It is important to outline the differences between spoken and written language in both their structure (grammar and syntax) and the words used (vocabulary and semantics). Students need to have opportunities to discuss and talk out the meanings of written language. By developing their own spoken language capacity they will be more able to comprehend written text and more confident in code switching between Aboriginal English and standard Australian English.
Oral language development is best encouraged through the following sequence of strategies:
- kinaesthetic – act out meanings physically or with puppets
- visual – have activities to talk about meanings in pictures
- auditory – listening comprehension activities
- print-based – reading and writing activities.
‘Thinking aloud’ about the meaning of texts gives students the opportunity to express the written text meanings in every day spoken language which will be easier for them to understand.
Teachers should model how to do ‘think aloud’ about the meaning of texts while reading, for example, 'I wonder why/how/where…' Follow this wondering with statements such as 'It could be ... because ... What do you think?' This opens up the discussion for students to take risks and suggest their own ideas. Encourage students to justify their ideas by asking, 'What part of the text make you think that?'
Consider how you can include any of the following 8 Ways of Learning for Aboriginal students in your teaching strategies:
- Story Sharing: Approaching learning through narrative.
- Learning Maps: Explicitly mapping/ visualising processes.
- Non-verbal: Applying intra–personal and kinaesthetic skills to thinking and learning.
- Symbols and images: Using images and metaphors to understand concepts and content.
- Land Links: Place–based learning, linking content to local land and place.
- Non-linear: Producing innovations and understanding by thinking laterally or combining systems.
- Deconstruct/Reconstruct: Modelling and scaffolding, working from wholes to parts (watch then do).
- Community Links: Centring local viewpoints, applying learning for community benefit.
These 8 ways can be considered more simply as:
- tell a story
- make a plan
- think and do
- draw it
- take it outside
- try a new way
- watch first, then do
- share it with others.
Activity 1: matching complex vocabulary with everyday meanings
- Matching activity: Use the interactive whiteboard (IWB) or strips of paper to match an original written sentence/phrase from a familiar story/video to a sentence or phrase which has been reworded in everyday spoken language. This process could be reversed by scribing what students say as they tell in their own words what is happening in the following videos. Record their spoken words on strips of paper and reword these statements in standard Australian English on other strips (or use interactive whiteboard). Teachers could use Dreaming texts/videos as a basis or starting point. For example:
To assist with understanding unfamiliar words teachers need to unpack and discuss the meanings of these words making links to the everyday spoken language (Aboriginal English) of the community.
- Create a word wall of the new vocabulary found in books – include a simple synonym or plain English definition beside each word.
Australian curriculum – ACELA1515: Language variation and change: Understand that different social and geographical dialects or accents are used in Australia in addition to Standard Australian English.
NSW syllabus – EN3-1A: Understand that different social and geographical dialects or accents are used in Australia in addition to Standard Australian English
NSW literacy continuum – Vocabulary knowledge, Cluster 11, Marker 4: Refines vocabulary choice in response to purpose and audience when editing and reviewing own and peer’s writing.