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Topic 21 – Programming the area of foreign languages: programming units. Criteria for the sequence and timing of content and objectives. Selection of the methodology to be used in learning activities and assessment.

This essay deals with the Annual Planning or Classroom Programme in the FL Area: Units of work or teaching units, Criteria for the timing and sequencing of Objectives and Contents, the Methodology used, the activities carried out in class and Evaluation.

As an introduction to the present essay and since we at a moment of changes in our education system, it is relevant to say that, like its predecessor, the new basic national curriculum –Royal Decree 1513/2006– is OPEN and FLEXIBLE. This means that the teacher has some responsibility as regards curricular design. The new curriculum, like the old one, establishes three levels of curricular responsibility. These three levels are as follows:

(1) The central government fixes the national core curriculum, which implies 55 % of the timetable in the Autonomous Communities with a second official language and 65 % in the rest. From this minimum curriculum, each Autonomous Community draws up its own official curriculum (first level of curricular development). (2) Then, schools adapt and expand upon this basic curriculum in what is known as the second level of curricular responsibility, that is, the Education and Curricular Projects of the School. (3) The third level corresponds to classroom programming, which consists of a set of teaching units drawn up by teachers for each group of pupils. This third level of curricular responsibility is the central topic of the present discussion.

Although many things remain the same with the new Law — for example the basic structure of Primary Education divided into three two-year cycles remains unchanged and evaluation remains to be continuous or on-going and global — the new curriculum has introduced some new important features (aspects)

Apart from the fact that English is a compulsory subject from year 1 of Primary Education, one of the most outstanding innovations of the new curriculum is the establishment of 8 BASIC COMPETENCES or SKILLS, 6 of which affect the English Area. The basic competences are the following:

1. Communicative competence (in the mother tongue as well as in the L2)

2. Numeracy, or Mathematical competence

3. Environmental competence

4. Computer Literacy, or Competence in Information and communication technologies

5. Social and Citizen Competence

6. Cultural and Artistic competence

7. Competence in Learning to Learn

8. Personal Autonomy and Iniciative

These eight competences are cross-curricular, which means that teachers of all areas are responsible for the development of these 8 competences in the students. However, some subjects lend themselves better to some of the competences, and in fact, Royal Decree 1513 makes – in Annex 1— an outline of how the different areas can contribute to the development of the 8 cross-curricular competences. In the case of English, our Area contributes very strongly to the development of Competence number 1 (di cual es) and number 4 and 7 (di cuales son). The FL area also contributes to development of Competence number 5, number 6 and number 8 (dí cuales son).

Since the Calendar for the application or enforcement of LOE starts in the next academic year 2007-2008 for the 1st cycle of Primary Education, it is important to bear in mind that these competences will have to be taken into consideration in the curricular project of the school as well as in the Classroom Programme of the individual teachers.

The Classroom Programme is a development of the Curricular Project, and generally consists of the following parts:

The Objectives for the cycle and for the course

The Contents, which may be divided into Conceptual, Procedural and Attitudinal Contents, and their timing and sequence


Evaluation Criteria and Procedures

As well as other aspects such as Attention to Diversity and use of Information and communication technologies.

The steps towards the classroom programme are the following:

The Official Curriculum states the objectives, contents and evaluation criteria for the whole stage of Primary Education, without specifying them for each cycle. This is so because the criteria to sequence these aspects will be highly dependent on the specific characteristics of the school.

This being so, it is necessary for the Curricular Project to reflect the decisions made by the teaching staff of the school for the different subject-areas of each of the three cycles of P.E. (primary education). A “cycle” is the time unit around which planning and evaluation are organised and a teacher normally works with a group throughout the whole of the cycle (two years). Most of the decisions made in the school curricular project focus on the inter-cycle sequence, that is, the sequence of objectives and contents in three different and graded levels. The aim of the School Curricular Project is to provide coherence by establishing the connection between contents rather than topics. The sequence established must be kept –with flexibility- for the same group throughout the cycle.

