The Language Strand of the National Curriculum English

Article excerpt

LANGUAGE

I have been a believer in the magic of language since, at a very early age, I discovered that some words got me into trouble and others got me out.

--Katherine Dunn, author and poet

In the Language strand of the Australian Curriculum English, students develop their knowledge of the English language and how it works. Through the following sub-strands, children develop their understanding and skills of:

* Language variation and change

* Language for interaction

* Text structure and organisation

* Expressing and developing ideas

* Sound and letter knowledge

The curriculum in the Foundation Years uses the range of experiences and knowledge that children bring to school as a rich base for further learning. It aims to extend these abilities and to provide the foundation needed for continued learning.

In the early childhood years the focus of language development moves from non verbal to verbal communication. Outcome 5 in Belonging, Being and Becoming--The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia states that:

   Children are effective communicators with the first
   indicator being that children interact verbally and
   non-verbally with others for a range of purposes.

ORAL LANGUAGE IN THE EARLY YEARS

Language development in young children is a vital indicator for success in later life. Oral language in conjunction with phonological processing and print awareness has a great influence on the ability to learn to read in the early years of school. In fact, reading regularly with young children is the single most important activity that a parent or carer can undertake to develop a child's ability to read and write.

The Australian Curriculum English Strand 5.2.3 states

   the development of oral language proficiency is important in its
   own right. It is also important when learning to read and write.
   The teaching of listening and speaking is essential in the early
   years, and continues to be important throughout the years of
   schooling.

In Belonging, Being and Becoming--The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia, it highlights the importance of children using their home languages as well as Standard Australian English. In early childhood settings and the early years of primary school the ability for young children to experiment with oral language is most evident in play situations.

Playing with rhymes and rhythms from an early age enables children to build auditory competencies needed to master language. Nursery rhymes help introduce phonological awareness in a fun and interactive way. Mem Fox in Reading Magic (2005) cites research that claims that 'Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know eight nursery rhymes by heart by the time they're four years old they're usually among the best readers by the time they are eight.'

ENGAGING WITH LANGUAGE

Books, rhymes and conversations provide the perfect vehicle for children to explore language. The Little Big Book Club's programs support families and educators to make the most out of sharing a book. Talking, singing and playing are all important ways that children learn. Sharing a book with a child presents many teachable moments.

Janet Mclean, author of Let's Go Baby-o! states in the introduction of this delightful children's book 'From the beginning, babies enter into a world of people, animals, things, places and events. As they grow, they watch and listen to what is happening around them. And they respond--they squeal and shout, and learn to talk; they jiggle, bounce and clap; they smile and laugh and cry. …