English language learning course
English in India has become an aspirational issue in education determining opening or closing of schools, enrolment of government versus private schools and so on. Learning in mother tongue and the associated impact on learning skills and attainments in different fields is still being debated among educationists, it is also true that English proficiency still determines mobility and employment opportunities in many ways, for a combination of reasons.
Language learning is now widely recognised as having two objectives – one of communicative competencies and using language for learning. English is no different and the Position Paper on Teaching of English recommends a similar approach for the teaching of English. In the context of a country like India where there are multiple languages, English is not to be seen stand alone but in the context of multiple languages.
Yet another context in which the learning of English is being explored here is in the increasing use of digital technologies - also referred to as Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). ICT provide methods of creating and communicating in multiple formats and present new opportunities for building language competencies. Digital platforms also now make it possible to create multiple educational resources which can be offered to learners using multiple methods – combining physical and virtual means. This presents new possibilities and pathways for designing curricular materials and instructional design for learning English.
It is against this backdrop that this course on English learning has been developed. The course has been developed as a series of course modules focusing on building language competencies in English as well as using English for learning. These modules can be attempted in sequence or independently (assuming competencies required prior to that module have been reasonably attained).
- To understand/ reinforce the different objectives and processes of language learning and the role of ICT in this
- To understand different approaches to early language learning – both first language and second language; and the role of multilingualism in supporting language learning
- To identify areas and modules for teacher development to support English learning - that support their own English proficiency as well as develop English learning strategies for their classroom contexts
- To identify resource needs and plan for their access, creation, revision, curation and publishing
- To develop resources using multiple tools - H5P, Open Board and generic text, image, animation and audio visual free and open source applications – for language teaching-learning
- To develop structured modules for an understanding English language learning as well as provide strategies for the Programteacher/ student to explore language in all its dimensions – the listening, speaking, reading and writing – using ICT, and integrate these with the Karnataka state syllabus textbooks for languages
- To explore new digital tools and applications for language learning - especially for students with special learning needs (visual and auditory impairments)
- To develop a plan / program for the language program for a school.
Who can use this course / program
- The program is intended to be transacted in multiple contexts - of different levels of English skills in the learner environment and differing levels of teacher proficiency. The materials can be used for lower primary, higher primary or even high schools.
- The program can be used by teachers in formal schools - rural or urban, government or private - at different levels based on their contexts.
- The program can also be used as a simultaneous learning program for teachers and students in rural and / or tribal or urban sum contexts where teacher proficiency may be lower in English. The activities will include variants to allow such a transaction.
- The program would be useful for other language teachers as well, the program aims to develop a similar course for teachers of other languages (Kannada, Hindi, Telugu etc).
- The program would also be useful to teachers teaching Mathematics, Science, Social Science and other subjects through the English medium of instruction.
- The program can also be used by teacher educators working in the area of language teaching
This course is being sought to be implemented in two different contexts - Government aided schools in Bengaluru and Tribal Schools in Andhra Pradesh. Taken together, these two contexts represent different levels of English attainment, attitudes and aspirations and can help understand the role of the environment in shaping English language learning. The course can be implemented through workshops, on-site demonstrations and resource sharing, however, it is shared as OER to enable any school (or any organization working with a school) to use the modules as a part of their own curriculum.
Core principles of language learning
The aim is to not re-invent the wheel; instead benefit from the work already done by educationists, educational institutions, language learning experts in the 'OER' spirit of freely giving and taking. The core principles of language learning are based on different approaches and methods tried in English learning in India and elsewhere, and widely accepted theories of language development. A techno-pedagogic integration has been attempted across multiple methods to bring the affordances of digital technologies to support the acquisition of language competencies.
- English learning must focus on two dimensions - communicative competence and using language for learning. Building communicative competencies has priority over using language for learning. English learning will be situated within the context of a multi-lingual language environment, and as strongly suggested by National Curricular Framework 2005 Position Paper on Teaching of English, not aim to create or perpetuate any hegemonies of English over the local language.
- Stephen Krashen's theory of 'second language acquisition' informs the approach used for developing the language curriculum and the following guidelines have been followed for developing the curriculum
- The English learning environment will create an environment that allows the child to acquire language in ways and methods that they have used to acquire their first language, believing that the child will want to use language contexts for meaningful interaction
- The focus will be on hearing and producing; and seeing and producing. The child's first language / mother tongue/ local language are used to support the meaning making from the English language interactions. This is to be distinguished from the translation method.
