What makes a good teacher?
Peter Viney, 2006
After years of lesson observation, I have realized that there are an infinite number of ways of being “a good teacher.” The question isn’t what makes a good teacher, but what makes a good teacher FOR YOU. Let’s try a little test. It will help show you what YOU think a good teacher is. Look at the following text, which is in authentic English :
I remember an episode, some years ago, when I was in Italy with a group of English friends, and we were driving round one of those seaside towns on the Adriatic coast, looking for a restaurant. Eventually we found a policeman, so we stopped and asked him for directions. The policeman decided that, instead of giving us directions, he would accompany us to the restaurant, so I climbed into the back seat, he got into the passenger seat, and we set off. At the end of the street we came to a set of traffic lights, which were red. Naturally, our driver came to a halt, waiting for the lights to turn green. At this point the policeman turned to the driver, removed his Ray-ban sunglasses, and, with obvious bewilderment, asked him what he thought he was doing. By way of explanation, the driver pointed at the red traffic light. The policeman made a series of dismissive gestures, replaced his glasses and said ‘Nonsense! If everybody behaved like this the traffic would come to a complete stand-still. Move on! Avanti !’
From Handshake Workbook (Peter Viney & Karen Viney, OUP, 1996)
Imagine you’re going to teach it tomorrow. Here is a list of possible things you could do with it. First check (√) the activities that you would use. Then put them in a teaching sequence.
There’s no correct answer, and no one could do even half of them in a lesson, but your choices reveal how YOU would like to be taught as well as how you like to teach.
– Preview vocabulary (bewilderment, gesture, stand-still, dismissive etc)
– Let students deduce the vocabulary before you explain it
– Preview cultural aspects (Where is the Adriatic? )
– Have students read the text silently
– Have students close books, and listen to a recording first
– Have students follow the text while listening to a recording
– Discuss minor laws in different countries
– Discuss attitudes to breaking minor laws (such as parking regulations).
– Explain difficult words
– Translate difficult words
– Refer students to a monolingual dictionary
– Let students use a bilingual dictionary
– Have students repeat key sentences
– Have students repeat the whole text
– Explain grammar points
– Do grammar exercises based on the text
– Do oral drills on key sentences
– Role play the meeting with the policeman
– Copy examples from the board
– Dictate sentences from the text
– Choose a student to read it aloud
– Read it aloud yourself
– Ask true / false questions
– Ask comprehension questions
– Do a gap-fill on a copy of the text
– Students underline difficult words and compare with a partner
– Do a word map for driving vocabulary on the board
– Point out collocations (set of traffic lights, group of friends)
– Practise pronunciation of key sentences
– Ignore the text, but tell the gist of the story in your own words instead, pretending that this happened to you
– Have students ask you questions about the story
– Have students retell the story around the class
– Retell the story orally with deliberate mistakes which they have to correct
– Retell the story with pauses for students to fill in the correct word
– Rewrite the story in simplified English and use your graded version instead
– Ask students to tell you about an incident when they were lost
So, how controlling are you? How much teacher-talking time is there? How much student interaction is there? Is your lesson biased towards accuracy or fluency? At the end of the lesson, would you expect students to have understood every word? Or would you be happy if they knew the gist and could discuss the issues?
By exploring YOUR reaction to the long list of activities, you can work out how you like to be taught. Then you can look at the other possibilities and see whether your mind is closed to them.