Language Policy

As a result of the global population’s increasing mobility, many learners in schools are constructing knowledge in a language that is not their mother tongue. A language profile of any one of these learners may demonstrate two or more languages in his or her learning continuum. This situation has created new challenges for learners, teachers and schools who, in the past, have assumed a common monolingual, mono cultural setting. Various responses to these challenges, together with prolific research, have resulted in a wealth of expertise on good practices that nurture the valuable diversity of multilingual and multicultural classrooms to its full potential in developing internationally minded people.

The language policy committee is made up of teachers, leadership staff and administrators from SIS’s IB Middle Years Program who developed this document in order to outline the key components of our language policy.

In order to comply with IB MYP guidelines, SIS staff undergoes continuing professional development (CPD) to have effective practices relating to all subject groups within which language teaching and learning is not an exception.

Purpose

Learning language

In the early stages of life when a child is first learning to communicate in a mother tongue, he or she is learning to use language symbolically in order to construct meaning and to interact. In a safe, secure and nurturing environment, rich in stimulating experiences, the child exchanges signals with others and learns to recognize, articulate and encode sounds, rhythms and intonations while associating them with meanings or concepts. He or she may associate the sound “bo”, for example, with a ball and learn that by uttering the word the mother is likely to respond in some way; perhaps by rolling it for him. The child is building up a resource for meaning. The child is also developing what Cummins (1979) calls basic interpersonal communicative skills or BICS.

This is the dimension of language that will enable a child to interact socially with teachers and peers when he or she begins school. The language of such communication is supported by contextual cues as well as by gestures and facial expressions. Learners who already have communicative skills in a mother tongue may become functional in social communication in another language within two years because of the transfer of understanding already in place.

As well as oral skills, the young child develops the early literacy skills of recognizing and manipulating symbols for decoding and encoding written texts in order to read and write. This includes learning to form the shapes of the letters or characters of a writing system and their phonetic associations. Learners who have basic literacy skills in their mother tongue are able to transfer some of these understandings and concepts when learning another language. Learning language is ongoing and is further fostered through reading.

Learning about language

Understanding the relationship of language and meaning and how language works in the construction of knowledge empowers the language user. A learner in an IB program who has critical language awareness will be able to make choices about language use according to his or her purpose and audience, as well as gaining insight into the language choices of others. For example, an understanding of various linguistic genres means that a writer can choose the most appropriate genre for the task. Some learners who are learning in their mother tongue may have an intuitive unconscious sense of how the language works and have a full range of choices and linguistic genres available to them. Learners who are using a language other than their mother tongue to access an IB program cannot always be assumed to have this awareness, which therefore needs to be explicitly taught in such circumstances.

A threshold level of proficiency in cognitive academic language is essential for the learner participation and engagement that is necessary for subsequent success in an IB program.

Cummins (2007) proposes that the four dimensions of teaching that are particularly important in ensuring learner participation and promoting engagement are:

• To activate prior understanding and build background knowledge

• To scaffold meaning

• To extend language

 To affirm identity.

Activate prior understanding and build background knowledge

New learning and understanding is constructed on previous experiences and conceptual understandings in a developmental continuum. Krashen (2002) stresses the importance of comprehensible input for learning to take place. If new information cannot be understood, it cannot be linked to prior knowledge and become part of deep learning. The psychologist Vygotsky (1978) describes a zone of proximal development (ZPD) within which new learning can take place if there is support. The ZPD lies beyond the zone of prior knowing, which is where a learner can work independently without support. Anything outside the ZPD is not yet able to be learned.

When planning the range of new learning that can take place in any individual, previous learning experiences or prior knowing must be taken into consideration.

It cannot be assumed that those learners who are learning in a language other than their mother tongue will necessarily all share the same previous learning and background knowledge. It may be, however, that these learners have a wealth of relevant background knowledge encoded in their mother tongue that can be activated as a base for further learning. However, the teacher may have to build up background knowledge in preparation for further learning.

Therefore, teachers should:

• Explicitly activate learners’ prior understanding using the mother tongue if appropriate

• Use their knowledge of learners’ prior understanding to differentiate tasks and activities that will build up the further background knowledge necessary for new learning to occur

• Record information in learner profiles that will support planning for future differentiation

• consider the time and strategies necessary for activating and building up background knowledge when planning a unit of work or lesson.

