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1 DEVELOPING ‘ACADEMIC LANGUAGE’ FROM PRIMARY TO SECONDARY EDUCATION THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY BENCHMARKS IN IRISH PRIMARY SCHOOLS Bronagh Ćatibušić Trinity College, Dublin; St. Patrick’s College, Dublin Seminar organised by the Language Policy Unit - DG II Council of Europe, Strasbourg, France

2 OVERVIEW Support for children from migrant backgrounds at primary school in Ireland The English Language Proficiency Benchmarks – describing L2 proficiency development Relation of these ‘Benchmarks’ to actual English L2 acquisition – based on empirical evidence How benchmarks/descriptors can support children’s acquisition of the language of schooling

3 IRELAND: RECENT MIGRATION PATTERNS Late 1990s to present – significant immigration 10% of primary school children from immigrant backgrounds (DES & OMI 2010) Majority of these children speak a home language other than English or Irish (ESL pupils) ESL pupils from wide range of linguistic backgrounds ESL pupils are enrolled in primary schools across Ireland, but diversity greatest in urban areas

4 EDUCATIONAL PROVISION FOR ESL PUPILS English language support programme – introduced in late 1990s to provide L2 instruction for ESL pupils Duration: first 2 years of schooling in Ireland (from initial enrolment) Generally regular (daily) withdrawal lessons ESL pupils spend c.80% of time in mainstream classroom while receiving support (requires teacher liaison) Guidelines for English language support: English Language Proficiency Benchmarks for non-English- speaking pupils at primary level (IILT 2003)

5 ENGLISH LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY BENCHMARKS Designed by Integrate Ireland Language and Training in collaboration with primary school teachers Describe English L2 proficiency development from the earliest stages to a level at which the child can participate fully in mainstream education Curriculum-linked: function as an L2 ‘curriculum- within-the-curriculum’ (Little 2010: 19), can be flexibly applied across primary education (age: 4-12 years) Focus on language of schooling but basis for resources promoting plurilingual and intercultural education

6 FEATURES OF THE BENCHMARKS Derived from the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (Council of Europe 2001) Cover lower 3 levels of CEFR – A1, A2 and B1 –English language support limited to 2 years –Appropriate to age and stage of cognitive development in primary school –By attaining B1 proficiency, children should be able to engage fully in mainstream education; L2 learning continues more autonomously (NB. for younger ESL pupils, L2 literacy targets may be lower than B1) Reflect main themes of Irish primary school curriculum Include CALP-related descriptors from earliest stages of proficiency development – ESL pupils are learning through L2 from the very start

7 STRUCTURE OF THE BENCHMARKS PART I: Global Benchmarks of Communicative Proficiency: Listening, reading, spoken interaction, spoken production, writing Global Scales of Underlying Linguistic Competence: Vocabulary control, grammatical accuracy, phonological control, orthographic control PART 2: 13 ‘Units of Work’: Describe L2 proficiency development re. curriculum themes in a flexible way to account for age / cognitive development

8 EXAMPLE: GLOBAL BENCHMARKS (RECEPTIVE SKILLS) LISTENING - A1 Can understand simple questions and instructions when teachers and other pupils speak very slowly and clearly. LISTENING - A2 Can understand a routine instruction given outside school (e.g. by a traffic warden). LISTENING - B1 Can understand detailed instructions in all school contexts (classroom, gym, playground etc.).

9 EXAMPLE: GLOBAL SCALES OF LINGUISTIC COMPETENCE VOCABULARY – A1 Can recognize, understand and use a limited range of basic vocabulary... VOCABULARY – A2 Can recognize, understand and use a range of vocabulary associated with concrete everyday needs or learning experiences... VOCABULARY – B1 Can recognize, understand and use a range of vocabulary related to familiar classroom themes, school routines and activities...

10 EXAMPLE: UNIT OF WORK (‘OUR SCHOOL’) SPOKEN INTERACTION – A1 Can ask for familiar classroom objects and materials (book, crayons, paper, etc.).

