La Rivista per l'insegnamento e l'apprendimento delle lingue

Topics, tasks and a resource book

Promoting learner autonomy in the primary English classroom

Käthi Staufer
Keith Sprague

Die Neuentwicklung eines Englischlehrmittels für die Primarschule (4.n– 6. Klasse) gibt Anlass zu Überlegungen zu einem interdisziplinären Ansatz, der Sachthemen und damit verbundene Lernaufgaben (tasks) in den Mittelpunkt stellt. Wenn die kommunikativen Absichten der Lernenden und nicht eine grammatikalische Progression den Sprachbedarf bestimmen, brauchen diese früh schon Mittel und Wege, um autonomer als gewohnt arbeiten und sich die notwendigen Informationen selbst beschaffen zu können. Das Resource Book for Explorers, das hier vorgestellt wird, ist ein multifunktionales Nachschlagewerk für Primarschüler und –schülerinnen, das einerseits die Lernerautonomie fördert, anderseits das notwendige Mass an Steuerung bietet.

Classroom materials for upper primary learners of English
“Explorers” is a content and task based course for upper primary level learners who have had one or two years of English previously. It is produced by the Zürcher Lehrmittelverlag and regionally coordinated by the Interkantonale Lehrmittelzentrale. The authoring team (Brigitte Achermann, Keith Sprague and Käthi Staufer) is based at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences’ School of Education (PHZH).

An interdisciplinary approach
There are several important arguments in favour of an approach which links foreign language learning to other subjects on the curriculum:
Firstly, with modern curricula expanding in scope to take account of the increasing need for new skills, it makes more sense than ever to look for ways of creating synergies between different subject areas so that, ideally, the learning of every subject aids the learning of other subjects. Secondly, for primary-school pupils, linking foreign language learning to subjects and topics on their school curriculum is more authentic than simply learning languages for social purposes. Knowing how to buy a train ticket or order a meal in English is of limited use to ten-year-olds when their everyday environment offers no opportunites to use these functions. Whereas adults learning a foreign language are often motivated by a long-term goal, children learn best by interacting with the world around them and experiencing things at first hand.
“Explorers” has taken the interdisciplinary idea one step further than is usually the case by continually drawing on the expertise of specialists from a range of different subject areas and by involving methodology experts from other areas of the curriculum at the initial conception stage. Thus, it has been possible to establish cross-curricular connections that extend beyond the sharing of content to general pedagogic principles and methodology.
The six global themes which the whole course is based on come from the subject area of “Mensch und Umwelt / Mensch und Mitwelt / Natur, Mensch, Mitwelt” (as it is variously known in different cantons) – history, geography, science and technology, and social studies – plus the two additional subject areas of art and music.

Task- and action-based learning
Current thinking in both subject matter and language teaching methodology is based on a view that places the learner centre-stage as an active constructor of knowledge and understanding. In terms of classroom practice, this means that pupils are encouraged to explore subject matter, form hypotheses and draw their own conclusions, which calls for a task- and action-based approach to language learning.
“Explorers” has incorporated task- and action-based learning into a modular organising principle whose linguistic backbone, rather than a pre-determined grammatical syllabus, is a defined repertoire of communicative language competences needed to fulfil a range of tasks. This repertoire is built up cyclically through the learner’s engagement in communicative scenarios composed of series of tasks leading to concrete outcomes (cf. Stotz 2005, 15f.).To be able to communicate successfully, the learners are supported in various ways by prompts, strategies and the provision of appropriate self-access resources such as the Resource Book for Explorers, which will be discussed in more detail below. [...]

Ti interessa il testo completo dell’articolo? / Le texte complet de l’article vous intéresse? / Sind Sie am vollständigen Artikeltext interessiert? / If you are interested in the entire article