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What works well for teaching a reawakening language? A Gamilaraay teacher's perspective

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Title: What works well for teaching a reawakening language? A Gamilaraay teacher's perspective
Authors: Cameron, Tracey
Poetsch, Susan
Issue Date: 02 Mar 2013
Description: Like many other Aboriginal people I want to hear my language spoken in Gamilaraay country (in north-west New South Wales, Australia) and beyond. Following the devastating impact of colonisation, in the mid 1980s Gamilaraay people began to become involved in revitalisation of the language based on archival records and recordings of elders who have since passed away. A dictionary, sketch grammar and some teaching materials have been developed together with linguists.

Today Gamilaraay classes are offered in several schools, TAFE colleges and community groups. Although there is a lot of commitment to language work in the community, there is little knowledge of effective ways to teach Gamilaraay, a small language undergoing revitalisation, with no fluent speakers, being taught by learners such as myself. As a qualified primary school teacher, with nearly thirty years of classroom experience teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) students, I had a strong sense of communicative approaches to second language teaching, and was interested in applying those principles to Gamilaraay. I was conscious of the fact that many Aboriginal people favour orally focused teaching methods because of the oral nature and tradition of our languages, and also that literacy skills are a component of language proficiency development.

In 2011 I designed and conducted a practical, classroom-based, action research project (as part of my Masters in Indigenous Language Education program at the University of Sydney) to compare oracy-focused with literacy-focused teaching strategies. I worked with my class of 24 12-year old beginner learners of Gamilaraay, and the local community. I created classroom materials and resources, prepared a teaching program and sequenced lesson plans which I delivered over a 10-week period. In that time I collected a mixture of quantitative (my own tests of student retention of vocabulary and language structures) and qualitative (student, parent and community comments, feedback and observations) data. Through the project I was able to systematically reflect on my own teaching and consider the strategies which better enabled my students to remember, use and interact in Gamilaraay. In my paper I aim to share my findings with other teachers involved in programs for revitalising languages.
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:3rd International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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