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INTRODUCTION

English is the official language of communication in Kenya as well as the medium of instruction in our schools, colleges and universities. It is also the pre-eminent language of international communication. Consequently, those who master English reap many academic, social and professional benefits. In the school setting, proficiency in English will make the learning of other subjects much easier. The importance of English cannot therefore be overemphasized.

This syllabus adopts an integrated approach to the teaching of language. Integration means merging two autonomous but related entities in order to strengthen and enrich both. Through exposure to literature the learner will improve their language skills. They will not only enrich their vocabulary but also learn to use language in a variety of ways. Similarly, an improved knowledge of the language will enhance the learner’s appreciation of literary material. On yet another scale, integration means that no language skill should be taught in isolation. Listening, speaking, reading and writing skills should complement each other.

While some people have expressed concern about the integration of language and literature, it is important to realize that literature provides genuine and expressive samples of language in context. This helps students to gain familiarity with many different linguistic uses, forms and conventions of the written mode. Reading of literary works provides a rich context in which learners can acquire new vocabulary and knowledge of the rich possibilities of language use. It has been established that teaching language structures in isolation is not only boring ,but it also tends to produce learners who lack communicative competence.

Literary works also help to develop the learner’s critical thinking which is a crucial element in intellectual development. Finally, literature is about life (values, conflicts, human nature) and it is a good avenue to providing suggestions on how to resolve some of the challenges people face.

A mastery of grammar is important, but is far from enough. There are structures and expressions in the English language which are fixed and unchanging. These are called idioms. They are groups of words whose meaning differs from that of their individual words. In order to speak and write naturally and expressively, the learner must acquire the ability to use these expressions which are an inalienable part of the language.

It should be noted that language is not learned in a vacuum. It revolves around issues and concerns that affect us on daily basis. These in our context may include civic education, good governance, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the need to conserve our environment, the fight against corruption, the struggle to preserve our moral and spiritual values, and technological advancement. The English teacher is therefore required to expose the learner to these concerns through all the language skills.

This syllabus retains the variety of English acceptable in the Commonwealth which is derived from the British Standard English.

In the teaching of English, the emphasis should be on the acquisition of communicative competence and not simply on the passing of examinations. In fact, becoming proficient in the language is a desirable life-long goal.

The time allocated for the teaching of this syllabus is 6 lessons a week in Form I and 2 and 8 lessons a week in Form 3 and 4. The use of the integrated approach will help to maximize the utilization of this time and ensure effective coverage of the syllabus.

The following is an introduction to the language skills and grammar.

LISTENING AND SPEAKING SKILLS

Listening and speaking skills play a primary role in the social and academic life of a person.  One who listens and speaks effectively is able to receive and respond to information appropriately. These two skills also contribute significantly to the development of reading and writing skills. In addition, one who has mastered these skills is likely to create a favourable impression of oneself. The language teacher, therefore, should make every effort to help the learner acquire and continually refine the two skills to enable the latter interact with others effectively and confidently.

The learner should be given ample practice and exposure to good models. Pronunciation drills, role-play, debates, listening comprehension exercises, presentation of oral reports and drama can all be used to help the learner develop fluency and confidence. In this syllabus, oral literature (narratives, oral poetry, songs, proverbs, tongue-twisters and riddles) is recommended for use in the teaching of the listening and speaking skills to give the learner’s a wider field within which to express themselves. In the process the learners will study the genres in a more relaxed and interesting atmosphere. For effective integration the learner should also be taught the classification, types and features of the oral literature genres.

In order to underscore the importance of these skills, it is recommended that they be evaluated. In the past, undue emphasis has been laid n reading and writing at the expense of listening and speaking. This imbalance must be corrected because every language skill is important. Evaluation can be done through dictation, listening comprehension, role-play, making speeches, reciting poems or even interpretive reading of extracts from books.

GRAMMAR

The chief objective of teaching grammar is to help students understand how language works and to use it correctly and appropriately in different contexts. Grammar can be defined as the way words are combined to form longer and meaningful units. Learning how rules operate is useful, but it is even more important to know how to use the language in real-life situations. In other words, a learner who has mastered grammar knows how to apply the rules to communicate in acceptable language forms.

It is proposed that in order to help the learner acquire a thorough mastery of the language as a whole, grammatical structures should be presented in context. A grammar item should be presented to the class within the context in which it appears. The aim of the presentation is to get the learner to perceive the structure — its form and meaning - in both speech and writing. A story or a short dialogue which appears in written form in the textbook or a literary text could be used. With simple structures the ‘text’ may be a sentence or two which serves as a model for immediate practice. This syllabus is very specific on the grammar items to be taught. This will help a lot in teaching the items in context.

Teachers therefore need to be very creative and innovative as they think of the best ways of utilizing both literary and non-literary material to help the learner acquire grammatical competence. This may mean going beyond the course book and using other supplementary resources. Constant practice is essential and the learners should be encouraged to increase their grammatical knowledge even when the other skills such as reading and listening are being taught. Learning grammar is not an isolated activity. The teacher must determine the best ways of using language games, films, video tapes, role-play, writing compositions and drama to enhance the acquisition of grammatical proficiency.

READING SKILLS

The ability to read fluently and efficiently is vital both in school and for life. Good reading skills will improve performance in all school subjects. Reading helps in information gathering and learning of concepts. Through reading, the learner is exposed to new vocabulary, new sentence structures and different registers. Reading also acquaints the learner with good models of language use.

The teacher should devise strategies that will make reading interesting and fulfilling. Selection of reading materials should be done very carefully and, if possible, pre-reading activities planned. It is recommended that reading skills be developed through the study of literature. In this syllabus the study of literary works is presented under intensive reading. The different literary genres should be introduced and issues related to themes, style, plot and characterization be studied. The learner should also be encouraged and facilitated to read extensively.

This being an integrated syllabus, the use of reading to enhance the development of other language skills such as listening, speaking and writing is imperative. What the learner reads could form the basis of their oral presentations or essay writing.

The teacher should also identify any bad reading habits that may have been carried on from primary school and help the learner to overcome them.

WRITING SKILLS

Writing is an advanced language skill that has wide-ranging implications for the way we think and learn. Writing also encourages us to be organized, logical and creative in our thinking. Learners should be helped to acquire skills that will enable them to express their ideas clearly and effectively in writing. In order to be successful in any academic discipline, the ability to write well is essential. It influences our chances of success, personal development and our relations with other people.

In this syllabus emphasis is on encouraging the learner to achieve competence in writing using the language structures they have learnt. The teacher should design tasks that will lead to gradual development of the learner’s writing ability. Diagnostic and remedial exercises could be used and each individual learner’s needs identified and addressed, It is important to make the activities interesting and tasks manageable so as not to demotivate the learner. Feedback on writing assignments should be meaningful and helpful.

 Reading and writing are very closely related. Therefore, learners should be encouraged to read critically, observing how language is used. This way, they will learn to recognize patterns and benefit from good examples of language use. Class readers and literature set- books should be used as sources of writing tasks. Other resources such as pictures can be used to generate ideas for writing. If possible, writing tasks should be based on the learner’s interests and experiences. Group discussions and other pre-writing activities may be used to demystify writing.