The education enables people to gain new skills in a formal and governmentally controlled way which then benefits the individual’s professional training and promotional ladder movement. Though some people think education to be a rudiment of the renaissance age when this was a concept available to rich people only, it is necessary to emphasize the importance of education on different levels and in different ages.
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The age groups of learners vary regarding the essence of learning. For instance, elementary and secondary education is obligatory aspect of ordinary life in most countries of the world whereas ESL learning is the area available to people who want to learn English and master it to the degree of native speaking.
At the same time, many nations acknowledge necessity of learning other languages than the native one in the context of the globalisation and developing cultural diversity issues. The syllabus will include vocabulary, language focus, listening, and speaking sections that consist of specific topics necessary for adequate development of language skills in whole.
The present learning syllabus in Taiwan elementary schools was introduced to make the learning-teaching process more effective. Along with the new syllabus, a new assessment scale was introduced to functions as the following:
- understanding the strengths and weaknesses of students’ learning ability,
- assisting teachers in monitoring student learning progress,
- evaluating students’ learning,
- placing students in learning groups based on given institutional standards (Chan, 2006, p. 37).
So, the syllabus for the primary school in Taiwan includes interventions for reading (phonemic awareness), writing, listening, and speaking.
Reforms can be considered another important aspect of many sectors of human activity including education that should be adjusted to changing needs and preferences of the population with regard to the expansion of businesses into the global market, development of new areas in new fields of industry with the help of foreign partners or involvement of foreign investors.
In this respect, ESL learners in Taiwan are facing the necessity of introducing new English literature learning syllabus in accordance with the importance of being in the mainstream of the language learning. Besides, a combination of the most effective approaches to design of the literature learning syllabi can be more effective than the application of a single approach or in-turn application of different approaches.
So, ESL learners can benefit from introduction of the new approach that is aimed at using the task-based and topic-based learning syllabi. The present project is designed in order to outline an English literature learning syllabus for ESL learners of 8-12 years old in Taiwan.
The subject will include reading, speaking, writing, listening, and pronunciation interventions for ESL students that would contribute positively to the development of language skills necessary for adequate academic development which is impossible without good reading, speaking, writing, listening, and pronunciation skills.
The English literature learning syllabus should include the features of the topic-based and task-based approaches because ESL students should benefit more from the introduction of new instructions. The syllabus should include clear instructions and be more oriented on gaining the knowledge on a specific topic rather than on a definite text that is aimed at developing knowledge in a concrete area.
General aims of the course include design of a new English learning syllabus or ESL learners in Taiwan. The social, cultural, and educational environments are under the influence of the political and economical ones because of the emerging tendencies in the economy and growth of globalisation.
Participants of this syllabus are ESL learners in Taiwan and well-qualified teachers who have experience in primary teaching and ESL teaching as well. The English literature learning syllabus is introduced for the primary EFL students in Taiwan to enable them to gain knowledge in English language and understand the peculiarities of culture better.
The globalization and the development of an international perspective have pushed English to become an international language or global communication language. Many countries see English as a basic educational requirement (Maurais and Morris, 2003). The motivation and environment have been examined as factors that influence the language acquisition progress by many researchers.
As reported in the study by Gunderson (2008), “Cummins argued that learning occurs in different contexts [that] provide substantial cues to the learner” (p. 41). Corson (1999) reviews the methods that can be applied to increase the language and literature learning efficiency in the ESL class.
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For instance, increase of motivation, reduce the level of anxiety, and increase the level of pupils’ self-confidence and others (p. 199). This means that environment and motivation are of great importance for the ESL students’ effectiveness in learning.
The current situation is such as the ESL learning syllabus is mostly based on the insufficient teacher training resources, content-based or topic-based approach to the presentation of new learning material in class, cooperative learning, and learning in groups when students are divided into smaller groups than the class usually comprises for better acquisition of the presented material.
In addition, the current situation with ESL students in primary school in Taiwan is such that students start learning English as a second language in a younger age than they used to before; so, students may experience difficulties related to associations built in the native and the foreign language. Moreover, students are taught to build analogies and simplify more complicated terms and concepts using new vocabulary.
Qualification of teachers plays one of the major roles in effectiveness of instructions and the expected outcomes of the teaching process. “Students who are not isolated in ESL programs are thrust into mainstream classrooms with teachers little prepared to accommodate them” (Flood, International Reading Association and National Council of Teachers of English, 2003, p. 430).
