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Frequently Asked Questions on the EL

Frequently Asked Questions by Parents on the BPPS EL Curriculum
Q1: How do teachers teach EL in BPPS?
A: The aim of the EL curriculum is to enable pupils to communicate effectively in internationally accepted .English. We teach the 4 macroskills, Reading, Writing, Listening & Speaking. While grammar drills are necessary, we believe that the learning of grammar and vocabulary should be taught in context of the purpose and audience of the text and integrated with reading, writing, listening and speaking.
Q2: It is so hard to prepare my child to do well in the EL CA and SA. The exams are very open, unlike Math and Science, which can be "studied". Why is it so?
A: The EL curriculum is skill-based rather than content and concept-based. Reading, writing, speaking and listening skills have to be acquired over a period of time. The teachers will usually model the skills and pupils acquire them through tasks that require them to use the language.
Q3: How about grammar and vocab? Do grammar cloze, MCQs, synthesis & transformation and editing exercises found in the practice papers and the assessment books help?
A: BPPS level worksheets and commercially available assessment books familiarise pupils with the format and the nature of the items tested in the examinations. BPPS worksheets complement the textbooks materials in that it helps to revise and reinforce what has been taught. However, they SHOULD NOT replace the classroom activities the teacher uses to engage pupils to use the language.
Q4. What can I do as a parent to help my child to learn EL?
A: By providing a language rich environment through making books, magazines, newspapers readily available. Parents can also role model reading habits and discuss what they have read. Parents can also take an interest in what the child is reading so that there can be a common platform for meaningful discussions.

For parents of pupils who are in the lower primary, they can read stories to the child every night. For parents of older pupils, watching the channel 5 news together with the child can be a time for family bonding and an opportunity for the child to pick up good language incidentally.
Q5. My child is weak at compo. How many compositions will the child do every term? What can be done to help my child?
A: On average, pupils from P3 - P6 will do 3 continuous writing per term, i.e., 1 composition for each unit of work, excluding situational writing (p5 & 6). Each composition has a specific language focus and content focus. While the pupil may be called on to write the full composition, the teacher may choose only to focus on one aspect of the language, e.g. sentence structure, or one aspect of content development, e.g. using sensory language.

When the teacher reads the composition, he/she is encouraged to give feedback from the reader's point of view, highlighting strengths and weaknesses of the child. The teacher would not assume the role of an editor to find fault with every single mistake in the composition. Instead, he / she would focus on certain error patterns of the pupil and advise him / her on how to work on them. We believe that this developmental approach towards writing is important to the morale of the child.
Q6: My child is weak at comprehension open-ended. How can the school help?
A: Reading comprehension is basically an exploration of the ideas and meaning the writer wishes to convey in the text. The teacher usually engages the children to make meaning, predict, infer using contextual clues as the class reads the text. The teacher will role model the strategies so that pupils will pick them up over time and apply these strategies in independent reading.

Depending on the readiness of the pupils in the class, there will usually be 2 comprehension tasks per unit.
Q7: My child is weak at comprehension cloze. How can the school help?
A: Comprehension Cloze requires pupils to read a text and fill in blanks with a suitable word. Pupils need to use contextual clues to follow the development of the ideas of the text. Compre cloze also assesses the pupils' knowledge of the language structure. Teachers will highlight all the above-mentioned when they work with the pupils.
Q8: Will there be any remediation for pupils weak in EL?
A: Yes, remediation is meant for pupils who are not able to catch up with the rest of his peers in his / her class. The teacher will reinforce basic reading strategies and basic knowledge of grammar. If your child is not identified for remediation, it means that your child can cope with the English lessons in class.
Q9: Will there be any programme for pupils who are linguistically talented?
A: Yes, these pupils from P4 - P6 will be given the opportunity to do novel studies. This programme, however, will not benefit all pupils in the school. Only pupils who have demonstrated exceptional promise will be identified to participate in the programme.
Q10: Why are some of the exercises in the prescribed workbook / homework book not used by the teacher?
A: The prescribed textbooks and workbooks only serve as a resource for the pupils. However, there is no "perfect" textbook in which all its materials are best suited to cater to the instructional objectives. Where appropriate, the English Department will advise teachers to replace with materials from other sources.
Q11  Does the school have a programme to promote reading?
A: Yes, besides the library department having monthly book promotions, each class in the upper primary will be getting a new set of books to encourage pupils to read widely. The school also encourages the pupils to subscribe to magazines and newspapers.
Stellar
Q12: Why is it that there are no textbook prescribed for P1 & P2 pupils?
A: P1 & P2 EL curriculum is part of the pilot studies with the MOE's STELLAR programme, which will be implemented nation-wide in 2009. STELLAR uses "big books" purchased from overseas. When reading the big books, teachers will ask the pupils to predict the storyline as they read along. As the ability to predict is a very important skill for the lower primary pupils to acquire, it is important that pupils do not know the "Big Book" stories beforehand. Therefore, these books are not made available in the local bookstore.
Q13: There are new components introduced into the assessment for P2, namely compre cloze and synthesis. Are the pupils ready for them? Will there be sufficiently practice?
A: Yes, cloze and synthesis can be introduced at any level, as long as the text chosen and the test items are appropriate to the level of the child's language development. P2 pupils will be given at least 3 practices so that they would be familiar with the format.
Q14: What is MLEA? Why is it so different from the compositions done in the upper primary?
A: MLEA, Modified Language Experience Approach, believes that lower primary pupils need concrete experience in order to be motivated to write. Therefore, the pupils will spend part of the writing lesson acquiring an experience, e.g. watching a video clip, observing life cycles, making a sandwich etc. The experience will then provide a context for the pupils to write.
Frequently Asked Questions by Parents on the BPPS EL Curriculum
Q1: How do teachers teach EL in BPPS?
A: The aim of the EL curriculum is to enable pupils to communicate effectively in internationally accepted .English. We teach the 4 macroskills, Reading, Writing, Listening & Speaking. While grammar drills are necessary, we believe that the learning of grammar and vocabulary should be taught in context of the purpose and audience of the text and integrated with reading, writing, listening and speaking.
Q2: It is so hard to prepare my child to do well in the EL CA and SA. The exams are very open, unlike Math and Science, which can be "studied". Why is it so?
A: The EL curriculum is skill-based rather than content and concept-based. Reading, writing, speaking and listening skills have to be acquired over a period of time. The teachers will usually model the skills and pupils acquire them through tasks that require them to use the language.
Q3: How about grammar and vocab? Do grammar cloze, MCQs, synthesis & transformation and editing exercises found in the practice papers and the assessment books help?
A: BPPS level worksheets and commercially available assessment books familiarise pupils with the format and the nature of the items tested in the examinations. BPPS worksheets complement the textbooks materials in that it helps to revise and reinforce what has been taught. However, they SHOULD NOT replace the classroom activities the teacher uses to engage pupils to use the language.
Q4. What can I do as a parent to help my child to learn EL?
A: By providing a language rich environment through making books, magazines, newspapers readily available. Parents can also role model reading habits and discuss what they have read. Parents can also take an interest in what the child is reading so that there can be a common platform for meaningful discussions.

