All across the nominally Anglophone Caribbean, English Language competence is a bugbear.
a: Understanding how our region's history has led to the various dialects of English that we experience, and how that can interfere with mastery of the Standard one. (And, I insist, Standard English is just another dialect.)
b: Appreciating why Standard English emerged as a reference variety and why it is so important in commerce, media, education, work, service and life. Namely, that standards are in-common.
c: The use of standard English in speaking and listening situations.
d: The use of standard English in text-oriented situations for reading, writing and spelling acceptably.
e: The use of standard English in public speaking, presentations, multimedia and traditional media.
f: Vocabulary, word power, problem-solving effectiveness and intelligence: words are major tools of thought and communication, so if we do not master them we can neither think nor communicate effectively.
g: Life-long learning of English: learning to be our own personal English tutors.
A qualification in this syllabus demonstrates to universities and employers that candidates can communicate effectively in Standard English through:
• communicative competence: the ability to communicate with clarity, relevance, accuracy and variety
• creativity: the ability to use language, experience and imagination to respond to new situations, create original ideas and make a positive impact
• critical skills: the ability to scan, filter and analyse different forms of information
• cross-cultural awareness: the ability to engage with issues inside and outside own community, dealing with the familiar as well as the unfamiliar. (This is not an assessment objective but forms the context of writing tasks and reading passages.)
R1 Understand explicit meanings, through literal and vocabulary questions.
R2 Understand implicit meanings and nuances of language, through inferential questions and questions on writer’s craft.
R3 Scan and analyse text, by identifying and summarising required information, such as similarities and differences, or advantages and disadvantages, or problems and solutions, or causes and effects, or
actions and consequences.
R4 Identify and respond to main ideas of a text, such as follow a sequence or argument, identify conclusion, distinguish fact from opinion, and give a personal response to a theme in a text.
W1 Communicate appropriately, with a clear awareness of purpose, audience and register.
W2 Communicate clearly and develop ideas coherently, at word level, at sentence level and at whole text level.
W3 Use accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar.
W4 Communicate creatively, using a varied range of vocabulary, sentence structures and linguistic devices.
For the sheer joy of it, let me bring you (HT: Cecil Adams) a sentence diagram for See Spot Run:
In balance to this, Kitty Burns Florey has a few choice comments in a NYT article:
What does diagramming sentences teach us besides how to diagram sentences? I would answer: It teaches us a lot. First of all, it illuminates points of grammar. When constructing a diagram, we focus on the structures and patterns of language, and this can help us appreciate it as more than just a vehicle for expressing minimal ideas . . . When we unscrew a sentence, figure out what makes it tick and reassemble it, we interact with our old familiar language differently, more deeply, responding to the way its individual components fit together. Once we understand how sentences work (what’s going on? what action is taking place? who is doing it and to whom is it being done?), it’s harder to write an incorrect one. Diagramming is basically a puzzle, and — as we all know in this age of Alzheimer’s awareness — puzzles keep our brains working. An attempt to tame a really complex sentence can oil your brain, twist it into a pretzel and make it do back flips.
(A truly spectacular case in point is given, so do click on the link!)
For key specific instance: in the Caribbean, we often have major problems with subject-verb agreement and with tenses.
1 --> INTRODUCTION:
Lead: The first thing you want to bring to the attention of the audience, to draw and hold attention, winning favourable or at least respectful attention.2 --> BODY:
Focal point: The main point you want to make or issue you want to address
Bridge to body: moving into how you are going to give supporting details, facts and reasoned argument. This may include an outline of what is to follow.
In the body, the case in the main should be laid out, and anticipated objections countered. The main detailed points, are laid out in paragraphs with connectives that bridge from one to the next forming a smoothly flowing chain. A paragraph, being a unit of thought that starts from the communication situation in view if it is the opening one, or follows on from what preceded in the course of the communication, makes one main point that adds to the communication, and bridges to the next, or else draws the conclusion. (Cf. suggestions for teaching paragraph-writing skills here on.)
3 --> CONCLUSION:
Summing up the case and again making the main point, inviting a response explicitly or implicitly.
To develop the content, I strongly suggest a software package that has already been highlighted in the Capacity Focus series as very useful for laying out learning frames in a presentation-style format suitable for education, XERTE.
|An example of a web-resident, slide-based teaching frame used for teaching language based on integrating text and audio with hyperlinks. Note the navigation panels, the multimedia element and the frame for text. The use of a fill in the blanks exercise for language instruction is particularly interesting. Notice as well, how a screen capture package has been used to turn the original lesson into a second tier of learning.|
F/N: Critical thinking skills (cf. online book and a discussion on teaching such skills) are a vital focus in an age of info-glut where ever so much rhetorical or outright propagandistic rubbish and misinformation or just plain sloppy thinking or ignorance on public display lie all around. Such materials, which can pose as education or corrections to imagined conspiracies, or exposes of targetted groups or institutions, are unfortunately persuasive- to- those- who- do- not- already- know- what- is- being- conveniently- left- out, but is not sound. We need to underscore that arguments persuade by appealing to our emotions, or to sources or presenters we think credible, or to facts and logic in light of "reasonable" assumptions and methods of inquiry. However, our emotions are no better than the quality of the underlying perceptions and judgements, no authority is better than his facts and reasoning in THIS case, and it is only when the true and decisive facts are in view, and are handled with good reason using reliable methods, that conclusions are trustworthy. And, often the most trustworthy conclusion is, we do not know for sure, though this seems likely. Students need to be given critical thinking primers (cf my example here) and need to be trained in Internet age research skills. They also need to know a bit about fallacies and sound and cogent reasoning in light of basic worldview issues. For this last, I think a simplified version of the "turtles all the way down" discussion here on may be a point of departure.