Teaching Secondary English: Readings and Applications

By Daniel Sheridan | Go to book overview
for such work, by providing a way of relating such activities to a coherent overall framework for describing language. This is what should be meant by 'applied linguistics': theory which suggests and illuminates interesting practice.I think the kind of English syllabus I have proposed has considerable attractions. First, it can be based on samples of real language in use in the world. Second, it is therefore 'relevant': English language in the world is important. Third, it emphasizes throughout the diversity of English in use. On the one hand, this should extend students' own stylistic competence. But it should also increase their understanding of diversity, and therefore their tolerance of diversity. Fourth, since it is based throughout on comparing and contrasting varieties of English, it provides a meaningful way of teaching grammar: analytic methods are introduced because they are needed to solve problems, not for their own sake. Fifth, all the things I have suggested can be taught at widely different degrees of sophistication. Sixth, a lot of the work can be fun: 'serious but not solemn' ( Halliday, 1974). Seventh, the syllabus has a coherent theoretical basis in current linguistic work in language variation.
WHAT IS ENGLISH?
Well, this article is already long enough, and I suppose some of you may have noticed that I haven't yet said what English is.There is the story of an eminent scholar of English who devoted his life to trying to define the essence of English. He wrote many books, trying always to pare away the inessential and the peripheral, and get down to the essential core. English was clearly not homogeneous: but not entirely heterogenous -- structured heterogeneity. It was sometimes categorial: but also gradient. A relatively stable core: but with indeterminate boundaries. How to define fuzziness with precision? His writings became shorter and shorter, and clearer and clearer. He began by writing long text books, but soon was writing brief prolegomena, succinct articles, gradually discarding the inessentials. At his death he was known to be working on his ultimate project. He was trying to distil the essence of English into a single word. When he died his disciples were going through his academic papers, sorting out a lifetime's notes. Eventually they came upon the piece of paper with the word on it! The culmination of a lifetime's study.Unfortunately, no one could read his writing.
APPENDIX A: SAMPLE OUTLINE SYLLABUS
I suggest below the broad outlines of a course on modern English language. Most of the topics could be taught at widely different levels of sophistication, between secondary school and university.
Course Objectives
a. Given any text, students ought to be able to comment systematically on its interesting features.

Text means any piece of spoken discourse or written text which has actually occurred in a real social situation. Texts could therefore include: chil-

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Teaching Secondary English: Readings and Applications
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents iii
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • 1 - English Teachers 1
  • 2 - Teaching Literature 42
  • 3 - Teaching Writing 119
  • 4 - Teaching about Language 197
  • Appendix A - Sample Outline Syllabus 220
  • Appendix B - Description of Contemporary English 222
  • 5 - What to Teach 283
  • 6 - Joining the Profession 365
  • Appendix A - Classroom Activities 375
  • Appendix B - Childhood Toy Papers 381
  • Appendix C - Hundred-Year Birthday Papers 386
  • Appendix D - Early Drafts: Changes in School 395
  • Appendix E - Comparison Assignment: Then-Now/There-Here Papers 400
  • Appendix F - Sentence Exercises 408
  • Index 419
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