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Learning English in GESPS

The English curriculum in Gan Eng Seng Primary School is designed to meet the needs, abilities and interests of GESPians. With the national curriculum STELLAR (STrategies for English Language Learning And Reading) forming the core, GESPS’ instructional programme for the English Language (EL) also comprises our own school-based curriculum in oracy, reading and writing. These efforts aim to develop the GESPian into a confident and engaged learner who are competent in the language skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing in EL.

The lower primary, defined loosely as Primary 1 to mid-Primary 3, are important foundational years in which a child learns to read. A typical unit begins with Shared Reading through a Big Book. Through repeated readings of the book, students are explicitly taught phonological awareness, word recognition, decoding skills, spelling, vocabulary and grammar before they move on to writing. The writing process is scaffolded. Based on a shared experience, the teacher models writing for the class. Then the students engage in writing together before finally writing independently. Depending on the specific needs and abilities of the students, the teacher prepares differentiated lessons to reinforce the learning in the unit.

Group Writing

At the middle to upper primary, i.e., from mid-Primary 3 to Primary 6, the child now reads to learn. A typical cycle of an upper primary unit is similar to the lower primary one, except that the shared experience for writing is replaced with a whole text study of a model piece of writing. Since the student is now able to read independently, he can expect to read increasingly more as that is how he learns.

Adopting the STELLAR vision to develop in children the love for reading and a strong foundation in EL, an English lesson is never without interesting and authentic texts. At each level, lessons are delivered through engaging and age-appropriate strategies. Every new EL teacher undergoes training and mentoring in the pedagogies required for the level, which include Shared Book Approach and Modified Language Experience Approach for the lower primary and Supported Reading, Know-Want to know-Learnt and the Writing Process Cycle for the upper primary. The students undergo the range of strategies when they learn English in GESPS.

Curriculum Customisation for GESPians

The STELLAR curriculum is supplemented by a range of school-designed programmes to meet the varied needs, abilities and interests of our students. Through these efforts, GESPians will be equipped with the necessary language skills to confidently face the future.

I. Reading Programme

Reading Milestones is a whole-school intensive reading programme launched in 2018 founded on the principle of differentiated instruction to systematically raise every student’s reading competencies. At every level, students are individually placed and assigned reading material appropriate to their levels. They are promoted to the next reading level when they have demonstrated progress in their reading skills. The programme is conducted weekly.

Reading Milestones

At the foundational part of this programme, students in the Learning Support Programme undergo buddy reading using yet a different set of graded material. For these emergent readers, buddy reading takes place twice weekly. The EL teacher monitors their progress through regular small group reading instruction.

Reading Milestones is supported by a range of extensive reading efforts, such as the Class Library collection and DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) time in the early morning. It also includes collaboration with the National Library Board (NLB), which began in 2014, to encourage the pleasure of reading amongst GESPians. Each year, the school organises Book Buzz sessions, during which an NLB officer talks to the students about various topics on books and reading. NLB also supports the school in the following:

(i) Mass registration of Primary 1 students as NLB members
(ii) Books 2 Go – mass borrowing sessions from NLB collection
(iii) kidsREAD programme
(iv) Reading Ambassadors’ training for Library Leaders
(v) Book Bugs

II. Writing Programme

In GESPS, students undergo a systematic handwriting curriculum, which emphasises correct letter formation. As they progress, they are also taught cursive handwriting to enable them to read a variety of handwriting styles and write in their adopted style with speed.

As students develop in their literacy, they undergo a skill-based curriculum that takes them through different writing skills so that they will be competent writers of narratives at the end of Primary 6. Some of these topics are: structure of a narrative, ways to begin a story and replacing commonly used words with more descriptive words and phrases.

III. Supporting Lower Progress Learners

Recognising literacy as the bedrock of learning, the school spares no effort in providing additional support for our students who are struggling with language learning.

a. Learning Support Programme (LSP)

LSP is an early intervention programme designed by MOE and offered in all primary schools at Primary 1 and Primary 2 to provide additional support for students who enter Primary 1 with very little foundation in EL. Since the enhancement in 2007, the programme focuses on the following five components: alphabetic knowledge, knowledge of sound-letter correspondences, fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. These components have been found by research to be critical in helping students in early primary grades learn to read and spell.

