Vajira Premadasa PhD RIBA
- English Teaching
2.1 General Overview
2.3 Teaching Content
3. Next Steps
Please note that this outline teaching plan is indicative and should be used for general scoping and planning purposes only. Further refinement is required on the basis of expert advice before implementation.
This outline teaching plan is conceived as Phase 1 of a wider initiative to provide instruction in English and Computing by the Horizon Lanka Foundation. The target audience of Phase I comprises secondary school students who will be attending classes at Horizon after school, during weekends and over the school holidays.
The purpose of focusing on these two subjects is that a sound knowledge of English and computing is crucial for developing the students’ ability to confidently navigate the modern world. They will thus be well-placed to undertake further education in a range of fields and eventually to enter the workplace with skills that are relevant and marketable, while also developing the ability to think independently and communicate effectively.
The current situation is that the students receive English teaching at their schools, which is supplemented by private tuition. The quality of this teaching is understood to be generally inadequate. Furthermore it is unlikely that the students receive any formal exposure to computing as a subject of study. As a result there is a clear need for rigorous and structured teaching in these two subjects.
The key aims of this teaching plan are to ensure that the students:
- Acquire a fully operational command of the English language (reading, writing, speaking and listening) on completion of the plan. Within the context of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR), this would involve commencing at Level A1 or A2 (Basic User) and attaining Level C1 (Proficient User) over the course of 6 years.
- Are able to think critically and communicate effectively in English. This includes developing the capacity to sift a range of sources with discernment and to construct and present clear and consistent arguments.
- Understand English written materials in a wide range of subjects, both fiction and non-fiction, and develop the practice of reading for recreation and self-instruction.
- Are digitally literate, with the ability to evaluate and use information and communication technology in proficient, safe, respectful and creative ways to solve specific problems.
- Understand the key principles of computer science, with the ability to analyse real world problems in computational terms and design appropriate solutions.
- Develop a proactive ‘can-do’ attitude to problem-solving in general.
This teaching plan adopts the grade structure of the Sri Lankan education system in broad terms. The focus of Phase 1 will be to deliver teaching to students between 11 and 18 years old (Grade 6 to A-Level). There is an aspiration that a future phase will extend this teaching plan to primary school students (Grade 1 to Grade 5). In general terms, the English and computing teaching plans should essentially complement each other. To this end, teaching activities in the students’ computing classes should draw on skills that have already been learned in the context of the English classes and vice versa.
It should be noted that the scope of this teaching plan is to lay out a series of broad objectives and desired outcomes at each of the stages. The teaching activities that would be deemed to satisfy these objectives would require further clarification dependent on available resources and specific needs. Therefore this teaching plan should only be used as a starting point for discussion so that a general idea of the scope of the project may be ascertained in order to establish funding and resource needs on the basis of expert advice.
2 ENGLISH TEACHING
2.1 GENERAL OVERVIEW
The following is an outline of course contents which may be adapted as required to suit the identified teaching objectives and available resources. Although it may well be that some students have already acquired the Grade 6 competencies described below, it is important that this content is covered in order to ensure that a baseline standard is established for the student body as a whole.
In addition to acquiring the full range of formal verbal skills and competencies outlined below, it is equally important that students acquire a clear appreciation that English is not Sinhalese with superficial differences. Therefore teaching activities should focus on developing the ability to think in English; the practice of forming utterances in the native language and mentally translating each word into English should be discouraged at an early stage. To this end, the recommendation is that all teaching should be delivered exclusively in English.
Although there is no emphasis on encouraging students to adopt any regional or perceived high-status accents when speaking, it is nevertheless important to avoid transferring native language phonological features that would inhibit effective communication in English. The following points should be noted:
- Using correct lexical stress – students should be encouraged to internalise stress patterns when learning new words.
- Pronouncing vowels and diphthongs correctly.
- Softening the pronunciation of retroflex consonants (t, d, n, l) and pronouncing interdental fricatives correctly (voiced and unvoiced th).
- Emphasising the pronunciation of stop consonants.
- Differentiating between v/w and p/f.
Teaching activities at each level should also encourage students to acquire appropriate non-verbal communication skills for effective communication with native English speakers. This includes:
- Using appropriate gestures and body language.
- Establishing and maintaining appropriate social distance.
- Using appropriate forms of humour.
It is intended that teaching will be delivered via a combination of formal classroom instruction and informal activities such as role-playing and exposure to English visual media (e.g. appropriate films and internet resources). The key emphasis throughout the teaching plan is the development of the students’ fluency in order to support effective communication, and therefore it is crucial that attempting to learn through rote memorisation is discouraged.
