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curriculum design for science English in HS? advice please

 
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Glenski



Joined: 17 Jan 2003
Posts: 164
Location: Sapporo, Japan

PostPosted: Sat Nov 20, 2004 5:04 am    Post subject: curriculum design for science English in HS? advice please Reply with quote

I'm in Japan and have been asked to design a year's curriculum to present science in English to high school students. This would be for ANY students, not just those who have an interest in science.

I'm stumped. I have taught regular English grammar for years, and I have a science background (which is why my administration is looking to me for this). However, since the students will already get regular English classes (in English and in Japanese) and regular science classes (in Japanese), what could I possibly present?

Teaching the grammar seems pointless because they will already be learning it in their English courses. Teaching the science is pointless because they learn that in their own language. To even attempt to teach other levels of science in a foreign language is senseless.

What sort of design do you think I should even conceive? How to make lab reports comes to mind. How to generally present the scientific method is another. The overwhelming vocabulary that they face seems too daunting. These students will have had 3 years of English study before I get them, but they can barely piece together "I like movies", let alone find enough grammar and vocabulary to discuss any topics.

I've been given free rein on this, to include lecture and lab presentations, but I'm scrambling. Any ideas?
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joshua2004



Joined: 20 Nov 2004
Posts: 264
Location: Torreon, Mexico

PostPosted: Tue Nov 30, 2004 12:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you have the freedom, I would see what sort of projects they want to take on and do the tasks associated out of it in English. Call it a project-based applied english/science class.
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Glenski



Joined: 17 Jan 2003
Posts: 164
Location: Sapporo, Japan

PostPosted: Tue Nov 30, 2004 1:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the suggestion, joshua, but unfortunately, I do not have that freedom. Besides, to do such tasks "in English" is not as easy as it sounds. I have already conducted a couple of pilot lessons like this with first and second year HS students, and the simplest things are beyond their vocabulary. Perhaps I wasn't clear in my original post, but even though they are studying grammar in other classes, their level is very low.
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
Posts: 2993
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Tue Nov 30, 2004 2:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't suppose expressing your reservations about the apparent pointlessness of the original idea is an option? Laughing

Still, consider how bad the students' grasp of good, basic scientific English will be if they just bandy around their few supposedly "international" terms with no regard for parts of speech of even the most basic of collocations and grammar; that is, I would imagine that the students probably AREN'T learning all they could about scientific English in their science classes, or addressing scientific topics in their English classes. I think you are being asked to make these diverging strands of the curriculum converge (and for good reason). You don't have to "attempt to teach other levels of science" in the foreign language, just make sure the basic science and basic English (or basic English and basic science) really are meshing up nicely.

So, I think it could be productive for them to at least start forming "networks" in English to describe basic lab procedures or the natural processes involved in e.g. earthquakes. I know there is a danger then that the vocab will start spiralling out of control, and that there is a long time between high school and research, but the research students that I've met just don't seem to pick up the necessary English skills during even their undergraduate years, so it might not be a bad idea to start even earlier (like you've been asked to do so). Wink

Anyway, general justificatory waffle aside, the question is, how are you gonna do it? You've told Joshua that tasks requiring the more or less the immediate use of whatever English they (don't!) know are beyond them, and longer-term project work on presentations etc isn't going to be actually filling the class time prior to them being "ready" in any visibly productive way. It seems to come down to needing to fill an empty cup, then.

I don't know how long you've got to get your curriculum organized (presumably until next April?), but if I were in your position I'd be looking quickly over ESP stuff (not that I'd teach stuff at that level, high school students would run away screaming if you gave them anything similar to what e.g. Widdowson suggests we might use with university level students!), with a view to getting some idea of what an "ambitious", long-term vision would entertain, then I'd dumb it down by referring to the language of textbooks e.g. as used in native-speaking countries at possibly as low as primary level (or even lower: Spot likes smelly sulfur). A tool that might help you "average out" the choices of levels of language to be involved is the Macmillan School Dictionary (not sure when it's being published, seems late):
http://www.macmillandictionary.com/school/index.html

Some bright spark (not me!) will probably soon suggest, how about taking a "popular" approach to science? Looking at reports and issues in (or adapted from) especially the shorter, newsier sections of magazines such as New Scientist could be interesting for them. You could even get all "ethical" about some of the issues involved with many so-called "advances".

