Handbook of English Language Standards
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This handbook is intended for educators who teach English (including written and oral language), or who teach subjects that require English language proficiency. Standards for teaching and learning English language can be organized from a variety of perspectives. Headings and subheadings in this Wiki book should represent that variety. Contributors are welcome to add samples of text and media along with their contributions. Because this Wiki is available worldwide, the standards can and should reflect the global uses of English. Click the "Edit" links below to work on this Wiki. General help on writing in Wiki, including 'how to' sheets, can be found at Wikipedia. Specific information on how to make the wiki do what you want with codes is at Meta. When headings and subheadings begin to become too bulky for a single page, new pages will be created.
- 1 History
- 2 Standards and Accountability
- 3 Media-based Standards
- 3.1 Reading and Writing
- 3.2 Speaking and Listening
- 3.3 Viewing
- 4 Power-based standards
- 5 Content standards
- 6 Thinking-based standards
- 7 Genre-based standards
- 8 Structure-based standards
- 9 ESL and TESOL approaches
- 10 Performance-based approaches
- 11 Organizations that Write English Language Standards
The Curriculum and Evaluation Standards, published by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) in 1989, set in motion a mandate for other content organizations to write standards. The Standards Project for the English Language Arts (SPELA) was funded by the federal government of the USA in 1992 to write the standards. In 1994, the United States Department of Education discontinued funding of the project, ostensibly because of the theoretical pluralism informing the work. The standards that were eventually published are general, typically avoiding clear performance benchmarks. Nevertheless, they offer an implicit view of the variety in theoretical perspectives that were brought to bear on the task.
Standards for Language may be difficult to write because of the breadth of the subject. Language is considered to be a primary medium for human thinking (Vygotsky). As such, to attempt to write standards for Language is similar to writing standards for how to think. Language is not necessarily one discipline or subject, but includes all the breadth of thinking, speaking, and writing in many disciplines which have written their own standards already (Mathematics, Social Studies, Sciences).
While all disciplines and content rely on language for thinking and communication, the primary school subject standards documents do not articulate standards for integrating the language necessary for their specific subjects: Mathematics, Science, Social Studies. Interestingly, although Literature is one of the main curricular incarnations of the English Language in schooling, only a few organizations are attempting to narrow the task of writing English Language standards by focusing their efforts on Literature. (Also notable is the fact that many of the organizations that set standards offer access to them only for those who pay.)
A variety of organizations have worked on English Language standards, and a section is dedicated to these organizations at the bottom of this wiki page.
A short history of education standards has also been compiled by McREL.
Standards and Accountability
Standards for curriculum and instruction may define the work of educators and students. In the United States of America, individual states have written standards, and have often passed legislation to enact these standards in public schools and institutions of higher education. State to state (and nation to nation) the standards can look very different. For example, a state's standards may have been written before the research on "phonemic awareness" had gained its prominence. What is the result of variety in standards based on political boundaries?
Among the major standards that have already been written for English, each major heading seems to be informed by a particular theoretical approach to language. In the Wiki Standards, we can allow these approaches to be named and elaborated on. As commonalities begin to appear across categories, internal and external links can be used to emphasize the commonalities among theoretical approaches.
One approach to writing standards is to begin from the types of performance we expect or hope to see around certain kinds of media, such as print and speech.
Reading and Writing
Reading in English is based on an understanding of the English alphabetic principle, which is different from other principles of print, and unique among languages that use alphabets. In order to master the English alphabetic principle, readers and writers need to:
Demonstrate awareness of spoken English phonology, including
This is the knowledge that individual words are represented in speech and print. In English print, word awareness involves knowledge of conventional visual spacing between words. In speech, word awareness involves a tacit knowledge of individual spoken words. In Linguistics, word awareness corresponds to the concept of the "[lexeme]." Without comparison to print, there has been some argument that people's concept of a 'word' is difficult to define. For example, Albert Lord found that non-literate storytellers often considered the term 'verbatim' to refer to preservation of the main structure in an oral performance of a tale, not really a word-for-word match from performance to performance.
Word Awareness Performance
Demonstrate word awareness by
- touching the head and arm joints in order toward the fingers to represent each word being spoken.
- pointing to individual words in print.
- substituting one word for another in speech or writing.
- writing words with conventional spacing.
- cutting or folding strips of written words into individual words.
Phonemic awareness is a demonstration that shows either tacit or explicit knowledge of the individual phonemes of the English language. Phonemes are sounds that can make a difference in meanings. In Linguistics, the concept of the phoneme is demonstrated by minimal pairs. Research on reading success suggests that the demonstrations of phonemic awareness most likely to predict reading success are: a. segmenting words into individual phonemes (i.e., student is asked to segment the word "skip" and the response is, /s/ /k/ /i/ /p/), and b. blending strings of correctly sequenced phonemes into words (i.e., student is given the phonemes /b/ /l/ /o/ distinctly and in order, and student responds by saying "blow"). Phonemic awareness may be demonstrated and practiced with no printed language present, but research suggests that phonemic awareness instruction has a greater effect on reading success when practiced with written examples. A summary of the research can be found in the booklet Put Reading First, published by the US federally sponsored Partnership for Reading.
Phonemic Awareness Performance
Demonstrate phonemic awareness by:
- segmenting individual words into distinct phonemes.
- counting the phonemes in a word.
- blending a sequence of individual phonemes into a whole word.
- substituting phonemes into a word to make a different word or nonsense word.
- identifying which phonemes come first or last in a word
Onset and Rime Awareness
Speaking and Listening
Do conversation with your friends. Read English literature as much as you can & samely listen English news, stories etc. Visit BBC Learning English
Add standards and benchmarks
One approach to writing standards is to begin by considering the ways language mediates power among those who use it. This approach is largely absent from state-sponsored standards. Power in language is often informed by students of Critical Theory and Critical Pedagogy. The standards movement itself may come under question through an examination of power, because standards imply agreement with those who hold influence. But we might consider 'standards' as being similar to the hopes and goals of people who think systematically about power in language education. Moreover, those who think about power in language education will usually put forward 'tools for thinking' that they hope other people will use.
One approach to writing standards is to categorize them based on the unique ways language is involved with specific content. In particular, students in academic disciplines and school subjects have developed specific ways to use language for thinking about and organizing their content. Each discipline or content domain may wish to specify what is expected for language for that domain. So, while the NCTM articulated curriculum and evaluation standards for mathematics content, they did not articulate the ways language is conventionally used to mediate the content in English.
One approach to writing standards is to begin from the kinds of thinking we expect or hope the language will mediate for the users of the language.
Bloom's taxonomy of thinking is a way of classifying objectives for thinking. Because language can be described as a medium for thinking, language standards could emerge from different classes of thought.
One approach to writing standards is to begin by differentiating genres, or types, of language use. This approach can be informed by the work of those working in Genre Studies.
One approach to writing standards is to work from knowledge of language structures and structural systems, such as phonology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. This approach is strongly informed by studies in Linguistics.
ESL and TESOL approaches
One approach to writing standards is to begin by considering that English may not be the student's primary language. This perspective can be informed by students of Language Acquisition.
One approach to writing standards is to outline specific performances or tasks (benchmarks) and to work toward larger categories as performances begin to show common characteristics.
Organizations that Write English Language Standards
- McREL (Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning) - USA
- NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) - USA
- IRA (International Reading Association) - International, based in USA
- California - USA
- Colorado - USA
- Council of Europe - International, based in Strasbourg
- Office for Standards in Education (OfStEd) - non-ministerial government office, United Kingdom