Senior 3 English Language Arts: A Foundation for Implementation

Implementation Overview: Senior 3
Language Uses in English Language Arts Learning - Part 2

Six Language Arts

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, and emphasis) are similar in oral, print, and visual texts.

Listening and Speaking

Oral language is the foundation of literacy. Students’ fluency and confidence in spoken language are integral to their identity and place in their communities. Through speaking and listening, students learn to express their thoughts and feelings for both aesthetic and pragmatic purposes. 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. In language arts classes, students learn the skills, strategies, and attitudes of effective speakers and listeners in communication situations ranging from telephone conversations to theatrical performances.

Listening is an active process of constructing meaning from sound. It involves many of the elements of reading print texts: recognizing and interpreting words, observing transitions and organizational patterns, and comprehending literal and implied meanings. Listening requires students to respond to, analyze, and evaluate oral texts as they would print texts. Listening also has its own vocabulary of oral and visual cues, however. In learning listening and speaking skills, students look at the effect of oral punctuation, inflection, volume, pace, stance, and gestures in expressing content, tone, and emotion. They learn to comprehend dialect and regional patterns of language.

Learning to listen also involves learning to recognize and interpret sounds other than speech. It means examining the role of music and sound effects in film and identifying the commercial uses of sound (e.g., background music in shopping malls or nostalgic songs in television commercials). Musical terms are part of the language system of sound: rhythm, motifs and patterns, crescendo and decrescendo, major and minor keys. By using sound in their own creations, students can learn its role in evoking emotion, mood, and images. In their performances, students link spoken language to sound by developing sound-effects tapes or music soundtracks.

Students develop speaking skills through a variety of informal and formal experiences and for aesthetic and pragmatic purposes: discussing issues in small groups, performing dramas and monologues, debating, audiotaping news items, hosting ceremonies, reading fiction or poetry, making speeches, and so on. Informal speaking opportunities strengthen the precision of students’ thought and vocabulary. Formal speaking opportunities allow students to examine the ways in which information and emotion are communicated through non-verbal cues such as tone, volume, and pace.

Reading and Writing

Comprehending and communicating through print texts is central to language arts programming. Students’ skill in reading* and writing is fundamental to their success in school and their ability to function effectively in larger communities. The development of electronic media has not eliminated print texts but has increased the need for effective reading skills. Furthermore, reading print texts stimulates intellectual development in different ways than viewing visual texts does; constructing the world of print texts requires the imaginative collaboration of the reader.

Language arts classes offer students opportunities to read a wide range of aesthetic and pragmatic texts. While the print texts students read in English language arts are important sources of ideas and information, they are also vehicles for instruction in reading. Beyond interpreting verbal cues, students learn to read for literal and implied meanings. They engage with texts on a variety of levels — responding, analyzing, and thinking critically. Students learn many of the techniques and devices that contribute to the full meaning of language, such as connotation, tone, figurative language, and sound.

Print texts, however, play a role in language arts classrooms beyond the opportunities they afford in teaching reading skills. Books enrich students’ lives, offering vicarious experiences of larger worlds. Texts provide opportunities for thinking and talking about society, ethics, the meaning and significance of experience, and the larger questions of human existence. Print texts still largely represent the foundation of cultural knowledge that society holds in common, and reading is essential to cultural literacy.

Facility in reading and in writing are closely linked. Reading builds vocabulary, teaches sensitivity to language, and fosters an intuitive sense of style. Print texts serve as models for student writing.

Students use writing not only as a means of exploring ideas, experiences, and emotions, but also as a way of communicating with others. They learn processes for formal writing: ways of generating, developing, and organizing ideas, methods for research and inquiry, and strategies for editing and revising. Students learn to write in a range of forms: aesthetic forms such as song lyrics, drama, fiction, and poetry, and pragmatic forms used in business, university and college, and journalism. They also learn new writing conventions for electronic media, just as they learn strategies for reading from electronic media.

