Outstanding Characteristics of the English Program

THE English Language Arts program recommends that teachers emphasize the following features in their daily work with students:


It is instruction based on the dynamic interaction and exchange of feelings and ideas between students and teachers.  Communication based instruction results from the use of a teaching content which is pertinent to the student, their interests and feelings. Using the content as a base, teachers are able to provoke real and authentic communication of ideas in the second language.  In communication based instruction, therefore, language learning as well as personal growth and development are achieved simultaneously.  This is due to the fact that the situations presented are authentically human and linguistically challenging and motivating to the students.
     Since the emphasis is on communication of the students ideas and feelings in a second language, mastery of individual structures in not focused and frequent corrections by teachers are discouraged.  Student responses regardless of their form are of primary importance to the teacher for they serve to confirm that the message has been received and to what extend it has been processed.  They also serve to signal areas of weakness in need of reinforcement.
     The classroom is viewed as representing a real community where interchange about significant issues and ideas occurs in the target language.  Classroom business, procedures and instruction should be conducted in the target language since it offers learners the opportunity to develop their receptive skills (listening and reading) before they are asked to speak or write.


Since the seventies reading is viewed as a process where the reader with his background of experiences, the text, and the context interact to produce comprehension. In this process the reader uses these three elements to construct meaning. Though input from the story text is common to all readers, input from personal experience and context add depth and variety to comprehension.  This partially explains why different readers can interpret the same text differently.
It is the variety of experiences, opinions, feelings and reactions which provides a communicative context for language learning through reading.  The reading process involves several stages:
    In the prereading stage students use whatever resources are available to predict the topic and the content of the story.  At this stage students use information from the title, pictures, and opening and closing sentences in paragraphs to predict or form hypotheses about the content, the comflict and the outcome of the story.  The studentís prior experience is of special importance at this stage since it serves to motivate sudents to want to read.
    In the reading stage students have the opportunity to test their hypotheses about how the story will unfold. Teachers check for literal, inferential, and critical comprehension as the story is discussed.
    In the last stage teachers usually try to plan with students a follow up activity in which they have the opportunity to apply communication skills.

    Educators are currently emphasizing the value of using literature as a basis for language and reading instruction. The Iit-erature-based approach places emphasis on connecting the stories read to the learner's personal background and knowledge. The rationale for this is that student involvement, interest and motiva-tion are more readily aroused, when the topic or theme read is in some way related to the learner's experience or interests.
    The most common way of implementing literature-based in-struction is the whole class reading of a core book. The book may be presented by the teacher by reading aloud all or part of it. de-pending on the students' response. Another book may he read in installments over a period of time. Alter the teacher's oral reading. silent reading by the students usually follows. Between reading ses-sions, students may write reactions to the story in literature logs. Throughout the whole process students should be encouraged to relate the reading content and the experiences it presents, to their own experience.


