Syllabus (1)

Did you know that a good language course must be based on a powerful syllabus?

by Louis Alexander

A syllabus is a list of items that are to be taught in a course, usually in some kind of ordered sequence. Syllabuses can be constructed from various points of view, so we can have a structural syllabus, which is grammar-based, a syllabus for vocabulary ('lexical syllabus'), a situational syllabus, based on presumed situations the learner is likely to encounter, and so on. Direct English uses three kinds of syllabus: 1) a communicative and structural syllabus in Books 1-3; 2) a grammatical syllabus in Books 4-6; 3) a text-based syllabus in Books 7 and 8. One generalization we can make is this: the more organised the syllabus, the sharper the focus for the learner. The syllabuses used in Direct English have evolved over many years from numerous other works. They are highly developed, thorough and comprehensive.

The main objective in Direct English, Books 1-3 is to train learners to deal with transactions, which, in the broadest sense, means doing business in a foreign language. The syllabus constructed to achieve this is communicative and draws its inspiration from 'Threshold Level 90', the Council of Europe syllabus designed by J.A. Van Ek. Here is a glimpse of the syllabus for the first nine lessons of Direct English:

Unit 1
1 Major communicative theme: About myself
Lesson 1: Numbers 0-1,000; alphabet/name spelling; age; present of 'be' 1st & 2nd person.
2 Major communicative theme: About other people
Lesson 2: Whole of the verb 'be', especially the 3rd person.
3 Major communicative theme: Requests, etc.
Lesson 3: Please + imperative; 'can/can't': natural and learned ability; degree of skill.

Unit 2
4 Major communicative theme: Where?
Lesson 1: go to a function, a place; be at a function, a place; systematic question & answer.
5 Major communicative theme: When?
Lesson 2: telling the time; days, months, dates, ordinal numbers; at + time; on + day/date.
6 Major communicative theme: Describe it
Lesson 3: What does he do? What's this in English?

Unit 3
7 Major communicative theme: I like/I don't like
Lesson 1: The verb 'like' + countable/uncountable nouns.
8 Major communicative theme: I want/I don't want
Lesson 2: The verbs 'want' and 'have got' + countable/uncountable nouns.
9 Major communicative theme: Doing things
Lesson 3: The present progressive for actions occurring now: 'doing' and 'happening'.

This syllabus is cyclical, based on nine major recurring communicative themes (numbered above) and repeating itself every nine lessons. Units 4-6 (nine lessons) cover and expand the themes again; Units 7-9 (nine lessons) cover and expand the themes again, bringing us to the end of Book 1. By the end of Book 3, the major communicative themes have been covered and expanded nine times, so learners are equipped to cope with every kind of elementary transaction, from specifying what they want to eat (a ham sandwich with or without mustard) to what they want to wear (a jacket with or without wide lapels). The basis for interactional communicative transactions is firmly laid in the first three books.


© LG & DE Limited 2006


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