AIMS AND PHILOSOPHY
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 PETALS 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 the Running Reading Record under the PM Nelson benchmark which provides a gauge of the students reading age and allows the initial banding of students into the ability groupings (Annex A). The same tests administered at the end of each year also provide an indication of how far individual students have progressed in their reading literacy.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 and reading tests which we administer for all the students at the end of the Y3. The school targets 50% of students to pass with 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 employed to motivate student learning. For example, teachers make use of the Little Red Dot and the Straits Times Online and show vodcasts from iTunes or relevant Youtube videos to teach students current affairs.The teaching of Workskills 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 lifeskills that are useful for daily living (e.g. understanding directions, reading medicine labels, ordering from a menu). EL teachers also work closely with other departments to ensure that the curriculum prepares students to access the vocational courses under the ITE Skills Certificate (ISC); for example, vocabulary used in the Retail Operations course is taught and reinforced in English lessons.
- 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. FF Activity Sheets).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). The typical reading progression is described in Fig 1 below.
- 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 are banded according to their Reading Age into Low, Middle and High Ability groupings. Fast Forward and PM Readers are used which have vocabulary that are pegged to the appropriate reading age yet contains content that is suitable for adolescent readers. They help to build confidence by providing the appropriate level of challenge and ensure that students’ nascent vocabulary is built on and reinforced progressively through the series.1In terms of pedagogies, the school makes use of IT and co-operative teaching strategies to scaffold learning effectively. Smart boards cater to the predominantly kinaesthetic learners and the PM Plus software allows for immediate help and feedback to students to support the learning in the Readers. 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.
- lspeak, write and make presentations in internationally acceptable English that is grammatical, fluent and appropriate for purpose, audience, context and culture.
- lread and view with understanding, accuracy and appreciation of texts.
- lproduce functional, transactional texts, e.g. reports, letters and completing forms.
- lpresent information through different modes to create impact.