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Lessons learnt in 2005

The three main topics are:

  • Expanding from Stage 1 to Stage 2
  • Generating community involvement
  • The importance of working with language teachers.

Expanding from Stage 1 to Stage 2

  • Develop a sequential program where the content becomes more complicated from one Stage to the next.
Michele Herbert, Forbes North Public School
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'One thing I want to point out, I'm doing exactly the same sort of thing in my room but I don't have as many body parts as Juley because I've only got Year 1 and 2. So you can see progression already.' Michele Herbert, Forbes North Public School

  • Michele Herbert's Year 1 and 2 class covered the body parts in yellow while Juley Clarke's Year 3 and 4 class moved on to more complex tasks using other coloured tags.
  • The aim was to increase the vocabulary list, complexity of sentence structure and grammatical categories used by students. It was also important to add new cultural content, which sometimes required assistance from linguists, Aboriginal language researchers of language teachers.
  • Each stage requires a different unit of work, which should show the new language content as well as continual revision of previous language content. This creates a 'spiral' effect and helps in planning the sequential nature of the teaching.
  • The language under study should be reinforced in each classroom in which it is being taught. Juley Clarke showed her experience as a classroom teacher by presenting numerous classroom reinforcements. See gallery of photos from classroom
  • Each classroom teacher who is going to help team-teach an Aboriginal language requires professional development. Juley Clarke attended the individual workshop in Forbes in Term 2 and the Sharing Workshop in Term 3 to this end. Juley particularly concentrated on protocols for working with Aboriginal communities, as well as language teaching methodology. Juley also undertook Wiradjuri lessons with Stan Grant Snr and participated in his workshops later in the year.

Generating community involvement

Following initial meetings held with Board of Studies support staff, Forbes North staff and community members, it was suggested that the school develop a collaborative relationship and/or project with a local Aboriginal organisation. To help encourage this the first day of the individual workshop in Term 2 was held at Yoorana Gunya Aboriginal Health Organisation in Forbes. Having the first day of the workshop there was particularly useful for the Yoorana Gunya staff. They had their first lesson in Wiradjuri and learnt about how they could become involved. Subsequently, Yoorana Gunya and Forbes North Public School submitted a joint application for funding to train and employ four young Aboriginal people from the community to teach Wiradjuri in the school. The application was successful. It was based on the very real premise that learning one's language and culture improves one's confidence and sense of self-worth, and hence one's emotional health. By the end of the year the four positions were filled, initial training workshops had been held and lessons (all based on Stage 1) had commenced in the whole of the school.

The importance of working with language teachers

While teaching language(s) shares much with other teaching strategies, especially in Years K-6, there are also unique pedagogical and methodological requirements. So there is much to be learnt from language teachers. While all high schools will have language teachers on staff, primary schools might not have any staff with expertise in this area. As part of the work with Forbes North Public School a language teacher from a nearby town was invited into the team to help develop a Stage 1 teaching and learning unit of work in Wiradjuri. Esther Job from Parkes High School brought with her expertise in such work, particularly in terms of:

  • themes or topics to use in Stage 1
  • the language content that would be required
  • language teaching styles, techniques and methodology
  • how to use the outcomes listed in the Aboriginal Languages K-10 Syllabus as a guide.
Esther Job, Language teacher, Parkes High School
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'Our principal received a phone call from Forbes North, that was when they were pretty much in the initial stages of starting off in the program and they were looking for a language teacher willing to come on board, mainly to help with their programming. So I was approached and asked and I thought "yes that would be something I would be really interested in", and decided to join in as well and went over to a couple of workshops there with Stan Grant and John Rudder and met up with Michele and it all sort of went from there. We worked then on the Stage 1 program because Michele had already started a little bit with her class and was willing to expand the program further. So we got together and wrote the program for Stage 1.'

Esther Job, Language Teacher, Parkes High School, 11/11/05
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