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    Programme 2016-2019
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    language in subjects
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    Step 1: Planning
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    4. Putting it into practice

Developing language awareness in subject classes


4. Putting it into practice

  • A genre refers to a type of a text (oral and written) required in different subjects (report, log, personal reflection etc.). These texts have a clear purpose or intention. The intentions may be to describe, to instruct, to argue, to evaluate etc. Genre is not confined to ’internal’ forms such as vocabulary and grammar but also draws on more ’external’ and contextual factors, such as audience (adapted from The Language Dimension in all subjects – A Handbook for Curriculum Development and Teacher Training, 2015, p. 14-15) 
  • Another useful concept is discourse function, which illustrates how language is used in a particular context, e.g. to describe, to narrate, to instruct (Ibid, p. 15).

  • The following tables give examples of the genres encountered in school texts. 
  • The following tables are examples of the genres encountered in geography, history and science as well as illustrations of what the genre is used for. By a genre (or text type) is referred to established ways of doing, which are used to reach communicative goals.

Table 1. Some Genres of Schooling


Exercise 1:

Try to work out a similar table of genres for mathematics

  • As a starting point you could use Morgan (1998), Marks and Mousley (1990), who use the ideas of Martin (1985, 1989), and 1) identify several genres that mathematicians would use and that, therefore, should be included in students’ repertoire of mathematical writing. These genres were:
    • Procedure: how something is done
    • Description: what some particular thing is like
    • Report: what an entire class of things is like
    • Explanation: reason why a judgement has been made
    • Exposition: arguments why a thesis has been produced

2) provide concrete examples of the genres you identify. For example, what is it ‘to describe’ in mathematics

  • Additional reading: Mathematical word problems 


Exercise 2: 

Use one of the tools to design a task for one or more subjects integrating language and content objectives. If you do this  on your own, try to get some feedback from a language teacher.

Exercise 3: 

Ask your students to make a short oral summary of a text they have read. Pick the language function summarize in tool 1 (language descriptors). Tailor language goals for strong and weak students.

Exercise 4: 

Work with a colleague who teaches a different subject from you. Use one of the tools to find out common language objectives for the two coming weeks (or more).