Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Important Language Skills that should be developed across different subjects

One of the keys to good pedagogy is language. Having a sound command over one’s language skills will determine how effective a teacher is in transacting his lesson in class. The first and foremost skill for a teacher to develop  is the verbal skill. These skills need to be developed in students tool.
Verbal Skills
Having a good pronunciation will ensure that what ever is being taught in class is understood by most of the students. I have personally come across a few teachers who have had a peculiar pronunciation, probably because of the region from where they came from. This applies to students too. Here I would like to insist that language skills should be taught not just by language teachers but also by teachers of other subjects. As such, encouraging the student to use the correct pronunciation, tone and inflection should be the responsibility of all the teachers teaching a particular grade.
Syntax and Semantics
I would add syntax and semantics below verbal skills because they are a shared component with writing skills. Semantics deals with the meaning of a sentence, phrase or statement, while syntax refers to the structure of the sentence, grammar, as it is widely referred to. Here I would like to add that wrong syntax and wrong semantics should be constantly checked, not just by the teacher of English, but also by the teacher of Physics, or even a teacher of Maths. Even Maths is dependent on language. Take for example word problems in maths. If the word problem that  attempts to arrive at the age of one of  two people(through ratios) is not framed correctly then the student will not be able to arrive at the solution. This is true for both verbal and written word problems. A poor understanding of syntax and semantics in students  who are struggling in languages especially those who have switched to another language, will result in the student not being able to understand the question itself.
Writing Skills
a) Handwriting: People are today divided on the topic of the importance of the quality of handwriting, but then for the greater part of the world that still uses pen and paper, handwriting continues to be an important factor in the learning process for students. In countries where answer scripts in examinations are still handwritten, it could make all the difference between merely passing  and passing with distinction. Students who labour on their handwriting will not be able to complete their paper on time, while those whose handwriting is illegible will surely lose marks because the examiner cannot read what has been written. It makes good sense, therefore, for teachers of different subjects to  reinforce good writing habits in their students.  Reinforcing good writing habits and skills is the prerogative of all the teachers and not just the language teacher.
b) Note taking or Note making: An important writing skill, note taking or note making is also a more mental and cognitive skill. By following the prescribed pattern of taking down important points and listing them as Headings, Nucleus  sentences, topic sentences, points, sub-points and sub-sub-points the student will be consciously breaking down the unit or the lesson into its core components. Note making is an important language skill that should be encouraged and used by teachers across different subjects. Note making or note taking involves analysis, inference, and understanding, important cognitive skills across all grades.
c)Annotations: Teachers across different subjects should encourage students to annotate any reading texts that might be given to them. For this, students must be encouraged to used standard and accepted symbols to use in their annotations. Skills in annotation can help the student develop analytical skills that aid in comprehension and  the understanding of the essence of long reading texts.
d) Paraphrasing and  Summarising: Both paraphrasing and summarising are skills that are highly dependent on cognition. You can summarise a lesson only if you have understood the central idea and supporting ideas of what has been taught. It is only after you have broken down the lesson into its primary components that student will be able to summarise it into  its big ideas and supporting ideas. This can be as mental an activity as it is physical, involving writing everything on a piece of paper.
e) Research: The internet has provided us with an almost infinite amount of research material. However how we use material from the internet and giving due recognition to the author of the original work is an important part of the ethics of research. Research as such should be about being as original as possible. Students should be encouraged to cite sources, prepare a bibliography and avoid plagiarism. Here I would like to distinguish between writing a research paper and doing research. Both of them are slightly different from the other, however they represent the highest form of cognitive learning. encouraging correct and accepted research skills can help develop problem solving skills, and  understanding of principles.
All of the above mentioned language skills are meant to be developed not just by language teachers, but also other subject teachers too. Language is the prerogative of everyone, irrespective of the complaint that one is not a language teacher. It goes without saying that language is a subject area that everyone is responsible for, at least as long as we communicate verbally or in writing. A good command over language will ensure one’s success in not just academics, but also life as a whole!

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