|Receptiveness to language||Oral – developing receptiveness to oral language|
Reading – developing concepts of language and print [Infant classes]
developing strategies [First to sixth classes]
Writing – creating and fostering - the impulse to write
|Competence and confidence in using language||Oral – developing competence and confidence in using oral language|
Reading – developing reading skills and strategies [Infant classes]
reading for pleasure and information [First to sixth classes]
Writing – developing competence, confidence and the ability to write independently
|Developing cognitive abilities through language||Oral – developing cognitive abilities through oral language|
Reading – developing interests, attitudes and the ability to think
Writing – clarifying thought through writing
|Emotional and imaginative development through language||Oral – developing emotional and imaginative life through oral language|
Reading – responding to text
Writing – developing emotional and imaginative life through writing
| || |
Basic structure and layout of the curriculum
The content of the English curriculum is set out in four levels: infant classes, first and second classes, third and fourth classes, fifth and sixth classes.
Content is presented in four strands at each level:
- Receptiveness to language
- Competence and confidence in using language
- Developing cognitive abilities through language
- Emotional and imaginative development through language.
Within each strand the detailed elements of content are presented in three strand units which describe aspects of oral language, reading and writing, respectively.
The integrated nature of language
Although any one of these strands or strand units may, on its own, be directed towards the advancement of some particular skill, or the enhancement of some other area of the child's development, none stands in isolation. A complex web of interconnections exists, not only between the elements of the strand units in each strand but across all the strands. In this way a rich tapestry of language activity and experience is created.
It is through an awareness of connections and interrelationships between the content elements in the various strand units and across the strands that the teacher will use the programme most fruitfully.
The strands of the curriculum
Receptiveness to language
The strand, Receptiveness to language, is concerned with children's willingness and ability to listen, to be aware of the nuances of language and to assimilate what they hear and read. Experiences that make language attractive to children and encourage them not merely to listen but to attend to what is said are crucial in enabling them to take part in appropriate listener-speaker relationships. A second factor that affects the child's receptiveness to language is his/her ability to understand. This involves extending receptive vocabulary and cultivating an appreciation of the function that sentence structure has to play in the communication of meaning. It also includes developing the capacity to read and understand the printed word and fostering an appreciation of the value of writing as a means of communication.
This strand, therefore, is directed towards developing a receptiveness to spoken language that ranges from recognising and observing simple commands at the infant level to following detailed instructions and directions in the senior classes. It progresses from something as simple as understanding the importance of eye-contact to interpreting mood, attitude, emotion and atmosphere. It is also concerned, crucially, with the development of literacy. It is through the elements of this strand that the child will develop the ability to use a variety of strategies to interpret text and to communicate in writing.
Competence and confidence in using language
This strand, Competence and confidence in using language, is concerned with developing the child's ability to use language as a speaker, a reader and a writer. It seeks, in the first place, to develop the child's oral fluency and receptiveness. In achieving competence with language the child will learn to initiate and sustain conversations and to take turns in a classroom atmosphere that promotes tolerance for the views and opinions of others. Learning to use language for the purpose of everyday social interaction—greeting, expressing sympathy or appreciation, welcoming visitors—is an important element of this strand. It is also concerned with developing the child's ability to read for functional and recreational purposes. This will entail giving him/her experience of an appropriate range of narrative, expository and representational text that will extend as he/she matures as a reader.
As reading and comprehension skills develop, the child should be given the opportunity to pursue personal interests in reading. In this way, the habit of reading can be cultivated and the child can be led to perceive reading as useful and pleasurable. This strand also addresses the child's competence as a writer. Starting with scribbles and pictures he/she will gradually learn to use words, phrases and later sentences to communicate ideas and feelings. The approach to writing envisaged in the curriculum involves the consistent use of a process of writing, editing and redrafting. Through talk and discussion with the teacher, the child's ability to self-correct writing can be fostered thus enabling him/her to write independently. This will entail, among other things, the child's gaining control of the conventions of grammar, punctuation and spelling.
Developing cognitive abilities through language
One of the principles on which the English curriculum is based is that the child learns through language, that he/she can use language to clarify images and so facilitate the cognitive organisation of concepts and ideas. By using language to name, classify, modify and order things and ideas, knowledge is extended. As words gain ever more complex accretions of meaning they become the storehouse of an ever increasing fund of knowledge and concepts. The child also learns through language in a more obvious way. Much of what he/she learns in school is accessible only through language and this underlines the importance of the first two strands. The ability to listen and assimilate meaning and the ability to read and comprehend are key factors in the learning process.
The child is encouraged to ask questions, to predict outcomes and to discuss solutions to problems. He/she is also given opportunities, both orally and in writing, to experience activities such as justifying an attitude or arguing a point of view. Particular attention is paid to developing higher order thinking skills such as evaluation, analysis, inference and deduction, and the child is encouraged to use writing in order to clarify thought.
Emotional and imaginative development through language
This strand addresses a most important facet of the development of the child's personality. Through emotional and imaginative response children will often reflect what is most individual and complex in their make-up. In exploring emotions they can come to a better understanding of themselves and of their relationships with others. Through the world of the imagination they can glimpse the infinite possibilities of the human condition.
Talk and discussion will be the central context for the exploration of emotion throughout the child's life in school. The child should be encouraged to express feelings and reactions to a wide range of everyday experience and to respond to the experiences of others. In the early years play will have a very important role in stimulating the child's emotional and imaginative life. However, as he/she gets older reading and writing experience will, increasingly, provide the context through which imagination and emotion can be explored. A rich experience of literature and poetry will be central to this process and the child should be encouraged to respond in a variety of ways. Improvisational drama will be particularly relevant to this area of the child's development at every level.