The Classroom Programme consists in the organisation of objectives and contents within the cycle, and it is done for a given group. This Programme is divided into work units, or didactic units, and it implies the selection of the most adequate communicative situations, didactic objectives and contents, the materials that will help us to achieve them, the methodology used and assessment procedures and criteria. We can distinguish three levels of work, each including the next and ranging from the most general to the most concrete:

– The annual planning for a given group

– The elaboration of didactic units

– The elaboration of lesson plans

The Annual Planning is the global account of our objectives and the methods and resources we will use to achieve them. This can be done with varying degrees of detail, but it usually includes information on the following aspects:

– Analysis of the students’ initial situation (age characteristics, etc) (***)

– Communicative situations or areas and linguistic activities

– Functions and notions usually associated with those communicative areas or situations

– Communicative strategies and linguistic skills

– Didactic resources

– Methodology

– Evaluation

– Timing

(***) Creo que os envié un cuadro con las caracteristicas de los alumnos segun la edad. Utilizad ese cuadro para hacer un breve resumen e incluidlo en la programación (la edad correspondiente a vuestro ciclo) De todas formas os pasteo el cuadro al final del tema.

The Didactic Unit can be defined as a unit of planning and teaching to be developed throughout a specific length of time, covering some of the objectives and contents established in the annual planning through different learning activities for which we will use different teaching materials.

A didactic Unit can follow a task-based approach, project-based approach, notional-functional approach, etc, or a combination of different types. In any case, the teacher needs to select communicative situations, establish didactic objectives and design activities, considering the materials necessary; for example, type of texts, additional resources, etc.

Whatever the path chosen, we must deal with three types of content: concepts, procedures and attitudes.

Concepts consist mainly of language functions and the vocabulary and structures that are necessary to express those language functions. Examples of contents are: Identifying oneself, Asking / expressing age, Identifying the parts of the body, Expressing possession, Giving information about physical appearance: size, hair colour, etc.

The procedures are the tools that help students acquire the language. Some examples of procedures are: Engaging in games using English as the language of communication, or Producing short messages that have been previously memorised, such as classroom routines, polite formulas, etc.

Attitudes on the other hand reflect the students’ feeling towards the language itself and towards the language learning process. An example of an attitude that we should promote as teachers is: A positive attitude towards the English language and the culture of the countries where this language is spoken, as well as towards people who speak this language

As regards sequencing of objectives and contents, there are two sets of sequencing. The first set refers to their distribution into each of the two years that make up the cycle (first, second or third) , and the second refers to how we sequence the contents and the objectives within (dentro de) each of the two academic courses that make up a cycle. When we sequence we go from the more basic towards to the more complex. For example, when teaching how to express likes and dislikes, first we teach the positive structure I like + noun…… and once the students can use this structure, we can teach the negative structure I don’t like …. And the other way round, since the use of the auxiliary don’t implies a higher degree of complexity. Another example, this time using a situation instead of a structure would be the following: When sequencing how to make descriptions, describing oneself generally comes before describing places or jobs, etc.

The sequencing of objectives refers mostly to the way we adapt the general objectives for the area to the specific objectives of a cycle.

For instance, starting from the objective number one of the foreign language area:

‘To understand simple and oral written texts about known objects, situations and events, using general and specific information taken from those texts.’

We can sequence the abilities expressed in this objective for the second cycle of Primary education as follows:

‘At the end of the second cycle pupils will be able to understand the general meaning of simple oral texts emitted by the teacher with a simple structure and vocabulary, in familiar contexts, and with the help of gestures, mime and any necessary repetition’.

And now, METHODOLOGY. este apartado lo teneis que resumir. Ademas de ser parte de este tema, podeis utilizar el resumedn que hagais en la Programación en el apartado “Methodology”

The Methodology favoured by the Spanish Education Authorities is Communicative Language Teaching, which places great emphasis on the spoken language, and on large amounts of listening input prior to spoken/written production. On the other hand, this is the approach taken by all modern textbooks in the market.

