In answering a recent comment I found the following site from Monash University. It is very good.
Category Archives: esl for students
This is something I prepared to help a student in Year 11 ESL, but I find it is also helpful for others. I am indebted to Paul Grover’s excellent Visual Texts (2004), part of the Australian Heinemann English Project.
Writing about a text
An old way is to ask: WHO is saying WHAT to/for WHOM, WHEN, WHERE, WHY and HOW?
Here is a different version of that.
1. WHAT? – content, text type. You should mention the composer too.
2. WHO? (Could be different from the composer)
4. To or for WHOM? WHY? WHEN? WHERE? – questions about the composer and responder relationship, and purpose and context.
5. AND SO…? Interpretation and evaluation.
Example: Leunig cartoon on bullying
The text is a cartoon by Michael Leunig. At the top are four lines of text in handwriting. The bottom half of the cartoon has two people. One is at a desk and the other is standing. The seated person is identified as a school principal. The other person is an angry parent.
The speaker in the cartoon is the person standing on the right. We know this because he is drawn with his mouth open and his finger pointing at the principal on the left.
The words spoken are centred at the top of the cartoon. This makes sure readers begin with the words, because the whole point of the cartoon is in these words. The speaker is using bullying language which is unlikely for a parent talking to a principal: “I’m going to drag your fat, stupid backside into court…” People are usually polite and respectful when they talk to a principal. It is ironic that someone complaining about bullying is being a bully himself.
The drawing underlines the dialogue. The principal is drawn seated behind his desk. Leunig usually suggests people’s age and job or status by caricature, and the principal is drawn with glasses and a bald head. His suit and tie are neat. The parent is drawn leaning forward with his finger jabbing. The movement of the finger is represented by a couple of curved lines. His eyes seem angry and his coat and tie are untidy.
This cartoon would not really interest children. It is for adults, possibly around the same age as the people in the drawing. A responder needs to have cultural knowledge about the way people usually behave when a parent speaks to a school principal. The humour comes because what we see is not what we usually expect in this situation. It is possible the cartoon appeared at a time when problems of school bullying were in the news.
The cartoon is about two things. First it is about bullying. It seems to be saying that adults who are themselves bullies set an example which school bullies follow. Second, it is about power relations. Usually it is the principal who has power in situations like this, and the parent who is requesting something. In both cases the role reversal shown in the cartoon makes the message humorously rather than heavily, but because the cartoon is making a serious point about a social problem it could be called a satirical cartoon. Making us smile may be a more effective way of getting us to think about the problem.
Typical HSC questions
For the Year 11 ESL course I have imagined an area study on POWER.
ESL Paper 1 Question 1 example 1
1. What is the purpose of this text? (1 mark)
2. Describe TWO techniques used to achieve that purpose? (2 marks)
ESL Paper 1 Question 1 example 2
1. Explain ONE idea about power in this cartoon? (1 mark)
2. How do visual features and dialogue create humour in the cartoon? (2 marks)
That, I suspect, is part of the problem behind the story in today’s Australian — Students do badly in study of civics. I really don’t think results would have been much better fifty years ago when I was fifteen.
STUDENTS’ knowledge of Australia’s system of government is lower than expected, with only one in three Year 10 students knowing what the Constitution is.
The national assessment of civics and citizenship in Years 6 and 10 found about 54 per cent of primary students and 41 per cent of high school students met the proficiency standards for their year. But about one in five Year 10 students failed to meet the Year 6 standard.
"This was especially the case in relation to information about the constitutional structure of Australian democracy," the report says. "Lacking such fundamental information will restrict the capacity of students to make sense of many other aspects of Australian democratic forms and processes, and they may, therefore, be disadvantaged in their capacity to engage in meaningful ways in many other levels of civic action or discourse."
At Year 6, students are expected to recognise the division of governmental responsibilities in a federation, identify a link between a change in Australia’s identity and a change in the national anthem, recognise the benefit of different political parties and the federal budget.
By Year 10, students are expected to recognise key functions and features of parliament, analyse the common good as a motivation for becoming a whistleblower, explain the importance of a secret ballot, and recognise how the independence of the judiciary is protected. On the Constitution, Year 10 students were asked "what is the Australian Constitution?" and given four possible answers: the rules about how the major Australian political parties are run; the policies of the Australian federal government; the framework for the ways Australia is governed; all the laws that Australian citizens must obey…
Look at the last paragraph there! Did I know all that fifty years ago? Answer: NO! What do we expect then? Why, aside from pious hopes, should we expect 100% of kids to have mastered all that arcane matter?
On the other hand, kids today do have advantages. In the web world there are some marvellous sources of information. Even the Book of Answers from the last government’s ill-conceived citizenship tests is not a bad resource on these and other matters. But then there are sites such as Australian Politics and Oz Politics. Certainly it isn’t hard to find out these days; in my day it was less easy.
There is a big role here too in well organised excursions to parliaments and courts, as many schools do. The information people there are often brilliant, and the whole thing becomes more concrete. On the other hand bureaucratic responses to child safety issues have made organising any excursion a logistic nightmare, so I suspect there has probably been some reduction in such activities. A shame. Mock courts and parliaments are another approach that can bring these matters to life.
Coincidentally, yesterday I found myself with a 15-16 year old from China, a recent arrival whose English is developing, trying to help him with a Legal Studies task on the rule of law – and a whole host of other key terms all crowded into one or two of his school lessons. A challenge. We did our best.
Students of ESL or EFL will find much to use on Real English. There is also an associated blog.
The next is an Australian educational blog that came my way. It has much to offer teachers, especially but not only those dealing with very young students. I commend the ESL page, not merely because I get a mention but because it points to some excellent resources beyond ones I have so far noted. The literacy page is also very good.
And yet another email informed me about this site:
…which is how it looks in Google Chrome. 🙂
MULTIMEDIA ENGLISH CLASSROOM is a free online classroom to learn English, designed for students from all around the world. It uses authentic material and is targeted at students of English who already have a basic knowledge of the language (though we’ll soon have a section for absolute beginners too). If you can read this and understand it (at least the general idea), then this virtual classroom is for you!
This website is very young, but it is growing quickly. Every week (on Sunday) new material is posted and the old material is moved to libraries where you can access the stuff published here before…
Most of the language used here is authentic English not adapted to any specific level and taken from real sources. Though my language is British English, so that is the variety I use myself, the material on this site comes from different countries, especially the UK and the USA; there are even some non-native speakers too. That way, you train yourself to use and understand English as it is, the English used by natives (not the simplified, artificial language nobody uses in real life).
The activities and videos are usually loaded with lots of help and explanations in case you need it. If your level is low, understanding the general idea is more than enough, or sometimes trying to understand a few things here and there will help you progress. If your level is advanced, then you should be able to focus on more difficult aims.
And remember, the more you listen and read, the more you will understand.