Scaffold meaning

Teaching methodology has identified a variety of specific ways in which teachers can scaffold new learning in the ZPD to help learners understand text.

Scaffolding is a temporary strategy that enables learners to accomplish a task that would otherwise be impossible or much more difficult to accomplish. The use of a mother tongue to carry out research that would be impossible for the learner in another language is an example of scaffolding. Other scaffolding

Strategies may provide a more concrete and less abstract context for understanding. Examples of these are:

• Visual aids

• Graphic organizers

• Demonstrations

• Dramatization

• Small, structured collaborative groups

• Teacher language.

Learning about language such as word roots and learning how linguistic genres work in particular discourses are also valuable scaffolding strategies that give learners access to a rich diversity of sophisticated texts.

Scaffolding should foster learners’ increasing independence in taking responsibility for developing strategies for their own learning, thus always extending the ZPD.

In SIS, the content is presented to students through different media. Students have demonstration and collaboration in groups to reinforce their learning, and they perceive teacher’s language as a model.

Extend language

As learners progress through the grades, they are required to read and write increasingly sophisticated texts in the content areas of the curriculum. The academic language of such texts reflects:

• The complexity and abstraction of the concepts that learners are required to understand

• The increased density of low frequency and technical vocabulary, many of which come from Latin and Greek sources (for example, photosynthesis, revolution)

• Increasingly sophisticated grammatical constructions (for example, the passive voice).

In SIS teachers can help learners extend their language and reading by combining high expectations with numerous opportunities for learner-centred practice and interaction with cognitively rich materials and experiences. Learners who read extensively both inside and outside an IB program have far greater opportunities to extend their academic language and concepts than those whose reading is limited.

As we know, opportunities for enjoying reading are important. Equally important are opportunities for practicing writing in a wide range of genres.

In our school, learners are encouraged to extend their knowledge of reading by engaging themselves in wide scope of topics available to them in school library. Each year students are asked to write an article related to environmental affairs which draw on the knowledge they have gained by their own investigation.

Affirm identity

Language is integral to identity, which in turn determines how a person will act. A mother tongue and any other languages used in constructing meaning are intimately connected to a person’s relationship with the world and how they come to feel about that world. Social and emotional conditions for learning that value all languages and cultures and affirm the identity of each learner promote self-esteem and additive bilingualism (where another language and culture does not replace that of the mother tongue).

They encourage the qualities, attitudes and characteristics identified in the IB learner profile, promoting responsible citizenship and international-mindedness. Conditions that do not affirm identity result in learners with poor self-esteem and subtractive bilingualism (where another language and culture demotes or replaces that of the mother tongue). Such learners will be unable to develop many of the qualities, attitudes and characteristics of the learner profile.

The identity of each learner must therefore be affirmed.

This can be done in SIS by:

• promoting a class and school environment that welcomes and embraces the diversity of cultures and perspectives

• valuing and using the diversity of cultures and perspectives to enhance learning

• liaising with parents to establish understanding of how best to collaborate to achieve shared goals.

Since proficiency in cognitive academic language is inseparable from successful learning in school, it makes sense to think of all teachers as having some role in developing this. In other words, all teachers are language teachers. In order that all teachers are able to be effective in this, professional development, especially as it concerns those learners who are learning in a language other than their mother tongue, needs to be in place.

As already mentioned, learners learning in a language that is not their mother tongue may take up to seven years or longer to reach the same proficiency level in academic language as a person learning in a mother tongue. An informed consideration of this should be part of any school policy or decision that may impact on the success of these learners. This includes:

• Mother-tongue programs

• Admissions policies

• Assessment policies

• Short- and long-term curriculum planning

• Models of language support and programs

• Learner course choices

• Teacher professional development

• Host-language programs

• Teacher recruitment

• Liaison with parents.

A language policy is derived from the school’s language philosophy and is a statement of purpose that outlines goals for language teaching and learning. It is constructed around pedagogical and learning beliefs and is therefore also a statement of action describing practices for achieving and evaluating goals.

