The ability to speak and write English effectively is an essential skill in the workplace. In support of NLS’s mission to provide an engaging career oriented education for youth and prepare them for lifelong learning and employability, the Language and Literacy Programme seeks to prepare students to be effective communicators in the main language of work and business, as well as to facilitate future skills upgrading.
The EL Curriculum Framework is illustrated in the five-pointed star below:
The following approaches to language learning are embodied in the syllabus for NLS, and aligned to the MOE principles of engaged learning. Each point of the five-pointed star forms integral P.A.R.T.S. of the EL framework, helping us to achieve our goal to produce competent and confident communicators.
- Positive Learning Environment [Tone of environment]
A major factor for the success of the programme is the role of the teacher as a facilitator and a mentor, who is able to create an open and safe environment for learning. The quality of facilitator-learner interaction is critical to the success of the programme. Language is best acquired in a fun-filled and non-threatening environment. Learners thrive in a safe environment that provides many opportunities for language as well as respect for one another’s efforts. Peers are encouragers and teachers are facilitators and mentors.
- Assessments [Assessment for learning]
A variety of diagnostic, formative and summative assessments are used in NLS to support instruction. Student needs are diagnosed upon admission using Dolch List and informal assessment tools which ascertain students reading age and understand their learning gaps to provide appropriate intervention measures. The same tools are used at the end of each year to provide an indication of how far individual students have progressed in their reading literacy. Formative Assessments which include pre-test and posts tests will allow teachers to gauge where their students are at in their language development which will help them design lessons and select materials that meet students’ learning needs. They will use the pre and post-tests results to better cater to the learning needs of their students by doing item or error analysis. School-based formative assessments include vocabulary, comprehension, retelling, high frequency word and reading tests that form 60-70% of the students’ grades and give a sense of at which stage of the reading process the child is finding difficulty and guides subsequent interventions. Weak readers tend to have difficulties in decoding and have limited print vocabulary, while stronger readers struggle with fluency and problems with reading comprehension. A semestral common test completes the final 30-40% of the English marks. As a final summative assessment, the school adopts the WSQ (workforce skills qualifications system) listening, reading, writing and speaking assessments which is administered for all the students at the end of the Y4. The school targets 80% of students to obtain Level 4 or higher, which gives an indication of how successful the programme has been in preparing students with a sufficient level of literacy for the workplace.
- Real World Context [Learning Content]
Students learn best when they appreciate the real-world contexts in which their literacy skills can be used. Current and authentic materials are used to motivate student learning. They are motivated and show interest when learning leverages on their live experiences and provides opportunities for them to contribute to solving real-world problems. For example, the Units of Work focuses on self, family and society. The teaching of Work skills forms a third of the EL curriculum; in addition to teaching students useful literacy skills to use in the workplace context (e.g. answering the phone, applying for a job, reading work schedules), it also teaches life skills that are useful for daily living (e.g. understanding directions, reading medicine labels, ordering from a menu). The Reading Programme which aims to combat students’ low literacy offers a wide range of information and materials which are current and of high student interest. The engaging and informative programme offers students an insight to issues that affects them.
- Total approach for Language Learning [Experiences of Learning]
In addition to emphasising customised instruction, NLS believes that language acquisition is best facilitated by integrated teaching of the different language components, i.e. listening, speaking, reading and writing, reinforcing and supporting each other in a holistic way. In particular, teachers reinforce the learning of reading in class by providing opportunities for students to engage in listening (e.g. watching and listening of selected movie and audio clips), speaking (e.g. engaging in dialogues, reading to the class) and writing (e.g. writing diary, accounts, speeches, emails and etc).The integrated teaching of the different language components help students to progress from learning to read (i.e. print skills such as building phonemic awareness, word recognition, spelling and improving reading accuracy and fluency) to reading to learn (i.e. meaning skills such as increasing vocabulary and developing comprehension strategies).
- Specific Instruction [Use of Pedagogies]
Customising curriculum and pedagogical approaches to individual needs is critical to helping students who have failed to become literate despite efforts in their Primary schools. Students in NLS assessed to better gauge their reading age and ability so that instructions could be tailor made to make it accessible for them. PM Readers which have vocabulary that are pegged to the appropriate reading age yet contains content that is suitable for adolescent readers are used to build confidence by providing the appropriate level of challenge and ensure that students’ nascent vocabulary is built on and reinforced progressively. In terms of pedagogies, the school makes use of IT and co-operative teaching strategies to scaffold learning effectively. Beside, Differentiated Instruction (DI) and Making Thinking Visible (MTV) tools like See Think Wonder are used to engage the students. Peer teaching allows stronger readers to give individualised assistance to weaker ones while reinforcing their own learning. For the extreme outliers, who suffer from reading disabilities such as dyslexia or issues with memory retention, our in-house literacy coaches provide help by adopting a variety of approaches including whole word learning and explicit teaching of phonics strategies.
- Competent and Confident Communicators [Student Centred]
The learner is at the centre of the learning process. Students of NLS will learn English useful in their specific situations and occupations. At the end of their stay at NLS, students will be able to communicate effectively in English. They will be able to:
- interact effectively with people in a variety of social contexts.
- listen to speeches and presentations with the attitude to learn and understand.
- speak, write and make presentations in internationally acceptable English that is grammatical, fluent and appropriate for purpose, audience, context and culture.
- read and view with understanding, accuracy and appreciation of texts.
- produce functional, transactional texts, e.g. reports, letters and completing forms.
- present information through different modes to create impact.