Stop Teaching Language as a Subject: Find Out Why

Posted by Komal Ramchandani on Jun 3, 2021 5:23:28 PM
Komal Ramchandani

Tags: Thought Leadership

Find me on:
English Language Skill

Can language be taught as just another subject? What is the flaw in this style?
Language is both a medium and a barrier when it comes to understanding other subjects. By treating language as any other subject, we focus only on the content — the stories and the texts. The focus of teaching becomes making students understand the story or the text. We then get them to answer questions related to the story/text or learn the answers given by the teacher. It gets quite limited. However, when we treat language as a skill, we equip students with the knowledge to read and understand any text. The focus then shifts to making students understand the elements of a story or a text, equipping them with skills and strategies that will help them become independent readers, thinkers, and writers.

How are languages taught at LEAD and what makes it different from other schools?

When we first started designing our english language curriculum in 2017-18, we were acutely aware of the present gaps in language teaching. English is not the primary language for our students, so it was important for us to recognise this fact and look at language learning from the first principle of thinking. We conducted our own research and identified some principles which are core to our language curriculum at LEAD:

1. Teaching a language by including all components
2. Making learning accessible at students’ current proficiency levels
3. Exposing students to relevant and engaging texts
4. Giving students opportunities to practice and engage with each other
5. Providing students with structures to enable them to read, think, and write independently

Let us review each of these language learning principles more closely.

1. Teaching a language by including all components
Language Teaching
It is important that all components of language learning are included while teaching a language. These components are Phonics, Vocabulary, Reading and Listening Comprehension, Grammar, and Speaking and Writing Expression. This is known as the Whole Language Approach, and this approach tremendously helps those learning a second language. In ELGA, all components are taught in a single lesson of 120 minutes daily.

2. Making learning accessible at students’ current learning levels

Learning Levels
The best learning happens in a learner’s zone of proximal development. This is where a learner’s potential is identified and they are provided with the appropriate assistance to achieve mastery. The ELGA curriculum consists of numerous supportive activities aimed at helping students learn at their zone of proximal development.

3. Exposing students to relevant and engaging texts

Elga Workbook
Research shows that when learning a new language, the texts should be relevant to the students’ lives. They should also be interesting and engaging for students to read. For ELGA, we have written our own texts which are contextual to India, and we have picked themes which the students would find interesting and relatable. Some examples of unit themes in ELGA are Growing up, Adventure, Science and Technology, Mass Media, Folk Tales, and Mystery.

4. Giving students opportunities to practice and engage with each other

Elga Class
Any new language requires a lot of practice. In ELGA, there are more than enough opportunities for students to practise the skills that they learn. ELGA classes contain a mix of peer-to-peer learning, games and activities, and independent practice through the ELGA Workbook. Thus, students get to practise all components of the language in every ELGA class. This gives them the needed exposure and practice for learning a new language.

5. Providing students with structures to enable them to read, think, and write independently

Students at LEAD School
“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” We embody the principle behind this proverb in ELGA. When we teach English as a skill, we make the students independent. We have tried to do this in ELGA by providing the students with multiple structures for strengthening their reading, writing, and speaking skills. We teach them strategies and techniques, provide thinking routines, that would help them understand the concepts and the skills. Being exposed to and regularly practising these routines and structures empowers students to become independent learners.

All these principles of language learning apply not only to English but to other languages as well. LEAD School’s ELGA programme is unique in its approach as it is level-based and designed in a manner that leads to accelerated learning — 1.5 years of average growth in a year.

LEAD is transforming schools by making children future-ready. To make yours a LEAD Powered School: Partner with us today

About the Author
Komal Ramchandani
Komal Ramchandani

Komal is an ex-Googler and TFI alumnus. She presently heads the English team at LEAD, where she researches and develops pedagogies for excellent student learning. She is passionate about the English language, teacher empowerment, and leadership building in students. She believes that all children can learn. She is an experienced trainer and coach of teachers in affordable private schools in Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Give your school the LEAD advantage