The language policy of SIS is consistent with the stipulated principles and practices of the IB. The language policy must therefore:

• recognize that, since language is central to learning, all teachers are, in practice, language teachers with responsibilities in facilitating communication

• outline how students are to learn at least one language in addition to their mother tongue

• describe how the development and maintenance of the mother tongue for all learners is to be supported

• ensure that there are practices in place to provide inclusion and equity of access to the IB program(s) offered by the school for all learners, including those who are learning in a language other than their mother tongue (the document Learning in a language other than mother tongue in IB programs provides further details on these practices and should be read when a language policy is being compiled)

• describe how the language of the host country is to be promoted

• recognize that administrators, teachers, librarians and other school staff will require professional development in the fields of language learning and teaching, and on how to make sure the language policy becomes a working document

• consider what resources and practices are to be used to involve parents in planning their children’s language profile and development.

A language policy must therefore also take into consideration the particular sociocultural circumstances of each school community. Since these circumstances are not static, a language policy needs to be dynamic and flexible so that it can evolve with the changing needs of the school population.

At soodeh international school, the language of instruction is English. The students should communicate in English while they are at school. The level of new applicant English proficiency is evaluated by placement test like the other subjects. Then the school provides extra language classes depending on student’s prior knowledge with a tutor. All the teachers are responsible to promote students’ language proficiency especially new comers who need more help. The second language is French. In SIS, students start learning French from KG1 and continue to promote their language proficiency till the end of MYP. As a host country we teach Farsi to make our students able to communicate out of school and being able to have their ordinary life. Farsi teaching starts from KG1 as well. For students whose parents are Iranian, Farsi language plays crucial rule and is considered as mother tongue language.

As we know mother tongue plays vital role in learning second language, Soodeh International School   suggests parents to use students’ mother tongue at home and ask their children to read different books in their L1 as well. In addition, to supporting mother tongue, SIS encourages students from different nations to have a role in celebration and introducing their cultures and languages to their peers.

As mentioned above, SIS is thoroughly aligned with IB Language policy,

SIS considers how to:

• promote inquirybased authentic language learning

• focus on the transdisciplinary nature of language learning

• incorporate the teaching and learning of language into the program of inquiry

• develop the skills of listening, speaking, reading, writing and media literacy

• interrelate the skills of listening, speaking, reading, writing and media literacy

• provide for the teaching of additional languages

• promote consistency of practice in the teaching and learning of all languages where more than one language of instruction is used.

• formulate practices for the provision of languages A and B

• integrate the learning of languages with learning in the subject groups

• integrate language learning with interdisciplinary planning.

The language policy in SIS is explicitly linked to other working documents such as assessment, admissions and special educational needs (SEN) policies. This may lead to:

• a consideration of the role of a language profile in admissions as well as in formative and summative assessment

• a review of criteria used for language assessment

• reporting and presenting feedback on language development, early intervention and differentiation strategies for SEN learners.

In IB programs language learning, multilingualism and the development of critical literacy are considered important factors in promoting intercultural awareness and international-mindedness, which are integral to the organization’s mission.

The school places importance on language learning, including mother tongue, host country language and other languages

 Collaborative planning and reflection recognizes that all teachers are responsible for language development of students

 Teaching and learning addresses the diversity of student language needs, including those for students learning in a language(s) other than mother tongue.

 Teaching and learning demonstrates that all teachers are responsible for language development of students.

SIS develops and implements policies and procedures that support the program(s).

In the Middle Years Program (MYP), moderation services in English, French and Farsi are provided for the school that has chosen to have its grades validated. The monitoring of assessment service is also provided in the three working languages.

Language is involved in all learning that goes on in a classroom and it is considered an essential vehicle for inquiry and the construction of meaning. It empowers the learner and provides an intellectual framework to support conceptual development and critical thinking. Students’ needs are best served when they have opportunities to engage in learning within meaningful contexts, rather than being presented with the learning of language as an incremental series of skills to be acquired. In an inquiry-based classroom, teachers and students enjoy using language, appreciating its functionality and aesthetics. Wherever possible, language should be taught through the relevant, authentic context of the units of inquiry. Regardless of whether language is being taught within or outside the program of inquiry, it is believed that purposeful inquiry is the way in which students learn best.

