English language proficiency at OWIS: how we approach it

Susan Sawarkar
Updated on
September 10, 2020

At One World International School, our goal is for our primary students to develop more than just a basic understanding of the English language. We want our students to become proficient enough to engage in thoughtful, intellectual discussion with their peers and mentors. 

Our inquiry-based approach encourages students to learn at their own pace and to become confident enough to speak, read and write in English. It is adaptable and offers support for children who are at various levels of linguistic proficiency in English. Our teachers understand that for some students learning English may come easy, but for some acquiring a new language can prove difficult. Our programme is underpinned by the English National Curriculum, ensuring that our students are meeting the targets necessary to succeed in a global environment.

Language in Our Everyday Environment

Language development is a primary focus on the PYP English curriculum. OWIS students are encouraged to converse in the language with one another and to be creative in their use of the language. Students often find this approach to be more enjoyable, which helps them to master the language quickly. They tend to enjoy being able to have fun with language, to use it to communicate with their friends and talk about topics that interest them. This gives ownership to their learning. 

The curriculum focuses on teaching students the importance of listening to an individual who is speaking the language, and responding appropriately. It teaches them to really listen and take their time to analyse what is being said. At times they may need to problem solve, for instance if their peer uses a word or a phrase that may not translate into their first language. 

The English programme emphasises the fact that language is necessary for both individual and social growth. English is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world by native and non-native speakers so being able to competently read, write and speak this language is extremely important for our children’s future opportunities.

Communication and Conversation

At OWIS, we believe that becoming proficient in a language requires you to speak it on a regular basis. Communication and conversation is an integral part of our PYP English programme, and students frequently speak in English to their instructors and to one another. By making it second nature their confidence grows. It also takes away the fear of making mistakes as all the children are in the same boat and can bounce ideas off one another. As they begin to become proficient in the language, they learn to understand and appreciate the value of being able to converse in English. They recognise that it improves their ability to be successful in a global environment, and that it allows them to connect with people of all cultures and backgrounds.

Reading Strategies for Every Type of Learner

Learning English phrases and beginning to converse in the language is not enough to be considered proficient. We also emphasise the importance of reading comprehension by providing our students with valuable learning tools, including fiction and non-fiction works. Students are introduced to various reading strategies which allow them to customise their learning experience and adapt to reading English in the way that works best for them.

Some students may find that they pick up a language quickly by delving into a story that they are engrossed in. They aspire to understand what is being said and it will encourage them to seek out meaning in things that they may not initially understand. Others find watching TV programmes or films in the language helps them to develop their listening, analysing and speaking skills, helping them to understand conversational English when it is being spoken at a faster rate, and link phrases together.  

In addition to focusing on reading in the English language, students also are asked to write in the language as well. This becomes an enjoyable activity for students as they explore their own creative ideas through journaling activities and other exercises. They may learn that different languages can give them opportunities to portray ideas in new ways. As they write in the language, they begin to understand their writing elicits responses in readers that encourage dialogue, conversation, communication and understanding. By sharing this writing with their peers they can see how language can open doors and break down barriers of communication.

The OWIS Difference: Developing a First-Language Competency

The PYP English curriculum is designed specifically for students to develop a first-language competency in English. Upon completing the PYP English programme, students will be prepared for success in any cultural setting. With an emphasis on conversational fluency and reading comprehension, students will develop an appreciation for cross-cultural understanding. They will be able to easily integrate into the wider world, to live in different countries and to speak to others who share a common language. They will learn that sometimes it is the case that neither they nor the person they are communicating with speak the same first language, however often they will find a commonality in English. They will have acquired the skills necessary to be marketable in the global economic environment that they will face once they have completed their education.

Learn more about our English Programme, contact us today!

About Author

Susan Sawarkar

Grade 6 Tutor, English Teacher, Head of English Department

Susan has a Masters of Education degree from James Cook University, Australia and a teaching diploma in Early Childhood Education from MMI, London. Prior to that, Susan had acquired a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Sociology.

Susan is the Head of the English Department at OWIS and her experience includes being an English language teacher for various age groups from Kindergarten to Secondary in IB schools. She has been a keen observer of different educational techniques and methods at schools her children attended in the US and UK where she lived for more than 6 years. Her M. Ed. degree has given her an in-depth knowledge and understanding of education and teaching techniques, enabling her to fulfil her aspiration to be a recognised educator.

Susan loves spending time with her children, finding new ways to learn through play and encouraging them to have an enjoyable learning experience. She loves reading books/articles about education, and tries to keep abreast of developments from experts in this field. In her free time, she likes to exercise by practising yoga, running and zumba.

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