* The term "reading" is defined elsewhere in this document as making meaning of any text, including visual texts. Here, however, it is used in the narrow sense of making meaning of print texts. back to text

Viewing and Representing

Including viewing and representing in the English language arts curricula acknowledges both social change and an evolving understanding of the way language learning takes place. It recognizes that

  • culture is increasingly conveyed visually in Canadian society; visual texts such as films, computer graphics, billboards, magazine pictures, and especially television may be the primary source of information and entertainment for many students
  • imagination is highly visual and readers form mental constructs in reading all texts
  • students learn in many different ways and have many different forms of intelligence, including visual intelligence, which has its own language system

Just as they need skills and strategies to comprehend and communicate through print and oral texts, so students need to learn the techniques and conventions of visual language in order to become more conscious, discerning, critical, and appreciative readers of visual texts, and more effective creators of visual products. Students need to recognize that what a camera captures is a construction of reality, not reality itself. They need to be taught that images convey ideas, values, and beliefs, just as words do, and they need to learn to read the language of images.

Students learn the language and conventions of media texts* or print illustrations through viewing and representing in the context of classroom interactions, in the same way that they develop their vocabulary of literary terms through discussing print texts. Films extend students’ experience much as written narratives do, and offer similar occasions for discussion. Films also provide rich opportunities to explore the parallels and differences between visual and written language. Through close reading of short clips, students may examine the effect of visual language cues: composition, colour and light, shadow and contrast, camera angles and distance, pace and rhythm, and the association of images and sounds. They learn to identify the narrative point of view by following the eye of the camera. Whether interpreting a painting or a poem, the "reader" looks at elements such as pattern, repetition, mood, symbolism, and historical context.

Students use visual representation both for informal and formal expression and for aesthetic and pragmatic purposes. Students may use visual representation, just as they use talking and writing, as a means of exploring what they think and of generating new ideas. They may use tools such as sketches, webs, maps, and graphic organizers to develop and organize their thoughts. Visual tools are especially useful in the early stages of creation or production because they represent the non-linear nature of thought. Students may also use visuals to express their mental constructs of the ideas or scenes in print texts. Events and themes from novels may be depicted in murals, storyboards, comic books, or collages. Information and ideas from expository texts may be depicted in graphic organizers to assist students in comprehending the parts and their relationships.

Study of design elements assists students in becoming conscious of the effect of visual elements in texts. Students enhance their formal products and presentations by using visuals that correspond with print and/or oral texts. They make informed use of design elements in creating charts, slides, posters, and handouts that communicate effectively.

* For a discussion of "media texts," see the preface to General Learning Outcome 2. back to text

Integration of the Language Arts

Although the six language arts are sometimes considered and discussed as separate and distinct, they are, in reality, interrelated and interdependent. A writing task, for example, may also involve students in discussing ideas with peers, reading to acquire information and ideas, viewing other media, and representing ideas graphically. Many oral, print, and other media texts integrate the six language arts in various combinations. Without artificially separating the language arts, teachers need to strive for balance in programming, taking inventory of learning experiences from time to time to ensure that they are providing instruction in all the language arts.

In certain circumstances, teachers may need to isolate one language art for assessment purposes. Written tests, for example, may not be the only way to assess reading proficiency, for students who have difficulties in writing may not clearly express ideas they have comprehended in their reading. Teachers may need to use a variety of complementary assessment methods, such as skills conferences and observations, to obtain an accurate picture of a student’s reading skills.

A student’s facility in certain language arts may be an expression of his or her particular intelligence. Sketching may be the first and most natural way for highly visual students to clarify thinking and generate ideas, and students who process ideas best orally may find dictation, rather than writing, the most natural way to produce a first draft for a print or oral text. These strengths can be used to support development of other language arts. Visual images, for example, may bridge students to an understanding of abstract concepts such as verbal metaphor.


Implementation Overview: Senior 3