Learning non-language subjects through English:
the role of language and beyond
Gail Forey, Associate Professor Department of English, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University email@example.com
with John Polias, Adjunct Assistant Professor Department of English, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University firstname.lastname@example.org
Sharing Session on the English Enhancement Scheme and Refined English Enhancement Scheme – From Implementation to Sustainability
Kowloon Technical School, Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong
10 May 2014
• Knowledge & language
• Maximal resources suppor9ng maximal learning
As illustrated through data from the following subjects:
– PE – language accompanying ac9on
– Science – ac9on accompanying language – Science – register con9nuum
• The role of the teacher
• The importance of language & pedagogy
Knowledge school academic
Knowledge workplace speciﬁc language
Knowledge & Language
accu mu la te s
accu mu la te s
Simple ‘ commonsense ’
Congruent grammar -‐ simple aMtudinal expression (early childhood)
elaborated as grammar expands -‐ gramma9cal metaphor emerges (late childhood to early adolescence)
Knowledge becomes more ‘ uncommonsense ’
extended as gramma9cal resource are further ampliﬁed -‐
aMtudinal expression expands (mid-‐adolescence)
expressed as non-‐congruent grammar, expressing abstrac9on, generaliza9on, value judgment & opinion
(late adolescence +)
Teaching about English
Teaching through English Teaching English
Teaching through English
Apart from English teachers, most teachers have not been specially trained to teach in English and their performance in the classroom could be characterised as the following:
Teachers are aware of the students’ language needs in English but they
overcompensate – simplifying the content too much or not teaching enough content.
Some imitate the role of the English teacher but some9mes teach English wrongly.
Teachers are not aware of the students’ language needs and teach in the same way as they would teach in Chinese, resul9ng in students not being able to learn eﬀec9vely.
(Li King Chia-‐Chin, 2012)
Teachers teach the subject well because they have a good knowledge of their subject and an eﬀec9ve pedagogy which allow them to overcome any English language
concerns and so students are s9ll able to learn eﬃciently in English.
Zone of Proximal Development
Demands too high:
Demands too low:
Boredom / behaviour problems
Extension of learning
Comfortable / easy li`le learning likely
Mariani, L. (1997) Teacher support and teacher challenge in promoting learner autonomy.
Perspectives: A Journal of TESOL-Italy. 23(2).
Accessed 30 Aug 2013 from http://
Challenge versus Support
Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)
A Teaching and Learning Cycle Typically shared teacher and student responsibility
Maximum teacher responsibility Maximum student
Setting the context
Modelling deconstruction and Ongoing
development of the knowledge
Shifting responsibility from teacher to
9 From: Polias, J & Forey, G.
(forthcoming) Teaching through English: Maximal Input in Meaning Making. In Miller, D. & Bayley, P. (eds).
Permeable Contexts and Hybridity in Discourse. London: Continuum.
Human Breathing Mechanism
SeMng the Context
Modelling & Deconstruc9on
Joint Construc9on SC
Students in small groups, or individually, report their ﬁndings from the ac9vity in Joint Construc9on stage
Teacher explains the aims of the unit, ‘Understanding human breathing
Teacher asks students ques9ons on air pressure &
human respiratory system
Teacher introduces sentence pa`erns to express cause and eﬀect.
Teacher also introduces key concepts involved in breathing.
Teacher asks students to try taking a deep breath together and ask students to:
• describe the movements of rib cage and abdomen
• describe the feeling as the air is breathed in
Teacher introduces the breathing model (bo`le + balloon)
Teacher introduces ac9ons involving the changes of the bo`le and balloon volume.
Students, in pairs, write a temporal explana9on of the human breathing
Teacher refreshes students’
memory of cause & eﬀect pa`erning; and introduces text type “temporal
Teacher explains the structure of a temporal explana9on and its lexico-‐gramma9cal features (tense, verb types, etc.)
