Improving Language Skills in the Mother tongue

Preparation of Instructional Materials

One of the most challenging tasks in developing the Bridge Course was of converting the selected passages into instructional material, as it was very important from the theoretical point of view (see Fig.2). It was absolutely necessary to analyse every single passage under each skill into specific teaching points and relate them to pupil behaviours pertaining to that skill. In other words, it was a sort of content analysis of a passage in terms of first, the language skills and then, the subject matter. For this purpose, the two research assistants working on the project intensively studied some good language instructional materials developed on each skill (A Freshman's Intensive Course in English developed with the help of a British consultant, Mr. Byrne, attached to the R.C.E., Mysore, 1968, the S R A material (U.S.A.), 1957, and some testing materials in English developed at the R.C.E., Mysore, 1968). In addition to the study of the above materials which took about a month, they also collected the last three years' P.U.C. and S.S.L.C. examination papers in language and subject areas. A through screening and analysis of these question papers were done to find out the implied objectives and expectations by the universities and the techniques of evaluation followed by them. This particular step was very useful for developing instructional material, as it threw sufficient light on the weaknesses of our examination paper's particularly on the framing of valid and reliable objective-based questions. The analysis and information derived through them were informally discussed with the different language experts. On the basis of discussions, a consensus on the formats of development of questions for language instruction and evaluation was arrived at. While the formats for LC, LNC, and RC were similar to those used in the SRA material, the formats for the GC and EP developed and used by the RCE, Mysore and later modified by the language experts at the Central Institute of Indian Languages, were utilized for the same.

With this framework at hand, the two research assistants started the work of preparing instructional material for the Bridge Course. The procedure was as follows: First, the research assistant with education background critically examined the passage and analysed it with reference to a particular skill. The analysis included the division of a passage into cohesive or meaningful sub-units, instructions for teaching them and developmental and evaluate questions on them. Then the passage LNC, or RC was given to the research assistant with language background for further linguistic analysis, e.g., grammar, context, syntax, etc. The questions thus framed were of different types (see illustrations in the Bridge Course). The instructional and evaluative materials of 4 to 5 passages were again discussed with two education and language experts independently and on the basis of their constructive suggestions, a systematic guideline for developing further materials for instruction and evaluation was drawn up. Although the procedure was more or less the same for all passages, a few deviations had to be made to suit the needs of various skills. Thus, all the passages concerning LC, LNC, and RC were thoroughly analysed and converted into instruction and evaluation materials. The main body of the course consisted of a large number of questions. They were scrutinized again and the ones found defective were either modified or replaced by new ones. Keeping the time factor in mind, an optimum number of questions for each passage was selected for the final version. (See the Bridge Course for complete details pertaining to all the skills). The second step was to sort out these instructional materials into two inter-related books, one for the use of teachers and the other for the use of students.

The Teachers' Manual : It consisted of materials pertaining to all the five skills included in the course. While arranging the teachers' manual needed detailed and definite instructions for operations for teaching passages were developed in the preliminary analysis, the need for modifying these instructions and arranging them in order separately for both the teacher and the taught was felt. This point pertains to the Process part of the schema discussed earlier. It was necessary to develop the instructional guide for teachers in order to ensure as much uniformity between them as possible. This part of developing the ridge Course was attended to with utmost care and seriousness. A quick examination of the teachers' manual will support this assertion.

The students' Volume : Similarly, different sets of general and specific instructions with reference to each skill and passage were developed for the students' volume also. Having realized that students might be tempted to work on the material and come prepared on the following day, separate evaluation forms for the material contained in the students' volume were developed and used for testing the gains of students. This volume contained instructions related to RC, GC and EP. In this way the preparation of instructional materials and guidelines for the teaching process were developed within a period of six months.

Some more characteristics and criteria for the selection of passages

LC. In selecting the passages for this skill, some consideration was given to the ability of words and sentence patterns to produce audile images and discrimination in the listener. Such cues, it was thought, could help him in answering questions in the tests. The sentences were short, simple and easy to reproduce. They had generally smaller paragraphs in the beginning and increasingly longer ones at the end.

