English language programme in the Arabic Track
05 Mar 2017 - 18:37
It is known that the English language is the most commonly spoken language in the world. It is also the main language of instruction in the MYP and the DP of Arab International Academy. For these two main reasons we, in the Arabic Track, set the English language programme as one of our main priorities. We believe that is it a necessity to make sure each student is fully prepared for the next stage in their educational journey, the MYP. In order to ensure an advanced educational language programme, we focus daily on supporting the students in building a solid base in their native language, providing them with a strong English language curriculum and using differentiated tools and strategies as an essential part of our teaching practices.
We must take into account that although English is widely spoken across the world, the majority of its speakers acquire it as a second language, like the majority of our students; whether in the English or Arabic Track. According to various studies and research, in order to acquire a second language properly, you have had to have built a strong base in your native language.
In the ‘Study of Second Language Acquisition’ Rod Ellis stated, “First language knowledge was viewed as a resource or a strategy which learners can use, both consciously and subconsciously, to overcome their limitations of second language acquisition.”
In the Arabic Track we agree with Rod Ellis along with many other researchers that have concluded that the native language is a fundamental aspect of acquiring a second language. For this reason, we stand by our vision and mission of being facilitators for numerous opportunities to strengthening the Arabic language, which is our students’ native language.
All the subjects, except for additional languages, are taught in the Arabic language in the Arabic Track. Our students obtain key vocabulary across all subjects and develop an extensive knowledge foundation. During English classes, we also focus on vocabulary and information from other subject areas such as math, science and social studies.
Our students are exposed to vocabulary across the educational spectrum. Because they have attained the knowledge of different subjects in their native language, when students are exposed to it in English, it remains to be a matter of translating key words when needed and at the end of the day they have gained the information in two languages properly. Because our students have a solid foundation in their native tongue, they are acquiring the English language with ease.
The English language curriculum in the Arabic Track is designed for native English language speakers. Because of this, our students are continuously being motivated to reach the highest level that can be reached in their grade level. We use the Reach program as the main English language textbook along with various other resources, such as biographies and non-fiction books, online resources like Raz Plus, DRA and STAR, and a massive variety of stories and novels.
Our library in the Arabic Track is stocked up with hundreds/thousands of English books. The students visit the library on a regular basis to check out English books to help them with research assignments, as well as entertaining stories they take home to read on a weekly basis. We use the online resources, DRA and STAR, to assess our students’ reading and comprehension levels on a regular basis. By using these resources, we are able to know the strengths and areas for improvement of each student along with a detailed plan on what each student needs and how to support each student in developing their English language.
Raz Plus, another online resource, is used to motivate our student to read daily in English. It is a program filled with thousands of books on thousands of topics. The program also allows the teacher to monitor thestudents and assign stories or books to the entire class or to a particular student. It also adds a healthy competitive aspect as the students are rewarded with stars on the programme every time they read. By using the main textbook along with all the mentioned additional resources we have successfully created an advanced English language curriculum for our students in the Arabic Track.
The English language programme follows the IB PYP programme. Through the IB programme we use various tools and strategies to teach the English language. As part of our English language programme we focus on central skills, which are communication skills, research skills, social skills, self-management skills and thinking skills. Under these main categories we focus classroom activities on listening and speaking, reading and writing, viewing and presenting, working in a group, researching and critical and creative thinking. We make sure that our students are learning by using 21st century skills and gaining essential knowledge which they will use to become independent learners.
During English class we make sure the students are not memorizing but learning for themselves. They take part in different activities that develop their central skills. They work individually, in pairs and in groups on diverse projects. We also use educational games in the classroom. The students work on units of inquiry where they tackle subjects such as math, science and social studies in English and have fun while learning as well. By using new and advanced tools and strategies in the classroom, we ensure that our students are developing their English language skills and using them in numerous ways on a daily basis.
In the Arabic Track we believe that students need to love what they learn and need to acquire knowledge on their own with our guidance. The English language program is a progressive program that focuses on both the students’ academics and personality, so that they will be able to take what they have gained and developed to become leaders in their educational journeys.
The author is Primary Years Programme Coordinator at the Arab International Academy