11 SUPPORTING L2 LEARNING – BENCHMARKS & ELP Benchmarks – teachers Aim: to support an ‘action-oriented’ approach to L2 learning through the functional description of achievable, curriculum- linked learning outcomes (classroom activities / assessment criteria) European Language Portfolio: ‘Primary ELP’ – pupils Aim: to ensure active involvement in own learning, self- assessment, goal setting –My passport: summary of own L2 learning at specific points in time –My biography: ongoing record of own learning in relation to each of the 13 ‘Units of Work’ –My dossier: evidence of own learning


13 BENCHMARKS’ RELATION TO L2 ACQUISITION? Feedback from teachers suggested Benchmarks were appropriate Research was required to examine this issue empirically Do the Benchmarks reflect the trajectory of ESL pupils’ L2 acquisition, and if so how / how well? –Focus of research was on pupils’ oral L2 use as best evidence of their L2 acquisition (L2 learning inseparable from L2 use – CEFR’s approach to language learning) –Evidence of L2 literacy development also considered

14 STUDY: ESL ACQUISITION IN IRISH PRIMARY SCHOOLS Longitudinal study conducted in school year schools 18 ESL pupils 10 different national / linguistic backgrounds –Pupils from: Poland, Romania, Pakistan, Serbia, China, Croatia, India, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal Age range: 4 – 10 years 12 male, 6 female 1 st and 2 nd year of English language support Context: English language support lessons

15 DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS 154 English language support lessons producing: –80+ hours audio-recording of pupils’ oral L2 use (transcribed) –Sample of pupils’ written L2 production Function-form analysis of oral data (mixed methods): –Benchmark links to pupils’ spoken turns (functional analysis) –Linguistic features of pupils’ spoken turns (formal analysis) –Impact of interaction on pupils’ L2 use (conversation analysis) –7455 oral turns-at-talk were analysed Analysis of literacy-related data (qualitative) Consideration of influences on pupils’ L2 acquisition: –Internal (age, home language, learning style) –External (classroom interaction patterns)

16 FROM INDIVIDUAL TO OVERALL RESULTS For each pupil, a ‘profile’ was created which: –Compared evidence of L2 oral proficiency development (derived from Benchmark links) to evidence of L2 acquisition (derived from 14 linguistic indicators – 10 grammatical, 4 lexical) –Compared evidence of L2 literacy development to Benchmark descriptors for reading and writing –Considered possible influences on L2 acquisition Cumulative analysis of the 18 pupil profiles to determine the relation, if any, of the Benchmarks to actual L2 acquisition among ESL pupils

17 RESULTS OF FUNCTIONAL ANALYSIS (1) Progression in ESL pupils’ L2 oral proficiency followed the sequence outlined by the Benchmark levels: A1 → A2 → B1 This progression from proficiency associated with Level A1 to proficiency more associated with Level B1 occurred over 2 years of English language support – learning outcomes described by the Benchmarks reflect actual L2 oral development over a 2-year period


19 RESULTS OF FUNCTIONAL ANALYSIS (2) Most instances of pupils’ recorded L2 use could be linked to descriptors for the skills of spoken interaction and spoken production included in the Benchmarks (both ‘Global Benchmarks of Communicative Proficiency’ and ‘Units of Work’) – descriptors accurate Links to many of the Benchmark descriptors for listening could also be inferred from pupil’s L2 use in interaction

20 RESULTS OF FORMAL ANALYSIS Evidence of L2 grammatical and lexical development among ESL pupils corresponded closely to the progression of L2 acquisition suggested by the descriptors in the Benchmarks’ ‘Global Scale of Underlying Linguistic Competence’ This research also illustrated specific features of L2 linguistic competence at A1, A2, B1 (e.g. typical structures, vocabulary range, error-types etc.)

21 RESULTS: GRAMMAR & LEXIS B1 Increasing lexical range Broadening and deepening of semantic range Diversification of verb lexemes produced Widening range of lexico-grammatical features, with lexical development apparent within these emerging categories A1 B1 Increasing use of nouns, verbs, personal pronouns, articles, prepositions, auxiliaries. Increasing accuracy in the use of these indicators (subject to fluctuation as production rate increases) Structural complexity developing, from noun-based production in the early stages of L2 development to more complex structures Development in range and accuracy of syntactical indicators: negative and question formation, clause linkage A1 Grammar Lexis

22 EXAMPLE: PUPILS’ ORAL L2 VERB USE A1 This is eating. (re. picture of child eating) Child from Latvia, 4 years old, c. 4 months support A2 Eh the- the three little pigs em eh and the wolf eh and.. I don’t know how what that called, this yellow. (re. ‘straw house’ in story) Child from Serbia, 6 years old, c. 8 months support And in television I see one ship have- have all day he broke the ship and- and he- he- he- (re. film ‘Titanic’) Child from China, 6 years old, c. 9 months support B1 Because if somebody drinks lots of em whiskey and beer and- and- em then- then they em the eyes start to close and em they start going in the road and then they fell down and eh and that’s why the- the police is there. (re. classroom talk about situations requiring an ambulance) Child from Pakistan, 8 years old, c. 15 months support

