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Code switching in the English classroom

Students have a better grasp over their mother tongue than any other language. Especially at the early stage (Class 1), using mother tongue is very important. That has to be the starting point to encourage them to use English. How to use mother tongue effectively for facilitating second language acquisition is a pedagogical issue. This is addressed in Discourse Oriented Pedagogy by resorting to code switching. Presently, I will discuss how the concept of code-switching was put into practice in class I where I teach English.

How I used Code-switching in Class I

As part of developing competence in English, class 1 students were introduced to two imaginary characters Ani and Bini through a narrative. Most part of the narration was in mother tongue but occasionally it would switch over to English. The names of the characters and a few English expressions like ‘Catch the ball’, ‘Sorry’, ‘What is this papa?’, ‘This is a car’ were incorporated in the narrative text. Students were able to understand these without direct translation. This was possible as those expressions were placed in the context of a narrative. The narrative would stop at certain critical points where the teacher would be interacting with the learners in such a way that these ideas are generated in the minds of the learners.

Narrative text that was presented to the learners in this manner had a tremendous impact. Whenever the learners saw the pictures of the characters, they were able to come up with responses like, ‘This is Ani’; ‘This is Bini’. Gradually, they were able to understand the English expression and were able to respond to the question, ‘What is this?’ using the structure ‘This is ...’ (example, ‘This is iliai’ (leaf). They were able to decode ‘ithu’ as ‘this’ and ‘athu’ as ‘that’. And they are able to use the structure ‘This is ...’ contextually. They began to understand even sentences with ‘it’ construction, by themselves. We did not have to explain to them that ‘it’ indicates (in the lesson) Bini’s house and so on. This is a good learning indicator that I have observed in my class. Students learn better by registering the structure of the sentence (text) unconsciously.

Students were initially apprehensive about using the English language; this they do not have anymore. With the implementation of ideas from the ACE training program, students’ involvement in the English class has increased and they have improved in the reading of texts.  Other teachers have seen the progress and they are impressed. The teacher-in-charge too came to my class and said that the pedagogy (Discourse Oriented Pedagogy) is effective. Now my students  have begun reading the charts as well. My students from last year, who are currently in 2nd grade asked me why I hadn’t taught them in this way.

Students are more confident in using the target language through this pedagogy. More learning has happened. For class 1, we don’t expect them to write sentences but now they write  sentences in English by themselves.

The earlier pedagogy had  imposed the content of the textbook on the learners, but through this pedagogy, they learn by themselves. Of course it is more challenging in the way I teach students now. And I am looking  forward to improving my students’ abilities by following Discourse Pedagogy.

Importance of picture interaction

Interaction based on pictures  is a wonderful pedagogical tool to draw students’ attention. They become enthused when I begin interaction using a picture. While I draw and show them pictures (like the drawing of a car or a house), it triggers their thought processes. Now, for whatever ideas I tell them, they are able to think and come out with the pictorial representation of the idea. This strategy is especially interesting  for class 1 students; I feel they are  fully engaged  in the activity. When they come up with their own responses and when I write them on the board, they are able to understand the word and relate the writing with the relevant object in the picture. For instance, if a student says ‘sky’, and I write it on the board, he/she relates it to the sky depicted  in the picture along with the graphical text corresponding to the word.

When students struggle with certain words, like ‘seagulls’, ‘eels’ etc, they immediately look at the corresponding picture and are able to come up with the word by themselves.

Code-switching used as a pedagogical tool is highly productive for facilitating second language acquisition. Eventually the quantity of expressions in mother tongue can be minimized and more and more expressions in English can be used in the narrative text presented to them. I am sure this will have a definite impact on their ability to listen to English and get at the meaning of the text they have listened to. As the new pedagogy integrates all the four skills by embedding them in the context of discourses like descriptions, conversations, narratives and poems, the learners will be able to use English spontaneously and meaningfully.

Teacher: Rajathilagam, PST, GPS Sembiyapalayam






Term: Term 1