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What do primary teachers need to understand, and how? Developing an applied linguistics curriculum for pre-service primary school teacher

Ellis, Sue and McCartney, Elspeth and Bourne, J. (2011) What do primary teachers need to understand, and how? Developing an applied linguistics curriculum for pre-service primary school teacher. Language Teaching. ISSN 0261-4448

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Abstract

Seminars were designed to encourage debate about the applied linguistics understandings that are most helpful to primary school teachers in designing and teaching the language and literacy curriculum, in working with pupils with identified speech and language needs, and in working with other professionals such as educational psychologists and speech and language therapists. Participants were invited to consider what would be most helpful for primary-school teachers to understand about applied linguistics perspectives, and how this understanding could best be developed. These seminars are possibly the first UK opportunity for such a wide range of people to discuss these issues. Discussion came not only from the different professional concerns and research perspectives but also from differences in how Scotland and England make, implement and monitor language and literacy education policy. The two seminars were designed to run as a conversation, and the papers in the second seminar developed themes and issues raised in the first, as well as introducing new themes of their own. The first seminar made the case for how applied linguistics perspectives can, and do, inform the curriculum and pedagogy in primary schools. Professor Debra Myhill (Exeter University) began by reporting on her research on Writers as Designers. She summarised some of the research on young writers' linguistic development - their lexical choices, syntactic features, and thematic variety - arguing that linguistic knowledge is necessary for good writers but not sufficient: good writers need also to have access to a thinking repertoire from which they design, craft and shape texts that meet their communicative goals. In doing this, the relationship between the writer, the text and context is central, and teachers need to draw on knowledge from all these perspectives.