At STAR Exeter, teaching is based on communicative principles. Teachers take account of students’ backgrounds, needs, learning styles, strengths and weaknesses. A variety of approaches are employed, ranging from more formal structured activities to freer task-based exercises. A big proportion of class time is devoted to genuine communication. Students are valued for the knowledge and experience they bring, and are encouraged to share this with each other, supported by the teacher. We find this is the key to building students’ confidence in communicating in English.
Morning classes follow a recognised course book of the appropriate level. Supplementary materials are taken from a wide variety of sources, including authentic listening texts, newspapers and videos, so that each student’s interests and needs are catered for.
Skills work is also an important part of the curriculum, giving students a balance between learning grammar and vocabulary, and practising the skills of listening, speaking (including pronunciation), reading and writing. Independent learning is encouraged, and students are given advice on how to continue their learning at home, when they are out and about in Exeter, and when they return to their own country. Homework is set regularly, checked by the teacher and remedial work is given if necessary.
Each student has an Individual Learning Plan. Through weekly tutorials, the student is guided in the areas he/she needs to focus on, and the teacher can adjust the syllabus according to individual interests and requirements.
Afternoon Communication classes
The afternoon lessons complement the morning General English course by providing an opportunity for students to activate their language, with output, rather than input, being emphasized. The syllabus is therefore topic-based, focussing on real-life communication and transactional English.
Students have a direct input in the choice of topics for the afternoon lessons. We have a wide variety of specialised material at all levels, which teachers use to build lessons around. Vocabulary exercises, reading texts, and listenings are used as springboards for further work. Errors are corrected as students speak, and teachers often highlight areas of difficulty, in order for more in-depth practice. Afternoon classes are also ideal for focussing on pronunciation.
IELTS Exam Preparation classes
Students work to gain competence in all four study skills (Speaking, Listening, Reading, Writing) to obtain the result/score they need. Students develop strategies to carry out IELTS tasks in class and be prepared for the exam conditions in the near future. Lessons ensure that students have the necessary language to successfully deal with the exam components, and practice strategies needed to cope with the exam questions: integrated grammar, vocabulary, spelling and pronunciation. Teachers build students’ confidence in their abilities and sustain their motivation, and give students feedback on the progress of their learning in the form of weekly mock tests. A variety of resources are used in lessons, both IELTS-specific publications and authentic materials from newspapers and journals.