    Whole language focuses on using meaningfully relevant read-ing material to make learning to communicate interesting and enjoyable. In whole language the reader's attention is focused on, understanding the meaning of authentic speech and events which he can relate to. Contrary to other approaches, the Whole Language Approach does not focus on the language, the sounds or the grammar. Rather, it emphasizes the whole of language essentially comprehension of meaning-which is one of the primary objectives of reading. From the very first school experience reading material must have all the characteristics of real functional lan-guage. In the whole Language Approach there is no need for special graded texts to teach reading or writing because its empha-sis is on students' interest experiences and enjoyment. These fac-tors, by and large, help sustain students' motivation even when confronted with difficult texts.
    One of the most significant qualities of the Whole Language Approach is its capacity to build upon whatever knowledge and experience learners bring with them in the form of previous expe-rience. Since all learners have experiences of different kinds, all learners can he reached and motivated through reading material which has meaning to them. As learners read familiar meaningful texts they draw on concepts and experiences they have already had, to understand and get new meaning. In this process readers pre-dict, select, confirm and correct their ideas or hypotheses about what will occur in the text. Learners check or monitor their own reading to see whether they guessed right or need to correct them -seIves to keep making sense out of what they are reading. In this process learners understand that they can extract meaning from a page even when they do not understand the meaning of every word. It is a constructive process where the reader uses what he knows to predict or form a hypotheses about what he does not know. Pre-dictability of the content is the real measure of how hard a text is for a particular reader. The more predictable, the easier.
    Another important aspect of the Whole Language Approach is that there is no set hierarchy of` skills and sub-skills and no necessary universal sequence of skills. Emphasis is placed on creating the need to understand and communicate. Learners focus on the communication of meaning and teachers focus on the develop-ment of all the strategies necessary to help students understand. Therefore, in whole language, there is no need to chop language into bits and pieces to be practiced in isolation from a real, inter-esting and relevant situation. Skills are taught as the communica-tive functions or the situation require to transmit meaning.
    A last highlight in the Whole Language Approach is the important role of risk taking as a means of encouraging students to com-municate in English. Students need to understand that they may he wrong, but what is important, as a lifelong learning tool, is the thinking process that leads to the formulation, correction or con-firmation of hypotheses. Consequently, being correct is not as im-portant as having ideas and being willing to test them. In addition, this out look has another advantage; it increases self confidence and self esteem. As pupils take risks, they have the opportunity to discover their potential in an environment which gives them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes.


    With all respect to the uniquely rich language and culture which our students bring with them on entering school, the reality in our
economic and commercial community is that English is used to communicate orally and in written Form. Therefore, students need to learn their native language perfectly and develop proficiency in speaking, reading and writing English in order to fully develop their potential in all areas.
    Oral learning activities of English language arts can be both formal and informal. for example informal class discussions help students learn to listen attentively to what others are saying, to evaluate and respond, and to incorporate what they hear into their own thinking and responses. Discussion between partners or in small groups help students learn to state opinions honestly, precisely and tactfully to discover many points of view on issues and to negotiate to find common ground. Informal classroom role-playing encour-ages students to think quickly and critically about literary charac-ters, important social issues or real problems facing people today or yesterday. More formal speeches allow students to experience the value of preparation, through interviews or reading; of prac-tice and timing; persuasion; effective use of delivery, eye contact, diction, and voice control. An important side effect of al¡ these activities is that they provide leadership and decision making mod-els for comparable roles later in their adult lives.

MORE specifically, learners can acquire language by:


    Research reports that curiosity about writing begins way before children learn to write, Consequently, all teachers need to develop strategies which build upon the innate desire to put on paper feel-ings, emotions, expectations, reactions and ideas. However, per-haps the greatest dissuader to writing for many learners has probably been teacher's emphasis on correctness and de-emphasis on the importance of ideas and content. In response to this, one of the most important insights from research in the writing area is that: students in all grade levels learn to write by writing. Therefore, effective English language arts programs integrate writing activi-ties with listening, speaking and reading activities. They offer stu-dents frequent practice in writing about a wide range of subjects from their own experience, from literature, and for a variety of purposes. Students who learn to write memorandums, to record history, to keep a diary, or to write a review of a film discover how to manipulate language to suit their meaning and purpose.
    In their earliest encounters with writing instruction, students need to go through several stages in the writing process. Prewriting activities involve students in gathering ideas and materials for writ-ing, in reflecting on experiences and reading, and in discussions before they actually begin to write. Writing first drafts, knowing that these are just the initial stages, encourages students to experi-ment with new words and new ways of expressing ideas. Activities that allow students to respond to their own and to others writing develop their capacity to revise, re-see, clarify, and to rearrange. At the same time they increase their capacity to explore their reader's response, and their own new insights, as they work toward a more finished product.
    In the final stage of the writing process students should he en-couraged to do editing. Its the stage in which they learn to attend to the conventions of language-grammar, usage, spelling, punctua-tion, diction, syntax, and style needed to clarify for readers what may already be clear to the writer.
Writing should he part of any curriculum that aims to he1p stu-dents develop critical thinking skills, values and attitudes. Itís a process which makes students think through the ideas stored in their minds and relate these to what they are reading about. There-fore the writing process must he viewed as a very personal act that depends on previous experience as well as on new knowledge ac-quired through reading. This view of the writing process requires teachers to encourage pupils to express themselves constantly through writing. Teaching writing should not he viewed as teach-ing grammatical rules or types of paragraphs. Writing should be viewed simply, as a form of communication. Teachers need to re-member that writing in a second language will only improve by reading and writing in English.
    Finally, students should learn that the act of meaningful writ-ing goes and has value beyond the grade assigned by the teacher. They must understand that the art and skill attempted in one writ-ten assignment have a connection to all the other written pieces produced subsequently. Each writing assignment is important in the process of developing effective writing ability.