Language learning is recognized as a developmental process where there are opportunities for students to build on prior knowledge and skills in order to help them progress to the next phase of language development.

The MYP is guided by the three fundamental concepts of:

Holistic learning

Intercultural awareness

Communication

Students are encouraged to consider issues from multiple perspectives so as to learn about their own and others’ social, national and ethnic cultures and to develop international-mindedness. In all MYP subject groups, communication is both an objective and an assessment criterion. Students are required to learn at least two languages, and are encouraged to learn more.

It is a requirement for schools to provide sustained language teaching in at least two languages for each year of the MYP. Students may study a minimum of: one language A and one language B, or two languages A, or two languages A and one language B.

MYP students have varied and often complex language histories and consequent multilingual profiles. Many schools will have a population of students who are learning the language of instruction as a second language (the term “second language” refers to any language other than a mother tongue). As schools have a responsibility to ensure that all students reach their full potential, they should provide for the language needs of such students so that they can participate fully in the program. All MYP teachers have a responsibility to address the language needs of their students in the language of instruction.

Definitions

Mother Tongue

The term mother tongue is used in the research literature in various ways. It may denote the language learned first; the language identified as a “native” speaker; the language known best; the language used most. When used in this document, it includes all those meanings.

Crucial for the success of the programs is a rich development of language and literacy for all learners. The ability to communicate in a variety of modes in more than one language is essential to the concept of an international education that promotes intercultural understanding.

SIS’s goal is to strengthen the students Language skills while still supporting their culture. SIS fully supports other cultures and promotes cultural diversity and awareness in its everyday implementation of the IB MYP.

Language of Instruction

The power of language experienced through the study of quality literature known as the language of instruction enables students to become highly proficient in their understanding, use and appreciation of their mother tongue. The course is academically rigorous; it equips students with linguistic, analytical and communicative skills that can also be used in an interdisciplinary manner across all other subject groups. It builds on experiences in language learning that students have gained during their time in the PYP. Knowledge, conceptual understanding and skills will have been developed through transdisciplinary units of inquiry or independent language inquiry. The students are required to take Language and Literature throughout years 1 to 5 of MYP. Moreover, language and Literature is presented in English (Language of instruction) and Farsi (for Students’ whose Mother tongue is Farsi).

 

Language Acquisition

The MYP requires schools to provide sustained language learning in at least one foreign language over the whole course of the program. The two overarching aims of language acquisition in the MYP are to encourage students to gain competence as critical, competent communicators over the five years of study. For these aims to be realized, language acquisition objectives enable students to become multiliterate and thus able to understand and use print-based and digital, spoken, written and visual texts. An understanding of the interplay of the spoken, written and visual modes is important.

Language acquisition is organized in six phases all of which are offered at SIS. Teachers and students are provided with clear aims and objectives for MYP language acquisition course, as well as details of final assessment requirements. Teachers must use these subject guides and the document.

The placement of MYP students in language acquisition courses will be determined on an individual basis by a committee which will consist of ELL coordinator, the head teacher of language acquisition, IB MYP Coordinator and Language acquisition teacher.

 FA continuum of language and learning domains

In the interests of providing a comprehensive framework that might enhance teachers’ understanding and offer support for language and learning decisions concerning IB programs, this section presents a model of a continuum of identified domains of language learning. This model may be used, among other things, to plan pathways for student language development. The framework has been informed by various theoretical models as well as research and practice (Inugai Dixon 2009).

The continuum is structured around Michael Halliday’s (1985) description of the three strands of language and learning. They are:

Learning language

Learning through language

Learning about language.

Although grouping some particular language use under the heading of just one of these strands loses the sense of dynamic interplay among all three, nonetheless, identifying the focus in a particular learning situation can help clarify the complex roles of language in learning. The use of the construct in this way does not suggest that this is how Halliday intended it to be used. It is applied here to provide a framework for considering important factors about language that vary in dominance along the learning continuum.

The identified domains in the continuum are:

  • discrete skills
  • basic interpersonal communicative skills—BICS (Cummins 1979)
  • literacy and the art of language
  • cognitive academic language proficiency—CALP (Cummins 1979)
  • literary analysis
  • critical literacy.

