Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Strategic Planning for English Panel

We had our second meeting today to do our Strategic Planning for 2012-2014. Each panel  has to collaborate and produce a strategic plan for the next three years. I found something useful from the internet- a sample done by a school. You can download it here. Thanks to SMK Batu 17, Padang Lumat for sharing. Happy strategising!!

The Thinking Teacher

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Back to School Checklist

Everyone's talking about SBPA (the new remuneration scheme) and whether to sign or not to sign the option. Now that it's extended to January 15th, we have plenty of time to consider. Soon teachers will be attending numerous meetings in schools such as the first teachers' meeting on 27th Dec, panel meeting, etc. The new school term in Johor is 4th January and I'm sure there are many things that you need to do before the term starts. It's good to have a checklist of the 'tools' and resources you need before you start teaching. Here's mine:

  • Preparing the scheme-of-work for your classes. I don't believe in having a 'standardised' scheme-of-work simply because my set of students is different from the other class and they learn at different paces too. However I do agree if we have a common writing target for example so that say by May, we can test some already taught genres. We are so used to the idea that everything must be standardised but as the teacher, you know that you can go faster with one class than the other.In other words, there should be a different scheme of work for each class but make sure all essential language components for the particular form are covered.
  • Proficiency test- I administer this from week one to two to get an idea of the level of proficiency my students have. This will help me greatly when deciding on workbooks, materials and exams.
  • Getting to know your students warmer/ice-breaker- you can find many from the internet. For example: Education World
  • Writing Skills Target- depending on which form I'm teaching, I have a file on the kinds of writing assignments given to students for the entire year. I make sure all genres are covered and a copy is pasted in the classes that I teach so students also know what our target for writing is.
  • Record book - mine is a plastic file with loose templates for easy handling and compiling. Remember that a record book can be kept in a mode other than the one provided by the school. Record books can be kept in a mode more in keeping with current technology.  However I don't believe in over-decorating a record book because it is an official document. Some say it's a 'buku cari makan' (!) Some say they get a lot of motivation when they look at a beautifully decorated record book...I still don't think it's appropriate though. Keep the embellishments to the minimum :)
  • Topics list for your exercise books -students paste this in front of their exercise books to keep track of the types of topics covered and whether we are on track as a whole class.
  • Clear files for writing assignments- I'm thinking of using clear files/folder for my student's writing this year. This means that students submit their compositions on A4 test pad paper instead of the usual exercise books. This will be very handy when I've to bring the compositions home for marking. No more heavy 40 exercise books in the car boot!
  • First week activities- I will usually have these ready once I know which classes I'm teaching. Unfortunately, I still do not know my classes so I'll just have these ready just in case...
  • Resource materials- these are master copies of materials I've been using over the years kept in files for easy use. The materials are reading, listening-speaking, reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary, literature, songs and games and past-years papers. 
  • I also go to the bookshops to get the latest reference books and workbooks and then decide which ones I want to use. It's ok if you don't use workbooks but I find them handy for extra language practice. Choose one that's suitable for your students' level. You'll notice that some workbooks are too difficult for your students in terms of language level, topics (especially factual texts).
  • Stationary- manila, mah jong papers, flashcards, notepaper, pens, and pencils, marker pens, masking tapes, stick-on-notes, pilot pen refills etc.   
  • My Magic Box- this is a box I carry to the classroom whenever we have group work that requires scissors, glue, marker pens, clips etc.     
  • YOU! Don't forget that you are the most important resource - many of us are probably still in holiday mood  and we will be dragging our feet to that first meeting :) Well, it's important to set the right frame of mind as the new term begins. Set your goals so you have a sense of direction. Mine is to teach well (the saying goes that 'the moment of truth in the four walls of your classroom'), to be there for my students, to produce classroom innovations, to write new books and to be a positive person.

I've no doubts that many of you have better ideas on how to get started in the new academic term. Why not share them here and we can add them to the list?

Happy New Year!

The Thinking Teacher

Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year!

Have a great Christmas with your families!

The Thinking Teacher

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

National Open Class Lesson Study 2011

Looks like I can't wait for 2012 to start blogging again :) Too long a rest is numbing my brains to be honest. First,  I want to share this national convention on Lesson Study, a Teacher Division Programme under the NKRA initiative to improve teacher quality.
Sunday December 18, 2011

Boost for 289 schools under programme

Dr Azian with (from right) Prof Isoda, Prof Insprasitha and Prof Kuno at the seminar.
THE Education Ministry has asked 289 secondary schools (under Band 6 and 7 of the school ranking system) to adopt the “Lesson Study” programme in an effort to improve teaching practises.

The programme under the Professional Learning Community (PLC) concept, is a new initiative under the Ministry’s New Key Result Area (NKRA), which is 
aimed at improving the education system in the schools.

Band 6 and Band 7 is reserved for the lowest-performing schools in the school ranking system.
Dr Azian Abdullah, director of Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation - Regional Centre for Education in Science and Mathematics (Seameo-Recsam) said the programme initiated by the Teacher Training Division (TTD) was aimed at improving the educators’ teaching methods and brought about a better learning experience among students.
“The programme has been adopted in Japan for over a century and is now being applied by teachers in schools here,” she said when opening the two-day ‘National Open Class Lesson Study 2011’ seminar at the Seameo-Recsam premises in Penang.

