Literacy for Lifelong
The Functions of Language
Language Modes in English Language Arts
Three English Language Arts Curricula
Six Language Arts
The Evolution of English Language Arts
An Overview of Critical Theories
The purpose of this document is to support Manitoba English language arts educators in the challenging task of assisting Senior 4 students in developing their language arts knowledge, skills and strategies, and attitudes as they prepare to leave the school community. Our professional commitment as English language arts educators is grounded in a personal belief that literacy is a key to the success of students and, indeed, to the richness of their lives. Senior 4 provides opportunities for students to consolidate many of the skills, strategies, and attitudes they will need to meet the challenges of a world in which language forms and media are rapidly evolving. The critical thinking, openness to ideas, and skill and confidence in using language that students acquire in Senior 4 English language arts will equip them for a lifetime of learning.
Manitoba's English language arts curricula are concerned with all aspects of language development-with students developing increased fluency and power in their use of language, with their learning about language and how it works, and with their learning about the world and texts through language. These curricula recognize that language is more than a means of communication. It is the vehicle of perception and thinking, and each individual's use of language is inextricably tied to his or her experiences, personality, relationships, and culture. Our mandate as English language arts educators, then, goes far beyond a concern with "correctness" of expression to addressing students' skill in formulating experience and ideas into language and their proficiency in making meaning of the language cues around them. To enhance students' facility in language is to change their way of being in the world.
English language arts instruction is concerned with all language uses: expressive, pragmatic, and aesthetic. These language uses are not entirely separate; all discourse can be placed on a continuum between purely pragmatic and purely aesthetic language, as shown in the Continuum of Language Uses chart that appears on the following page.
To enable students to explore their interest in particular
language uses, Senior 4 English Language Arts: Manitoba
Curriculum Framework of Outcomes and
Senior 4 Standards (2000) identifies three sets of specific student learning outcomes, one set for each curriculum: Comprehensive Focus, Literary Focus, and Transactional Focus. The learning outcomes for these three curricula are parallel:
Students develop knowledge of and skill in their use of the language arts as they listen, speak, read, write, view, and represent in a wide variety of contexts and for a range of purposes-expressive, aesthetic, and pragmatic. Students study the language arts in order to function in their communities and cultures: to appreciate, enjoy, communicate, interact, solve problems, think critically, and make informed choices that will enhance the quality of their lives. Many language elements (e.g., patterns, mood, symbolism, symmetry, transitions, focus, tone, emphasis) are similar in oral, print, and visual texts.
Until several decades ago, secondary English language arts curricula in Manitoba were defined largely in terms of the literature prescribed for study. The goal was to pass on to students an accumulated body of knowledge that would enable them to participate fully in a literate culture. This cultural base was drawn mainly from "classics" of British and American literature.
Critical theories evolved in connection with the teaching of literary texts, but they convey our beliefs about the way readers make meaning from texts and they underlie our approach to all texts. Critical theories are rarely made explicit in discussions of English language arts learning and instruction, but studies by Newell, MacAdams, and Spears-Burton (1987) and by Zancanella (1991) found that teaching practices tend to correspond to the critical theories held implicitly by the teacher. New graduates entering the teaching profession are likely to bring with them the critical theory that currently holds sway in university English departments.
Manitoba curricula reflect results-based learning. Results-based
learning is concerned with what students know and are able
to do, rather than with what material is "covered."
The general and specific learning outcomes are an elaboration
of the knowledge, skills and strategies, and attitudes expected
of each Senior 4 student. All programming decisions are
directed toward addressing the gap between students' initial
level of performance and the performance specified in Senior
4 English Language Arts: Manitoba Curriculum Framework of
Senior 4 Standards (2000).
The work students do is the means by which they acquire and demonstrate their mastery of the learning outcomes. Rather than applying a mark to the work itself, assessors examine it for evidence that the learning outcomes have been achieved.
The goal of all programming decisions is to close the gap between student performance and the learning outcomes. On the basis of the information they gather through assessment, teachers choose
Many teachers use a model of learning that identifies three phases:
This three-phase model is integral to many learning strategies.
The phases correspond, for example, to the terms "before,
during, and after" of the reading process. Knowing
that these phases characterize learning enhances students'
metacognition. Initially students may select and use strategies
that move them deliberately through various phases of learning.
Eventually they will internalize these strategies so that
they use them unconsciously.
Many of the language tasks students perform (e.g., finding sources of information for an inquiry project, making meaning of a difficult text, or organizing a body of information) are problem-solving tasks. To solve problems, a student requires a strategic mindset. When confronted with a problem, the student surveys a number of possible strategies, selects the strategy or combination of strategies that seems likely to work best for the situation, and tries an alternative method if the first one does not produce results.
As they begin to plan a new course, teachers face the challenge of selecting the learning experiences that will best assist each student in achieving the learning outcomes. Their primary task is learning to know each group of students in order to structure a course that will address the particular learning requirements of each class.
Experienced teachers know how crucial the first few weeks are in establishing a positive learning environment and setting students' expectations for the semester or year. They begin with learning experiences that communicate to students that this course will be stimulating, demanding, and enjoyable. They use the first weeks to establish routines and policies that will contribute to the smooth functioning of the classroom, and they take steps to build a relationship with each student and to facilitate the transformation of the list of class names into a supportive learning community.
Teachers need to gather as much information about students as possible within the first few weeks of the semester or year. Family relationships, academic and life experiences, personality, interests, learning approaches, socio-economic status, rate of development, and language proficiency all influence a student's learning. This information can be collected from a variety of sources, including
Effective programming maintains a balance between advance planning and flexibility. It is characterized by enough planning to ensure that student learning experiences focus on the learning outcomes, and by enough flexibility to be responsive to the unexpected learning opportunities that arise through student curiosity and enthusiasm and through community events.
Report card periods are a time for taking stock of student learning. Report cards may be prepared on the basis of conferences in which the teacher and student
The final weeks of a semester or year are a time for summative assessment, celebration of learning, and self-reflection for both the teacher and students.
The study of English language arts enables each student to understand and appreciate language and to use it confidently and competently in a variety of situations for communication, personal satisfaction, and learning. The instructional, assessment, and resource suggestions in this section of this document are intended to help Senior 4 students achieve the English language arts learning outcomes. The learning outcomes are interrelated and interdependent; each is to be achieved through a variety of listening, speaking, reading, writing, viewing, and representing experiences.
The suggestions for instruction, assessment, and learning resources in this document provide teachers with a foundation for implementing Senior 4 English Language Arts: Manitoba Curriculum Framework of Outcomes and Senior 4 Standards (2000). They are not intended as a linear guide to planning lessons and units. Most units or cycles of work will integrate all five of the general learning outcomes and many specific learning outcomes.
This section of the document uses a two-page, four-column format. The left-hand pages contain learning outcomes and suggestions for instruction. The facing right-hand pages contain suggestions for assessment and suggested learning resources.
The following is an index to strategies, activities, topics, and content notes that may apply to a number of specific learning outcomes.