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THE WTT PETAL PLANNER: TEACHING ORAL ENGLISH THROUGH A LITERACY FRAMEWORK (teaching the academic behaviours of literacy in school)

Students just beginning to learn English in our schools are under great pressure to become literate in English, even before they can speak English at the level required for full competency in literacy. This is especially so for those EAL/D students from oral cultures. Teachers are under greater pressure to teach 'literacy' rather than the full repertiore of LANGUAGE teaching, due to the assessment and testing requirements in schools. Until we have a culture of equity in teaching and assessing ENGLISH LANGUAGE learning for EAL/D students, the cultural behaviours around literacy for school learning are likely to remain lost in the 'forest of pen and paper' expectations. I wrote the PETAL PLANNER as a result of teaching in an Aboriginal remote Bilingual Classroom where the focus was on literacy in first language and oracy in English. As the children are from oral cultures in this context, the process of literate behaviours remained a mystery. More often than not, competent literacy was not achieved even in first language. The PETAL PLANNER is a text-based approach to teaching oral language and, as such, can be used in Bilingual Biliteracy Classrooms to teach the 'culture of literacy' in the first year/s of school or of engaging with English learning.

The Petal Planner has been used successfully with Migrant and Refugee students in the initial stages of English Language Learning. The type of texts need to be appropriate to the interest levels of the age of the students. 

Students who are already literate in L1 transfer their knowledge of literate behaviours to Englsh and don't have to learn to read and write again. Thus the Petal Planner works best for students from oral cultures. Nevertheless is still useful for students from literate cultures in the initial stages of English learning. Students from literate cultures will be extended through the WTT COLUMN PLANNER that provides for practice in independent writing after the production of group-negotiated modelled texts.

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Print Environments and Comprehensible Input

The following comment by Stephen Krashen, from the University of Southern California, who has extensively studied how students learn a second language, was made in 1999. It remains, and perhaps is even more relevant today.

"We must vastly improve the print environment in our bilingual programs. Reading for meaning, especially voluntary reading, is the major source of literacy competence. Yet one study of libraries in schools with bilingual programs found there was, on average, only one book in Spanish for each Spanish-speaking child.
Summer 1999"

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Bilingual Teaching

Jim Cummins, from the University of Toronto, who has written extensively on bilingual education.
"One of the problems is that in some bilingual programs, there hasn't been a strong enough pedagogical vision. Bilingual education has been seen as a panacea, that all we need to do to resolve problems of underachievement is provide some first language instruction and everything else will take care of itself"

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