Our core programme for enabling our students to acquire a second language has three important guiding principles: enhancing the children’s language proficiency, widening their life experience and extending their learning capacity. Encouraging our students to develop a lifelong reading habit is a key part of this programme.
We aim to develop a love of reading in our students at a young age. With this in mind, the Big Book Approach continues to be regular classroom practice in Key Stage One( P.1 – P.3). To implement this approach, we are now in the eighth year of using the Integrated English Language Programme (IELP), an integral component of the Education Bureau’s overall strategy for language education. IELP is organized by the Hong Kong Council of Early Childhood Children and Services, with the aim of enhancing students’ reading skills and cultivating strong reading habits.
Under this programme, we use storybooks as the educational focus instead of textbooks and apply the Shared Book Approach. Writing Process Activities and other interactive language activities are integrated into lessons. We make intensive efforts to promote the practice of singing songs, reading storybooks and participating in different activities in class.
Key Stage One teachers are impressed by how much the students enjoy the lessons and how well they manage to learn the language foci. From the teachers’ observation, the students’ four language skills are significantly enhanced by the IELP. Students can grasp key grammar points easily when they read storybooks aloud. Regarding the shared-reading approach, phonic skills are identified as a key area for providing the necessary sounds and letter identification ability. This is also the key to further strong progress and advancement through the different reading stages. In the programme, learning opportunities for developing writing skills are presented in an integrated manner. Students are required to complete class writing or group writing after learning all the language foci. In the writing process, the students are eager to voice their ideas and they enjoy seeing their writing displayed in the classroom. When a new book is introduced, the students are eager to find out what is going to happen and each time they are asked whether they would like to take the new reader home, the answer is always unanimously positive. Teaching in this context is also a stimulating and enjoyable experience for the teachers.
Students’ love of reading has been further encouraged by initiatives designed to make reading a fun communal activity. On Tuesday lunchtimes when there is no English Day, the NETs run storytelling sessions for Key Stage One students. These sessions are very well attended and there has been consistently positive feedback. There is also cooperation in this area between our school and Canossa College, with College girls reading stories to younger students. Again, this initiative has proved highly popular.
It is clearly an amazing experience for parents to see the change in their children. They regularly report that children who have never previously suggested reading textbooks aloud, now insist on reading their storybooks at home. The students’ vocabulary retention, confidence in reading aloud and speaking skills have also been greatly enhanced. And most important of all, through observing their children, reading in English is now regarded as pleasurable and enjoyable by the parents.
Following the success of this core programme at Key Stage One, we are now developing a series of measures to facilitate Key Stage Two students working on a wider range of text-types, including textbooks, set readers and school-based reading materials. We are currently writing a school-based curriculum for P4 students and are planning to expand this to P5 and P6.
More broadly, we have adopted the Holistic Innovative Educational Approach, with the aim of developing students’ communication skills. Through participating in a wide range of activities, such as discussions, barrier games, matching, board games and other language games, students are provided with a platform to communicate effectively with others. They are thus more likely to regard English as an effective means of communication with others and to enjoy learning English. Their confidence in speaking in front of audience is strongly enhanced.
We are also expanding the role of Variation Theory of Learning in our work, where understanding of critical features takes place as a result of systematic interaction between learners and the material being taught. This approach was first taken with taken with P.4 classes in school year 2014-15 and expanded to P.3 in 2016-17. It will now be rolled out at all levels.
Most importantly, our vision is that the use of English must not be confined to the classroom. We are constantly endeavouring to create a language rich environment for the students with activities such as English Day. English Days are held every second Tuesday and encourage students to use English through participation in games and other activities based around specific themes, such as Cooking, Characters & Feelings, Opposites and Travelling. The NETs also spend every recess and lunchtime with the students, playing games and encouraging them to converse in English. (See section on NET Scheme.)