ALPHABETIZATION IN PRIMARY SCHOOL

Formerly, literacy was understood in a much more limited manner, mostly described as “the ability to read and write by decoding letters”.

Traditional methods considered that children did not have any knowledge, and that this was “imprinted” through the activity of the teacher, who tried to have the children learn the system of writing through exercises of mechanical dexterity. The figurative aspect of the system was also considered, so learning was seen as a process of acquirement realized at perceptive-motor level.

After extensive research (that we will describe below) the concept of literacy is now understood in a more ample way.

It has been claimed that learning the written language, apart from being a perceptive-motor process, also involves conceptual and linguistic aspects.

Based on these contributions, we can redefine literacy as a process through which the subject not only learns to read and write, but does it in a reflexive way.

Therefore, as he reaches the written culture (which includes both fields of reading and writing), the student is able to communicate automatically and interact with his environment; otherwise, he will find himself excluded from it.

Acquiring a level of literacy means respecting the basic right of non-discrimination, which is an innate right that all humans have, and that should be promoted and protected from all cultural perspectives.

Consequently, we can say that literacy is an universal right, a right for everyone, “…without making distinctions or discrimination based on race, color, gender, language, religion, nationality, social background, financial status, place of birth, political views or other criteria.”

Literacy is a prerequisite for human and social progress, which is acquired through the liberalization of knowledge.

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LINGUISTIC CONTRIBUTIONS

The following are detail the progress that the linguistic studies have seen, and their contributions to teaching language.

Pragmatics

This science studies “speech acts” and claims that linguistic signs acquire meaning only when they are used in a particular situation of communication and with a specific purpose.

“…all speech acts need to have a purpose and if the speakers formulate their statements efficiently (because they know the language and because they take into account all the factors of the context in which they speak), chances are grater that they will be understood correctly by the listeners.”

 

Socio-linguistics

This science supports and complements pragmatics. “It focuses on the fact that speech acts are determined by the real conditions of a given social situation in which the speech act is performed. The social relationship between two speakers defines the linguistic variety that needs to be used in each situation.” It is not the same if the speakers “belong to the same social group, or to different groups, if they speak the same language or come from different geographical regions, if they have different social roles – one is the parent and the other is the child, or one is old and the other is young, etc.”

The study is concerned with the way society uses language, as this usage is determined by different factors of contextual, geographical and social nature.

This proves that there is no such thing as a “unique language”, because every speaker, inside their community, can tell that not all people talk in the same way, and each person talks differently depending on the situation.

In order to summarize the information detailed above, we present a table extracted from a text by Fernando Carlos Avendaño.

Varieties Characteristics Types Observations
Functional

 

Contextual

Depending on the situations in which language is used * Codes:

Distinction made especially at lexical level

* Registers:

Differentiated through the selective realizations made at phonological and morphological level

Technical, scientific, formal language

Informal and formal tones, levels and styles of language

Geographical Depending on the geographical distribution of the speakers

 

* Regional languages

* Dialects

* Regional speech

* Idiolects

Pronunciation, rhythm, vocabulary, grammar

Speaker personalization

Social Depending on the social status of the speakers * Informal language

* Slang

Fine, cryptic meaning

 

The conclusion is that people do not only need to be able to speak (that is, to be familiar with an abstract system of phonetic symbols), but they have to be skilled speakers – they need to use the language in an appropriate way.

Finally, it is important to signal a few characteristics that skilled speakers must have: competence, appropriateness, efficacy and clarity of the message.

Linguistic and communicative ability means that the speaker must know the linguistic rules that allow him to produce sentences that are correct from a grammatical point of view, and he must also know how social rules work, in order to convey his message adequately in various situations of communication.

The term “appropriateness” is related to linguistic variety and the ability of the speaker to choose the adequate registry depending on the situation.

Efficacy is attained when the speaker achieves through his message what he had proposed to. Finally, what is produced between two speakers is called a message (whether it is a short dialogue, a letter or a story), also known by the classical term of “utterance”.

What is Socio-linguistics?