But if making them into competent scientists with a command of English, and perhaps consientious citizens too sounds like too much to pull off (and I think it is a tall order), you could just try to do general English lessons with sciencey themes, and e.g. tell them stories about e.g. the time you accidentally brewed up a batch of ricin and then mistakenly fed it to your cat (but hey, whaddya know, cats are immune to ricin so it lapped it up and suffered no ill effects at all. Heh, made that "fact" up, but had you fooled, eh! Wink So, how about superstitions/old wives' tales/urban legends/BS generally vs. hard science, the truth is out there etc). I myself would be more inclined to have some fun at the subject (science)'s expense than to pull my hair out taking the goals too seriously. Cool
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yoda



Joined: 16 Feb 2003
Posts: 49
Location: The Cantina on the Planet of Tatooine

PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2004 7:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Glenski,

A while back I made a series of articles for something called the two articles technique. This technique teaches students how to communicate complex ideas. The article series that I've made is not based on science (some are) but easily could be. This is I swear the best technique I've used for getting communciation happening:

Here is the write up: Two Articles Teaching Method.

There are so many interesting science topics that you could generate articles from.

Here is also a science materials site that you can find supplementary resources for: Science Teacher Resources


Last edited by yoda on Thu Oct 05, 2006 6:56 pm; edited 1 time in total
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yoda



Joined: 16 Feb 2003
Posts: 49
Location: The Cantina on the Planet of Tatooine

PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2004 7:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fluffy,

I do not think it is pointless at all. I think Content Based Learning is the only way to go in ESL once you get past a certain point.
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oliver q



Joined: 18 Oct 2004
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2004 9:08 am    Post subject: ESP science options Reply with quote

I assume some of these HS students will want to study a science subject at an university in an English speaking country in years to come or might have to use scientific words for work in a technical field in the future.

Since the students might be around beginner level and are struggling with simple sentences, the initial priority is probably to teach simple scientific words and phrases in an interesting way. For physics these might be mass, weight, force or velocity and for chemistry to do an experiment, to mix A with B or atom.

You could do this using traditional ESL techniques such as matching words with pictures or gap-filling simple sentences or you might try writing simple crazy stories with the target words and expressions and getting students to answer simple questions about these stories quickly or act out part of the story.

Later in the year, when their level has increased, a greater use of simplified versions of science texts and articles is possible, adapted from regular problems in English-language HS science books or from materials downloaded from the internet.
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
Posts: 2993
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Sun Jan 02, 2005 11:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, if you read beyond the first sentence of my post, Yoda, you will soon realize (into the second paragraph) that I don't think it/CBT is useless at all!

Your "Two Articles" method (read: Retelling, with comprehension questions as prompts) is hardly revolutionary, but it is nice that you have something concrete to offer. Wink

It would be interesting to hear if the level of English you seem to be assuming in your "graded" reading materials would still be beyond Glenski's students; and I'd've responded sooner (to you at least) had he acknowledged more of the replies he's gotten here (beyond joshua's) - I kind of stopped checking by here for "Glenski" after a while!
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Konni



Joined: 17 Apr 2005
Posts: 10

PostPosted: Sun Apr 17, 2005 9:01 pm    Post subject: Science English Class Reply with quote

Good comments from Fluffy and Yoda.

