(ii) Using the Curriculum and Toolkit

What are Learning Outcomes?  

Learning Outcomes are used to describe the expected language learning and development for children at the end of a two-year period. They replace the Content Objectives in the 1999 curriculum. Stage 1 Learning Outcomes refer to junior and senior infant classes and stage 2 Learning Outcomes are for first and second classes. Reflecting Aistear’s Learning Goals, the phrase, 'Through appropriately playful learning experiences, children should be able to...' is used to introduce all stage 1 Learning Outcomes. The curriculum acknowledges that children’s progress towards Learning Outcomes will be influenced by their varying circumstances, experiences and abilities. Given the diversity in children’s language learning and development across any class group, this Primary Language Curriculum describes children’s language learning on a continuum. The Progression Continuum supports teachers to work with children whose learning and development may progress at a different level or rate to their peers.

What are the Progression Continua and how do they work?  

There are three Progression Continua in the Primary Language Curriculum, one for each strand: oral language, reading and writing. The Progression Continua describe, in broad terms, a child’s journey in his/her language learning and development. Each child’s journey, from junior infants to second class, can be located in one of the eight Progression Milestones—important points of achievement which are further described in Progression Steps. Examples of children’s language learning and development in the Primary Language Toolkit show teachers what these Progression Milestones look like.

The Progression Continua reflect the reality that children come to school with different language experiences, are at different places in their language-learning journey, and develop at different rates, especially children with special educational needs and children in the early years of primary school. For the majority of children, their language will have been further developed through their experiences in the Free Pre-school Year. Some children beginning junior infants and having experienced pre-school education guided by Aistear, may be at Progression Milestone d in oral language while other children with a similar experience may be at Milestone b. In addition, children may be working at one Progression Milestone in oral language and at an earlier Progression Milestone in writing or reading at the same time. They will also be working at different Progression Milestones in their L1 and L2. In the case of each language and using the Progression Continua, teachers can identify the Progression Milestone for the majority of children in the class, and for children at an earlier or later point in their learning and development. The Progression Continua support teachers in using their own judgement and experience to identify where children are in their language-learning journey in L1 and in L2 and to plan appropriate learning experiences which support all children to progress in both languages.

What are Examples of children’s language learning and development?  

This online Primary Language Toolkit is a resource which includes Examples of children’s language work in L1 and L2. For each Example, four points of information are provided: the context for the learning, the relevant milestone, the Progression Steps demonstrated by the child, and the next steps in learning. Each Example links to the relevant milestone in the Progression Continua. The Examples have been developed and recorded by children and teachers in primary schools. They are presented in print, audio and video formats in the Primary Language Toolkit. The number of Examples will be increased over time to provide teachers with a rich bank of Examples to show children’s language learning and development across the three strands and across a range of school contexts.

What is the Support Material in the Primary Language Toolkit?  

In addition to the Examples described above, the Primary Language Toolkit also includes a range of Support Material for teachers to use the Primary Language Curriculum in the school’s L1 and L2. The Support Material replaces Teacher Guidelines in the 1999 curriculum. It focuses on the ‘how to’ of teaching different aspects of language learning at stages 1 and 2. Items of Support Material, grounded in research and development, are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF) and many contain supplementary videos which show practice across different learning contexts which teachers may adapt to suit their own contexts. The Primary Language Toolkit is a rich resource for supporting practice in the classroom and additional items of Support Material will be developed over time as needs and new practices are identified.

How do teachers begin to use this curriculum?  

While the language experiences of children, teachers and schools vary greatly across the different school contexts, all teachers will begin with the same starting point which involves asking, where are children at, and where are they going in their language learning and development? Teachers begin to answer this question by looking at the Learning Outcomes for the relevant stage and the Progression Milestones and Progression Steps linked to these Learning Outcomes on the Progression Continua. Teachers can use the Examples to look at evidence of children’s language learning and development in other classes/schools, each linked to the relevant Learning Outcomes and Progression Milestones. Working alone, or collaboratively with colleagues, teachers can compare the Examples with work from children in their own class(es) and in this way, identify the relevant Progression Milestone(s) for their children, and plan to support progression for all. The Support Material for teachers provides guidelines for practice. Further information on the starting point for using the Primary Language Curriculum is provided in Section 6 - English and Irish: Stages 1 and 2.

Figure 2: Starting to use the Primary Language Curriculum