This science supports and complements pragmatics. “It focuses on the fact that speech acts are determined by the real conditions of a given social situation in which the speech act is performed. The social relationship between two speakers defines the linguistic variety that needs to be used in each situation.” It is not the same if the speakers “belong to the same social group, or to different groups, if they speak the same language or come from different geographical regions, if they have different social roles – one is the parent and the other is the child, or one is old and the other is young, etc.”

The study is concerned with the way society uses language, as this usage is determined by different factors of contextual, geographical and social nature.

This proves that there is no such thing as a “unique language”, because every speaker, inside their community, can tell that not all people talk in the same way, and each person talks differently depending on the situation.

In order to summarize the information detailed above, we present a table extracted from a text by Fernando Carlos Avendaño.

Varieties Characteristics Types Observations
Functional

 

Contextual

Depending on the situations in which language is used * Codes:

Distinction made especially at lexical level

* Registers:

Differentiated through the selective realizations made at phonological and morphological level

Technical, scientific, formal language

Informal and formal tones, levels and styles of language

Geographical Depending on the geographical distribution of the speakers

 

* Regional languages

* Dialects

* Regional speech

* Idiolects

Pronunciation, rhythm, vocabulary, grammar

Speaker personalization

Social Depending on the social status of the speakers * Informal language

* Slang

Fine, cryptic meaning

 

The conclusion is that people do not only need to be able to speak (that is, to be familiar with an abstract system of phonetic symbols), but they have to be skilled speakers – they need to use the language in an appropriate way.

Finally, it is important to signal a few characteristics that skilled speakers must have: competence, appropriateness, efficacy and clarity of the message.

Linguistic and communicative ability means that the speaker must know the linguistic rules that allow him to produce sentences that are correct from a grammatical point of view, and he must also know how social rules work, in order to convey his message adequately in various situations of communication.

The term “appropriateness” is related to linguistic variety and the ability of the speaker to choose the adequate registry depending on the situation.

Efficacy is attained when the speaker achieves through his message what he had proposed to. Finally, what is produced between two speakers is called a message (whether it is a short dialogue, a letter or a story), also known by the classical term of “utterance”.

Jean Piaget vision on knowledge

Jean Piaget brought an innovative vision in regard to the way knowledge is built, a constructive vision based on interaction.

He starts from the premise that in the learning process the student is surrounded by different objects, and from this interaction he starts building his knowledge. He does this through a process of adaptation – a process through which the student adapts to his environment.

When the object is in opposition, it creates a conflict that leads to a loss of equilibrium of his structures or schemas of previous knowledge; then, the student tries to assimilate or adapt the new knowledge to his previous structures, thus regaining the state of equilibrium.

When the student regains his equilibrium, this is not the same equilibrium he had before, but he has reached a new, higher level. Therefore, the student moves from an inferior level of knowledge, to a superior one. But for real learning to take place, he needs to reach a certain level of development.

It is important to mention that Piaget has formulated a general theory based on the processes of knowledge acquisition, but he did not apply this theory specifically to the processes of acquisition of reading and writing. Emilia Ferreiro did exactly this, starting from the theory of Piaget.

According to Guillermo García, Emilia Ferreiro encountered several problems when trying to apply this theory to the teaching of the written language:

1) Readiness: This is an essential aspect when it comes to learning reading and writing, and it is seen as a cognitive process that implies a series of other neuro-psychological and motor components.

2) The Structuralist line: When trying to apply the principles of the Piagetian psychogenetic theory to the field of the written language, the fact that this theory dealt with a physical-mathematical aspect was partially ignored, and not all the aspects of teaching written language were taken into account.

3) Behaviorism: It claimed that learning can be controlled from the outside; this theory ignores the students’ ability to learn independently.

Ferreiro managed to overcome all these obstacles.

“The psycho-genetic theory assumes that the child has an innate predisposition for learning to read and write; it also considers that the child lives in a literate world so, he builds his own ideas about it and formulates various hypotheses about the writing system.”

Emilia Ferreiro and her research team found that there are different stages in the acquisition of the writing system, and these stages do not correspond to a fixed age, but they vary from child to child.

In conclusion, we can say that this line of research considers that the student is the creator of his own knowledge, through interaction with his own environment.