As suggested by Carder (2007), “ESL teachers for primary (ages 6-11 or 12) should be well-qualified teachers of this age group, with additional training in second language teaching” (p. 38). Besides, the student teacher ratio should not exceed 8:1 (eight students per one teacher) if the ESL syllabus concerns the primary school (Carder, 2007, p. 40).
The history of ESL reading instructions was reviewed by Gunderson (2008) who analysed the approaches and reading programmes used by different scholars and practicing teachers of ESL learners with regard to effectiveness of each approach and benefits gained by learners.
The first approach includes a bottom-up model of teaching according to which “most teachers appear to believe students should be taught skills such as phonics and letter-sound relationship” (Gunderson, 2008, p. 36). The second model, in this case, concerns the top-down approach when students are “asked to read meaningful material” which excludes teaching the letter-sound correspondence directly (Gunderson, 2008, p. 36).
The compromise between these two models is reached in the third one called interactive which is supposed to combine the designs of both the top-down and the bottom-up models (Gunderson, 2008, pp. 36-37). Combination of different learning syllabi is welcomed in the educational system in order to promote educational level of ESL learners.
Variety of views and approaches makes it easier for teachers to use and combine the most effective educational models for ESL students to benefit from them.
Ferris and Hedgcock (2005) report about the variety of views developed in terms of the ESL composition writing, namely the opinion of expressivists who think that expressing oneself in the process of writing is the most important part of writing and cognitivists who consider problem-solving and analysis the main components of the writing process (pp. 5-6).
Task-based learning can be useful in addressing conditions related to ESL students’ writing practice (Cumming, 2006, p. 163). Hinkel (2004a) reports about the varieties of instructions for writing classes and importance of writing skills for ESL students.
As such, opinion-based reports and essays are aimed at reflecting personal thoughts and vision of a student (Hinkel, 2004a, p. 10) whereas the fact-based exemplification allows the instructor to assess the cognitive concept and the knowledge gained by the ESL student (p. 24).
Topic- or content-based approach to the learning syllabus which was introduced in the late 1970s in Australia to cope with the problem of ESL students that should have been included into mainstream school curriculum became a real innovation (Evans, 1996, pp. 179-180).
As suggested by Evans (1996), the structure of the lesson was based on a topic, its visual presentation, building of a reading passage, analysis of the passage, and the final writing (pp. 180-182).
Besides, careful structuring of the task has been identified as the primary factor for effective teaching-learning process using the task-based approach (Clegg, 1996, p. 17). In addition, the pace of language and inter-language development should be increased to ensure that an ESL student succeeds in learning (Clegg, 1996, p. 18).
Different approaches used with ESL students enable the teacher to perform the teaching-learning process more effectively. The study by Brownlie, Feniak and McCarthy (2004) enables the readers to understand the benefits of different models of learning.
For instance, ESL students are claimed to benefit more from lessons if they find the tasks a bit difficult and challenging and the instructions do not take the most part of the lesson (Brownlie, Feniak and McCarthy, 2004, p. 2). A literature learning syllabus for ESL primary learners may focus more on topics and vocabulary rather than on specific works of literature (Carder, 2007, p. 55).
The process of reading is not only a part of the English literature learning syllabus but also an important element of second language acquisition that has a number of benefits (Carder, 2007, p. 59).
Language learning syllabus should be aimed at developing such skills as recognition and identification of definite “sounds, letters, lexicogrammar, sentence…”, “awareness of language”, and other useful components that would be applied during the entire learning course (Carder, 2007, p. 58).
Mississippi Department of Education (1998) insisted on the importance of instructing students how to read; so, clear instructions facilitate learning. Grade books may appear to be too difficult and easier variants can be used. The book by Barchers (1991) is structured in an interesting way including texts and explanations and clear instructions to each of them making it really simple:
Read the book aloud. Allow the students to fill in words as they listen. During the second reading, list a variety of examples of alliteration on the board. Find the 60 objects in the book that begin with the letter “f”. Then list all the foods mentioned in the story (Barchers, 1991, p.146).
The study by Honig (2001) advocates the importance of associating the typed text with the speech heard by students. Larkin (2003) insists on the importance of reading words correctly; this method “… helps students to improve their reading comprehension, increase their vocabulary, and work cooperatively with peers” (p.156).
Assessment of the ESL learners enables the teachers to thrust them into mainstream curriculum school so that they became an integral part of the learning process paying no attention to their previous achievement and gaining knowledge in other subjects as well as mastering their language skills.
The skills gained by ESL learners are assessed by the teachers in order to identify whether they are ready to enter the mainstream of the curriculum with other students whose native language is English; assessment includes measurement of listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills and pronunciation (McKay, 2006).