- Phonetics based approaches integrating hearing and seeing as methods of learning the sounds and combinations of sounds to make words. Wherever possible and relevant Montessori methods for early language learning have been adopted into the development of the curriculum
- Since meaningful interactions will be the basis for language acquisition, listening experiences will be created which focus on phrase patterns and sentence patterns (The Teaching of English Abroad - by F G French, C.B.E)
- Different ICT tools and methods are used for exploring communicative possibilities as well as in the creation of a resource rich environment
- Children come with different levels of competence in English, based on the environment they are surrounded. This impacts both their levels of language acquisition as well as their perceived benefit from learning English. The learning modules are therefore to be developed to support a multi-level learning even in a single-age classroom
- Teacher proficiencies and beliefs about English language learning are critical to influence for creating a meaningful context for English language acquisition. The curriculum will therefore also focus on this.
The program is conceptualized as a series of modules which can be attempted independently or in sequence. Each module will have several units along which the concepts, resources and learning activities will be organized. The units have been designed to be transacted as a whole but it is possible for different units and modules to be combined to address the needs of specific contexts. Each unit will consists of a group of lessons, objectives (learning outcomes), intended audience, resources, activities and assessment. It can also have optional / alternative activities and extensions.
The following is an initial list of modules being offered in this program.
Module 1 - An overview of different language learning approaches and associated methods
- To introduce teachers to different theories and approaches of language learning
- To develop an insight into the ways children process and learn language
- Teachers in different contexts
- Teacher educators
- Summarized readings of works of leading linguists and educators
- Videos/ recordings of different classroom approaches
Unit 1 - Understanding how children learn languages
Unit 2 - Different language learning approaches
Unit 3 - Context of English language learning in India
This unit will have a brief description of how English learning has been attempted in India, the history of different approaches tried in India. How to teach English in a multilingual context will be the focus of this unit.
Unit 4 - Overview of the language curriculum in this course
Based on different language approaches, the curriculum will focus on providing activities for learning English through acquisition.
The subsequent modules will therefore focus on hearing (listening), seeing (reading), speech and writing in that order. There will also be lesson examples that will be given for providing resource extensions and multi-media input for language lessons in their English language textbooks.
Module 2 - Hearing the language
In this module, the focus will be on hearing the words and word phrases as spoken in English, without an emphasis on seeing / reading script. The seeing of the words will come later and association of the sounds with the script will come later. The focus is her on getting the students familiar with the arbitrariness of a group of sounds to indicate meaning for specific words and contexts.
- To build an understanding of the spoken word in English
- To introduce students to the patterns and structures in English through listening
- Any beginner group
- Recordings of words and phrases
- Video clips
- Simple short stories as audio clips -
- Simple words, commonly used words - audio of the words, images of the word (no focus on script) to register and build vocabulary
- Concrete items which are commonly used/accessed/seen
- Basic verbs
- Word categories - animals, plants, relationships - See a list in this spreadsheet
- Simple sentences
- Alternate sources of materials - Pratham storyweaver
Unit 1 - Introduction to simple words in the environment (object identification)
Activity: The teacher will introduce simple objects in the environment the students are familiar with. For example, "What is this?" Students may say "ಪುಸ್ತಕ" or the closest word in their language. The teacher can explain "This is a book". This is the phase in which the multilingual nature of a classroom can be fully explored and used. This can be repeated for a given number of objects or pictures. Movement should be from objects to pictures.
Once they have listened to the sounds, the teacher can do the reverse. After they listen to the words, students can identify the correct objects. The teacher demonstrates with one example. "Show me the book" And shows the book. It is to be noted here that the word show is also introduced. This can be done either by directly speaking or by playing the recordings of the words/ phrases and have students identify the associated objects/ pictures
Assessment is continuous and built into the process.
(New vocabulary should consist of words of the same nature as those taught in the first lesson - book, pen, pencil,cat. It should thus consist of names of familiar concrete things (counting animals as things), which are present or can be brought into the class, or shown by pictures or blackboard drawings. It is for teachers to judge how many words of this kind their classes can digest, but they should understand that the main purpose of this concrete vocabulary is for use in the structures which are being introduced. The structures may be called the walls and the rooms of the language house which is being built. The vocabulary is the furniture and fittings. Looked at in this way, isolated words are seen to have a relatively subsidiary position).
Unit 2 - Introduction to simple conversational structures
Activity: The teacher will introduce simple conversational structures and also numbers and counting in English. This assumes, of course, that children have basic number-quantity association understanding. This can also include simple words that qualify objects and also introduce colour names. Here again, the local language of the classroom will be used to introduce the conversational words. For example, in the examples below - "ಹೆಸರು" "ಬಣ್ಣ" can be used to introduce words like name and color.
- What is your name? My name is Ranjani
- What color is this? This color is blue.
- What is Kavya doing? Kavya is walking. (Introduce pronouns later)
Show recordings of simple activities done by the students - walking, eating, drawing and use these clips to make recordings of the activity in English.