    Spelling is not Considered an obstacle to writing for learners are encouraged to write down their ideas using invented spellings, pictures, or the Spanish word when Unable to write the English word. Young children who use, these strategies will then read their story to the teacher or another student. Older pupils are also en-couraged to spell phonetically or in any other way they can, on the first draft of the composition. The importance of this approach is that the Iearner is developing confidence in his ability to think and put his ideas into writing for someone else to read. Learning the alphabet, learning correct spelling, punctuation and organization can come later, gradually, but only if the learner feels he has the capacity and interest in Iearning. An emphasis on expressing ideas and opinions and a de-emphasis on correctness empowers learn-ers to express their minds freely and to develop their innate Potential.


    The content of the English language arts curriculum should be challenging by employing teaching strategies which provoke stu-dents' curiosity questions and comments. This implies that teach-ing content should be related in some way to the students' experience, by being related to the reality of their fives. Therefore, when selecting the content, emphasis should be placed on interest and meaning rather then on a precise readability level.
    Speaking and listening activities must seek to involve students actively as they narrate, describe and react, and interactively as they communicate their understanding and insights to others. There-fore content-based instruction is based on a theme of which stu-dents have some knowledge, and above all, interest and motivation in pursuing.
    Teaching material will contain a balance of fiction and nonfic-tion selections that engage students in:

For example: essay, stories, novels, speeches, poetry, and drama     In the intermediate and more advanced levels, grammar in-struction may be helpful to certain students. However, it is not ad-visable for students to study the Structure of a language to learn to communicate, especially, in the early stages of instruction. The first language is acquired without formal grammar instruction; this is the language acquisition process to be imitated in second language acquisition.


    The teacherís role is to serve as a model, guide and motivator if experimentation and risk are to take place in language learning. The teacherís ability to detect students interest and select teaching content that exploits and builds upon these interests is perhaps one of the most crucial decisions a teacher will be making.  In cases where the teaching content selected does not fit students interest there  is wisdom in not pursuing it if it does not motivate students to respond. Corrections are important only when errors interfere with the students getting their point across clearly. Otherwise, errors should be overlooked.   However, the desire to help students improve, grow and learn through experimentation and revision must be built into the teacherís philosophy, methodology and every day assessment activities.  Teacher flexibility, humor warmth, accessibility to students and most of all the teacherís interest in student learning and development  are very important teacher attributes to achieve the departmentís mission and goals with each student.  It is also important that teachers go across the message that learning English will not detract from the learnerís ethnicity. On the contrary, learning a second or third language tend to increase students admiration and respect for their first language and culture.
    Teachers and students have different responsibilities in the teaching and learning processes. The teacher motivates, arranges the environment, monitors development, provides appropriate material and invites learners to participate in and plan learning and assessment experiences. Ultimately, however, it is the learner who must desire to learn. It is the learnerís responsibility to use the environment created by the teacher, to build knowledge, to develop and use strategies, to inquire, to practice and to seek ways of retaining new insights in memory.