Teacher and students construct a one or two sentences
Teacher and students work out the process of breathing mechanism with diagrams with arrows
Teacher asks students about the similari9es shared between the model and human
Students ﬁnish the ac9vity, working out how to decrease the balloon size.
Teacher presents the cause and eﬀect sentence pa`erning and asks students to share their ﬁndings using the pa`erns.
Teacher introduces human breathing mechanism with the technical items.
Students use the terms and the cause & eﬀect sentence pa`ern to explain the analogy of the breathing model.
JC Teacher guides students with ques9ons to help students understand the change of the volume of the chest (how), the change in pressure inside the chest and the size of lungs (what).
With the breathing model, teacher asks the students to relate the changes between the volumes of the bo`le and the balloon, and the air pressure inside and outside of the bo`le.
Release pressure from bo:le sides > bo:le size increases > pressure inside bo:le drops > Pin higher than Pout > air in > balloon size increases
teacher maximizes the access points
systems of neural networks become
Maximizing learning: Eﬀec9ve Learning
Providing Mul9semio9c Resources
Teacher talk Ac9on
Manipula9on of task Experiment
Body language &
gesture, etc Student talk
How language varies along the register con9nuum
(action with some language) Spoken
Impersonal Unfamiliar people
(language as reflection) Written The language for expressing ideas:
what the subject matter is and how abstract or technical it is
The language for interaction: what roles, relationships, status and attitude the
people communicating have
The language for structure of the message and organisation: the mode of
communication—spoken or written What
Shining along the register con9nuum:
moving from concrete to abstract
T2: …You might want to put some arrows in to show us the direction of flow … and you might want to give us the general names as well, in brackets, so amylase is your…
T2: OK, fantastic.
SS: Thanks, Miss.
S3: So, that’s starch. Is that a …? Sub…substrate…
S1: Wait, isn’t…
S3: Yes, substrate…that is starch.
S1: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
S2: Do the arrows go in towards the enzyme?
S3: Is that how you spell it?
S1: Yeah. … So then that and the arrows go … S2: … Wait, do we go like that or…?
S3: Yeah, you go [points with her hand]
S1: (sarcastic) No, you go like up and down and….
S3 …and just go around like that [points again].
S2: (not discernible)
S1: Oh, you just put in like brackets…
Cons: Can you show me?... That’s really good.
T: So, can you identify the enzyme?
Which one’s the enzyme?
T: Lipase. Right. Which one is it in the diagram?
S1: Is it the dark one?
T: Yep, that’s correct. OK, and your substrate?
T: Lipid. Where’s the lipid there?
S1: This one. No, this one.
S3: We don’t have any.
T: Yes you have. There’s your lipid.
What have you actually formed there?
S1: It’s the lock and key so they fit.
S2: (not discernible)
T: What do you call that specifically? … S3: …We call that…
T: …where they’ve locked in together, what do you call that?
S3: …the lipase-lipid complex.
T: Well done. And what’s a general term we use for that?
S3: Substrate complex.
T: No. Enzyme…
S3: Enzyme substrate complex.
T: Excellent. And what have you formed there?
S3: Lipase and fatty acid (complex?) and glycerol.
T: Well done. Has the actual enzyme changed?
T: No. That’s a really important thing about
enzymes, isn’t it? All right, so glue it down and label it.
S2: So that’s right?
S1: This chemical reaction is a catabolic reaction as it broke down um the substrate. And um It’s a biochemical reaction, too.
S2: Our enzyme is cellulase.
S3: Our substrate is cellulose.
S1: So, in the reaction, the cellulase and the cellulose become the cellulase–cellulose complex, which was the enzyme substrate complex.
S4: And the product of our reaction was glucose and the enzyme remained unchanged.
S1: Our … was a catabolic reaction. Our substrate was lactose and our enzyme was lactase.
