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Critically discuss what makes a ‘good’ Unit of learning in primary English. (2000 words)
In English, a good unit of work begins with the teacher’s relationship they have with the subject. If primary school teachers are not confident in certain areas of a specific subject, it will then be reflected in their teaching, as well as their pupils work (Green, A., 2011). In order for teachers to teach English effectively, they need to consider the four key areas of learning in English (speaking, listening, writing and reading). These are also known as the four strands (meaning-focused input, meaning-focused output, language-focused learning and fluency development). These strands are embedded within every English language course and are used continuously throughout all units of work (Nation, P., 2007). By using the four strands effectively, this will help to teach pupils to speak and write fluently to improve their communication of thoughts and sharing of ideas (DfE, 2013). Within this discussion, I will be establishing a good unit of learning in primary English and the different factors which contribute to this.
As stated above, it is essential for English teachers to have a strong knowledge of the subject before teaching it – especially the quality of spoken English used within their teaching. Yu, Y. (2019) states that teachers pass this basic English knowledge to their students, which requires teachers to have certain professional skills and abilities. Yu, Y. (2019) continues to talk about how these teachers have a very important role in the way of improving students’ quality in English, by the way in which they model learning within the classroom. Goodwyn, A., Bransen, J. (2005) agrees and believes that teachers should set out learning objectives explicitly as well following this with giving concrete, quality examples – so the expectations of the children are consistently high. Teachers should always demonstrate an understanding of and take responsibility for promoting high standards of literacy (DfE, (2011). Goodwyn, A., Bransen, J. (2005) continues to talk about how within English teaching, teachers need to focus on engaging students within their pedagogical approach. Shinde, M, B., Karrekatti, T, K. (2012) believes that in order to engage pupils, lessons must be as interactive as possible so that children are actively engaged. Studies found that children attain English more effectively once they are involved in activities and interacting with their peers around them (Shinde, M, B., Karrekatti, T, K. (2012). From interaction within the classroom, deeper learning occurs. Campbell, C., Jane, B. (2010) talks about a ‘minds on’ aspect of the learning experience. This aspect involves the process of thinking and doing, so that children are learning at a much deeper level, both creatively and analytically. However, an active approach in English teaching may not be suitable for all learners. Campbell, C., Jane, B. (2010) state that teachers can promote language development in all pupils by recognising that children learn in different ways. This progressioncan be through the provision of enriched learning experiences which include visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning (Campbell, C., Jane, B. (2010). Vale, D., & Feunteun, A. (2003) Moon, J. (2000). Brown, D. (2000) agrees with Cambell and Jane and how different pupils all have different learning styles. Children are faster than adults in learning English and they can learn English well with their own style. Once English teachers are aware of the different learning styles of their pupils, it will help to motivate them in their learning. Pintrich, P., & DeGroot, E. (1990) believe that affective factors like motivation stimulate the use of metacognitive strategies. Metacognition is critical to understanding how a task is performed (Schraw, G. (2001) and indicates students’ ability to monitor, evaluate and make plans for their own learning.
In regards to an active and creative teaching approach, there are a range of different barriers within this teaching that professionals need to be aware of how to overcome. Grainger, T., et al. (2005) states that in recent years creative teaching of English has been controlled by a centralised system for the teaching of literacy. This means that the use of children’s literature may be limited, therefore resulting in teacher’s confidence dropping if the books do not fit in with the lesson content. Another huge barrier which is prominent in primary school English, is the teaching of EAL children (children which use English as an additional language). Strand, S., and Demie, F. (2007) highlights on the four stages of English fluency and the process that EAL children have to go through in order to be classed as fluent in English. The first stage is pupils who are new to English and need support to operate English. They then become familiar with English but need support in written activities. These two are usually the category that EAL pupils are situated in. This may be extremely difficult for teachers to progress them further onto the last stages of fluency – as research shows that many EAL pupils defined as ‘advanced learners’, continue to underachieve in writing (Cameron, L. 2003, Cameron, L., & Besser, S. (2004). Ofsted, (2001), Cummins, J. (1992) supports this and believes that fluency in spoken English is usually achieved within two years, but the ability to read and understand more complex texts as well as to write academically is a much longer process.
In order to develop fluency, the power of talk in the classroom is one of the most valuable and effective approaches to English learning. Vogotchy, L. (1986) talks about the importance of talk within the classroom. In his literature he talks about how talk develops children’s thinking and understanding in a range of different areas of learning and helps promote a love of learning. Bruner, J. T. (1994) supports Vogotchy by highlighting on the importance of teacher and pupil interaction and how this is essential for successful learners. Gal, I., & Ginsburg, L. (1994) highlights on the importance of students’ attitudes, beliefs, expectations and motivation in their learning and this can be achieved through the professional relationship between the teacher and pupil as well as the interaction of ideas shared within their learning. As stated in the above paragraphs, students must actively engage in the learning so that they are given the opportunity to express their understanding to the teacher and the rest of the class (Goodwyn, A., Bransen, J. (2005). Language is used to clarify different ideas and the more children engage in their learning, their language skills will develop over time and become more and more complex (Dockett, S., & Fleer, M. (2002).
Looking at different forms of literature will increase the development of writing skills within an English unit of work. Looking at the language within children’s texts for reading, will help children to think more into the detail about the meaning behind the literature. This will thereby improve their critical analysis and reflection in their own writing (Goodwyn, A., Bransen, J. (2005). As stated in the above paragraph, Vogotchy highlights on the importance of talk within the primary classroom – this supports the importance of exploring different types of children’s literature as talk, surrounding the literature, will form wide ranging discussions (Cremin., et al. (2014). In order for teachers to use quality questioning in regards to the different literature used, they must have a secure knowledge of it. Younger, M. and Warrington, M. (2005) Kwek, D., et al. (2007) supports this statement and also agrees that teachers which have a knowledge of literature will recommend the correct books for their pupils. Categorising children into different reading groups will create a community of readers within the classroom where reading for pleasure will flourish. Cremin, T., et al. (2014) agrees with this and states that teachers which have a secure knowledge of children’s literature as well as knowledge of their own pupils, will develop a love of reading that will in turn encourage their students to read for pleasure. Once teachers begin to introduce different reading materials to their pupils, it will start to motivate them more to read and ask questions. Hall and Harding (2003), Cremin., et al. (2014) believe that teachers should always have a secure knowledge of different types of literature, a wide knowledge of contemporary children’s authors, children’s books and poets – so that they can have in depth discussions with the children and their reading tastes. Hall and Harding also suggests that English teachers should identify which books would catch the attention of the whole class – so they may enjoy listening and being read to.
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