Reflections on Susanne Jacobsen’s text Right then, write! published in Sproglæreren (april 2011)
Since the simple goals (Fælles Forenklede Mål) was adopted in 2009, it has become a task to all language teacher, not just Danish teachers, to work towards creating fluency and literacy within the students, thus Susanne Jacobsens article, speaks about how the language teachers should relate to this. This reflection will focus on the aspects of English as a subject in the Danish primary schools.
English has become a lingua franca on a global level, where only people with a decent understanding of the English language can orient themselves in the democratic debate within the global arena (p. 25). Thus, English is an indispensable source of knowledge and information and a weighty bildung factor (dannelsesfaktor). Meaning that not only are the students learning the language, but also about the language to understand the subject itself. One of the factors that Jacobsen highlights is scaffolding, as it is significantly important, when working on verbal communication and understanding of the language, which is highly context-dependent. When students are corporately working or they are interacting, the teacher can scaffold by offering the here-and-now vocabulary which is needed by the individual students – both previous to and during the task. Gibbon (2009) from the Australian genre-pedagogy states that the point is that, the gap between action and context-dependent language for some students is insurmountable, unless the scaffolded report is included (p.26). This means that group work, when learning a L2 language, is very important and highly beneficial for the students because they eventually will end up in a situation, where they have to discuss or bargain with group members, thus enabling them to test out their individual interlanguage hypotheses. Group work further fuels the sense of trust, which is an absolute necessary foundation for all language acquisition (Jacobsen og Olsen, 2011). The actual group work itself can then work as a type of scaffolding, that improves their language skills as they have to write later on – which is more complex, as writing often is a non-context dependant task. It is important, that the students learn to read and write nominalisations, i.e., words that are often constructed from verbs, but made into nouns, because it enables them to deal with abstract terms in an appropriate and complex language when writing. Jacobsen suggests sentence-matching games where the student has to compare a everyday language sentence with an abstract sentence with nominalisations, thus this allows students to find and realise, that persons and actions hide behind nominalisations (p.27).
The advanced level of communication in the English language, that the Danish students learn, is what gives the Danish school system points on the global scale (p.27), and Jacobsen adds, that if we don’t teach them this, we let down the students from a lower socio-economic background. It is the teacher’s task to create the contexts, in which the students can produce exactly the language, that fuels learning (Derewianka, 1990).
Deriwianka, B, (1990): Rocks in the Head: Children and the Language of Geology, in: Carter, R. (red.): Knowledge about Language and the Curriculum. Hodder & Stoughton.
Jacobsen, S. (2011): Right then, write!. Sproglæreren
Jacobsen, S. & Olsen, M. (2011): Om klasseledelse og tryghed I engelsklærerens optic, in: Schmidt, M. (red): Klasseledelse og fag – at skabe klassekultur gennem fagdidaktiske valg, Dafolo