We will now very briefly mention some of the ideas promoted by Communicative methodology:

Interactive Learning:  This concept stresses the dual roles of “receiver” and “sender” in any communicative situation.  Interaction creates the “negotiation between interlocutors” which in turn produces meaning (semantics).  The concept of interactive learning entails that there will be a lot of pair and group work in the classroom.

Learner-centered Learning involves giving over some “power” in the language learning process to the learners themselves.  It also favours students’ personal creativity, as well as taking into account their learning needs and objectives.

Cooperative Learning stresses the concept of team and teamwork and emphasizes cooperation as opposed to competition.  Students share information and help, and achieve their learning goals as a group.

Content-based Learning sees language as a tool or medium for acquiring knowledge about other things. An important factor in this kind of learning is that the content itself determines what language items need to be learned or mastered, not the other way around.  The idea of bilingual schools in which students learn different subject in English is an example of this type of learning.

Task-based Learning equates the idea of a “learning task” to a language learning technique in itself.  Typical tasks are : problem solving activities and projects. The task should have a clear objective, appropriate content, a working/application procedure, and a set range of outcomes.

Contents should be taught in a contextualised way so that they are meaningful to students. They should also be organised around global themes that are close to students’ own life experiences.

Since we are dealing with children, we can exploit their natural ability to play by teaching through games. We should also make use of songs and dramatization for similar reasons

It is important to create an environment in which the students communicate naturally in English and are provided with help on how to express what they want to say.

Instructions should be given in the simplest possible way in order to make ourselves understood.

Children should be encouraged to use English constantly. One way to do this is, for example, by asking them questions from time to time when they are engaged in a communicative activity in pairs or groups so they won’t switch to Spanish easily.

The activities should stimulating and fun. If we notice that they get bored or lose interest we should switch to a different activity or task. In this sense, it is a good idea to have a “bank” of “fun activities” that we know always work so we can draw on them if the activity they are working on is not very successful.

The success of team-work often depends on the composition of the team. We should make sure to mix the more enthusiastic children with the less enthusiastic ones within the same team.

We should by all means make seating arrangements that make it easy to move the students’ chairs leaving a large empty space at the centre of the classroom to be used for dramatisation, or simply to have the children moving around talking to one another in a communicative task.

When the students are working in groups we should not just sit and watch. We should walk around the classroom helping the slower ones o keeping the faster busy. By being close to them we can see if they are doing things right and we can also correct or improve their pronunciation.

As regards pronunciation mistakes, and other types of mistakes, we must be patient. The important thing is that they communicate well. Improvement of pronunciation and language use will come little by little.

The activities have to be well planned, and beforehand we need to prepare all the necessary materials: flashcards, etc. The activities should also be varied.

The most important thing is that, little by little, they improve their communication skills in English and develop a positive attitude towards learning a foreign language. The key for success is: enjoying the class and becoming self-confident in the use of the foreign language they are learning.

We should use different strategies to enhance learning, for example: (elige algunas)

The “PPP” (or the “3Ps”) Approach : Presentation, Practice and Production is very useful for teaching new language (vocabulary, structures, etc)

And finally, we must not forget that are target is to help students develop communicative competence in the target language. Communicative competence is made up of 5 subcompetences…… ver esto en el tema correspondiente

(la competencia comunicativa está en varios temas. Aquí se puede mencionar de manera “esbozada” o breve.

EVALUATION este apartado lo teneis que resumir. Ademas de ser parte de este tema, podeis utilizar el resumedn que hagais en la Programación en el apartado “Evaluation”

We understand evaluation as a continuous, global and formative process, in which we assess the relative progress made by students on a on a regular basis: For example, the progress made after completion of each of the Didactic Units.

Since our aim is not merely to teach a language but rather to teach or enable students to communicate in a foreign language, what we need to evaluate is their ability to use and understand English.

Our assessmment should be made considering the OBJECTIVES the we have set.

If the results of our assessment are lower than expected, we should consider whether we need to improve certain aspects of our methodology, as students’ failure in assessment can be due to deficiencies in our teaching techniques that could be improved.

