In our last post, we answered your questions regarding implementation and syllabus content and outcomes. Today we're looking at target language use in the classroom and the three learner groups.
Target language use in the classroom
Q: Where does ICT use in the TL fit in the syllabus, eg typing in scripted languages such as Korean, Japanese, etc.
A: Information and communication technologies (ICT) are valuable tools to support language learning in the classroom and will continue to be useful as you implement the new syllabus. How you choose to use technology in the classroom to support the development of the target language will depend on the resources you have available, your learner group and your context. The use of ICT should always be strategic and planned. Remember to always have a back-up in case the technology doesn’t work!
Q: With such a focus on speaking the target language in the classroom, will the universities change their major/minor criteria and provide more language-specific study and language pedagogy (including language-specific methodology)? As an experienced teacher I have noticed a decline in the standard of language skills and confidence of uni graduates, in large part because they simply don’t have enough exposure to, or study of the language behind them. Will preservice language teachers also be encouraged to pursue languages as a major and study more than one language to increase their employability?
A: Decisions regarding patterns of study in Initial Teacher Education courses are determined by individual universities.
Q: Who decides which of the three groups a learner falls into (ie non-background, prior learning or background)?
A: Teachers decide which of these groups a student belongs in. You may wish to consult with the student and/or the student’s family. Students may also access content for different learner groups, depending on their competencies in receptive and productive language use. For example, a student who understands their grandparents speaking to their parents in [Language], but who cannot speak or write the language may access ‘background speaker’ content for outcome LXX4-2C: Accessing and responding, but non-background content for outcome LXX4-4C: Composing.
Q: If a student speaks Cantonese at home, but is not able to read and write in Chinese, which group would they belong to?
A: This decision would best be made in consultation with the student and their family. As mentioned above, students may access content for different learner groups. The student’s motivation for learning may also influence your decision.
Q: Stage 5 learners – do you envisage the teachers catering to the 3 learner groups within one classroom? NSW School of Languages can assist here.
A: Yes, if you have learners from each of those groups in your classroom. As mentioned in the question, NSW School of Languages can assist with Stage 5 Chinese and Japanese moodle courses for students who may matriculate into the Stage 6 [Language] in Context or [Language] and Literature courses. A $200 administration fee applies.
Q: How do we assure Stage 4-5 content for background students is met, when there may only be 1-2 of these students in the class?
A: Meeting the individual learning needs of students can be challenging for teachers. The differentiated content in the new syllabuses supports you to meet the needs of students with widely varying levels of language by giving you three levels of content and related examples to work with. Students are all working toward the same outcomes, and the provision of differentiated content can help you ensure that students are meeting the outcomes and that they are engaged in and challenged by their learning at an appropriate level.
Q: For the 3 learner groups in Stages 4 and 5, I’m assuming should have different resources…will they have same/different exams?
A: How you address the different learner groups in your classroom is a decision you make, as the teacher. You may decide to use a range of resources of varying depth and complexity, or you may decide to use the same stimulus material and differentiate activities and tasks. In reality, you’ll probably use some combination of these strategies.
Example 1 (free time) – the students to listen to teenagers talking about their free time activities (the stimulus text is the same for all students). Non-background students may answer a series of questions to identify key information; students with prior knowledge and/or experience may have an additional/alternative activity in which they answer a more open-ended question, such as “Which person did you identify most with, and why?” (in English, or target language, depending on ability); students with a background listen to the stimulus text then rewrite the text in the third person and/or in a different tense.
Example 2 (sport) – the students are provided with stimulus materials from an authentic Chinese sports event (eg Beijing Olympics). Non-background students may access information from simple texts such as a timetable or basic flyer; students with prior knowledge and/or experience may look at event descriptions and times and plan an itinerary for a day visit; background students may use more complex information about the event as a stimulus to compose a text that describes their plan for the day, commenting on their feelings about the event.
As the focus of assessment moves away from tests and exams toward assessment FOR and AS learning (formative assessment) decisions about how to assess the outcomes for each learner group will be part of the planning process for units of work and will depend on the type of task you are using to determine student achievement against the outcomes.
And here's one we missed from our last post on content and outcomes...
Q: Which language syllabuses have the better examples?
A: The examples that you find most helpful and inspiring will depend on your teaching style and your students. It is worth reviewing the examples for Stages 4 and 5 in a range of languages, and choosing examples which you think will best meet the needs of your students and that you find most interesting and relevant. You can also develop your own examples.