For parents of pupils who are in the lower primary, they can read stories to the child every night. For parents of older pupils, watching the channel 5 news together with the child can be a time for family bonding and an opportunity for the child to pick up good language incidentally.
Q5. My child is weak at compo. How many compositions will the child do every term? What can be done to help my child?
A: On average, pupils from P3 - P6 will do 3 continuous writing per term, i.e., 1 composition for each unit of work, excluding situational writing (p5 & 6). Each composition has a specific language focus and content focus. While the pupil may be called on to write the full composition, the teacher may choose only to focus on one aspect of the language, e.g. sentence structure, or one aspect of content development, e.g. using sensory language.

When the teacher reads the composition, he/she is encouraged to give feedback from the reader's point of view, highlighting strengths and weaknesses of the child. The teacher would not assume the role of an editor to find fault with every single mistake in the composition. Instead, he / she would focus on certain error patterns of the pupil and advise him / her on how to work on them. We believe that this developmental approach towards writing is important to the morale of the child.
Q6: My child is weak at comprehension open-ended. How can the school help?
A: Reading comprehension is basically an exploration of the ideas and meaning the writer wishes to convey in the text. The teacher usually engages the children to make meaning, predict, infer using contextual clues as the class reads the text. The teacher will role model the strategies so that pupils will pick them up over time and apply these strategies in independent reading.

Depending on the readiness of the pupils in the class, there will usually be 2 comprehension tasks per unit.
Q7: My child is weak at comprehension cloze. How can the school help?
A: Comprehension Cloze requires pupils to read a text and fill in blanks with a suitable word. Pupils need to use contextual clues to follow the development of the ideas of the text. Compre cloze also assesses the pupils' knowledge of the language structure. Teachers will highlight all the above-mentioned when they work with the pupils.
Q8: Will there be any remediation for pupils weak in EL?
A: Yes, remediation is meant for pupils who are not able to catch up with the rest of his peers in his / her class. The teacher will reinforce basic reading strategies and basic knowledge of grammar. If your child is not identified for remediation, it means that your child can cope with the English lessons in class.
Q9: Will there be any programme for pupils who are linguistically talented?
A: Yes, these pupils from P4 - P6 will be given the opportunity to do novel studies. This programme, however, will not benefit all pupils in the school. Only pupils who have demonstrated exceptional promise will be identified to participate in the programme.
Q10: Why are some of the exercises in the prescribed workbook / homework book not used by the teacher?
A: The prescribed textbooks and workbooks only serve as a resource for the pupils. However, there is no "perfect" textbook in which all its materials are best suited to cater to the instructional objectives. Where appropriate, the English Department will advise teachers to replace with materials from other sources.
Q11  Does the school have a programme to promote reading?
A: Yes, besides the library department having monthly book promotions, each class in the upper primary will be getting a new set of books to encourage pupils to read widely. The school also encourages the pupils to subscribe to magazines and newspapers.
Stellar
Q12: Why is it that there are no textbook prescribed for P1 & P2 pupils?
A: P1 & P2 EL curriculum is part of the pilot studies with the MOE's STELLAR programme, which will be implemented nation-wide in 2009. STELLAR uses "big books" purchased from overseas. When reading the big books, teachers will ask the pupils to predict the storyline as they read along. As the ability to predict is a very important skill for the lower primary pupils to acquire, it is important that pupils do not know the "Big Book" stories beforehand. Therefore, these books are not made available in the local bookstore.
Q13: There are new components introduced into the assessment for P2, namely compre cloze and synthesis. Are the pupils ready for them? Will there be sufficiently practice?
A: Yes, cloze and synthesis can be introduced at any level, as long as the text chosen and the test items are appropriate to the level of the child's language development. P2 pupils will be given at least 3 practices so that they would be familiar with the format.
Q14: What is MLEA? Why is it so different from the compositions done in the upper primary?
A: MLEA, Modified Language Experience Approach, believes that lower primary pupils need concrete experience in order to be motivated to write. Therefore, the pupils will spend part of the writing lesson acquiring an experience, e.g. watching a video clip, observing life cycles, making a sandwich etc. The experience will then provide a context for the pupils to write.