Lorna Whiston is renowned for its English enrichment curriculum in Singapore.
However, there are parents who do have questions about its curriculum – does it follow MOE guidelines? Will it help students to improve in their school exams? What about the new directions MOE is taking?
The short answer is that it does follow MOE guidelines closely. The team at Lorna Whiston is particularly aware of the directions to be followed for the revised PSLE English language and Foundation English exams from 2015.
While the language skills that will be assessed are the same as at present, the revised paper gives greater scope for providing a personal response in speaking and writing, with emphasis on the integration of listening and reading skills.
In fact, this is precisely what the teachers at Lorna Whiston have been doing for many years now.
Lorna Whiston’s Real Learning Curriculum™ sharpens students’ exam skills, but at the same time, also focusses on building communication skills for life, with a strong emphasis on oral language development and an appreciation of literature.
The purpose of the curriculum is to ensure that Lorna Whiston’s students gain a mastery of the skills they need to be both LifeSmart and ExamSmart.
Learning is more than worksheets
Sometimes parents may not fully understand or appreciate Lorna Whiston’s Real Learning Curriculum™ because they only get to see the written work sent home. They may not be fully aware of the strong focus on communication skills and oral language development that goes on in the classes.
However, the oral language and communication skills are an important take-away from Lorna Whiston’s programmes. In addition, the students’ grammatical knowledge is developed first through language games and activities to demonstrate correct usage, and with this understanding, they are able to apply that knowledge in their writing.
Again, there may be no visible evidence of this in the children’s work files, and yet it is a vitally important aspect of Lorna Whiston’s programmes. In sum, learning is not just about completing worksheet after worksheet: worksheets have their place, but they are just part of the language development process.
Learning to think, thinking to learn
Many language centres concentrate exclusively on cramming for the school exams, aiming solely to drill students and have them rote learn model answers: such centres are not concerned with giving the students a more transferable and holistic language learning experience, or a deeper understanding of English grammar, vocabulary, written and oral skills.
In many such enrichment centres, model compositions are learnt by heart for the child to reproduce, word for word, in their exams. This does not actually help students with their schoolwork, or even prepare them for the next exam.
The child is not required to think, just to memorise, and this kind of stultifying exercise will not help the student in the revised PSLE exam, where questions will be more varied and students will be required to think for themselves.
Lorna Whiston’s Real Learning Curriculum™ – LifeSmart & ExamSmart
The Real Learning Curriculum™ is unique to Lorna Whiston Schools. It is a living curriculum that comprises two separate skills strands: LifeSmart and ExamSmart.
Lorna Whiston’s LifeSmart syllabus has been designed for the formative years, that is for pre-school level up to Primary 4, and for Secondary 1 & 2. This LifeSmart syllabus encourages students to think for themselves.
They are not spoon fed, but are given a rich and varied English language programme. The aim is for the students to enjoy their lessons, feel free to respond and give opinions, communicate well, experience and appreciate literature, and learn the skills to express themselves well in writing.
This is not to say that Lorna Whiston ignores the exams. While understanding that students do need exam skills to succeed, Lorna Whiston also believes in giving students a firm grounding in language skills, and in building their confidence, exposing them to the richness and variety of the English language.
This is what they need to excel in school and beyond.
Lessons are designed to cultivate an instinctive and fluent use of the English language, by promoting critical inquiry and spontaneous interaction between teachers and students. LifeSmart and ExamSmart skills are artfully combined in these formative years.
In Primary 5 and 6, and in Secondary 3 and 4, as the major exams approach, the teachers at Lorna Whiston turn their focus towards being ExamSmart, without losing sight of crucial LifeSmart skills.
The key here is to sharpen the students’ line of reasoning and improve their exam performance through an effective application of the English Language.
The teachers constantly kept abreast of the latest changes in the MOE syllabus. They do not prescribe “correct” answers to students; rather, the teachers use advanced teaching methodologies to probe and prompt students, stimulating their ability to think both critically and creatively.
Lessons are designed to challenge the students’ proficiency in English in a disciplined and engaging environment. The teachers also aim to ease undue exam jitters, by providing reassurance and exam management strategies to students at various learning milestones.
Academic goals are charted out and reviewed every semester. Each student’s progress is measured on an on-going basis, giving particular attention to the weaker areas of every individual student.
Lorna Whiston’s Individualised Real Reading System™
There is also Lorna Whiston’s famous Individualised Real Reading System™, where students of all ages are invited to take graded books home each week to read, and where their reading is closely monitored by the class teacher.
This a progressive system, supervised by the teacher in class and assisted by the parent at home, so that students steadily develop strong reading skills and experience hundreds of books, progressing seamlessly through each stage. This continues right through the programme, introducing the students to a wide range of literature, and inculcating in them an appreciation for literature that will stay with them for life.
In sum, Lorna Whiston’s English Enrichment Curriculum aims to give students a mastery of the English language that they will not find elsewhere.
Has your child attended Lorna Whiston’s English enrichment classes? What has your experience been like? Share with us in our comments section below.