Teaching the syllabus…2

This is a follow up post – you can read part 1 here.

What are the things students should know and be able to do by the time they’ve completed their study of Leaving Cert English?

[NOTE: obviously some students will be better at doing these things than others, which is why we see different levels of achievement in students classwork and in their exam performance – we’re not all equally good footballers or musicians – so why would we all be equally good writers / thinkers / exam takers?]

Here’s what the syllabus says in relation to comprehending and composing (which is examined in Paper 1)

There are many ways of classifying language use. However, for the purposes of this syllabus it is proposed to classify language under five general headings, which relate to the central concept of language as a powerful means of shaping and ordering experience. The five general headings are:
  • The language of Information
  • The language of Argument
  • The language of Persuasion
  • The language of Narration
  • The Aesthetic use of language
It is accepted that to classify language in this way is artificial. The general functions of language outlined here will continually mix and mingle within texts and genres. So, there can be an aesthetic argument, a persuasive narrative, or an informative play. But if students are to become adept with language, then they need to understand that it is through these functions, used within a variety of genres, that language achieves meaning, power, and effect.
Within the five designated areas of language outlined earlier, students will be required to develop the following range of skills and competencies:
Students should encounter a range of texts composed for the dominant purpose of communicating information, eg. reports, records, memos, bulletins, abstracts, media accounts, documentary films.
Students should be able to:
* Give an account of the gist of a text.
* Specify appropriate details for relevant purposes.
* Summarise the information they obtained from a text.
* Comment on the selection of facts given: evaluate the adequacy of the information and indicate omissions.
* Identify the point of view of an author.
* Outline the values assumed in a text.
* Indicate the genre of a text.
* Comment on the language use, structure and lay-out.
Students should be able to compose accurately in a range of information genres:
* Records: memos, minutes, notices, precis.
* Letters of all kinds.
* Reports and research projects
* Various media scripts and newspaper reports.
Students should encounter a range of texts with an argumentative function. The range of texts should encompass material which offer models of both deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning as used in journalistic, philosophical, scientific and legal contexts.
Students should be able to:
* Outline the stages of an argument and identify the conclusion.
* Identify the reasoning structure evidenced in key words or phrases eg. therefore, because, nevertheless, etc.
* Distinguish between statements/propositions and examples.
* Distinguish between opinion, anecdote and evidence.
* Evaluate the validity of an argument.
* Attempt to identify assumptions present.
* Outline the values being asserted.
Students should be able to:
* Put forward a theory or hypothesis
* Justify a decision
* Attempt an overview.
The Language of Persuasion
Students should encounter a range of texts which have a persuasive function, eg.political speeches, advertising in all media,satiric texts, some forms of journalism.
Students should be able to:
* Identify the techniques being used to persuade eg. tone, image, rhythm, choice of words, selection of detail.
* Evaluate the impact of a passage in achieving its desired effect.
* Indicate to which audience it is addressed.
* Analyze the value-system advocated and/or implied by the text.
* Outline whose interests it serves.
Students should be able to compose in a range of contexts:
* Newspaper articles
* Advertising copy
* Public relations/propaganda/political statements.


The Language of Narration
Students should encounter a wide range of texts which have predominately a narrative function. This should involve stude
nts in encountering narratives of all kinds, eg. short stories, novels, drama texts, autobiographies, biographies, travel-books and films.
Students should be able to:
* Develop an awareness of their own response to texts and analyse and justify that response.
* Indicate aspects of the narrative which they found significant and attempt to explain fully the meaning thus generated.
* Outline the structure of the narrative and how it achieves coherence within its genre.
* Develop an awareness of narrative characteristics of different genres and how the language in these genres is chosen and
shaped to achieve certain effects.
* Approach narrative texts from a variety of critical viewpoints eg. analyze and compare texts under such categories as
gender, power and class and relate texts from different periods and cultures.
* Compare texts in different genres on the same theme.
Students should be able to compose in a range of contexts:
* Anecdote
* Parable, Fable
* Short Story
* Autobiographical sketch
* Scripts
* Dialogues
The Aesthetic Use of Language
Students should encounter a wide range of texts in a variety of literary genres for personal recreation and aesthetic pleasure. This would include engaging with fiction, drama, essay, poetry and film in an imaginative, responsive and critical manner.
Students should be able to:
* Develop appropriate stances for reading and/or viewing in all literary genres. This means students should approach drama scripts from a
theatrical perspective, view films as complex amalgams of images and words and read poetry conscious of its specific mode of using language as
an artistic medium.
* Engage in interpretative performance of texts.
* Develop an awareness of their own responses, affective, imaginative, and intellectual, to aesthetic texts. Explore these responses relative to the texts read, generate and justify meanings and build coherent interpretations.
* Re-read texts for encountering rich and diverse levels of suggestion, inference and meaning.
* Attempt to compare and evaluate texts for the quality of the imaginative experience being presented.
Students should be able to:
* Compose within the aesthetic forms encountered.
* Compose “interventions”, i.e. alternative scenarios based on texts studied.
* Keep Response Journals – expressive of their growing acquaintance with a text over a period of time.
* Compose analytical and coherent essays relative to a text
SOME NOTES (taken directly from the syllabus that I think are particularly relevant):
All products of language use – oral, written, and visual – can be described by the general term “text”. All texts create their own view of reality by using a specific linguistic style within specific categories of language forms, which can be called “genres”. Thus a song, an advertisement, a dialogue, a public speech, a child’s book, an expository essay, a legal document, a scientific report and a poem can all be classified as genres. It is the overall purpose of this syllabus to empower students so that they can become sophisticated users and interpreters of many genres.
It is of primary importance in this syllabus that the students should engage with the domains of comprehending and composing in oral, written and, where possible, visual contexts. The subject “English” as envisaged by this syllabus is not limited to the written word. In the modern world, most students encounter significant language experiences in oral and visual contexts. The experience of language in the media in all forms, visual,  aural and print, needs to be recognised as a prime, shaping agency of students’ outlook. This wide range of encounters with language will be reflected in the assessment and examination of students.

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