Language in a transdisciplinary programme

Language is involved in all learning that goes on in a school, in both the affective and effective domains. Learners listen, talk, read and write their way to negotiating new meanings and understanding new concepts. In the “knowledge” area of the PYP, language is the most significant connecting element across the school’s curriculum, both within and outside its transdisciplinary programme of inquiry. Our aim is to provide authentic contexts for language teaching and learning in all areas of the curriculum that are a reflection of, and relevant to, the community of learners, and to the educational theories underpinning the programme. In the Primary School there are opportunities for students to negotiate their roles. Literacy, including oral and visual literacy as well as the ability to read and write, becomes increasingly important as greater demands are placed on learners as participants in the learning process.

Language provides a vehicle for inquiry. In our inquiry-based classrooms, teachers and students enjoy using language, appreciating it both functionally and aesthetically. The love and enjoyment of language through the integration of literature into student inquiry is an indicator of good practice in a PYP classroom. For example, this may include: a series of books read as an author study; regional fairy tales as part of a unit of inquiry with a particular social studies emphasis; discussing a scientist’s biography or a newspaper article to front-load a science investigation; early years counting stories as reinforcement for mathematics development; and the comparison and practice of illustration techniques to encourage the development of art skills.

The programme of inquiry provides an authentic context for learners to develop and use language. Wherever possible, language is taught through the relevant, authentic context of the Units of Inquiry. The teacher provides language learning opportunities that support learners’ inquiries and the sharing of their learning. Regardless of whether language is being taught within or outside the programme of inquiry, it is believed that purposeful inquiry is the way in which learners learn best. The starting point for us is the learners’ prior experience and current understanding.

It is our intention that when teachers plan learning experiences that enable learners to develop language within meaningful and enjoyable contexts, our learners are able to make connections, apply their learning, and transfer their conceptual understanding to new situations. This progressive conceptual development, together with an enjoyment of the process, provides the foundation for lifelong learning.

The following table will outline the phases of language development (as outlined in the First Steps Programme) within which the majority of students in a grade level will be working. At any grade level there may be students in phases prior to or beyond those listed in the table

Oral

Reading

Writing

Early Childhood 1

Early

Role play

Role play

Early Childhood 2

Exploration

Experimental

Experimental

Grade 1

Exploration

Early

Early

Grade 2

Emergent

Early

Early

Grade 3

Consolidated

Transitional

Conventional

Grade 4

Extended

Transitional

Conventional

Grade 5

Extended

Proficient

Proficient

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