Our core English teaching programme is based around three key 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 vital 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 is regular classroom practice in Key Stage 1 (P.1 – P.3). To implement this approach, we use 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 1 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.
We seek to enhance students’ love of reading through a number of 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 1 students. These sessions are always very well attended. There is also cooperation between our school and Canossa College, with College girls reading stories to younger students. Again, this initiative has proved highly popular.
A new initiative for the 2018-19 school year is the introduction of a Reading Day Camp for P.1 and P.2 students and their parents. Run by the NETs and the School Librarian, the day camp will provide parents with techniques for improving their children’s reading skills and encourage them to make reading a fun family activity.
We regularly receive reports from parents that children who have never previously suggested reading aloud now insist on reading their storybooks at home. It is clearly an amazing experience for parents to see the change in their children. The students’ vocabulary retention, confidence in reading aloud and speaking skills have all been greatly enhanced. 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 1, we are now developing a series of measures to facilitate Key Stage 2 students working on a wider range of text-types, including textbooks, set readers and school-based reading materials. We introduced a school-based literacy curriculum for P.4 students during the 2017-18 school years and are expanding it to P.5 and P.6 this year. The aim is to provide students with the tools to write various types of text effectively and confidently.
To be successful, education cannot be static. Rather, it must continually adapt to changing requirements and circumstances. One area where education is moving very fast is the adoption of e-learning. We are responding to this development by integrating e-learning into many of our lessons. For example, using an iPad and the Book Creator app is an exciting way for students to enhance their written communication skills, covering concept, layout, text writing and illustration.
We are also providing students with opportunities to improve their English language skills by using online learning platforms. This year we are using three online learning platforms, Eng 8, Raz-kids and Pilot 100, that will enable students to read books and complete grammar exercises online. Teachers monitor students’ activities online and prizes are given to encourage students to use this new way of learning.
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 has now been rolled out at all levels.
Perhaps most importantly, we believe 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.