    The ability to communicate orally or in written form depends largely on the individualís ability to use the word or words which best express the idea in mind.  This makes vocabulary development a priority in the English language arts program since it is communication based.  To achieve vocabulary development in all grades emphasis should be placed on:


    Each of the language arts should be developed within a context that learners understand, find interesting and can relate to.  Beginning with familiar and known experiences readies the student to add new knowledge, because the associations established with the previously known help make new knowledge comprehensible.  Therefore, the English language arts program emphasizes:


    Most class time should he spent in an authentic exchange of ideas in the target language. Therefore, classroom business and procedures should be conducted in the second language. In this way students realize that the classroom is representative of a real community where interchanges about important issues and ideas occur in the target language. Mistakes are a legitimate outcome of experimentation and are a natural part of language acquisition. Therefore, constant corrections on the teacher's part are not encouraged. Emphasis should he placed on communication of ideas and on encouraging students to use the language. This is accomplished most effectively in a non-threatening, supportive environment which does not emphasize correction.


    The greatest challenge of teaching lies in reaching each individual in a class where needs, personalities, interests, talents and backgrounds are diverse. Meeting the needs of the academically disadvantaged, the gifted and the special education student require content modifications as well as special teaching strategies. Most importantly, it requires careful planning, teacher sensitivity to detect students interests and adequate assessment of the resuits of instruction. This guide will consider the special needs of the academically disadvantaged and the gifted. However, since there is a separate curriculum for special education, teaching strategies for this group will not be considered in this guide.

Academically Disadvantaged Student

    Students who struggle to learn to speak, read and write, but do not succeed need additional help to learn. These student do not enjoy learning because they generally suffer from fear, frustration
and embarrassment. They need support and encouragement from their teachers and their peers.
    Teachers can help by developing student's self esteem and confidence through readings, and discussions. As teachers work with students, emphasis must be given to the fact that all students have the capacity to learn and every person should, develop their potential to the maximum. Students also need to understand that the development of one's capacities and potential is a lifelong project which requires effort and dedication on our part.
    Teachers and peers can help establish a positive climate for learning by (1) involving academically disadvantaged students in activities; (2) showing respect for different language and dialects; (3) appreciating different ideas and opinions; (4) using strategies such as peer teaching, small group discussions, and committee work. These strategies give the academically disadvantaged learner the
opportunity to discover their potential for learning in an environment which free them of the pressures and tensions of trying to Iearn in the larger group.
    Students who are low achievers or underachievers generally need more direct coaching and modeling about such skills as how to think trough a problem before beginning to write, bow to apply familiar strategies to new tasks, how to differentiate a main idea from a detail, and how to see new ideas in a realistic context. Therefore, a teacher who can provide a model for how to find a main idea helps students work through details until a main idea emerges. Providing background information and asking questions related to their own experiences also make a text easier and more pertinent to students lives. Likewise, critical reading can develop more easily when learn-er are asked to separate the important from the trivial in a reading.

Gifted Students
    Gifted students who are ready for more challenging work re-quire special attention to fully develop their talents. Their active minds need constant stimulation to avoid disinterest and boredom. Therefore, adaptations of content and teaching strategies must he offered in working with all the language arts.
    Teachers need to remember, that though gifted students may be highly verbal and naturally excited about ideas, they may require discipline and focus in discussions and in writing. Therefore,
frequent, small-group discussions and writing assignments that call for persuasion, comparison and contrasts and critiques, among many others, may force them to refine their thinking. Peer response
groups' critiques, among many others, may help them to refine their thinking. Peer response groups also enable gifted students to sharpen their language and human relations skills. Through peer
interaction, gifted students learn to listen tolerantly to others and to stretch their thinking beyond ego-centered opinions. They also benefit From individually assigned projects which require them to
present their findings to a group or a class as creatively as possible.