4 Areas of Importance for the Primary School English Language in Singapore

Nature of the English Language

In the English Language, a child is expected to be able to choose several letters from a set of 26 letters, combining them into a word. Then, each word would carry one or more meanings or ideas. These meanings and ideas may have multiple uses in different contexts and situations. When these words are then put together according to a set of rules, it turns into more complex structures and carries different kinds of meanings that attempt to communicate to its readers.

Knowledge and Skills That Are Assessed:

  • Spelling
    • a child is expected to be able to choose several letters from a set of 26 letters, combining them into a word
  • Vocabulary
    • each word would carry one or more meanings or ideas
    • These meanings and ideas may have multiple uses in different contexts and situations.
  • Oral
    • involves the entire nature of the subject through speaking, listening, general knowledge of life experiences of a student, and the additional knowledge of how conversations work
  • Listening Comprehension
    • involves the entire nature of the subject through listening and scrutinising possible answers
  • Grammar MCQ and Cloze, Synthesis and Transformation
    • When these words are put together according to a set of rules, it turns into more complex structures.
  • Comprehension Cloze and Open-Ended
    • carries different kinds of meaning that expect its readers to understand and predict
  • Writing
    • it turns into more complex structures and carries different kinds of meanings that attempt to communicate to its readers.
    • involves the understanding of the nature of the English language through the manipulation of words and expression

What A Learner Needs To Succeed in the English Language:

1. Access to Language-rich Environment

  • Access to good role models and quality of writing and language use
    • Reading material like books, magazines, bed-time stories, read-a-long or story-telling sessions etc.
    • Having conversations with family members,
    • Have older siblings to read to younger ones whilst being supervised
  • Access to multiple language use opportunities in various modes
    • Reading, shared reading, conversation, discussion, expression of thought and opinion, describing observation etc.
    • Playing language-rich games like Scrabble, Charades, or Heads Up!
  • Access to various real-life experiences and out-of-home trips
    • Visits to the real-life locations like the zoo, market, parks, beach etc.
    • Creation of a monthly or weekly family newsletter or journal, compiling the activities and events in the family

Note for parents:

While it can be assumed that your child’s English Language teachers do their best to create a language-rich environment in class, you too play a role in ensuring that the environment at home is also language-rich. This is to help support the language learning in a more holistic manner.

2. Guidance from a Knowledgeable Other

  • Access to clear and concise explanation of various grammar and syntax rules which is subsequently guided towards applying knowledge to writing and meaning-making
    • The teacher should assist students in organizing the various grammar and syntax rules and their respective purposes and meaning-making.
  • Accompanying critical thinking throughout language use opportunities
    • One example is the skill of reading for understanding may include discussion, conversation, expression of thought and opinion, persuasion, comparing, inference etc.
  • Access to positive role models of perseverance and patience
    • The teacher or parent should model behaviours that cultivate grit and patience.

Note for parents:

It is understandable if parents are not knowledgeable in the English Language. Parents need not feel ashamed or embarrassed. Instead, take the opportunity to become a role model for learning. Show your child how to become curious by asking questions like, “Hmm. What can we do to find out what this word means?” or “What do you think we can do to remember this word in the future?” Questions like these help develop self-directedness in children and develop good habits for language learning.

3. Opportunities to Apply Language for Various Purposes

  • Guided analysis and critical thinking towards structure and successful elements of model essays
    • Students must have opportunities to scrutinize, assess and consolidate the elements that contribute to quality language use
  • Opportunity to create texts that make use of language learned for various real-life purposes like writing a letter to a loved one, recording a poem recital and other forms of language use
    • Language use should extend beyond writing; reading a story to a younger sibling, listening to a poem recital, watching a play and then having a conversation about the play.
  • Scaffolding and modelling of thinking process in answering exam questions in various sections
    • One example would be to think about how a question wants a student to provide an explanation as to how a phrase in a passage creates a certain effect for the reader

Note for parents:

One of the key factors towards improving one’s language is to have constructive feedback on the accuracy of the use of language. Parents may have considered engaging an English Language tutor but students can make full use of the resources they already have at school. Parents can encourage their children to regularly note down questions they may have and seek assistance from their friends and teachers at school.

4. A Safe Environment for Learning

  • Access to a safe environment for mistakes, feedback and improvement
    • The home, class and school environment must allow for a reasonable degree for mistakes while, at the same time, provide opportunities for reflection and learning.
  • Access to developing social-emotional language and behaviour
    • One example is that students should know a repertoire of words that can effectively allow them to empathise with others and also express their feelings and emotions.

Note for parents:

Parents who are interested to learn more about creating a safe environment at home for learning may want to read my list of resources for Social-Emotional Learning in this post.

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