The English Department : A way to work…. A way to succeed.
If we think about the meaning of working as a team, there are many aspects to consider. E.g. number of teachers, ways of getting along, personal strengths and virtues , weaknesses, aspects to be improved, motivation , etc.
Out of the previous list of important aspects, let me refer to a couple which I consider of great importance when starting to work as a team :
Keeping in mind our goals will lead us to succeed in our tasks :
Our main goal is to develop in our students the abilities to learn and produce the target language in a way they can use English, not only as a tool to open their working expectations , but also as a way to open their minds and hearts to the desire to meet other cultures and learn from them.
Therefore, our objective is to make our students feel enchanted with the target language.
To achieve this, it is necessary that our individual interests be left aside to foster team work and so to accomplish what´s best for our children.
It is of great importance the atmosphere we generate within our working team. Why ? because , this is what our children will get and feel in every class we teach. So, whenever you are mad, or sad , or stressed out , and the bell rings, you´ll enter to your classroom and your students will sense those negative feelings, and somehow they will not feel welcome into your heart. If this situation arises, then, sorry teachers, but it is very likely that many of your students will finally hate English….Why ?
B. Individual strengths and virtues should be gathered to form a strong and cohesive team.
Whenever working as a team, we must open our communication bridges or paths all the time. This will help us to be aware of our partners´needs and will develop our generosity in our souls. Somehow, when working aligned with the rest of the team, we feel we become better persons, and thus, this feeling will get to our students.
Therefore, Dear teachers, be ready to be the torch that enlightens our children's minds and hearts. And be ready to work in a friendly, nice and generous atmosphere.
II. The need of a well-defined English Project for our School:
When thinking about defining a project, there are several aspects to consider ,.e.g. the necessary components and deliverables .
Let`s focus on the need to have a sound curriculum which implies defining the performance. And the need , therefore , to define some concepts so as to clear up our minds when dealing with them throughout the school year.
It´s also essential to focus on the objectives set by Mineduc in the English learning process and the international standardized exams that our students can take which can open a huge door to our students once they leave school.
To define a curriculum is to think in the future. Hence, the focus must be on defining the performance : that is to say, how good a person is at….. .and have it as the target. Then, set the contents to reach that target.
Since last year (2006) our students started to use the series of Hip Hip Hooray from 1st to 6th grades. And the series Click On 1A for 7th grade and this school year, 1B will be used by students of 8th grade.
We also started a challenging project to introduce our younger students from Pre-School , into the process of learning this target language.
Little kids from 3 to 5 years old , have 30-minute sessions of English every day.
The objective for each level is aligned to the following one, so as to make a sound curriculum that helps our students to develop all 4 skills in an effective and motivating way.
The series of text books selected are based on the Communicative approach .
communicative approach : A set of principles about teaching including recommendations about method and syllabus where the focus is on meaningful communication not structure, use not usage . In this approach, students are given tasks to accomplish using language, instead of studying the language. The syllabus is based primarily on functional development (asking permission, asking directions, etc.), not structural development (past tense, conditionals, etc.). In essence, a functional syllabus replaces a structural syllabus . There is also less emphasis on error correction as fluency and communication become more important than accuracy As well, authentic and meaningful language input becomes more important. The class becomes more student-centered as students accomplish their tasks with other students, while the teacher plays more of an observer role.
Usage : A present perfect question with ever placed in front of the past participle.
fluency: Fluency refers to the ability to produce rapid, flowing, natural speech, but not necessarily grammatically correct speech. This is often contrasted with accuracy.
accuracy : Accuracy refers to the ability to produce grammatically correct sentences that are comprehensible. This is often contrasted with fluency .
syllabus: A syllabus is the content of a language program and how it is organized. This can be contrasted to method , which is how a language program is taught. Structural syllabuses and functional syllabuses are two different ways of organizing language material.
structural syllabus: A syllabus in which grammatical structures form the central organizing feature. A structural syllabus proceeds from simple grammatical structure to more complex grammatical structure. An example might be something like: Present progressive -> Comparatives -> Simple past -> Past progressive. The main faults of structural syllabuses is that they tend to ignore meaning and a lot of really useful language is neglected at the beginning because it is viewed as structurally too complex ( If I were you, I would ).
Structural syllabuses can be contrasted to functional syllabuses , which are organized according to the functions that language has (greeting, asking advice, disagreeing).
functional syllabus : Language programs with functions being the primary organizing feature. The course content is based on functions not grammatical structures. A typical unit might be Giving Advice. The content of the unit would include:
This could be a very basic unit taught to beginners even though the grammatical complexity of these expressions is quite high (including a second conditional with subjunctive mood ). This can be contrasted to structural syllabuses where the syllabus is ordered according to grammatical complexity.
Other examples of functions include: asking for directions, telling stories about the past, talking about rules, and requesting information.
lexis: A word in all its various relationships with other words. See also lexical phrases .
lexical approach: An approach to teaching languages that has a lot in common with the communicative approach, but also examines how lexical phrases , prefabricated chunks of language, play an important role in producing fluent speech. The lexical approach was first coined by Michael Lewis. The fundamental principle of the lexical approach is "language consists of grammaticalized lexis, not lexicalized grammar." What this means is that lexical phrases offer far more language generative power than grammatical structures. Accordingly, advocates of this kind of approach argue that lexis should move to the center of language syllabuses. Justification for this theory comes from statistical analysis of language which shows that we do indeed speak in chunks and collocations .
chunk: Several words that commonly occur together in fixed phrases sometimes referred to as a lexical phrase . We tend to speak in chunks which reduces the energy required for processing language.
lexical phrase: Multi-word chunk s of language of varying length that run on a continuum from fixed phrases like in a nutshell to slot- and- filler frames like the _____er, the _________er . Because lexical phrases are 'pre-assembled' they are very useful for creating fluent communication. They also serve the purpose of organizing dialogue and writing. And in organizing dialogue and writing, they provide cues to the listener/reader about the flow of conversation.
The Ministry of Education has established the English levels that students of 8th grades and 12th grades should be able to manage.
These levels are aligned to international standards . In Chile, these standards were defined by ALTE ( Assosiation of Language Testers of Europe ) . The standards were developed according to the Common European Framework.
According to the previous facts, we can then analyze our reality in our school. Let us consider that students from 5th grade have 6 hours of English classes weekly , and that the school year takes up to 40 weeks. Therefore, in 1 year, students should have 240 hours of English classes.
Hence, we can take into account that by the time these 5th graders get to 12th grade, they will have reached , by far, the ALTE B1 level (Threshold User) requested by Mineduc.
For Additional information about the ALTE levels, there is an additional table with the framework of ALTE levels .