The distribution of these domains across the three strands of the continuum, which indicate a particular focus for each one, are shown in the table below. It must be emphasized that all three strands are present in all language learning and that the association of one domain with one strand refers to a particular focus that may be useful in the planning of teaching and learning language only

The continuum of language domains described in this way is intended as a working tool for practitioners, with the following aims:

  • to be a framework for understanding the diversity and complexity of multilingual profiles
  • to provide a common language for conceptual understandings that will enable meaningful discussion about how the roles of language relate to IB programs
  • to enhance understanding of the coherence and inherent continuum of language courses in IB programs
  • to demonstrate the depth and breadth of language learning in all IB courses
  • to inform pedagogy
  • to demonstrate connections across curriculums both within and between programs
  • to clarify and demonstrate the relationship of language to all learning (and teaching).

Learning language

The domains where “learning language” may be a useful focus for consideration are:

Discrete skills

Basic interpersonal communicative skills (BICS)

Literacy and the art of language.

Discrete skills

Any language learning requires the development of both receptive (for example, listening and reading) and productive (for example, speaking and writing) skills. The organizing principles, and thus the approaches to teaching, will vary, depending on whether languages are alphabetic, such as the Romance languages, or non-alphabetic, such as Japanese and Chinese. Dependent on the circumstances, skills can be transferred from one language to another.

Basic interpersonal communicative skills (BICS)

In richly contextualized situations, young children very quickly acquire vocabulary, syntax, accompanying gestures and an understanding of semantics in the construction of meaningful social interactions. In first-language learning and many introductory second-language learning courses, such early social interactions form the basis for developing what Jim Cummins calls the “basic interpersonal communicative skills” (BICS).

It is sometimes assumed that the development of academic language skills will automatically follow on from fluency in BICS. However, Cummins (2000) has pointed out that this is not necessarily the case. Fluency in BICS—which, as the name suggests, is concerned with social interactions—does not necessarily correlate directly with the development of academic skills. These require a critical level of literacy, as well as sophisticated understandings of language use in increasingly abstract and decontextualized settings. BICS is, however, important for personal development and cultural identity as well as for intercultural awareness.

Literacy and the art of language

The successful development of students’ literacy in first languages in elementary schooling is characterized by a prolific increase in the reading and writing of a wide range of texts for different purposes and audiences. This is accompanied by an enormous growth in the fluent use of vocabulary and stylistic devices. What is sometimes referred to as the “language arts” provides creative opportunities for learners to gain a broad and deep command of the language and culture; students play with and explore language and discover its expressive, dramatic, poetic and artistic aspects.

Early opportunities for literacy development across the curriculum are important for the development of the academic language of abstract conceptualization and associated cognitive development in later schooling. This has implications for those students who transfer from early learning in a first language to a second language of instruction later on. Maintaining and enabling the transfer of knowledge and skills from one or more languages to another is crucial for optimal learning. If the development of literacy in the first language is limited, decisions must be made about how to build up the background knowledge necessary for future successful learning.

Learning through language

Although in any language-learning situation there is inevitably always some “learning through language”, much of it may be implicit and incidental when the emphasis is on “learning language”. In reality, the development of literacy is recursive and continual, but there are some stages of schooling where it is assumed that sufficient language has been learned for it to be a medium of instruction and “learning through language” becomes the dominant focus. As Bernard Mohan (1986: 18) describes it, there is a contrast between “learning to read and reading to learn” or “learning to write and writing to learn”. The academic disciplines of school curriculums make heavy language demands on learners. They must be proficient in the academic language of instruction if they are to have access to the curriculum (O’Neal and Ringler 2010: 50).

Cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP)

The development of academic language skills required for discourse in abstract and decontextualized settings in later schooling is referred to by Jim Cummins as CALP (cognitive academic language proficiency) and is in contrast to the more socially contextualized language necessary in BICS. Ultimately, to be successful in school, students must have a threshold understanding and ability to use a variety of discourses and texts across the many subjects they study. For second-language learners this can be particularly onerous as teaching often assumes a cultural and academic linguistic background common to all students rather than a diversity of complex multilingual profiles, which is increasingly the norm. However, it cannot be assumed that even those whose first language is the language of instruction are familiar with academic language. Some may be fluent in a dialect or non-standard variety, may have had little exposure to reading and writing in the language of the school and may also need to be made aware of the types of discourse necessary for school.