It is also important that students are provided with access to appropriate reading material in the form of edited and authentic prose texts. This should include both non-fiction and fiction, as the latter often tends to incorporate a wide variety of vocabulary, abstract descriptions and complex grammatical structures. In order to develop lexical and grammatical accuracy, supervised and controlled access to native or near-native speakers should be arranged wherever possible. Additionally, it is recommended that at least some of the teaching should be delivered by native or near-native English-speaking volunteers, preferably those with some English as a Second Language teaching background.
Classroom activities should be supplemented by homework and other independent learning at appropriate levels in the students’ own time. Students should be encouraged to take ownership of their learning activities from an early stage, and they should be assisted to self-monitor by identifying weaknesses and implementing remedial strategies. A fundamental key to this would be to ensure that teaching activities are challenging, but also relevant and enjoyable.
2.3 TEACHING CONTENT
2.3.1 Grade 6
- The key objective is the development of the students’ ability to listen and understand simple English,
- Minimal emphasis on fluency or grammatical or phonological accuracy.
- Understanding simple words, commands and requests in the context of basic everyday communication.
- Understanding simple face-to-face conversations, using basic methods to ask for clarification.
- Expressing simple requests relating to basic needs using learned vocabulary and structures.
- Responding to simple questions using short phrases and asking simple questions.
- Recognising and articulating commonly-used simple words by relating written symbols and symbol clusters to spoken sounds.
- Interpreting simple sentences using learned vocabulary and structures.
- Writing simple phrases and single sentences clearly and legibly in upper case, lower case and sentence case using basic punctuation.
- Writing simple sentences relating to biographical and personal information.
- Language Forms:
- Using simple yes/no sentences structures and basic compound sentences (‘and’, ‘but’).
- Using basic verb tenses (simple present, simple past, present continuous, future with ‘going to’).
2.3.2 Grade 7
- Beginning of emphasis on fluency and communication.
- Students receive extensive assistance in correcting their own errors.
- Understanding the gist of a simple conversation using familiar vocabulary and structures.
- Understanding the gist of a simple non-face-to-face conversation using familiar vocabulary and structures.
- Recognising indicators of verb tenses in simple conversations.
- Answering and asking simple questions relating to basic needs and experiences using short sentences in the appropriate verb tenses (past/present/future).
- Communicating personal information in the context of a short non-face-to-face conversation.
- Using basic predictive strategies to interpret new words or simple phrases in familiar contexts.
- Identifying requests for personal information in simple written materials.
- Identifying numerical information in simple written materials.
- Reading and understanding short narrative paragraphs on familiar topics using previously learned vocabulary and structures.
- Writing simple inter-related sentences based on personal information or experiences using the appropriate verb tenses (past/present/future).
- Writing simple notes and lists.
- Language Forms:
- Using more complex compound sentences (‘and/too’, ‘and/either’, ‘or’)
- Using the future tense with ‘will’.
- Using verbs followed by infinitives.
- Using modal structures (‘have to’, ‘could’, ‘should’, ‘must’, ‘may’, ‘would’, ‘might’).
2.3.3 Grade 8
- The key emphasis is on fluency and effective communication.
- Students are encouraged to self-monitor when using basic vocabulary and structures.
- Understanding simple conversations and spoken material containing some unfamiliar vocabulary and structures.
- Recognising basic sentence constructions and discerning appropriate language use.
- Participating with a degree of confidence in simple face-to-face conversations dealing with basic needs and requirements.
- Asking and answering simple questions on familiar topics in present, past and future tenses with a basic understanding of appropriate language registers.
- Describing sequences of events in the past and future.
- Interpreting simple narrative and descriptive passages on familiar topics.
- Interpreting simple narrative and descriptive passages on unfamiliar topics using predictive strategies to interpret new words and phrases.
- Scanning for specific information in short narrative passages.
- Interpreting simple extracts from newspaper and web articles.
- Taking notes on familiar material transmitted verbally.
- Writing simple paragraph-length passages on familiar topics.
- Language Forms:
- Using complex sentences with adverbial clauses of time (‘before’, ‘after’, ‘when’) and adverbial clauses of reason (‘because’, ‘since’).
- Using direct speech.
- Using exclamatory sentences and phrases.
- Communicating information about the past with ‘used to’ sentences.
2.3.4 Grade 9
- Continuing emphasis on fluency and effective communication.
- Students are encouraged to use a range of sources to self-monitor and consolidate their skills.
- Understanding the gist of everyday English conversation with some repetition, clarification or slower speech.