LNC. The passages under this category were slightly more difficult than those in the previous skill. In all other respects they were more complex as the major emphasis was on the explanation and exposition of them by the teacher. The student was required much more than to merely reproduce what he had acquired through listening. As a result, the passage contained more difficult words, more complex sentence structure, and particularly a higher type of content which required the skill of identifying the central thought and copying down relevant points within a very short span of listening. In addition, as it was quite impossible for him to write down verbatim everything that was spoken and explained, he was forced to put it down in his own words.

RC. The passages selected for this skill were markedly different from those in LC and LNC. Their content and the language used in them were more complex and difficult. The length of passage was also considerably increased. They were narrations full of conceptual and ideational themes. The scope of acquiring higher order knowledge was expanded in this selection. In other words, the passages were quite challenging.

GC. Once again the passages chosen were like those selected for RC, as the students were required to read the passage very quickly and having grasped the gist of it, were expected to manipulate words, sentences and structures in their own language along with giving correct and equivalent language substitutes for the same. Moreover, they were instructed to develop the given theme on their own, producing a similar but new version of the passage studied.

EP. As these passages were essentially aimed at developing proficiency in two languages, the content and the language structure were kept as easy, simple and low as possible. The standard of an average P.U.C. student with respect to English was kept in view. Wherever found necessary, the meanings of English words were given at the end of the passage. The selection was made from the supplementary reading materials prepared by the NCERT and CTE for the benefit of the P.U.C. students studying through the medium of English.


Continuous evaluation was part and parcel of the course. As a matter of fact, it was very difficult to differentiate where instruction stopped and evaluation started. For example, a part of a passage on LC was recited as instruction in the Teachers' manual and immediately, as planned, the questions regarding it were put to the students. Right after that, further recitation of the passage was continued and again on-the-spot evaluation was done. As may be seen from this description, instruction and evaluation being two sides of the same coin, progressed hand in hand.

As previously pointed out, according to the scope of each skill, a variety of questions were framed. After a very careful scrutiny, an optimum number of appropriate and suitable questions were selected for each passage. These questions pertained to both language and content for LNC, RC and GC. As has already been explained, no questions were required to be framed for EP. The distribution of these questions within each skill depended upon the length, difficulty and complexity of the passages.

LC. The questions were very simple. Most of them were designed to elicit one word response. A few questions were of the nature where a complete but short sentence was sought for. Sometimes they required answers of more than one or two sentences. But in general a single word, key-point answer was required. At the end of the passage, one or two recapitulating questions were also put.

LNC. The format of questions was more or less similar to the one adopted for LC. But the questions were aimed at tapping higher order of thinking. Thus, the expected answers were in the form of single words, simple sentences, complex sentences, compound sentences, making up brief summaries on the notes taken and sometimes even offering critical comments. As may be seen, although not aimed or planned, their written expression was also tested by asking them to correct wrong spellings, to derive equivalent words or synonyms to translate and transform what they had learned in their own words.

RC. Keeping the same format and continuing in the same vein, the questions under this skill required students to analyse, evaluate, interpret, infer and give critical comments on the passage studied.

GC. The format of this skill consisted of two parts, first, the reading of the passage and second, the development of another version on the basis of relevant and important points from it for which questions for evaluation were not necessary. This was a sort of open-end essay type of question in which the student's ability to organize and summarize was tested.

Pre-test : A pre-test for determining the initial level of attainment in skills of college entrants was so designed that it could also be used as a post-test later. The procedure followed was the same as described earlier for analysing the other passages. Care was taken to select passages of an average (medium) difficulty for each skill. The interest of students belonging to different disciplines was also kept in mind while selecting these passages. Although the selection was done from different disciplines, they were of general nature and did not seem to favour the students with a certain specialized background. Put differently, while selecting a passage, primary importance was given to its language aspect and only secondary emphasis to its content. The information given in Table 2 gives a clear picture of the number and distribution of passages according to different disciplines from which they were drawn.