Teaching Philosophy

Kelly Neckels
Teaching Philosophy
One of my primary goals as a foreign language teacher is to help students see the
value of language learning beyond the classroom. In order for successful language learning
to occur, it is important to attend not only to student thinking, but also to affective and
motivational factors. I hope to create a positive classroom environment in which students
feel safe to participate in classroom discussions, take risks, test hypothesis, and even make
mistakes. To increase the motivation of my students, I will use authentic texts as well as a
variety of activities and instructional strategies.
I will take a communicative approach to teaching Spanish, emphasizing student
engagement with the language as well as with other learners. Such collaborative learning
gives students an opportunity to learn from each other, as well as increases the amount of
language practice that can be accomplished in a single class period. Students should see
themselves as a community of learners, striving for communicative competence and the
ability to use the language in meaningful ways. Communicative competence, however, has
multiple components that require different types of activities and instruction. I will seek to
balance time spent practicing new structures and grammatical features and time practicing
procedural fluency, only providing error corrective feedback during speech in the former.
While feedback is essential for student learning, it should not interrupt communication.
Afterwards, however, I will provide students with specific and meaningful feedback that
will help them move towards proficiency.
While speaking is an integral component of communication, I believe that language
proficiency involves the integration of all four modalities: speaking, listening, reading, and
writing. Regardless of the modality, I will bring authentic texts into the classroom to
increase student interest and allow them a window into the target culture. Students at any
level are capable of interacting with and making sense of these texts with proper
preparation and scaffolding. After all, it is the task that determines the difficulty, not the
text. I will carefully choose each activity so that they all work together towards a common
goal or purpose. This is essential for students to see the value in what they are doing, to see
how they could use the language outside of the classroom.
In my classroom, vocabulary will play an integral role in student learning, for
without words, communication is impossible. Learning words in a second language lacks
the level of complexity of learning words in a first language, because the learner does not
have to learn the concept behind the word. Rather, words in the target language are not all
that different from synonyms of existing words in the learner's memory. In addition,
research shows that vocabulary is more resistant to loss than grammar for second language
learners. When teaching vocabulary, I will provide lots of visuals and utilize multimedia
whenever possible. Pictures are easier to remember than words, so this will aid in learning
and retention.
While grammar is also an important for communication, it should be taught within a
context, for grammar is not an end in itself, but rather a means to an end. For this reason, I
will focus on form in my classroom, emphasizing meaning over structure. I will embed
grammatical lessons within a context so that it will be easier for students to make sense of
and remember. I will utilize both deductive and inductive methods of teaching, depending
on the specific grammatical structure. Using the language and testing hypotheses is a great
way for students to learn grammar, though this is different from a traditional approach.
Kelly Neckels
Nevertheless, it is far more important for students to use the language than to just talk
about it, so I will give students lots of opportunities to practice using various structures.
Allowing students to make discoveries and come to their own conclusions about the
language and the grammar gives students a more active role in the learning process.
I will continually assess my students and use the information to adapt and modify
my lesson plans. This is essential to provide my students with the most effective learning
opportunities. Through formative assessment, I can gauge levels of student participation,
knowledge, and proficiency and provide feedback that will help them hone their skills.
When giving summative assessments, I will use a variety of test items. It is essential that
my tests actually assess what was taught and reflect the learning goals of the class. In order
to insure alignment of learning activities and assessments, I will employ the strategy of
backward design. First, I will establish learning goals and objectives. Then I will determine
the best means to assess whether or not students have reached these goals. Lastly, I will
come up with appropriate tasks and activities to prepare students for these assessments.
Assessment allows me to gauge where students are at, which helps me determine what
they most need and what I should do next.
My practice and beliefs as a teacher will always be evolving and changing, as I
continue to learn more about the language, how students learn, and what it means to be an
effective teacher. I will strive to connect my practice with research, and continually reflect
upon and analyze my teaching in order to support student learning to the best of my
abilities. As a Spanish teacher, I hope to impart a passion and appreciation for language to
my students through rich, meaningful tasks and by showing them that they are all capable
of learning another language.