Monday, 29 November 2010

Language functions by Pauline Gibbons...

This excerpt from the book called ‘Learning to learn in a second language’ and written by Pauline Gibbons. It is about how to programme for language across the curriculum.

‘There are many functions or purposes for which language is used in the classroom, and a useful starting point for programming for language across the curriculum is to identify functions which will be required through your programme. This will allow you to describe in general terms the language that your children will need in order to participate and to learn in your classroom. The list below represents the more common functions of a language;

· agreeing & disagreeing

· apologizing

· asking for permission

· asking for assistance, directions

· classifying

· comparing

· commanding/giving instructions

· criticizing

· denying

· describing

· inquiring/questioning

· evaluating

· expressing likes and dislikes

· Expressing position

· Expressing obligation

· Explaining

· Hypothesizing

· Identifying

· Inferring

· Planning and predicting

· Refusing

· Reporting

· Sequencing

· Suggesting

· Warning

· Wishing and hoping

To identify the language functions currently being used in your classroom, try matching some of the teaching and learning activities in your programme with the relevant language functions.

Look particularly at those areas of the curriculum not traditionally thought of as ‘language’, such as maths, science, social studies or craft.

The following comments from a group of teachers may be helpful.

Classifying: ‘During Maths activities the children were sorting shapes and talking about the groups they made ‘Hypothesizing: In social studies we were talking about the greenhouse effect and what might happen in the future.

Describing: ‘We were doing modelled writing and composing a setting for a story’

Giving and following instructions: ‘In PE I told children to curl up, tuck their heads in and do a forward roll’

Explaining: ‘We’ve been studying rocks and one group chose to research fossils; they gave a presentation on how fossils are formed.

Predicting: ‘The children were discussing what we are going to see at the zoo next week and what they will need to bring on the excursion.’

Choosing the words

Within any of the language functions there are many ways of expressing a similar idea. Think, for example, of how you might express, as part of an explanation, the cause and effect relationship between these two ideas.

It rained. The soil got washed away.

Any competent native speaker could offer a range of alternative wordings, such as:

It rained and so the soil got washed away.

The soil got washed away because it rained.

Because it rained the soil got washed away.

As a result of the rain, the soil got washed away.

The soil was eroded as a result of the rain.

The soil getting washed away was the result of the rain.

The rain caused the soil to be washed away.

The soil erosion was caused by rain.

Each of these wordings represents a different way of expressing a similar idea. However, it is important to give some consideration to what kind of language is appropriate for a particular activity, and for a particular grade. It is especially important where there are large numbers of second language speakers because of the tendency many language learners have to ‘stay with the known’.

If what you have learned to say works for you and allows you to meet your immediate needs, then it is often easier to stay with the known. Remaining with the known, therefore, while works for the tourist, is a hazardous strategy for the bilingual learner in the school.

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