The different hats of English

I have began teaching English recently. Now I teach English Language and English Literature both at KS4 and KS5. I also teach ESOL all the way from pre-entry right up to level two. I also teach EFL and English for Academic Purposes. No this isn’t to gloat or inflate my own ego or showcase my skill sets but to discuss some basic distinctions between the subjects which I think is valuable.

I had an interesting conversation with a fellow colleague this week that echoed something I once heard in one of my university lectures. This was that because one is an English teacher it is assumed that this person can teach literacy skills, EAL (English as an Additional Language) and also teach Functional Skills. Well….let me tell you all unless you have had specialist training (which I can tell you is rather rigorous) an English Teacher will not necessarily have the knowledge of the other subjects. I have been fortunate in my career to experience teaching English in a various roles but they vary greatly.

ESOL (English for Speakers of another Language) is a subject that is designed to teach the English Language building up and sometimes with introducing the four competency skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing. The pedagogy of how you transfer the skills is completely different from how you would teach in a ‘traditional’ KS4 GCSE English Language and Literature. The language skills are embedded from the beginning drawing upon the basics elements of element right from the morphemes (letters) to lexis (words.) In the lessons students do participate in sentence building and consume grammar simply to be able to communicate. The demographics of the students is greatly different. They are mostly mature adults who work and have already experienced life and education in their home countries. This has to be taken consideration when teaching as it impacts how they process the language learning.

EFL (English as a Foreign Language) on the other hand is heavily grammar orientated and is taught to those who have an ‘adequate’ command of the language. This means you introduce students to techniques such as summarising information, synthesising evidence, debate and possibly essay structure. This is similar to mainstream English but you draw upon different teaching styles and pedagogy.

Now EAP (English for Academic Purposes) is taught or rather I have taught this to International students based in the UK who are studying a University course. In this course one would teach essay structure, writing techniques and subject jargon. In the past I have spent a lot of time reading Economics books and books about Engineering to help my students.

When teaching English in schools you have guidance and resources (I know some may disagree) to deliver. The students are there and you do not have to think about retention (well not all the time.) You have the chance to discuss great writers, literary techniques, character development. The students have the intrinsic language skills (yes I know they may have SEND requirements) however at large you do not have to work on sentence building.

This is just a general overview and there is surmountable research in each of the fields. What I wanted to distinguish is that there are differences and to the lay person they may not be there but whatever any English teacher does in any of the roles is based on specialist knowledge.