King Midas and the Golden Touch. Teaching moral values in the FL class
Geethanjali Kids – Rhymes and stories
Text extracted from: Método de resolución de casos prácticos.
As part of Road to your Post strategies to facilitate the candidates´ work, in what follows we shall briefly enumerate the transversal elements. In this regard, they are a “bunch” of paragraphs which deserve occasional reading, just to remember them and be aware that they should be somehow present in a practical example (i.e. an integrated didactic unit, or sequence of activities), since they can improve our learners’ integral development as individuals in a society. These elements are:
••Reading comprehension, oral and written expression, audiovisual communication, use of ICT, entrepreneurial attitude, civic education and Constitution awareness. These aspects shall be dealt with from the FL area by fostering the learners´ abilities to communicate in real-life contexts. Similarly, we need to introduce weighty values connected to our Constitution. Amongst them, we may highlight democratic citizenship, fundamental rights and duties like non-discrimination due to sex (gender equality), religion, place of birth, and the like. Besides, environmental care, cultural, artistic and historical heritage, responsible consumer education, public services, etc. Obviously, we shall instil these transversal elements considering the learners´ age and their integration in the FL tasks.
••Non-discrimination due to disability, fostering a climate of equality of opportunities amongst learners.
••Gender equality and promotion of effective equal rights for boys and girls in the FL class through tasks in which they exchange roles in daily matters related to jobs, sharing house work. There is a real need to introduce activities to prevent gender violence through positive group cooperation and positive dialogue.
••In addition, peace education will entail all those values referred to freedom and justice, peaceful conflicts solving through dialogue, democracy, respect for Human Rights and prevention of any kind of violence. The FL area can contribute to develop these values by fostering positive language use and norms of respect to solve potential situations of school violence.
••Legal framework is also concerned with the development of curricular elements related to sustainable development and the environment. Therefore, the FL area should comprise the promotion of positive attitudes towards the natural world and their immediate surroundings. As an example, we may mention issues such as water resources, trees and plants, wild life and endangered animals, atmosphere, healthy living, and clean towns. These aspects shall be integrated in the units´ contents so as to get learners to distinguish between appropriate and respectful behaviour and negative attitudes towards the environment.
Text extracted from: Temario de oposiciones Inglés-Primaria. Self-learning method.
4. Typology of texts
The final goal in Teaching English as a Foreign Language, according to the Curriculum, is the development of “Communicative Competence”, that is, to enable the learner to communicate, through oral and written communication, using the foreign language in real and meaningful contexts. This means that despite the kind of text we select to be used in the FL class, it should entail a linguistic benefit leading to the aforementioned goal. As a consequence, text selection is a weighty FL teachers´ task which should consider the learners´ age and developmental stage, their likes, interests and motivation.
The CEFRL (2001) defines texts as any sequence or discourse (spoken and/or written) related to a specific domain and which in the course of carrying out a task becomes the occasion of a language activity, whether as a support or as a goal, as product or process. There is no communicative act without texts; all language activities and processes are analyzed according to the relation amongst learners and texts. On the other hand, to carry out a communicative task, students shall need to process oral and written texts through reception, production, interaction or mediation. Depending on the strategy adopted by students, the task may involve different language activities and text processes.
Texts have different functions in social life and in turn, may present different forms. According to the medium or purpose, texts may vary in the context of messages, organization and presentation. Therefore, texts can be classified into several types belonging to different genres:
Texts and media: All texts are carried by a specific medium; and depending on the physical characteristics of the medium, we may consider different subcategories (i.e. for speech, direct close-up speech as against public address or telephone, or for writing print as against cursive writing, or different scripts). Therefore, to communicate through a given medium, learners should have the necessary sensory-motor equipment. In oral texts, students require listening under the given conditions and have control over the organs of phonation; and in written texts, they need visual acuity and hands control. Media include: voice; telephone, videophone, teleconference; public address systems; radio broadcasts; TV; cinema, films; computer (e-mail, CD Rom, etc.); videotape, disc; print; manuscript; etc.
Spoken texts: They include: public announcements and instructions; public speeches, lectures, presentation; entertainment (drama, shows, readings, songs); sports commentaries (football, etc.); news broadcasts; public debates and discussion; inter-personal dialogues and conversations; telephone conversations; job interviews, etc.
Written texts: They may refer to: books, fiction and non-fiction, including literary journals; magazines; newspapers; instruction manuals (cookbooks, etc.); textbooks; comic strips; brochures; leaflets; advertising material; public signs and notices; supermarket, shop, market stall signs; packaging and labelling on goods; tickets; forms and questionnaires; dictionaries (monolingual and bilingual); faxes and e-mails; personal letters; essays and exercises; etc.
Texts and activities: The output of language production is a text, which may also become input for further reception activities. There is a close relationship between language activities and the texts resulting from those activities. In this sense, the same text can be used for “translation” or “conversation”.
Out of the great variety of possibilities, ranging from authentic to ‘artificial’ or non-authentic texts (the former being those devoted to native speakers, whereas the latter are written for children learning a FL) we shall usually rely on the ones that tend to be perceived as “real” by children. Despite the fact that authentic books generally imply obvious cultural background of the FL homeland and they bring about motivation, as the students see they are reading an original piece of work (e.g. ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’), it is also true that the level of students, not only linguistic but also sociocultural, will be below that of native speakers and therefore they will often get stuck when reading a given book. Non-authentic texts, therefore, show certain advantages at earlier stages of learning a language since they are adapted to the students’ level.
An appropriate selection of texts, whether they are oral or written, is at the heart of a motivating and successful learning experience. Therefore, we should evaluate texts in relation to a particular group of learners. Seen in this light, the CEFRL suggests different factors to be considered:
• Linguistic complexity: Complex syntax may be out of reach for our students and result too time-consuming and discouraging. On the other hand, over-simplification may also turn into lack of interest on the part of learners.
• Text type: familiarity with the genre and domain (and with assumed background and sociocultural knowledge) helps the learner in anticipating and comprehending text structure and content; the concrete or abstract nature of the text is also likely to play a role. For example, concrete description, instructions or narratives (particularly with adequate visual supports) are likely to be less demanding than abstract argumentation or explanation.
• Discourse structure: textual coherence and clear organization (for example, temporal sequencing, main points clearly signalled and presented before illustration of the points), the explicit rather than implicit nature of information presented, and the absence of conflicting or surprising information, all contribute to reducing information processing complexity.
• Physical presentation: written and spoken texts obviously make differing demands because of the need to process information in spoken text in real time. In the case of spoken texts, the greater the number of speakers and the less distinct their voices, the more difficult it is to identify and understand individual speakers. Other factors increasing difficulty may be: unfamiliar accents, speed of delivery, volume, etc.
• Length of the text: In general, a short text is less demanding than a long text on a similar topic as a longer text requires more processing and there is an additional memory load, risk of fatigue and distraction (especially in the case of younger learners). However, a long text which is not too dense and contains considerable redundancy may be easier than a short dense text presenting the same information. In this sense, long texts like songs or stories many times provide support through enjoyable repetition of items and structures (i.e. “Old Macdonald”, “The hungry caterpillar”, etc).
• Relevance to the learner: a high level of motivation to understand due to personal interest in the content will help to sustain the learner’s efforts to understand (although it will not necessarily assist comprehension directly). On the other hand, a text which does not raise the students´ interest is likely to result boring and thus will not have the necessary engaging power.