DEFINING THE NATIVE SPEAKER STUDENT
Approved Booklist for Native Speakers (posted April 2021)
The native speaker student is defined as a mother-tongue (first language) speaker of English (first generation Aliyah from English-speaking countries) or as someone possessing near-native proficiency as a result of:
- growing up in a bilingual home environment
- having studied abroad for at least two consecutive years in a school where English was the language of instruction.
DEFINING THE NATIVE SPEAKER CLASS
The distinguishing feature of the native speaker class is utilization of teaching modes, methods and materials based on the teaching of English as a first language (as opposed to the EFL approach in the regular English classroom). All class interaction, oral and written – teacher-student and student-student – is totally in English.
Native speaker classes vary in size, from small groups up through full classes. Heterogeneity of students’ skill levels is the rule rather than the exception. Therefore, although usually structured by grade level, it is possible to combine two consecutive grade levels in cases of insufficient numbers of native speaker students in any one grade level.
Because of the basic differences in approach between teaching English to native speakers and to other students, and considering the substantial gap between the two groups’ skills levels, the native speaker students should, whenever possible, study separately. Optimally, the native speaker class completely replaces the regular English class; lessons are held simultaneously for the identical number of hours.
However, administrative and budget constraints often impinge upon the feasibility of a complete replacement program. The native speaker class either gets one less class hour per week than the regular class, or some sort of combination is reached whereby native speaker students have some of their hours separately and some in the regular class. The latter arrangement requires close cooperation and planning between the native speaker and regular English teacher so as to be workable and ensure that the native speaker students are actively involved in learning activities, whether individual, pair or group work. By no means should the regular English lesson be considered “free time” for native speaker students.
Note: combining the two groups can create didactic difficulties as well as discipline problems: students not challenged intellectually may become bored and disruptive and may disfunctionalize the class teaching environment.
ADMINISTRATIVE FRAMEWORK OF NATIVE SPEAKER CLASSES
Schools are autonomous in distributing teaching hours. Unfortunately, teaching hours are far from unlimited (and getting tighter), and principals assign hours to different subjects according to their perception of school needs and priorities. Especially when there are few native speaker students, this may result in a lack of hours for a native speaker program.
The alternative framework in elementary and junior high schools for budgeting native speaker programs is Talan (Tochnit Limudim Nosefet). In much the same fashion that enrichment programs in the arts and sciences are held after school hours (contingent upon parental consent and budgeting, and approval of program by school principal, inspector and Ministry district head), native speaker classes can be organized during school hours and scheduled to correspond with the regular English classes.
In senior high schools, similar arrangements may be reached with the educational network (ORT, AMAL, AMIT) or the municipality in charge of the particular school.
Criteria for teachers
Teachers of native speaker classes should possess the following qualifications:
- certification or license to teach English in Israel at the relevant grade level
- being a native speaker of English themselves.
Whereas the need for English-language teaching certification is self-explanatory, it is no less imperative that the teacher of native speaker classes with certification from abroad be completely familiar with the methodologies – both general education and subject matter methodologies – upon which the teaching of English in the Israeli classroom is based. Certain elements of the regular program must be taken into consideration, when preparing students for the Bagrut, for example.
Regarding the second qualification, it is most strongly recommended that only native speakers teach in these programs. Experience has shown that lack of total proficiency, both oral and written, on the part of the teacher inevitably leads to the undermining of his/her authority with both students and parents.
It is strongly recommended that teachers of native speakers avail themselves of the in-service training sessions held by the English Inspectorate regarding native speakers and other relevant issues. In addition, individual counseling of teachers, including classroom observation, is available.
PLACEMENT AND ASSESSMENT
Placement in a native speaker class requires fitting the above description of the native speaker student and possessing sufficiently high levels of skills and motivation to ensure full participation. However, we recommend exercising flexibility as follows:
- a student who has attained near-native language competency should be allowed to test for the class borderline cases should be given a 1-3 month trial period, at the end of which time the native speaker teacher will decide as to continued participation or return to the regular English class. Such a trial period is especially critical for non-reading early elementary students, as well as for other entry-level grades that integrate students with differing backgrounds in English instruction. Mid-year arrivals can be similarly assessed.
- It is imperative that parents be notified in writing of the trial period, so as to avoid later unpleasantness. The student must also be made aware of the possibility of return to the regular English class.
Testing for the native speaker class should be done by the native speaker teacher and coordinated with the regular English staff.
The native speaker program of study should reflect the goals and objectives as detailed by the English Inspectorate. The syllabus should be submitted for approval to the English coordinator and/or principal at the beginning of the school year.
It is essential that the syllabi of the native speaker classes be interrelated and offer a systematic and incremental program of English study. In addition, elementary and junior high “feeder schools” should coordinate their programs of study with the continuation junior high and high schools in the area, to facilitate evaluation and placement of entering native speaker pupils, and avoid repetition of courseware.
Reading and writing form the backbone of the native speaker program, beginning at entry level and continuing up through high school. “From reading to writing” and “reading like a writer” are key phrases in the native speaker program of study. Students must be intensively exposed to a wide variety of styles and genres, enabling them to later develop the modeled effects in their own writing.
Writing is viewed as a process, in which the quality of the student’s work is a function of the drafting, revising, conferencing and editing stages which comprise process writing. Attaining the requisite level of proficiency in reading and writing by the student demands daily practice in both.
As extensive reading is an integral part of the native speaker syllabus, parents of native speaker students must take responsibility for ensuring their children have access to suitable reading material, including early children’s books, magazines and young adult literature. (Self-choice by the reader is an important factor, not to be overlooked.)
School libraries should also relate to the needs of native speakers when purchasing books. Parents should also attempt to include writing in English at home as common practice – when leaving a kitchen-table note, for example.
The following division of skills during class time is suggested as a general guide. Skills do, of course, overlap and should reinforce one another.
- reading skills 33% (including SSR – silent sustained reading and intensive reading skills)
- writing skills 33% (including writing workshop)
- language skills 33% (including grammar, vocabulary, spelling and other activities)
Native speakers should be stimulated and enriched by the use of authentic English-language materials, both as courseware and for purposes of intensive and extensive reading. An exception to this rule is a multi-year Israel grammar handbook for Bagrut preparation.
The courseware for any one school year should reflect the above division by skill of class time. One option is a language book plus reader, with writing enrichment materials. A literature-based program of study may include a novel or collection of short stories plus writing textbook, with language enrichment materials. A thematic course of study may include varied sources of material, linked pedagogically by language development courseware.
Students should be encouraged to develop computer literacy and wordprocessing skills as early as possible. Use of a wordprocessor empowers students to apply the writing process with confidence. E-mail and keypals are a proven stimulus to authentic and meaningful written communication (even if “cyberEnglish” is used).
STATUS OF THE NATIVE SPEAKER TEACHER
Irrespective of whatever administrative framework forms the basis of the native speaker class, the native speaker teacher should be recognized as a full member of the pedagogic staff of the school, with corresponding obligations and privileges (scheduled permanent teaching areas and times, mailbox and photocopying privileges, participation in English staff meetings, etc). The English coordinator is a key figure in this dynamic, and should be regarded as vital in ensuring coordination between the native speaker and regular English staff.