Tuesday, October 14, 2008

English the way it's taught abroad

Okay, I couldn't think of a better title. Anyway, Monica's post today got me thinking about how English (and in particular compositions) has been taught in Brian's schools. I don't have any recollection of his work in Frankfurt, but I'll post some of the class work done in London later (not in this entry).

I would have to say the best schooling Brian has had so far has been in London. The jury's still out on his Moscow school; standard is appallingly low in core subjects like Mathematics, while Science instruction in the traditional sense is almost non-existent. I don't think English is even taught as a subject by itself, I'm not sure. Maybe I don't understand the PYP programme (see diagram below), which is offered by the International Baccalaureate (IB), enough. Teaching is done thematically through Units of Inquiry.

So back to English, I haven't seen any composition done by Brian this year. So maybe it's teacher-dependent. His teacher's strength is in Math. Last year's teacher loved reading out loud to the children, and she does this every day. She has a huge personal collection of books in her classroom which the child could just take home (and return later of course) any time.

Two pieces of work that Brian worked on last academic year were this and this. Another creative writing lesson rendered this and this. I think that was about all the English work he produced last year. If there were more, I'm not aware of them; they may have ended up crumpled in his messy locker.

This is a huge contrast to the way English is taught by the English! In London, there were English lessons every day, and writing is required in a host of other subjects like Religious Education, Humanities, even Science. It wasn't always classroom instruction; there was always something going on in that school. The class put up many sketches, skits, went to the theatre, to Roald Dahl's museum and had ample opportunities to take part in school musicals and plays.

I've posted some of his London writing before, this and this, both written in January 2007. I'm browsing through his exercise book and saw that before the first composition, he made a plan/outline of what his story was about. For the second one, it was based on the structure of another poem. That's all I could gather from his old exercise book. Oh just found another one, this one's quite funny.

All I can say is Brian's writing ability is miles ahead of his peers here BUT in the UK, there are definitely kids who write much, much, better. So which method of instruction works, you tell me. Again, it may not be the curriculum, but how it's implemented by the school. Boils down to something I always believe, expect much and you get much, expect little, you get little.

More about English later.

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