Oral and Written Expression: What Should You Expect?
by Elaine Gallagher, PhD In the 21st Century, if you can’t SPEAK the language, you don’t really KNOW the language. Obviously, oral fluency, the base […]
by Elaine Gallagher, PhD
In the 21st Century, if you can’t SPEAK the language, you don’t really KNOW the language. Obviously, oral fluency, the base of CLIL philosophy, is the major skill to develop. Once you have oral fluency, it’s very easy to write, because writing is simply expressing on paper or on a digital device, whatever you can say.
In other words, if you have oral fluency, you’re THINKING in the language. If you can THINK in a language, you can write what you are thinking.
Many teachers make writing harder for their students than it should be. They simply give a writing assignment and expect the students will complete it in school or for “homework” (another issue to be discussed in Section 4!). Then the teacher collects it, grades it, but, usually, the student has no idea how or why he got the grade he received. The next week, the same cycle begins, with a new assignment, which the student gets back in a few days, with many errors (usually marked in red).
Where do we start to make the change for better oral and written expression? What should we expect? What is reasonable for students to exhibit, proving they have oral and written skills?
The first thing we need to do, so that we’ll reach our goals is to
ENCOURAGE STUDENTS TO SPEAK IN ENGLISH. Model English 100% of the class time, even as young as Kindergarten children. Young children can learn much faster than we may think, IF the adults around them model the target language. Babies growing up in a multilingual household easily learn 3 languages, without even realizing what they are learning!
DEVELOPING ORAL PRODUCTION
Oral production is the #1 factor in exhibiting language acquisition. The idea proposed is that «in the 21st century, if you can’t speak the language, you don’t know the language.»
Language growth occurs when there are activities for oral production. In the section below, we’ll describe some activities for you to practice with your students. These activities should be useful in kinder, primary grades, and through middle school) grades. The intent is for teachers to utilize more oral production activities, as opposed to grammar-based, written work. This idea supports CLIL philosophy.
- TEACHER TALKING TIME:
This must be reduced.
I’ve observed teachers doing most of the talking in many classes that I visit. Some teachers were asking and answering their own questions. In some classes, too many students, even some teachers, are still speaking in Spanish. This is opposed to CLIL philosophy, which encourages 100% of class time being conducted in the target language (English, in our instance).
It is understandable that new students to a school might not know English well….but teachers need to explain that in English class, only English should be spoken. If students do not have fluency or sufficient vocabulary, the teacher needs to model English for them, and have them repeat.
S: «Tengo sed.»
T: «Oh, you’re thirsty… Say “I’M THIRSTY»…..and help the child to repeat as best he/she can. Gradually, students will be able to speak in English, IF we expect them to.
- TIME ON-TASK: Being «on-task» means that the students and the teacher do not waste time! Period!
Every student, of every age, should have an alternative activity readily available to work on when they finish whatever it was that the teacher had assigned. Not one student should be sitting doing nothing, not even for 2 minutes, because he /she «finished», and is waiting for others to «finish».
I tell students…as a joke, «We are never ‘finished’, until we’re dead!»
You need to have alternative activities/opportunities for those who finish quickly…NOT more of the same work! We need to encourage students to complete work swiftly and accurately….with something attractive to do when they are done their worksheets or project activities before others….Free reading, using a digital tablet, or drawing, are all examples of things students usually enjoy.
- A book or magazine to read or browse, in ENGLISH.
- A puzzle or word search activity
- A social sciences or math activity in English.
- Helping another student or helping the teacher
- Word games, such as Scrabble
- Videos or music on CD’s, in English
- Video games or apps in English, for smart phone, i-pad, or tablet
With the areas described above, we have some opportunities to grow professionally as our schools become more immersed in English, so we’ll be providing world-class English for our students, leading to fluency and proficiency in English. Once students have some oral fluency (for their age), they are ready to WRITE.
2. DEVELOPING WRITING SKILLS BY GRADE LEVEL
Writing is a gradual process, beginning with oral fluency (so they have something in their brains to write about), to learning the letters, how to form the letters, (using various kinesthetic techniques), to invented writing, how to write his/her name, dictating to the teacher…..and, FINALLY, the student begins to write alone.
Kindergarten (ages 5 or 6) :
Identification of letters; (seeing a letter and being able to name it), saying the alphabet; writing their names; listening to stories and giving an oral summary or a drawing about the story; developing vocabulary
1st and 2nd:
Begin with capital letter; end with correct punctuation: . ? !
3rd and 4th:
Main idea; indent for each new paragraph; supporting details; using adjectives, adverbs as descriptors
5th and 6th:
3 – 5 paragraphs in a composition; using an outline
7th, 8th, 9th:
5 paragraph essay/composition;
An outline prepared with:
- an introduction
- the information
- a conclusion
- using references & a bibliography
There are 3 basic types of writing:
DEVELOPING WRITING SKILLS IN THE CLASSROOM
1. FIVE STEPS TO GOOD WRITING
- Pre-writing…development of vocabulary to be used by brainstorming
- Drafting….First attempt at the writing topic/assignment
- Revising….Second draft….Working with a partner, checking each other’s work
- Proof reading…Checking for errors, adding elaboration details
- Publishing or sharing…..Letting others see what you have completed
2. PROOF-READING CHECKLIST FOR STUDENTS
Provide students from 3rd grade of primary through middle school grades, with this sheet at the beginning of the year, so they’ll learn how to self-check. This works best when students, in pairs, work together to check their work.
