Friday, February 26, 2010

Information for teachers

The following is taken from an introductory sheet we're giving out to teachers who have shown an interest in the project. It outlines some of the key areas we want to focus on.

Teaching English Grammar in Schools
Creating a Web-Based Platform for English Language Teaching and Learning

The structures of English are a major part of the National Curriculum and underpin much English teaching at secondary level, but are often viewed with a mixture of suspicion, scepticism and fear by many teachers: suspicion that grammar is just a dry way of learning a narrow, feature-spotting approach to language; scepticism over whether teaching grammar actually helps pupils’ reading and writing; fear that grammar is scary and that they don’t know enough of it. We hope to be able to support teachers in finding ways to make grammar teaching practical, dynamic and accessible, but most of all relevant, because the language we’ll be using is all sourced directly from examples of actual usage.

Our project is designed to help teachers of English at Key Stages 3-5 develop their teaching of grammar, from the basics of word classes such as nouns and verbs, through to more demanding areas such as phrase and clause structure. We are constructing a web-based teaching and learning platform made up of an interactive, structured English language course, which will consist of lesson modules dynamically accessing a grammatically analysed corpus of English.

What is a corpus?
A corpus is a body of data – in this case written and spoken English - which has been collected with the intention of providing material for analysis and illustration of actual usage. ICE-GB, the International Corpus of English, which began in 1990, is being used to provide a large range of material to support this project. 200 written and 300 spoken texts make up the million words of this corpus and every text is grammatically annotated, permitting complex and detailed searches across the whole corpus. One of the major benefits of the ICE-GB corpus is that it also contains a mass of contextual detail, ranging from audio files to accompany the spoken data, to information about each speaker’s and writer’s age and gender.

The objectives of this project are to:

•    Translate our rich corpus resources into effective English language teaching tools and curriculum materials for teachers to use in the classroom;
•    Provide pupils with high-quality web-based learning materials in both classroom and self-directed modes; and
•    Provide quality Continuous Professional Development (CPD) resources to enable teachers to make the most of the resource.

The approach

Using material from the ICE-GB corpus, we are putting together units of work on word classes, phrases, clauses and sentences, as well as material on written and spoken language, different forms of writing and speech, and texts from a range of genres, to form a programme of lessons that can work together as a whole, or as smaller chunks of work through Key Stages 3-4 and into more advanced and open-ended work at AS and A level.  Underpinning this is an approach towards grammar that encourages students (and teachers) to ask questions about language usage and to think not simply in terms of the traditional categories of the “parts of speech” but a more rewarding and systematic method of studying language, which looks at form, function and distribution.

The benefits to teachers

Along with the material that we will produce for individual lessons, we will be developing units of work with activities for reading, writing and speaking & listening tasks, a range of CPD materials to support teachers’ developing knowledge of grammar, and suggestions for ways to incorporate the teaching of grammar into other areas of the curriculum. All of these should have practical benefits to classroom teachers, but we also hope that the interface between the ICE-GB corpus and the Moodle VLE will allow flexibility in course planning, so that individual English teachers, and English departments as a whole, can select appropriate lessons and extracts to use with their classes, tailoring the material to the demands of their own pupils.

No comments:

Post a Comment