At the same time, some learners may feel anxiety while being assessed and demonstrate poorer skills and knowledge than was previously seen in ordinary classes without introducing tests and assessment scales.
The task-based curriculum requires students to be capable of fulfilling various tasks that are claimed to become useful for future learning; topic-based curriculum is supposed to be limited to specific topics taught through various visual aids and instructions to facilitate understanding of the topic and build bridges between the native language and second language.
Literature-based approach in teaching-learning is isolated in terms of the definite number of literary sources in accordance to which the ESL students are expected to acquire knowledge about the environment and cultural peculiarities of the second language.
Competency-based syllabus is designed in a way that makes the ESL students gain knowledge and experience in the areas that are believed to be of primary importance; for instance, students are taught to identify letter-sound relations in order to pas the text on this activity later.
The effectiveness of every model that has been in operation should not be questioned because it appeared to be effective for the period in which it operated. At the same time, the model or design is updated as soon as it becomes inappropriate for the audience, other methodologies applied to it, and the results anticipated from its work.
In this respect, the effect of the communicative language teaching model has been analysed by Hinkel (2011b), “The communicative competence model proved highly successful in broadening the scope of classroom teaching and applied linguistics” (p. 348). In this case, this model is worth being used for design of a new English literature learning syllabus for ESL students in Taiwan.
Needs analysis can be fulfilled using the needs assessment tool introduced in the study by Nunan (1992, p. 248), can be seen in the Appendices section. According to this tool, students should be surveyed with the help of simple questions that concern their language skills and language difficulties experienced in their ordinary environment.
So, this survey enables the teacher to identify without any stressful tests how a student feels about his/her progress in English, communication in different levels, listening skills, and other areas that might require more attention in the process of teaching-learning.
Material and visual resources should contain word cards and pictures where all the objects and most situations in different topics are depicted. In this respect, a teacher would not need to write down the words on the blackboard every time. Besides, it would be interesting for children to draw pictures on different topics by themselves to put those up when the teacher asks them in English.
Visual perception of the text as well association of words with specific objects is very important. Preparation for every lesson will take a lot of time if a teacher is going to provide every; time limitation would not be a problem in case of clear organization of the lesson with comprehensive instructions.
The use of vocabulary and other tools to enrich the students’ understanding of the language structure and meaning and develop ESL students’ desire to learn the language further are the primary tasks of the course.
Course Rationale, Organisation, And Approach
Aims of the course include a variety of assignments aimed at developing listening and reading skills, writing and speaking skills, and pronunciation.
Besides, comprehension of the read material should be an integral part of the expected results of the learning syllabus because lack of understanding contributes negatively to the further learning achievements and influences the entire concept of language learning as it includes many aspects. The course is designed for the ESL learners in Taiwan taking into account the primary school aged 8-12 years.
Instructional language with a prevailing number of infinitive constructions will be used to provide instructions in the classroom. The lexical range of verbs will be developed as the class progresses including adequate translations as soon as the verb is introduced for the first time and repetition of the verb accompanied by specific actions.
For instance, if a teacher tells “take your books”, he/she should do what he/she says to show pupils, repeat the same phrase in their native language and repeat it in English again. The assessment of achievement will be performed right after the class (using a 5-10 minute period to find out what pupils got to know). In addition, every class should start with a brainstorming activity to recollect what was said and learn at the previous class.
The learning-teaching context will concern an ordinary classroom that will be steadily filled in with words and pictures on the walls referring to the topics studied in the language acquisition, in literature, and grammar. This course strives to help students to gain more abilities for reading, writing and speaking.
The following areas will be components of the syllabus analysis and justification: description of entry level to course, description of intended exit level, description of assessment, course description, and course goals.
Description of entry level to course
The entry level to the course will include needs analysis using the model offered in the appendices section and evaluation of the gaps students may have in terms of the English language acquisition and use in everyday life and activities requiring the use of English language. At this stage, it is necessary to recognise that a student has or might have problems and he/she needs help in coping with those issues.
Dividing the class into groups should not be fulfilled in accordance with the language competence level but on the basis of the types of information perception. For instance, some students may read and remember the typed text better while others are better listeners and understand the speech on the TV and on the radio better than their classmates.
Description of intended exit level
The exit level for ESL students that are going to finish this course include achievement of the goals enumerated below.
Description of Assessment
The assessment of the preliminary stage was already discussed while assessment of each student’s achievement in terms of language acquisition concerns the tests and quizzes aimed at analysis of the speaking, reading, writing, listening, and pronunciation skills.
