Grade 1 to Grade 8 Armenian language teaching program implements the communicative approach of language teaching. Our overall goal is to develop oral and literacy skills in the Armenian language and to instil the pride of the Armenian heritage in our students. Teachers, students, and parents collaborate to create opportunities for meaningful communication in the Armenian language. At St. Sahag & St. Mesrob we are learning partners.

It is important to provide students with a positive and supportive learning environment where they can develop their learning capacities. The Saturday School creates an atmosphere where children feel that the classroom is an extension of their homes – nurturing, stimulating, and comfortable.

The curriculum objectives include reading, writing, listening, and communicating. However, we are focused on oracy to facilitate oral proficiency as a primary and foundational language skill. Communication should be taught for the ‘real’ world, the every-day language that is meaningful, student-centered and student-appropriate. Students are taught vocabulary that is relevant to their lives and thus inspiring to learn. When the topics discussed in the classroom create real-life situations, students may recognize the purpose of learning Armenian. Reading from textbooks and filling out worksheets should be limited in use.

It is the responsibility of the teacher to develop a growing repertoire of teaching strategies and language learning activities that support different learning styles and stages of language development. Teachers prepare for a diverse class in a differentiated teaching style. Some examples are experiential or action learning, collaborative or peer learning, scaffolded or supported learning, peer learning, interactive or group learning, emergent or open-source learning, and project-based learning.

Experiential learning is achieved through hands-on activities, games, role-playing, out of classroom explorations, art projects, etc.
Collaborative learning promotes group work in the classroom. Students and teachers can collaborate in brainstorming before a group project, in problem solving for group activities such as writing and rehearsing a drama, preparing posters of family trees, a doll making project for the Armenian Culture Day, creating costumes for Vartanants, making posters for April 24.
Interactive learning occurs when students are grouped to work together, to discuss topics, to role-play, to create art, to engage with the material at hand, etc. Lectures are transformed into discussions, students and teachers become partners in the journey of acquisition of knowledge. This method promotes active participation among students, the teaching model is learner-centered rather than teacher-centered encouraging imagination and strengthening students’ critical thinking and problem solving skills.
Scaffolded learning builds on prior knowledge, and presupposes an understanding of the current level of the language proficiency of students. The method is used to incrementally improve students’ ability until they no longer need assistance in learning independently.
Peer learning is assisted and supported learning. The support may come from a peer or a student volunteer. This method is successful when more advanced students are paired with those who are lagging behind. Almost always, students are more open to learning from their peers.
Emergent learning is student-led learning. The teacher’s role is to create the opportunity and the environment for students to become interested in a topic or a project and then to guide and to scaffold students’ learning. Teachers can conduct preference assessments by identifying students’ interests and/or through consultations with students.
Project-based is a teaching method whereby students gain knowledge and develop skills when they actively explore real-world issues. They collaboratively research a complex question, problem, or challenge; they organize their findings; they prepare and deliver presentations. The projects must be meaningful to students, which means that students must be interested in the topic and they must want to learn more about it.

In all situations above, a multi-sensory approach to learning and teaching is encouraged, such as visual learning through arts and crafts, auditory learning through music and storytelling, and kinesthetic (tactile) learning through physical activities. Thematic teaching is also very useful, and can be accomplished in ways such as teaching the history and geography of the Armenian people through art, music, and drama.

Teaching and learning is a partnership. We teach effectively when we partner with colleagues. Similarly, children learn successfully when they partner with peers and mentors. When we work interdependently and when partnerships are established between students, teachers, and parents, the level of learning and retention is much higher. At St. Sahag & St. Mesrob we are learning partners.

Teaching/Learning Expectations:
1. Elementary teachers must plan programs that allow children to achieve social, emotional and academic development. Children’s needs are addressed holistically, so that they are engaged more fully in their learning and in their learning community, and as such, become more successful as students.
2. At St. Sahag & St. Mesrob, we are mindful of the fact that most students’ first language is English, not Armenian. We create language learning classrooms by providing children with a variety of opportunities to communicate with their peers through listening, talking, and practicing language and literacy skills taught during the lesson. The foundation for literacy is oracy, which focuses on talking and listening. Strengthening receptive and expressive language skills –which occurs through listening and talking– is vital to learning and language development.
3. Children bring their unique and diverse capacities and tacit (background) knowledge into the classroom. Therefore, teachers are prepared to accommodate learners with varying stages of language skills and literacy in the same classroom. If some children demonstrate lack of progress or others excel quickly, teachers modify their expectations accordingly. This may mean offering exercises at a basic, intermediate, and advanced levels.

The Ontario Ministry of Education suggests that language teachers consider the following:
– Is the task worthy of students’ time and intellect?
– Is everything I ask students to do relevant, meaningful, and purposeful?
– During learning, do students receive ongoing, descriptive feedback from me and from their peers, and do they have opportunities to apply the feedback?
– Do I give students multiple opportunities to demonstrate their learning?
– Do I give students multiple opportunities to self-assess their learning?
– Is there an appropriate amount of student talk time?
– Do tasks allow students to enter at different points according to their abilities and learning styles?
– Am I presenting authentic tasks and scaffolding learning to promote deep learning?
– Am I refining my practice through continual reflection?

Practical Tips
– Keep the interest level high with learning activities that are of shorter duration.
– Encourage risk taking and teach that mistakes lead to new learning. Unconditional support in a non-judgmental, non discriminatory environment will foster learning.
– Allow students to finish speaking before correcting errors. Avoid interrupting the thinking process of students when they are talking.
– Providing sufficient modeling of oral communication reduces the need for error correction during conversations.
– Use positive reinforcement techniques such as verbal praise (“good Job!” “Excellent!”), social praise (high five, smile, nod), tangible items (stickers, favourite activity, jumping, giggling).
– Positive reinforcement increases desired behaviour and encourages self-esteem, emotional growth, and well being. (Many roots: A practical guide for Ontario Educators)

Effective Teaching: Be Positive; Be Respectful; Be Polite; Be Prepared
– Be enthusiastic. It’s contagious!
– Be friendly and get to know the students, but not too friendly. Often the fine line between teacher, mentor, and buddy is not clear for most students.
– Include “fun” elements and real-world issues in your lessons to help students understand.
– Be flexible in changing lesson plans. Lessons cannot always be defined and delivered as planned.
– Be humble and admit when you’re wrong or don’t know the answer. Almost always students respond to honesty. A ‘good teacher’ is one who never stops learning.
– Be yourself so that students realize that they too can be themselves, and that’s okay.
– Encourage kindness, openness, humbleness, respect, and care.
– Talk about class rules. Together with the students, prepare a list and post in the classroom.