Materials Development in English
(as a second) language:
An Indian Experience
by Rama Meganathan
This anxiety is triggered as teachers needs and wants seem not to be matching or suitable to the needs of learner. Teachers are driven by their self perceived needs and though they seems to accept the learners’ identity, yet underestimate the learner in general as they can not learn, i.e. they cannot learn the language as it happens in an urban English medium school. This goes with Jim Cummin’s remark “poor kids get behaviourism and rich kids get social constructivism.” In practice, that means skills for the poor and knowledge for the rich seem befitting to this situation. (Jim Cummins 2005) He was speaking in the context of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) of USA. In Indian situation, stress and burden for the poor and skills and knowledge for the rich.
3. Materials Question
Selection of texts was done by all members of textbook development team individually and also during the workshop meetings. The major intensions behind the selections were (i) providing comprehensible inputs through variety of materials based on the themes listed in the syllabus (ii) the materials would facilitate learner to engage themselves with the language in contexts that they are with or familiar with (iii) exposing students to authentic / natural (language) text (iii) the tasks provided should enable learners to work individually, in groups or as a whole class and use the language and produce language in situations (iv) the materials would take the child from known to unknown (themes), from reading to writing and writing to reading, and also speaking and listening as part of the while reading as well as post reading of the text.
In the selected material, we had had enough from all genres and themes that would suit our situations. We have had translations from Indian languages, travelogues; stories about animals, speeches like Nelson Mandela’s speech on assuming office as the first black president of South Africa, narratives that would enable learners to ponder over philosophically (like Buddha’s Sermon at Benaras). Poems are drawn from a variety again, from William Blake to Ogden Nash and some living poets. The dilemmas of teachers as well as by some of the textbook authors include:
• We should have texts
Classics - from Shakespeare, William Blake; romantic poets like William Wordsworth, Keats, Shelly; poets like Robert Frost are fine, but have longer poems by him not the smaller ones. Majority prose / fiction by writers belonging to that period.
• We need to have
A good introduction to the author, the poet and about the piece included in the textbook
• We have texts ( as we perceive the ideas of syllabus and the position paper on teaching of English)
Have variety of texts that include contemporary (themes) writing so that learners would be able to relate to their knowledge and thinking and with real life situations. We should have a mixed variety of materials from British, America, new literatures and Indian literature (both Indian writing in English and translations from Indian languages).
• We need
No introduction or very sketchy introduction to the authors / poets. Let learners explore and find out. Moreover the poem or work of art matters more than the poet or the writer.
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