How to make the language policy come alive

Carolyn Thistlethwaite

Carolyn Thistlethwaite, Deputy Head of Junior School & PYP Coordinator, Trinity Lutheran College, Australia

Involve staff in the development of the language policy to see a focus on a coherent approach to language teaching and a shift in practice to authentic learning experiences. Concentrate on curriculum coherence, clarity and connections to your wider community.

Is your language policy tucked away in a folder system somewhere on your school or google drive? Then it is time to get it out, dust it off and make it come alive. Ensuring clarity, curriculum coherence and connections are vital to making your language policy come to life. At Trinity Lutheran College, we recently reviewed and updated our language policy and worked hard on bringing it to life in our school.

Clarity

Staff need clarity on what the language policy is and what it means for them in practice. Corson (2001) believes that a Language Policy in a school is an action statement and it is concerned less with where the students in a school are going, and more with how they are going to get there. A well written language policy is about the process of language learning and not the product. The learner profile prevails all that we do in our Junior School so it made sense to be part of the language policy. As a staff we developed statements to reflect how the learner profile assists us to enact the language policy. The IBO document entitled Guidelines for developing a school language policy (2008) assisted us to develop a committee and review our processes and procedures for language learning.

Curriculum coherence (diagram – curriculum coherence – triangle)

Once we had clarity around our goals and vision through the development of our policy, we then we looked at curriculum coherence. We asked ourselves these questions:

  • Did all our documents align?
  • Are we talking the same language across year levels and is our practice consistent?
  • Are our curriculum documents clear in the skills and concepts to be covered at each year level?

Starting with the standards and practices, we outlined them clearly in the action plan and aligned them to our strategic plan. We next developed English guidelines to provide consistency in teaching English. Staff then collaborated on the year level scope and sequence documents utilizing the Australian curriculum and it was all connected to the programme of inquiry so that it was transdisciplinary.

Examining pedagogy was important to ensure our approach focused on the child and how they learn English. We investigated and began our journey to implement the Daily 5 approach. The last piece of this puzzle in curriculum coherence worked right to the student level through goal setting and developing independence. We wanted to ensure that students were setting their own goals in reading and developing independence in their learning.

Connections (diagram – connections – star)

In our school community we made connections between the student, the family, the teachers, the culture, the community and the language.

The Japanese language teacher made connections in the following ways:

  • through authentic connections to our programme of inquiry, students could see the direct links between their language learning of Japanese and their classroom learning,
  • Japanese language and visuals to support Japanese in all the classrooms,
  • a greetings program in term 4 where each week we choose a language from our community to greet each other and say thank you in that language all week,
  • made links to our school community through food stalls at our fete and extra lessons after school for new language learners.

We made connections to our community through parent involvement in supporting mother tongue languages. After a meeting of parents and brainstorming ways to support mother tongue languages, we initiated lunchtime clubs. Lunchtime clubs ran each playtime in our school to support students with different cultural activities in the playground.

The librarian is another vital key in making important language connections within the school community. This video (https://vimeo.com/170429984) explains how the teacher librarian can make connections to the language programme.

In summary:

Clarity – how is your message clear to teachers, parents and the wider community about language learning?
Curriculum coherence – are all your documents aligned? How can you ensure that language teaching and learning is consistent across your whole school?
Connections – what opportunities do you have to increase connections in your community to open up more opportunities to learn about and through language?

You may have some other ways to enhance language learning at your school. Please share how the language policy at your school can be lived. I would love to hear from you via twitter @carolyn_tlc or you can write a blog post.

Reference list

Boushey, G and Moser, J. (2014) Daily 5. Stenhouse Publications.

Corson, D. (2001). Language Policy in Schools, A resource for teachers and administrators. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.

Dufour,R. Fullen,M. (2013) Cultures Built to Last: Systemic PLCs at Work. Solution Tree

Fullen, M. Kirtman, L. (2015 ) Leadership: Key Competencies for Whole-system Change. Solution Tree

IBO (2008) Guidelines for developing a school language policy

Robinson, V. (2011) Student-Centered Leadership. John Wiley and Sons Ltd.

Carolyn Thistlethwaite holds a Masters of Education in Learning Innovation. As an IBEN educator, consultant, workshop leader and visiting team leader, she is passionate about professional development as well as sharing experiences and knowledge with her peers, and colleagues. She has been involved in the PYP for 11 years and recently held the position of Chair of the PYP South East QLD Network in Australia for 2 years. Her strength is building and developing key relationships with staff in the pursuit of educational excellence in teaching and learning.

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