Students’ self-assessment is another aspect of evaluation. It is important for students to have some awareness of their own progress as this will encourage them to learn more. Self assessment can be carried out at the end of each Didactic Unit. For example in the form of a short questionnaraire in which students say what the “can” and “can’t” do in English. E.g. I can came the different rooms in my house, I know the colours of the rainbow in English, etc.)

Below is our guideline of EVALUATION CRITERIA


. The student can understand simple instructions previously taught/practised in class. For example,  Listen and put the pictures in the right order.

. The student can understand the global meaning of oral texts. At this level, second cycle of P.E., the texts should be simple, and lots of visual aids, including the teacher’s mimic, gestures, etc are helpful.

. The student can understand at least some specific details in oral texts.

. The student can understand and use expressions relating to social interaction within the classroom. For example, “routines” used to ask permission to go to the toilet, drink water, etc.

. The student can discriminate and produce English sounds that are non-existen in Spanish.

For example, the sibilant sound in “ship”, or the long vowels in bird, girl, work, etc.

. The student uses adequate intonation in questions.

. The student can reproduce short rhymes and songs using good intonation patterns.

. The student can produce short oral messages that have previously been practised

. The student can experiment with language, combining different elements that he/she

has already learnt. For example, A tomato is red, but a banana is …yellow

. Using vocabulary already learnt, the student can use language creatively in “free production”.

For example, spontaneously saying to a classmate “I like your watch

. The student can use English to communicate with the teach and his/her classmates in “controlled”

Situations (carrying out an activity, etc)

. The student can communicate in English with the teacher and his/her classmates in “un-controlled” communicative situations, although his/her productions has errors, or mixes English and Spanish (for any unknown vocabulary).

. The student can resort to non-verbal forms or strategies of communication when necessary.


. The student can understan simple, specific, written or printed instructions. For example, different signs in the textbook that indicate how to carry out an activity (cut, colour in, fold, etc).

. The students knows the spelling of the most common vocabulary.

. The student can label pictures.

. The student can copy or reproduce short texts (using models).

. The student can experiment in writing, combining vocabulary and phrases already learnt.


– The student shows curiosty/interest in finding out about other cultures.

– The student is able to work well in teams, groups, pairs.


In order to be able to implement the assessment criteria outlined above, we need to use certain evaluation instruments. The following is a list of the ones most frequently used:

. A teacher’s diary in which we record or write short notes on how the Unit has worked out.

. Direct observation of each of the students’ progress

. Occasional tests to check the students’ language acquisition. Tests are useful to have a general idea of the students’ achievements. If, for example, the class as a whole cannot describe people’s appearance (He is tall and has black hair, etc), we may need to revise that particular content.

Tests need not be different from ordinary classroom activities. A revision activity, for example,  can be used as a “test”, for our own records.

how 7 – 9 year old children learn and develop. Segundo ciclo




Beginning to be logical and analytical

Can see patterns, aware of language

Opportunities to experiment
e.g. making up own chants

Asking questions

Need answers

Freedom to express themselves and learn more than language

Reading and writing still minimal in L1

Still need support and help

Practice and success oriented activities

Still have problems sharing

Group activities not always successful

Teacher to guide them and chances to work alone

Developing confidence to express themselves

Students will have views on what they want to do / talk about

Chance to state opinions

Developing knowledge of the world around them

Know more than we often give them credit for

Chances to use what they know

how 10 – 12 year old children learn and develop. Tercer ciclo




Longer attention span

Greater range of activities possible in class

Opportunities to engage in tasks that require focus and commitment

Knowledge of the world growing

More topics can be addressed

e.g. information from internet or cross-curricular

Taking learning more seriously

Can be given responsibility

Chances to be independent

Still children

Have need for security and pleasure

Teacher sensitive to their needs and moods

More cooperative with peers

Can do more group work

Variety of grouping in class i.e. work on own, in pairs, in group, as class

Intellectual, motor and social skills developing

Can be challenged more

Activities that challenge them

Developing own learning strategies

Children won’t all react in the same way to the same task/topic

Chance to personalise their learning experience

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