Students are identified for LSP through a systematic screening process carried out at the beginning of Primary 1. The support is implemented in the form of a daily one-period pull out for small-group teaching. This support continues in Primary 2 unless the student has met the criteria for discharge at the end of Primary 1. LSP lessons are conducted only by trained Learning Support Coordinators (LSCs).

b. School-based Dyslexia Remediation (SDR)

LSP students who have not met the discharge criteria at the end of Primary 2 are systematically screened for a reading disability, dyslexia. SDR provides specialised support in language learning for Primary 3 and Primary 4 students who have been diagnosed with dyslexia. This programme was introduced by MOE in 2012 with Gan Eng Seng Primary School being a pilot participant. SDR instructors undergo rigorous training to be equipped in providing this specialised support which takes place four times a week. Group size for teaching is kept very small to ensure individual attention so that each student may progress at his/her own pace. When these students learn the necessary skills to cope with their reading disability, they will be able to surmount obstacles in language learning to achieve new heights.

c. Reading Remediation Programme (RRP)

RRP was introduced by MOE in 2014, again with Gan Eng Seng Primary School as a pilot participant. The programme serves to provide continued support for LSP students at Primary 3 and Primary 4. It also identifies other students at these levels who need additional support in their language learning. RRP teachers receive training to be equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills for their small-group teaching, which focuses on word recognition, reading, spelling and reading comprehension.

d. EL Bridging Programme and other support efforts

Beyond the above programmes, the school has put in place EL Bridging for students who need additional support in language learning. These lessons take place after school in small groups. Besides working on selected skills and components, levelled readers are used to raise the oral reading fluency of these students.For struggling readers who find it difficult to keep up with the teaching and learning in the regular lessons, the school arranges for pull-out teaching to provide customised attention to these students. These teachers are usually have training in supporting lower progress learners in EL.

IV. Stretching Higher Progress Learners

Higher progress students in GESPS are provided with more challenging material for teaching and learning, such as the sample texts and questions from the international assessments by University of New South Wales. Additional literary material is subscribed for the middle primary students to arouse and sustain their interest in English. At the upper primary level, these students have literature enrichment lessons to deepen their appreciation of the language and enhance their analytical thinking through the study of a chapter book. In addition, students are exposed to newspaper reading for class sharing and discussion of current events and issues.

Empowering our Learners through Authentic Learning

Besides the pedagogical efforts in the school English curriculum, the school seeks to provide authentic platforms for students to demonstrate their language skills.

A. Oracy Programme

GESPians undergo a structured oracy programme which spirals upwards from the basic oratorical skills at Primary 1 to the more complex over the years. The overarching objective across the levels is to enable students to communicate effectively before an audience with confidence.

Readers' Theatre

The skill focus for the levels is as follows:

P1  –   Choral Reading & Poetry Recitation
P2  –   Show-and-Tell
P3  –   Speech and Drama
P4  –   Readers’ Theatre
P5-6  –   Persuasive Speech

Speech & Drama

The students are taught to use their voice more effectively as they discover new ways to create and present the language. At the end of the oracy lessons, students take turns to showcase their oratorical skills before their classmates. It is always an enjoyable time as the class plays both audience and performer for the day.

B. Learning Journeys

i. Integrated Learning Trails

Outside of the classroom, English learning in GESPS takes place in different contexts for authentic learning. In collaboration with other departments, including Mathematics, Science, Social Studies and National Education, the department designs and plans learning trails for Primary 4, 5 and 6 GESPians each year so that they can apply their knowledge and skills learnt. At the same time, students are made to work in groups, developing their collaborative skills, as they go about the stations in the trail. Through differentiated activities, GESPians are empowered to demonstrate their language abilities as they interact with one another and in the real-world environment.

ii. Language Arts Learning Journey

To expose them to the use of language in the performing arts, students on the Financial Assistance Scheme who demonstrate positive attitude in learning get to attend a play or musical at a public theatre. This learning journey allows these students to experience a professional production and opens their eyes to the world of creative language use. In some instances, they even get to participate in the performance with the actors on stage!

Learning Journey to a play, Mr Popper’s Penguins (audience participation)