Designing a curriculum

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I’m helping a school design their curriculum from the ground up (Kid’s classes - 7-9 years old). I’m told I’m pretty much able to do what I want (of course the kids have to learn). I’ve got a pretty good idea of how to get it going and will be teaching the curriculum I design as well, so I can fine-tune it as I go. Since I know we got a bunch of serious long-term professional teachers here, I thought maybe I could seek some different opinions… If you had my “dream” job, how would you structure the class?

Also, since I’ll basically be designing a lot of activities and need to come up with a lot of games, I was hoping some teachers could point me to some of their favorite resources for teaching materials (ideally on the web, but print is OK too).

Thanks in advance for any opinions and help.

the educator

Theoretical insight into the language acquisition of young children shows that young learners benefit most from
task-based/activity-based teaching methods.

If you examine Krashen’s Monitor theory, you will find that the “acquisition” mode is far more important than the “learning” mode for young children.

For example, pattern practice drills with groups of young children are likely to be irrelevent to acquiring English since it concentrates on linguistic form rather than meaningful communication.

When schools base their curriculum on language items and teachers progress according to such syllabuses, they may actually be making ‘illusory’ progress in assisting young learners’ acquisition of the language. Therefore, for children, learning a foreign language should allow them to experience a variety of interactions in which meaning can be negotiated because children concentrate on meaning rather than form.

Competitive games in the classroom that are tightly controlled by teachers in order to practice language items, or ones in which large groups speak in unison so they can win more STARS, etc than the other team, are NOT appropriate to meaningful negotiation because the individual responses of students are suppressed.
The students are all using the pattern a teacher has presented, but the nature of the interaction does not create acquisition conditions. This is known as an illusion of relevance, and if the kids have fun, becomes an illusion of success.

On the other hand, when children are involved in activities, or play games, in which their attention is focused on the game, rather than practicing language items, then this provides input to their language acquisition system,not just language learning.

For example, consider the kinds of games which children themselves play outside school, then you’ll find activities which are negotiable and communicative, and the focus of the activity is usually dependent on a non-linguistic outcome.

These could be divided into three types:
Making things (origami, clay modeling, basketweaving!, etc)
Music and drama games (puppet shows, squaredancing, playing dress up, etc)
Games to fill time (board games, tic tac toe, etc)

These sorts of activities can see language as central to the interaction and can be adapted to such language learning purposes.

For negotiation of a syllabus to include communication activities must be concerned with how the target language is presented to kids.

It is not always crucial (except in the Taiwanese mindset of learning English!) whether we mention grammar or functional items in our syllabuses, but it is important how we create circumstances in which those items are contextualised and become genuinely communicative to allow children to negotiate meaning in order to perform an activity.

In young children unable to monitor language well, then the successful completion of an activity should be the object of the teaching unit.

To sum up, an activity based method approach to a structural functional syllabus is the most applicable way to organise children’s language acquisition.

I recommend following this link.

Thanks for the response and the link Alien.

The reason I took on this project was because though I love kids, I hated my past teaching jobs because of the garbage curriculum we were expected to teach - and also the methods we were expected to use (kindergarten kids reciting “the earth orbits the sun every 365 days” – no joke). What I’m looking to do is develop a more activity based curriculum (along the lines of what Alien outlined). While I’m sure I can come up with a fair amount of activities and such on my own, the fact that I’m starting from scratch and will have to come up with material for 3 hours a day, 5 days a week, for what will be a year course, means I’m sure I could use a little help in the idea department to lessen the workload and brain strain. I’m doing my own searching on the internet and tailoring games and activities to what I expect will work for this school, but if anyone has a recommended resource for specific activities or games that will help young beginners in their English “aquisition” (to borrow a term), I’d really appreciate it.

the educator

You can find this book written by my prof, Jane Willis, A Framework for Task Based Learning to get you started, although it has a lexical slant.

Or read this paper, for an pretty good overview of what a TB syllabus entails: Teaching oral communication skills in academic settings:
A case study in task-based approach to syllabus design

And be sure to attend this conferencenext weekend, 8-10 Novemeber, 2002, for lots and lots of ideas.