S2: As you can see, the enzyme substrate complex, which is a lactase-lactose complex, is shown as a binding and
provides the active site and it produces the products. Oh, it breaks down the products of the disaccharide lactose into the lactose and glucose.
T1: Well done, girls.
T2: So what was your enzyme again?
S1: Ours was also a catabolic reaction and biochemical. And our enzyme was maltase and our substrate was maltose.
S2: And the enzyme substrate complex was maltose…maltase-maltose complex.
S3: And the product was glucose and the enzyme remained unchanged.
S1: Oh, I forgot what to say.
T1: That’s all right, … we’ll guide you.
S1: The lipid was the substrate and the lipase was the enzyme.
S2: This was the lipase-lipid complex.
S3: And the products were the lipase fatty acid…no, no, fatty acid and glycerol and the enzyme remained unchanged.
S1: Our enzyme was amylase and our substrate was starch.
S2: Then we got amylase-starch complex.
S3: Then the products, once the enzyme worked, the product was glucose.
S1: And it’s a biochemical reaction.
Everyday, commonsense, personal, familiar, action, language accompanying meaning
Technical, abstract, impersonal, unfamiliar, language constituting meaning Register continuum
Context 3: student groups presenting to class Context 2: teacher
guiding students Context 1: students work
in small groups
Medium of Instruc9on decision-‐making
Which subject to move to EMI?
What professional development (PD) is needed?
Teaching THROUGH English: Language construing knowledge
Maximize teaching & learning: mul9-‐semio9c resources
Recycling: strengthens the brain – ac9vi9es that are pa`erned, repeated and carried out with moderate challenge
Language = knowledge / knowledge = language
Pedagogy – extremely important considera9on
The limits of my language means the limits of my world.
Die Grenzen Meine Sprache Sind Die Grenzen Meiner Welt”, Tractatus Logico-‐Philosophicus (1922)
Language Across the Curriculum Professional Development
• Cope, B & Kalan9zis, M. (Eds) 2000. Mul@literacies: Literacy learning and the design of social futures. London: Routledge.
• Hammond J (2001). Scaﬀolding. Newtown, Australia: PETA
• Halliday M.A.K. 1985 Language, context and text.
• Mariani, L. (1997) Teacher support and teacher challenge in promo9ng learner autonomy.
Perspec@ves: A Journal of TESOL-‐Italy. 23(2). Accessed 30 Aug 2013 from h`p://
• Mar9n, J.R. 2011. Con@nuum Companion to Discourse Analysis. London: Con9nuum.
• Mar9n. J.R. & Rose, D. 2008. Genre Rela@ons. London: Equinox.
• Mar9n. J.R. & Rose, D. 2012. Learning to Write, Reading to Learn: Genre, Knowledge and Pedagogy in the Sydney School.
• Painter, C. Unsworth, L. & Mar9n, J.R. 2013. Reading Visual Narra@ves. London: Equinox.
• Polias J (forthcoming) Appren@cing Students into Science: Doing, Talking, Wri@ng and Drawing Scien@ﬁcally. Stockholm: Hallgren & Fallgren
• Polias, J. & Forey, G. (forthcoming) Teaching through English: Maximal Input in Meaning Making. In Miller, D. (Ed). Permeable Contexts & Hybridity in Discourse. London: Con9nuum.
• Polias, J. h`p://www.lexised.com
• Special edi9on of Language Educa9on – Legi9ma9on Code Theory
• Special edi9on of Second Language Wri9ng – Genre based pedagogy
• Special edi9on of JEAP – SFL in ter9ary educa9on
• Special Edi9on of JALPP – SFL applied
• Aiton, J. (2011) Genres and stages h`p://aitonenglish.com/?p=1034 retrieved 15 Jan 2014
• Dury, H. (1997) h`p://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/perth97/papers/Drury/Drury.html
• Polias, J. (2003) ESL Scopes and Scales h`p://www.lexised.com/wri9ng/
• Rose, D. h`p://www.readingtolearn.com.au