was not flowing correctly
because we tried to focus our classes on making conversations in Spanish when
their level of communication in this language was not developed yet. Consequently,
we changed this method and focused on preparing different activities related to
the vocabulary and grammar they learned involving different learning styles.
One of our activities aimed to teach them how to use comparative and superlative
adjectives, and at the same time, to use vocabulary of clothes, so we brought
some pictures of clothes with different prices for them to compare them and try
to make full sentences.

                Gradually
we could feel more comfortable in our classes and we began to appropriate
certain teaching habits: we found very helpful to explain what our class would
aim and what we would do at the beginning of it in order to give them the
opportunity to remember what they had learned previously, and to organise a few
concepts before starting. We also tried to summarize the key parts of our class
at the end of it to assure that they would assimilate everything, and we would
encourage them to feel comfortable enough to ask any doubts about our
conversation sessions at the end too. My partner and I also learned that
linking different activities with a common vocabulary and grammar adding new
challenges would make them practice them in different situations and help them
to assimilate this new information.

                Something
I have noticed is that students who know more about the grammar of their first
language tend to understand the structure and grammar of the target language
faster than those who do not have acquired this knowledge before. The process
of learning falls on previous concepts that this person would have acquired before
(Malavé 4),
and which would help them to process and understand new ideas such as sentence
structures or verbal tenses. It is very common that students from United Kingdom
have little knowledge about English grammar, so when they start to learn a
second language they would have to start from more basic concepts. In one of
our conversation groups, we had one student from Italy who have studied grammar
before, and therefore, she would find easier to understand the structure of
Spanish language, while students from United Kingdom would have to spend more
time to obtain these notions.

                In
conclusion, this module has provided me the opportunity to experience real situations
in a professional environment related to education, and I have learned how to
approach to students of different levels and different learning styles. Something
I have realized once I have finished this experience is that someone who works
as a teacher never stop learning how to be one, because each group requires
something different and a teacher always needs to keep evolving and learning
new styles. For me, a good teacher is not someone who has a bigger amount of
information about a subject, but one who knows how to work with people, how to
treat them correctly, and show enthusiasm even if the situation would not allow
them to enjoy it fully.

WORKS CITED

Kolb, Alice Y. and David A. Kolb. “Learning Styles and
Learning Spaces: Enhancing Experiential Learning in Higher Education.” Academy of Management Learning & Education (2005): 193-212.

Malavé, Lilliam.
“Fundamentos Cognoscitivos: La Enseñanza del Inglés Como Segundo Idioma
Mediante un Enfoque Multidisciplinario.” NYSABE Journal (1996).

Richards, Jack C. and
Theodore S. Rodgers. “Multiple Intelligences.” Davis, Katie, et al. Approaches
and Methods in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
2001. 115–124.

Scrivener, Jim and Adrian
Underhill. “Demand more from students and they will learn more.” The
Guardian 16 October 2012.