Kindergarten to Grade 4 English Language Arts: A Foundation for Implementation

Implementation Overview: K-4
Literacy Learning Through the Six Language Arts - Part 1

Listening, viewing, speaking, representing, writing, and reading are complex cognitive and social processes that work together as a whole in literacy learning. In reading, viewing, and listening, students construct meaning from texts created by others. In writing, speaking, and representing, students construct meaning in order to communicate with others. None of the language arts can be totally separated from the others in authentic learning situations.

Because the six language arts are so closely related and interrelated, they are mutually supportive. Reading, listening, and viewing provide access to rich language models that help students learn new words and forms of expression. Writing, representing, and talking provide a means for students to use those words and forms, and to develop ownership of them. Developing skills in writing enhances students’ reading and listening comprehension and their critical thinking.

Classroom Talk: The Importance of Listening and Speaking

Oral language is the foundation of literacy. Talking is fundamentally connected to thinking, exploring, and creating meaning. Talking to others brings our thoughts to conscious awareness and enables us to reflect on and analyze them. Conversation with others often helps us make sense of new information, for while we may sometimes construct meaning alone, we more often do so through collaboration. (Barnes, 1995.) Students benefit from many opportunities to rehearse their ideas orally. The classroom should be an inviting setting to promote student talk.

Through talking and listening, students learn to understand who they are in relation to others. The ability to form and maintain relationships and to collaborate and extend learning through interaction with others is closely tied to listening and speaking skills. Students’ fluency and confidence in speaking, listening, and responding is integral to their identity and place in the community.

In classrooms, student talk (conversing, discussing, debating, questioning, and answering) is the foundation upon which teachers build community and achieve progress in all curriculum areas. Speaking and listening are woven through all our learning and teaching activities in writing, reading, viewing and representing. Through talking, students verify their understanding and realize their ability to take ownership of their learning. Talk plays a major role in all language learning.

Three Types of Language Learning

As students actively use the language arts, they engage in three kinds of language learning (Halliday, 1982, cited in Strickland and Strickland, 1997, 203):

  • Students learn language: Language learning is a social process that begins in infancy and continues through life. Language-rich environments enhance and accelerate the learning process.
  • Students learn through language: As students listen, read, or view, they focus primarily on making meaning from the text at hand. Students use language to increase their knowledge of the world.
  • Students learn about language: Knowledge of how language works is a subject and a discipline in itself, and is fundamental to effective communication.

These three kinds of language learning are integrated in the language arts classroom setting. Students engage in learning tasks principally to make sense of the world. In the process of learning through language, however, their facility with language and their knowledge about language increases.

Phases of Language Arts Learning

Many teachers find it helpful to think of learning in terms of three phases:(*)

  • activating (preparing for learning) — Before
  • acquiring (integrating and processing learning) — During
  • applying (consolidating learning) — After

These phases are not meant to be linear, but to represent an instructional framework within which teachers and students can experience different language activities and strategies and examine the ways they connect to one another. None of the processes or products of language learning is an end point. When meanings are expressed or created, they often become the catalyst for a new cycle of language learning.

 * A variety of activating, acquiring, and applying strategies are discussed in Manitoba Education and Training and Training, Success for All Learners: A Handbook on Differentiating Instruction (1996).


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