Learning about language

Through an increase in understanding gained from “learning about language” students can have more control over the use of their linguistic resources and can hone their academic skills for “learning through language” across the curriculum. There are, however, some specific areas of the curriculum where an explicit metalinguistic focus is an integral part of the discourse. This is the case for:

  • literary analysis
  • critical literacy.

Literary analysis

Literature—traditionally held a central and privileged place in language teaching. (Hall 2005: 2)

As well as the claim that extensive engagement with literature is effective for language learning, analyzing literature also draws attention to how language is used to convey ideas and express the poetic dimension. Interpretation, multiple readings and a consideration of cultural contexts require a study of word choice, symbolism, metaphoric imagery and their associated values. “Learning about language” is a major focus. For this reason, the study of literature is widely recognized as a means to explore other cultures, as expressed by the poet TS Eliot.

While reading literature:

We can leave our own consciousness and pass over into the consciousness of another person, another age, another culture […] reading enables us to try on, identify with and ultimately enter for a brief time the wholly different perspective of another person’s consciousness. (Wolf 2008: 7)

Critical literacy

Paulo Freire considered that reading the word cannot be separated from reading the world and challenged the assumption that literacy is simply teaching students the skills necessary for reading and writing. He was interested in the communicative and dialogic aspect of literacy and, ultimately, its power for social action.

True dialogue cannot exist unless the dialoguers engage in critical thinking. (Freire 1970: 73)

Critical literacy has become a generic term that includes the idea of critical thinking. It is associated with a sociocultural approach to language education and is also referred to as “critical linguistics”, “critical language awareness” and “critical applied linguistics” (Hornberger and McKay 2010: 45).

Critical literacy involves a metalinguistic critique of all texts, whether oral or written, and includes literary analyses. It pays attention to the way in which reality is mediated by language and also to the way in which texts are constructed to represent versions of reality.

The roles of language

The language domains described here should be viewed as interconnected aspects of a continuum in the holistic process of learning. Any situation that involves language will involve several domains, even if only one appears to be emphasized.

 

All the information relating to personal project procedures and practices including data gathering, citing and references are explicitly elaborated in the Academic Honesty document.

 

 

 

          References

 

  • Cummins, J. 1979. “Cognitive/academic language proficiency, linguistic interdependence, the optimum age question and some other matters”. Working Papers on Bilingualism. Number 19. Pp 121–129.

 

  • Cummins, J. 2000. Language, Power and Pedagogy: Bilingual Children in the Crossfire. Clevedon, UK. Multilingual Matters.

 

  • Cummins, J. Unpublished interview with Carol Inugai-Dixon on conditions for learning. Interview conducted on 4 March 2007.

 

  • Freire, P. 1970. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. London, UK. Penguin.

 

  • Hall, G. 2005. Literature in Language Education. Basingstoke, UK. Palgrave Macmillan.

 

  • Halliday, M. 1985. Three Aspects of Children’s Language Development: Learning Language, Learning through Language, Learning about Language. Unpublished manuscript. Sydney, Australia. University of Sydney, Department of Linguistics.

 

  • Hornberger, N and McKay, S, (eds). 2010. Sociolinguistics and Language Education. Clevedon, UK. Multilingual Matters.

 

 

  • Inugai-Dixon, C. 2009. One View of Language and Learning. Reading, UK. NALDIC.

 

 

 

  • Mohan, B. 1986. Language and Content. Reading, Massachusetts, USA. Addison-Wesley.

 

  • O’Neal, D and Ringler, M. 2010. “Broadening our View of Linguistic Diversity”. Phi Delta Kappan. Vol 91, number 7. Pp 48–52.

 

  • Vygotsky, L. 1999. Thought and Language. Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. The MIT Press.

 

  • Wolf, M. 2008. Proust and the Squid. Cambridge, UK. Icon Books.