- ___ Did I spell all the words correctly?
- ___ Did I indent each paragraph?
- ___ Did I write each sentence as a complete thought?
- ___ Do I have any run-on sentences?
- ___ Did I begin each sentence with a capital letter?
- ___ Did I use capital letters correctly in other places?
- ___ Did I end each sentence with the correct punctuation mark?
- ___ Did I use commas, apostrophes, and other punctuation correctly?
- ___ Did I read my paper aloud to myself or to a friend?
SAMPLE RUBRIC SCORING FOR WRITING
The Rubric can be adapted to grade equivalents, such as:
- 4 = Excellent, well-above expectations: 95+
- 3= Very good, above expectations: 85 – 94
- 2= Good, meeting expectations: 75 – 84
- 1= Below expectations: 65 – 74
- 0= Do it again: no score (Seek help.)
- Correct purpose and audience
- Effective elaboration
- Consistent organization
- Clear sense of order and completeness
- Fluent, good vocabulary choices
- Correct purpose and audience
- Moderately well elaborated
- Organized, but possible digressions
- Clear, effective language
- Correct purpose and audience
- Some elaboration
- Some graphic details
- Gaps in organization
- Limited language control
- Attempts to address audience
- Wrong purpose
- Brief / vague
- Wanders off / on topic
- Lack of language control
- Poor or no organization
- Off topic, or copied the writing assignment
- Blank paper, or did not write enough to score
- Language other than English
- Illegible or incoherent
Students can work together in pairs to help each other… NOT to correct or grade each other’s papers, but to read each other’s papers and make comments, suggestions, and advise each other about necessary corrections.
IDEAS FOR NARRATIVE WRITING ASSIGNMENTS
An expressive narrative…writing «a story»
The writer will sequence events into a story on a specified topic:
Chronological (progression through time)
Use the basic elements of a short story with a fully-developed beginning, middle, and end. This must be more than a sequence of events. Writer must establish some sort of problem which is solved during the events of the story.
TRANSITIONAL WORDS and PHRASES:
TEACH STUDENTS HOW TO USE THESE:
then, after, after that, soon, while, later, before, during, next, when, meanwhile, as soon as, finally, at last
- FIRST: Setting, location, characters, time of day (once upon a time, far away, in old times when wishes came true, on a space station in the year 2,134)
- THEN: The problem
- LAST: A solution
- CONCLUSION: happy ending (They lived happily ever after. They woke up from a dream. They arrived home safely. Etc.)
A STORY FORMULA
Using this formula, students can summarize a story, or create their own story.
SOMEBODY – WANTED – BUT – SO – THEN
Example: (the movie: “Jerry McGuire”, with Tom Cruise)
- SOMEBODY Jerry
- WANTED to be rich
- BUT He was fired
- SO He opened his own business
- THEN He got rich & famous.
(Introduce these technique in 3rd grade, but use them through high school.)
- Use similies / metaphors.….
color, shape, size, texture,
(The clouds looked like cotton balls. OR The lion was like a huge version of my pet cat.)
- Use conversation…..
Two complete exchanges
- Use adjectives or adverbs….
1 or 2 with nouns or verbs
(The tall, handsome prince silently glimpsed the princess in the ugly,
PLAN TO WRITE SOMETHING EVERY DAY, EVEN JUST A FEW SENTENCES.!!!
To be a good writer, you have to write!
Do a “quick write”, a journal entry, or work on an on-going assignment.
Students, to help you develop into being a good writer:
- USE GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS TO ORGANIZE YOUR THOUGHTS.
- KEEP A VOCABULARY NOTEBOOK.
- KEEP A LIST OF IDEAS FOR WRITING TOPICS YOU LIKE.
FINAL ADVICE TO TEACHERS REGARDING HOMEWORK:
Writing assignments are to be done in school, in class, under the support and supervision of the teacher…NOT at home! The students are in school 8 hours a day. That is a shift in a typical factory or office. They do NOT need to take work home!
It is neither ethical nor honest if teachers give a grade for any work that the teacher, personally, did not see the student do! PERIOD.
Google, older siblings, “helpful” mothers, fathers, etc. contribute to the dishonesty.
Traditional homework, in the 21st century, is obsolete!
Studying class notes, reading a chapter, researching in Internet, listening to TV programs in English, are all “legitimate” homework assignments, because they enter directly into the students’ brains.
Mom can’t do those things for the student. Writing assignments, math calculations or problems at home, finishing workbook pages, etc. have gone the way of the dinosaurs in high quality schools.
Research shows that homework does NOT “build responsibility”. It does not help students to “learn better”. To the contrary: Homework teaches students to dislike school, to copy from others, and to become “robots”, going through robot-like motions to complete the work, but of a mediocre quality. They complete the work, not using critical thinking. When however, students have time to research Internet or to read on their own, they learn MUCH more!
(RESEARCH: “The Homework Myth” by Alfie Kohn, 2012.)
- ORAL production is the #1 characteristic of anyone who’s
fluent in a language. Develop a strong vocabulary, ask lots of critical thinking questions, and have students talk in pairs and in groups…practicing their English. The class is conducted 100% in English, even in Kindergarten.
- TEACH writing. Don’t simply ASSIGN writing. Develop vocabulary
lists, use graphic organizers so students can organize their ideas well. Write something every day. For topics that take longer to develop, use the five steps mentioned in the article.
- HOMEWORK IS OBSOLETE. (ENOUGH SAID!)
TEACH don’t “ASSIGN”.