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Planning stage II

Planing Stage II: Defining Levels

In the first year of English learning, be it at the pre-school level or class 1, we can define certain levels of capabilities in children.

Level 0: Children have no idea of English
Level 1: Children understand few words and structures (phrases and simple sentences). They don’t know how to write. Some may recognize letters and words.
Level 2: Children can understand simple English and can read and write (letters and small words)

These levels are broad. Each level will have many sub-levels (except Level 0). A majority of children begin at Level 0 and successfully reach Level 2 by the first year end.  This course maps the path from Level 0 to Level 2.

Mapping the path from Level 0 to Level 1

A child at level 0 will have to pass through the following path to reach level 1.

1. Silent period – where children do not speak (in English) on their own.
This is a phase that can last from a couple of days to several months. This phase is similar to a baby’s careful observation of talk before it ventures to speak. The only difference is that the baby also has to learn to produce sounds, but a child at level 0 has no such problem. His only hesitation is that he has still not learnt enough of the new language and hence prefers to remain silent. However, during this phase, children can repeat whatever they are asked to repeat.

The length of this phase has no bearing on the progress a child makes in learning a new language. A more adventurous and talkative child may speak earlier than a child who is shy.

To find out if this phase is over, teachers need to look for children producing words on their own and not mechanically repeating what is said.

2. Focusing on comprehension
Children try to understand what is being said. To begin with, they demonstrate their comprehension through gestures. For instance, “Come here” will prompt them to walk up to the teacher; “Open your book” is responded by opening the book to the page shown. Children have no problems in understanding short commands or some common classroom utterances.

They begin to pick up vocabulary and pronunciation gradually. They can now demonstrate their ability to comprehend and act on simple instructions, like giving a yes-no response or one word answers. Children can soon respond in phrases and short sentences. This phase generally lasts for 2-6 months.

These two phases may co-exist. Children at this stage naturally use their first language whenever they need to communicate.

We now consider the following three possibilities:

Children whose mother-tongue is English would have completed both the phases before arriving at school.

Children who have opted for English as a second language but are at level 0, pass through these phases in their first year of schooling – be it pre-school or class 1.

Children who have opted for English as a third language (class 5 or 6) may have a very brief or no silent period and move on quickly to the comprehension phase.

Goals for level 1
During the silent phase children must be capable of

* Giving one word answers to questions like “what is your name?”; “What is this?”, etc.
* Pointing to objects like pencil, book, box, chair; or parts of the body like eye, nose, hand, stomach, etc.
* Drawing or scribbling on paper; circling or marking out things in charts or picture sheets.
* Following simple instructions like “sit down”; “look here”; “come here”; “clap”, etc.
* Answering Yes or No questions like “Shall we sing?”; “Are you hungry?”, etc.

The silent phase leads to the comprehension phase, but for some children, the two phases may co-exist. During the comprehension phase, children must be capable of

* Listening and understanding simple sentences and catch new words
* Answering in chorus
* Reciting short poems
* Using short phrases (1-3 words) to respond to questions. Demonstrating more confidence in their speech
* Naming and labelling objects


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