- Detecting the mood of a message to a limited degree on the basis of the attitudes of the speaker.
- Understanding stories and sequences of events using familiar vocabulary and structures.
- Participating with a degree of confidence in face-to-face conversations on topics beyond immediate needs and experiences.
- Communicating with a degree of spontaneity and creativity in producing new language patterns.
- Adjusting register of language to different levels of formality.
- Clarifying speech by repetition or rewording to assist comprehension.
- Participating with a degree of confidence in non-face-to-face conversations on familiar topics.
- Interpreting short but complete texts on familiar topics (e.g. newspaper and web articles on current affairs) using predictive strategies to interpret unfamiliar words and phrases.
- Identifying the main argument and supporting evidence of a short text.
- Locating information from different parts of a short passage.
- Drawing meaning and identifying sentence relationships within a short passage using syntactic clues such as transitional words (e.g. ‘therefore).
- Writing passages on past, present and future events using appropriate chronological order, verb tenses and simple transitional words (simple essays and blog entries).
- Writing personal communications (emails and letters).
- Language Forms:
- Using adjectival clauses (e.g. ‘who’, ‘which’)
- Using indirect speech and embedded questions.
- Using complex tenses (past perfect, past perfect continuous, passive simple present)
- Using conditional clauses.
2.3.5 Grade 10
- Students are competent at self-monitoring when using simple structures and capable of using some complex structures with a considerable degree of accuracy.
- Some errors do occur, which at times may inhibit communication.
- Understanding the majority of face-to-face speech at a normal speed, although a small amount of repetition may be required.
- Understanding abstract topics in familiar contexts.
- Understanding most of the speech used in movies and online media of a non-specialist nature.
- Understanding new vocabulary in context through effective guessing and predictive strategies.
- Asking and answering questions with fluency and with minimal errors using the past, present and future tenses.
- Participating with fluency in most face-to-face social conversations on familiar and unfamiliar concrete topics using complex structures, even though errors may occur and inhibit comprehension.
- Clarifying meaning though a range of strategies when misunderstanding occurs.
- Adjusting the language register in accordance with the level of formality required in different social situations.
- Interpreting a range of written materials, including simple prose fiction such as short stories.
- Identifying main ideas and arguments and supporting details in everyday texts of a non-specialist nature.
- Inferring the meaning of unfamiliar words by analysing suffixes and prefixes and by identifying patterns.
- Summarising and paraphrasing reading passages of a non-specialist nature.
- Combining simple sentences to articulate complex ideas by using modifying words, clauses and phrases.
- Writing descriptive and narrative paragraphs using complex sentences and correct punctuation.
- Using transition words between sentences and paragraphs to create flow and logical progression.
- Taking simple notes from everyday situations (e.g. lectures).
- Language Forms:
- Using conjunctive adverbs (‘therefore’, ‘however’) and adverbial clauses of concession (‘unless’, ‘although’).
- Using modal structures related to past events (‘should have’, ‘could have’, ‘would have’, ‘might have’, ‘must have’).
- Using causative verbs and the past conditional tense.
- Using the passive voice in the simple past and future tenses.
- Students are competent at self-monitoring in both formal and informal situations.
- There might be some loss of control when attempting to use highly specialised vocabulary or very complex grammatical structures.
- Few errors occur, which do not generally inhibit communication.
- Understanding general conversations with native speakers with little repetition or rewording.
- Understanding concrete descriptions of factual and technical material.
- Understanding abstract descriptions in non-specialist language.
- Communicating fluently in most formal and informal conversations on factual, practical or social topics.
- Communicating fluently on technical subjects or in special fields of interest.
- Communicating with a degree of fluency on abstract topics.
- Using a range of simple and complex vocabulary and structure, although there might be some hesitancy when articulating extremely complex or nuanced ideas.
- Reading a range of printed material, web resources and other prose on familiar and unfamiliar topics using appropriate strategies to infer the meaning of new material.
- Reading full-length novels and other authentic literature with a substantial degree of comprehension.
- Interpreting key points from technical literature in special fields of interest.
- Identifying and analysing points of view in written texts.
- Articulating personal reactions to written materials by forming and presenting judgments.
- Writing paragraphs on familiar topics using a range of descriptive and analytical techniques (e.g. compare/contrast, cause/effect, generalisation/example).
- Outlining and summarising lectures and reading passages.
- Writing official letters and communications.
- Language Forms:
- Using verbs in the present subjunctive case and future perfect continuous tense.
- Using the continuous conditional constructions in the present, future, present perfect and past perfect tenses.
- Using tag questions correctly.