The centrality of language
English has a unique position and function in the curriculum because it is the first language of the majority of children in Ireland. The child meets ideas and concepts through listening and reading and he/she expresses understanding and recounts experience through speaking and writing. The better the child's ability with language, the more effectively he/she will learn.
Principles of language learning
The structure of the English curriculum and the style of language learning it advocates have been informed by five principles:
The integration of oral language, reading and writing
Listening, speaking, reading and writing are integrated in the process of learning language. For example, the child's ability with oral language can be a determining factor in the speed and effectiveness with which he/she makes progress in reading, just as the experience of reading will extend vocabulary and enhance control of sentence structure. Similarly, there is a close relationship between competence in reading and the ability to express oneself in writing. Thus, each of the three functions draws from and feeds into the others to form an interrelated process of language learning.
Language learning and learning through language
The English curriculum is concerned not just with language learning but with learning through language. In the process of acquiring language skills and in developing the ability to use language, other dimensions of the child's personality and potential are cultivated and enriched. The learning of a new word, for instance, or an extended meaning of a word already known, can entail more than an expansion of the child's vocabulary. It can interact with concepts that are already familiar in a way that deepens and broadens perception. Likewise, in attempting to express emotional or imaginative experience, the act of putting feelings and intuitions into language can provide a focus that deepens the child's knowledge of himself/herself and the world. Furthermore, it is through enhanced language skill and understanding that the child gains meaningful access to the full range of the curriculum.
The central place of oral language throughout the curriculum
The development of oral language is given an importance as great as that of reading and writing, at every level, in the curriculum, and it has an equal weighting with them in the integrated language process. It will have a crucial role to play not only in language learning but as an approach to teaching throughout the curriculum.
Learning to read through a range of approaches
The curriculum incorporates an approach to the teaching of reading that is based on the child's overall experience of language and the world, and involves the use of a range of word identification strategies. It also asserts that his/her reading experience should be as rich and varied as possible. This can only be realised through the consistent use of well-stocked school and class libraries as well as through the use of reading schemes.
The process of writing is as important as the product
The curriculum stresses the importance of the process of writing as well as the product. It incorporates the principle that the act of writing is a part of the language learning process. It asserts that the child can become an independent writer by attempting to write and by self-correcting his/her writing with the prompting and guidance of the teacher. This entails a consistent experience of writing, editing and redrafting that involves the child in writing on a wide range of topics, in a variety of genres and for different audiences.