MES-English's Speaking First Curriculum for teaching English or ESL to kids, designed by Mark Cox.

What is the Speaking First Curriculum?

There is no course book. The Speaking First curriculum is a curriculum designed to focus on speaking and fluency while building phonemic awareness and preparing students for study in a course book. The principle behind the curriculum is to get students to a level of understanding and high competence in the target language before they are introduced to it in a written form and before they receive grammar explanation. In that way, the students can already use the language but are just trying to understand the mechanics behind the language when they receive grammar instruction.

Using flashcards or content that is tied to different target language the students can build communicative competence and vocabulary. The target language is based around what students need to communicate and what they want to say.

The outline is available here:

What are the advantages to this?

- structure and writing time is not needed. You can focus on meaning and speaking. Via different games and speaking activities, you can practice the language 4-5 times faster than writing exercises.

- later when students enter a course book, students will be focused on structure as they already understand the meaning. So, you will be fine tuning via grammar instruction, instead of teaching, explaining and fine tuning the new forms at the same time.

What are phases?

The curriculum is set up to cycle through the content in three phases. Phase 1 goes through the content and it focuses on vocabulary and simple language structures. Phase 2 goes back to the beginning, repeating the same content, and then we use the words we know to practice more difficult structures or use the language we already know more. Phase 3 will do the same, cycling back to the Unit 1 content and students will work with even more complicated sentence structures and explain ideas and concepts more effectively.

Why do that? - Well, I find it easier for students to absorb new language structures that way. If they are learning new words and new structures at the same time, it's difficult to find the problem as a teacher. Do they not understand how to use the structures or do they not understand the vocabulary. So, by eliminating the vocabulary from the equation you can more effectively teach and hopefully, the students learn and internalize the structures easier.

What is 'running content'?

The Running Content is composed of content or target language that spans several units. The running content may be its own separate curriculum, like phonics, or it may just be something that will need a lot of practice or long introductions, like introduction of different tenses. It runs along side the normal content each as a separate part of one class.

As time progresses and the curriculum progresses, 'running content' also takes on a bit of a review section role at times, but the main idea is to allow certain topics to develop and be mastered over a larger span of time. Instead of trying to get it all down and move on, you move on and still work on getting it all down as well as we can. While it looks like review, it's really running content, content we haven't finished. That idea might not be something new, but "running content" is the name I have given to these language structures and teaching method.

Can you use worksheets right away?

Of course. The Speaking First Curriculum is designed for all speaking and no course book or worksheets, but you can adapt the curriculum as needed for your classes. There are links to supporting materials in each section where there are some worksheets ready to print and worksheet makers you can use to create materials specific for your group.

What is the timeline for this curriculum?

The curriculum continues for years, but the time it takes is dependant on the class. Younger classes will take more time on each topic and older students will be able to advance through the curriculum faster. I spend 2 to 3 lessons on each content topic in the beginning. As the curriculum progresses and as we spend more time reviewing, I will spend 3-4 lessons on the later topics.

You can listen to this concept discussed on ESL Teacher You can also post any questions or comments for me (Mark Cox) on the MES Forums.

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