This does not sound hard. Although a curriculum takes work and a lot of time to write. It sounds fun and useful for the students. If you have a year of teaching you introduce them to basic vocabulary in English in biology, physics, chemistry, geology, botany, engineering mechanics. Pick one area for a month of lessons. Introduce vocabulary. focus on one topic. Do volcanoes in English, use the materials from USGS as your text book. Read popular articles and science textbooks in that area. Do a lab. Teach how to write a lab report in English. It sounds like a Content Based Opportunity for the students.

Konni
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Chet



Joined: 30 May 2005
Posts: 3
Location: Malaysia

PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2005 9:57 am    Post subject: Opinion Reply with quote

Hello...I'm new here and happen to see your post. I'm still training to be an English teacher and recently I was given a task of teaching a subject English for Science and Technology. In your case, you need to design your syllabus right? For me, I was teaching while creating my own syllabus because when this subject was introduced, there was no specific syllabus for it. Like your situation, the students are already learning Science in the national language and English in their ESL classroom. So, I decided to ask students what do they prefer firstly and from there plan my lessons. However, just a question. This curriculum of yours, will it be taken into account in their regular education system as in part of their examinations or just as an elective subject or something like that?Maybe you could help me understand the situation better?
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
Posts: 2993
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2005 10:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glenski!
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Glenski



Joined: 17 Jan 2003
Posts: 164
Location: Sapporo, Japan

PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2005 1:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Things are constantly changing at my high school.
First they want me to do a few weekend science in English classes. Free rein. I do a few and students give me gold stars, even though they admit it's tough.

Next, I'm asked to design that damn curriculum for a whole year. No restrictions, and sadly no guidelines.

Now, that's in a holding pattern, although it's original intent was probably to be an elective. I say probably because I never really knew what the administration wanted.

Most recently, they've decided to increase the number of regular science classes so they can attract more serious/science minded students and give the school a reputation beyond that of liberal arts prep. Has anyone spoken to me about the science in English thing? Nope.

My gakunen boss (head of the third year HS teachers, that is) suggests that I make a plan anyway and try to market myself to any school that will take me with this "weapon". I don't see that it will fly. I mean, if kids are already having a hard time learning English the regular way and for their college entrance exams, what's to say that anything I teach them won't get shot down for financial reasons in a year?

Oh, and my contract with the school is up next spring, with no hope of being renewed, so that's probably why nobody mentioned the plan for next year. Sigh.
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anarayanan



Joined: 07 Sep 2005
Posts: 1
Location: Mumbai, India

PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2005 4:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i am a civil servant-turned- science writer and I write a few weekly columns (in English language newspapers in India) aimed at bridging the 'science-person' - 'non-science-person' gap that I believe exists.
The pieces I do are 500 to 800 word long and deal with everyday science topics (sometimes pretty exotic) in simple terms, for the layman, and in simple language. I have been receiving huge e-mail response, both from total lay-person readers as well as from students, mostly high school.
I have often thought that a selection of these pieces could, perhaps, be compiled into a kind of 'supplementary reader' for non-science majors or in high school - with the objective of introducing science in a non-threatening way. I do believe that it is important that all people accept science without reservation as science is such an important part of our lives
On reading your message, I think the pieces, with some editing, could also serve the purpose of language teaching. The popular methods for language, today, rely on delivery of the language through topics that interest and grip. Layman science, in high school, is both interesting an serves a purpose of making the environment comprehensible.
I would be glad to collaborate with you on a project in this direction.
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emile



Joined: 31 May 2004
Posts: 144
Location: SE Asia

PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2005 12:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Glenski,


It sounds to me that your problems are not English-related. You've been caught up in a system that you don't understand and you've been focussed on the smaller picture while others are focussed on the bigger picture, as they see it.

If that sounds about right, take it from someone who's been there, all you can do is live and learn, but it's never to late to try to make a major change.
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Glenski



Joined: 17 Jan 2003
Posts: 164
Location: Sapporo, Japan

PostPosted: Tue Sep 20, 2005 8:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
it's never to late to try to make a major change.

What do you suggest? I'm already forced to look for a new job. How much more major can you get than that?
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