Unit 3 - Listening to simple stories in English
Activity: The teacher needs to tell simple stories from words already introduced and help students make meaning. Here again a multi lingual approach will be useful. Stories can be told in English and translated into Kannada and vice-versa. However, care should be taken to move gradually into speaking English fully. The objective here is to deepen knowledge of language by broadening vocabulary, with sentence construction, set of sentences comprising a simple story
As a variant, the teacher can project a picture, have the children work in groups to tell a story. These stories can be told by the children and recorded and these can be used further as resources.
(Stories should be graded across easy-difficult levels, so that every learner has stories that are appropriate to her context. Pratham StoryWeaver uses the following levels- Level 1 - Easy words, repetition, less than 250 words, Level 2 - simple concepts up to 600 words, Level 3 - Longer sentences up to 1500words and Level 4 - Longer, more nuanced stories, more than 1500 words).
Unit 4 - Making categories of words
Families of words can be made into lists along with recordings of phrases
- Make a list of all the words students have been introduced to and allow them to pair up / work in small groups to listen to each other speak the words.
- The teacher must observe how much of the local language is being used to communicate
- With simple picture stories (these can be created even by the students), ask students to communicate in English a story from the pictures
Module 3 - Introducing sounds and the associated symbols
Introducing script (which is an arbitrary artefact)
Introducing the connection between script and sound (which is a second arbitrary item)
- script-recognition-Alphabets-lowercase-non-phonetic pronounciation
- script-recognition-Alphabets-uppercase-non-phonetic pronounciation
44 sounds of English language
This is a teacher resource, to support teachers to hear the 44 sounds in the English language (with associated words) to learn the correct pronounciations
Combination of sounds and scripts
Activity - Listening to the sound of the alphabet and seeing the writing of the alphabet, click here
Sensitizing the ear to the sound and shapes
- Young children
- Any audience that will need the beginning literacy skills in English.
- Reinforcement for adults (useful for second language learning)
- Audio clips of the sounds in the language
- Interactive materials which will introduce the script and the sound
- For very young children, sensorial activities like writing in sand, tracing on sand etc of the letters
- Animations showing the formation of the script for each sound along with the recording of the sound
- Simple words,and commonly used words - audio of the words, images of the word (no focus on script) to register and build vocabulary
- Concrete items which are commonly used / accessed / seen
- Basic verbs
- Word categories - animals, plants, relationships - See a list in this spreadsheet
- Simple sentences
Unit 1 - Isolation and introduction to sounds
Activity - For the words already introduced, the teacher will introduce the sounds the mouth makes when saying the words. To begin with, restrict it to beginning sounds.
"What is the sound your mouth makes when you say book?". The students may be able to say "b"
Here the local language should not be used. While children can listen and speak multiple languages, reading multiple script symbols is not to be encouraged.
Again the pictures of the words can be projected and students can work in pairs/ groups to say the sounds.
The teacher can record these and play for the class; this can be a peer assessment activity also.
Unit 2 - Showing the connection between sounds and script
Self learning, learners can browse through the letters and hear the sounds and register
Activities / processes (assessment)
- Self assessment - Quiz oneself - identify and utter the sound on seeing the letter.
- Hearing the sound and writing the letter
Unit 3 - Minimal Pairs
As English is not a phonetic language, two words can sound similar even though they are spelt quite differently. This audio resource of minimal pairs elaborates examples of such words
Unit 4 - Developing audio resources
Audio resources are essential for language learning, as 'listening' is foundational of the four skills. Teachers can develop audio resources using the resources they already have - their phone/computer to record natural, animal and human sounds; edit audio tracks using Audacity a free and open source audio editor. Such editing can be simple enough to bring in background music
The teacher can work with students to develop resources that use/build on local cultural resources - stories/folklore, songs, sayings, etc. which can be translated into simple English equivalents. Such resources can provide a comfortable learning space for early language learning too. They can also be multilingual to provide a multilingual learning environment
Module 4 - Beginning reading - reading materials
- Introducing to the construction of letters and sound make meaning and form words
- Vocabulary building using the knowledge of scripts and sounds
- Build fluency in reading
- Young children
- For second language resources to learn vocabulary
Unit 1 - Reading simple words
- With pictures – pictures
- With pictures and word
- Only word – word
- Pictures - Advance reading – L1 – L2 -L3 -
Unit 2 - Reading phrases and sentences
Unit 3 - Reading to learn
- Reading to make meaning
- Reading for pleasure
- Introducing Grammar Implicit
Module 5 - Use of ICT for communicative English
Module 6 - Use of digital resources to transact language lessons
A variety of digital resources can be integrated to make language learning richer. See for example
Resources and additional readings
The Early Literacy Initiative’s Practitioner Briefs (PB) are a collection of “how-tos” for people working in the field. Teachers, teacher educators and NGO staff often struggle with operationalising theoretical ideas that they read about. Certain ideas may sound interesting or useful – but are they implementable in Indian settings? How can we implement them?