23 L2 LITERACY DEVELOPMENT (1) Benchmark descriptors for reading and writing reflected the development of pupils’ L2 literacy skills Younger ESL pupils (under 7 years) began to acquire L2 literacy skills in English in a manner similar to native- English-speaking peers, BUT difficulties apparent e.g. regarding unfamiliar vocabulary The rate of L2 literacy development was generally faster among older ESL pupils (7-10 years), BUT curriculum literacy requirements much higher for these children

24 L2 LITERACY DEVELOPMENT (2) Pupils with some L1 literacy skills progressed faster in L2 literacy than those who did not (cf. Cummins 2000) – encouragement of L1 literacy development is important General literacy-related issues (non- language-specific reading difficulties) and the nature of any previous educational experience may also impact upon ESL pupils’ L2 literacy development

25 EXAMPLE: L2 LITERACY DEVELOPMENT Child from Poland, 4 years old, c. 5 months support Child from Pakistan, 10 years old, 20 months support Child from Portugal, 8 years old, 15 months support

26 EXAMPLE: THE CHALLENGE OF L2 LITERACY Child completing task (labelling pictures re. actions) with teacher’s assistance, comments on challenge of L2 writing: I can write just only ‘s’ in Lithuania eh letter, we- we have lots of them …. the girl- (child writes 2 nd sentence) It’s very hard to me to write.. all the words... (final comment at end of task) Child from Lithuania, 8 years old, c. 4 months support, previous schooling in Lithuania

27 INTERNAL INFLUENCES ON L2 ACQUISITION Age: older learners (7-10 years) appeared to acquire L2 English at a slightly faster rate than younger learners (under 7 years) – BUT higher curriculum demands on older learners Home language: evidence of cross-linguistic influence particularly re. phonology and grammar – useful to be aware of L1/L2 similarities and differences Personality and learning style: these factors may affect e.g. interactional preferences – consider learning environments/activities appropriate to individual child

28 INTERACTIONAL INFLUENCES ON L2 ACQUISITION More ‘active’ types of discourse (e.g. ‘telling’, ‘elaboration’) corresponded with evidence of L2 use associated with pupils’ maximum L2 proficiency Encouraging collaborative pupil-pupil talk involving such ‘active’ discourse may create opportunities for further L2 learning (cf. Vygotsky 1978, 1986, Swain 2000) – children should not be restricted to responsive roles

29 DO BENCHMARKS WORK? The Irish case shows: Benchmarks derived from the CEFR and rooted in the themes and requirements of school curricula can provide flexible and accurate guidelines to support migrant children acquiring the language of schooling Benchmarks should be applied in an individually sensitive way CEFR-based benchmarks and tools (e.g. ELP) can support pedagogical practices which promote active and autonomous learning for effective L2 acquisition

30 ROLE OF BENCHMARKS IN PLURILINGUAL EDUCATION? Useful for L2 learning, but also can promote plurilingualism: –Through associated tools e.g. in Ireland Primary ELP, Together Towards Inclusion (IILT & SELB 2007) –Through the creation of descriptors for home language development Using benchmarks which have a positive focus on the individual child’s language learning experience within an intercultural educational environment may allow better recognition of learners’ plurilingual repertoires

31 Thank you Merci Hvala Go raibh maith agaibh

32 REFERENCES Cummins, J., 2000: Language, Power and Pedagogy: Bilingual Children in the Crossfire. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Council of Europe 2001: The Common European Framework of References for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. Cambridge University Press. Available at: Department of Education and Skills / Office of the Minister for Integration 2010: Intercultural Education Strategy (Executive summary). Dublin: DES/OMI. Available at: Integrate Ireland Language and Training 2003: English Language Proficiency Benchmarks for non-English-speaking pupils at primary level. Available at: Integrate Ireland Language and Training 2004: European Language Portfolio, Primary: Learning the language of the host community. Available at: Integrate Ireland Language and Training and Southern Education and Library Board 2007: Together Towards Inclusion: Toolkit for diversity in the primary school: Dublin/Armagh: IILT/SELB. Available at: Little, D. 2010: The linguistic and educational integration of children and adolescents from migrant backgrounds. Strasbourg: Council of Europe Language Policy Division. Available at: Swain, M., 2000: The output hypothesis and beyond. Mediating acquisition through collaborative dialogue. In Lantolf, J. P. (Ed.), Sociocultural Theory and Second Language Learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press, Vygotsky, L., 1978: Mind in Society. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press Vygotsky, L., 1986: Thought and Language (2 nd Ed). Cambridge MA: MIT Press


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