The course includes information on topics to improve the ESL students’ speaking, writing, listing, reading, and pronunciation skills.
- Improve listing and comprehension skills
- Strengthen vocabulary
- Develop students’ basic English communication abilities (speaking including formulation of their thoughts)
- Raise students’ interest in learning English
- Broaden students’ cross-culture awareness
The importance of grammar cannot be excluded from the learning syllabus. The study by Gordon (2007) contains analysis of different approaches used to teach grammar as a part of the language learning syllabus.
However, everything can be arranged in the following way: the first phase of teaching-learning should concern noun phrases (nouns, adjectives, pronouns, determiners, noun clauses, and infinitives) (Lester, 2008, pp. 3-119). The next phase of learning should enable ESL students to acquire verb phrases using basic forms of the verbs, special verbs, adverbs, and vary tenses of the verbs (Lester, 2008, pp. 119-273).
Finally, active and passive sentences including affirmative and interrogative statements should be introduced to the ESL students so that they could find the application of their knowledge on parts of speech in practice (Lester, 2008, pp. 273-334). In this respect, grammar can be arranged in the way that meets the topic of the speaking and reading parts of the syllabus.
The vocabulary should include the topics indicated in the appendices section in order to make the learning process more well-organized and structured for better understanding of the foreign culture by ESL students in Taiwan.
Speaking: The topics for speaking include the same as those for development of ESL students’ vocabulary because the topics should coincide in order to be effective in the learning syllabus. As such, the topics are the same as for vocabulary area:
Listening: The same as the speaking and vocabulary areas concerns the listening area because it is important to develop different skills using the topic-based approach.
Writing: This area of the learning syllabus should combine the grammar and vocabulary/speaking/listening topics in order to be effective. Nouns and pronouns should be introduced with the topic about ‘myself’ and family while the adjectives would be better used with such topics as weather and appearance.
Adverbs can be introduced together with the topic of directions and geography while differences between direct and indirect speech should be learnt in the framework of the discussion of literary sources.
Pronunciation: This area should include the same sources as for other areas such as speaking and vocabulary.
Writing Assignments 30%
Class Participation 20%
Anticipated Problems And Limitations
Limitation of the course includes the number of teacher necessary to accomplish every lesson because the learning groups should consist of 8-10 students and no more. Besides, it is necessary to take into account the amount of materials necessary for every topic and importance of variety of assignments so that students were not bored.
Approach To Course Evaluation
The assessment of the needs was already offered in the Appendices section while the evaluation of the outcomes should be performed after every class and after every topic using standard tests and evaluation sheets. For instance, Hedge (2000), uses 2 stages of textbook selecting process.
The syllabus is designed in the way suggested in this paper using specific topics for instruction and clear explanation of assignments for students. The further gaps of the syllabus can be identified in the process of operation and indicated by the teacher and survey aimed at analysing the students’ opinion and their satisfaction level.
Other limitations of the syllabus include the previous experience of the students in English language acquisition and their achievements. The course evaluation should comprise at least two approaches aimed at analysis of the achievements before and after the implementation of the new syllabus.
As such, it is possible to introduce a test based on multiple-choice questions for students of 8-12 age group so that a teacher could see their literacy level and divide them adequately into groups for teaching-learning a new syllabus.
The next step in the assessment should include evaluation of students’ achievements after being in the program for some time (at least two months); this means that evaluation should be performed in a stage-by-stage manner to understand the effectiveness of the syllabus and its influence on the learning process of ESL students in primary school in Taiwan.
The reforms are always important for different sectors of human activity but education is one of the areas where reforms also can be either positive or negative. As a rule, the gaps in the methodologies and techniques are identified after their implementation into full operation. This also causes multiple problems and necessity for solving them.
As such, the importance of education was advocated in many studies while others think education to be a rudiment of the ancient ages when this was a method for achieving some goals.
At the same time, education remains the method of achieving one’s goals because it enables people to think differently, read books, and learn something new due to their skills. The age of learners can vary but the methodologies remain the same because of their proven effectiveness.
English is claimed to be an international language and every country attempts to introduce it as a foreign language into the system of education to develop the learners’ interest and desire to learn it in a more advanced level. Every syllabus should be designed in the way that facilitates understanding and learning of the material offered by the teacher.
Social, cultural and educational values may shift priorities but the desires remain the same and people often need formal education to go further up the career promotional ladder. In Taiwan, education has a strong basis for English language acquisition and instructions but they want to achieve more in giving their students the best practices and making them more experienced in English.
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