Senior 3 English Language Arts: A Foundation for Implementation

Implementation Overview: Senior 3
Language Acquisition and Development

English language arts curricula involve all aspects of language development. Halliday (1982, cited in Strickland and Strickland, 1997, 203) suggests that as students actively use the language arts, they engage in three kinds of language learning:

  • Students learn language: Language learning is a social process, enhanced and accelerated through language-rich environments.
  • 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 language and how it works is a subject and discipline in itself and is fundamental to effective communication. Consequently, students also focus on the language arts themselves and how they work.

Language learning is an active process that begins at birth and continues throughout life. An infant’s first words are prompted by an enjoyment of sound and by an intrinsically human impulse to name objects or actions. This language, called "expressive language," is used not primarily to communicate but to make meaning of experience and to construct a coherent and predictable view of the world. Expressive language is used throughout life, from the "running commentary" of toddlers to the interiorized soliloquy of older children and adults. It is the basis of most conversation, anecdotes, letters, and journals. Expressive language, which Vygotsky (1962) calls "the language of being and becoming," is the means by which people rehearse, shape, interpret, and recall what they perceive and feel.

Britton (1970) observes that language evolves in two directions from purely expressive language:

  • Transactional uses of language: Very early, young children begin to use language to interact with their environment: to gain and exchange information and to make and receive demands and requests. Britton calls this language use transactional language because it requires a response and may set up a train of interaction. Others call it pragmatic language because it is "the language of getting things done"—language used to inform, to explain, to persuade, to argue, and to plan. Pragmatic or transactional language assumes both formal and informal forms and genres.
  • Aesthetic uses of language: Aesthetic language is expressive language shaped and crafted to capture and represent experiences. It attempts to create and recreate experiences that the audience will enter through the imagination. Poets, filmmakers, illustrators, and playwrights, for example, exploit the meaning, the connotation, and the sensuous properties of language in order to engage the audience, express their vision, and bring aesthetic pleasure.


Implementation Overview: Senior 3