Syllabus Design

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Syllabus writing
What is, what for and how to go about it
Katerina Katsara Sec Ed English Teacher Board Member of ÅÊÁÄÅÂÅ A language teaching syllabus or curriculum is a design of the content and its sequence of a language programme (what-when-how) which incorporates the subject matter (what to talk about) and the linguistic matter (how to talk about it). More specifically, a syllabus is a teaching guideline of when and what material is to be given to the learners and how language learning is to be put in effect. Syllabi embody the general and specific objectives of the language teaching course, the short-term ones being contained in the long-term goal. Types of syllabi can fall into two broad categories depending on the language content the emphasis is placed on; thus there are: • Formal-structural orientation Syllabi in which the focus is on the grammatical / structural/ lexical features of the target language. Linguistic elements range from the simple / easy ones to the more complex items and so is usually sequenced a syllabus modelled on the basis of structural /grammatical content. Teaching methods that highly emphasise on form / grammar such as the Grammar Translation Method (GTM) and the Audiolingual Method (ALM) both determine and are best supported by such curricula. • Functional-notional orientation Syllabi, which focus on what the learner needs to do with the language. The language content and the emphasis, therefore, are not on grammar itself but more on functions and the pragmatic environment in which language is to be used. The Communicative Language Teaching method (CLM) works best with functional /notional syllabi. Seen from the perspective of the result and / or procedure of language instruction, syllabi can also be divided into two different types according to which the immediate emphasis is put on : In Product-oriented syllabi what is focalised is what the learners will know as a result and at the end of the instruction session. They are straightforward in the sense that what is taught/ presented (language content ) is what is intended to be learnt ( language product). Such syllabi typically include a selection of graded linguistic items to be 'learnt' by the learners. In Process-oriented syllabi on the other hand, the focal point is the pedagogic processes leading to the language outcome which, though anticipated, it is all too often not predetermined and even unexpected. Both product and process-oriented curricula function as “umbrella terms’ and have subdivisions:

Product-oriented syllabi
1. Grammatical-Structural: One of the most common types of syllabus. The content of language teaching is a collection of graded complexity forms and structures of the target language. Grammatical linguistic items are presented in sequence and are supposedly learnt by the learners before moving on to the next one. Examples include nouns, verbs, adjectives, statements, questions, subordinate clauses, and so on. 2. Lexical: A lexical syllabus uses vocabulary as the building blocks. Teaching is organised round high frequency vocabulary and phrases from language in use to build up broadened vocabulary areas. 3. Functional-Situational-Notional:The language content is a collection of the functions that are performed when language is used, or of the notions that language is used to express. Examples of functions include: agreeing, apologizing, requesting etc; examples of notions include size, age, colour, and so on. The primary purpose of a situational language teaching syllabus is to teach the language that occurs in real situations. The language occurring in the situation involves a number of functions. Examples of situations include: seeing the dentist, making an appointment, buying clothes, meeting people at a party and so on. It was suggested by Finocchiaro and Brumfit that this type of syllabus placed 'the students and their communicative purposes at the centre of the curriculum'. (Nunan 1988)


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