The programme involves three stages of implementation where a participating teacher would be selected to prepare the learning tools to teach the students. The teacher would then instruct and coach the students under the close observation of her colleague. Professional Development Sector (PDS) deputy director Sukeman Suradi said four core subjects, English, Mathematics, Science and History were chosen for the programme. PDS is a sector under TTD.

Prof Hiroyuki Kuno from Aichi University of Education in Japan and Prof Maitree Insprasitha from Khon Kaen University in Thailand were invited to deliver talks during the two-day seminar. Also present was Prof Masami Isoda from University of Tsukuba in Japan who is an expert in Lesson Study.

The Thinking Teacher

Saturday, 12 November 2011

See you in 2012!

It has been three years since I started blogging to share best practices and matters on CPD. I hope I've been able to share things of interest with my blog visitors whoever you are. In the three years I've met many of my blog visitors,  Saidatul, Violet and Lailatul from Sabah, Anizah, Jenny, Khalipah, Azimah, Saodah, Fazleen to name but a few. Sometimes they surprised me with " Hello, you're the blogger!", "Hi, I know you!" or " You inspire me..." in meetings and conferences. It has been a wonderful and enriching three years.  I want to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart.

In addition I've received many emails especially from would-be teachers looking for tips on teaching. It has been rewarding indeed to share and to make many new friends. In the the three years, I've only received ONE negative comment from the 1,141 comments. It is delightful to know that there are many positive people out there who just want to interact and learn from each other. My take is, if you want to look at the positive side of things, it will be positive vice versa.

To date, the page views to my blog have surpassed half a million! (579,224 page views) Thanks to one and all. Once a friend asked me whether I was making money out of blogging. I'd be rich by now if that was my aim :) Those adverts are just for fun- gives my blog a little 'hardcore blogger' look! Yes, you can make money from blogging but you must have sponsored adverts. It's too complicated for a simpleton like me.

This is me signing off for 2011. This will be my last post for the year. It's not easy to let go when you've been at it for so long but everybody needs a break now and then. Am so looking forward to spending this hols just reading and frequenting the gym and yes, finishing that elusive book...Hope to see you again in January 2012 with more postings and a fresher outlook.

Happy hols and be good! Thank you for your support and friendship :)

engoasis (12 Nov 2011)

The thinking teacher

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Best Wishes!!!

Best wishes in your SPM to all my former students in
SMK Canossian Convent, Kluang and visitors.
Break a leg!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

PMR English too easy?

Today' discussion menu. Because it affects us in one way of another (as teachers and parents), here it is for you to read. Is it true that the standard of English has fallen? If so, what are our roles in lifting the standards to a respectable level? Read on and tell me what you think?

(credit: The STAR)

Sunday October 30, 2011

PMR English is too easy

STUDENTS across the country sat for the Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) English examination recently, and I have been reading and analysing both components – Paper 1 and Paper 2.
Paper 1, which focuses on reading, consists of 40 questions which every student has to answer in an hour.
The first 10 questions consist of 10 passages of around 200 words each. Challenging words students may encounter include “chaos”, “authentic”, and “bedazzled”.

From questions 11 to 18, students have to read a passage where they are supposed to fill in the missing links in the passage which tests their grasp of grammar. It consists of approximately 180 words.
The next five questions test students’ understanding of idiomatic phrases, and some of the difficult phrases are “pull their weight” and “abide by”.

There is an advertisement consisting of around 120 words which students have to answer from questions 25 to 28. Sophisticated words they encounter are “zenith” and “community.”
Students then have to read a “long” passage of 225 words and answer the questions from 29 to 34. Sophisticated words they might come across are: “complex”, “numerous”, “peers”, “ethnic”, “influence”, “hence”, “maturity”, “discriminate”, “genuine” and “exclusive”.

After that, students have to read the poem The Dead Crow, consisting of roughly 90 words, written by national laureate A. Samad Said. There is one difficult word “dignity” and one interesting phrase “gasping for air” in the poem.

The final passage they have to read is an extract from the short story How Dalat Got Its Name which consists of approximately 150 words and answer from question 38 to question 40. Sophisticated words they may encounter are “carved”, “memorial” and “mourned”.

All in all, students have to read about 1,200 words or six 200-page-long pages.

Then I compared our 2011 PMR English Paper 1 to the 2011 International Competitions and Assessments for Schools (ICAS) English Reading Paper, which tests students’ English proficiency in private and international schools.

It consists of 45 questions in which students have to answer in 45 minutes. It has eight passages in total, ranging from a 53-word passage to a 471-word passage. Students have to read about 2,000 words, the equivalent of ten 200-word-long pages.

More sophisticated words and phrases are encountered, such as “memento”, “shivered”, “eerie”, “efficient”, “reckless”, “ripping yarn”, “mortal combat” and “no-holds-barred style”. There are about 70 challenging words in total.

One question that tests students’ vocabulary in the PMR paper asks students the meaning of the word “develop” and they have to choose from the words “build”, “allow”, “support” and “consider.”
By comparison, a vocabulary question in the ICAS paper asks students the meaning of the word “adversity” and they have to choose from four options: “conquest”, “hardship”, “enemies” and “confusion.”

Dear readers, which English paper do you think will enrich our students’ minds more and prepare them to be competitive in this rapidly borderless world?

I have not even been comparing apple to apple. While the PMR English paper was taken by 15-year-olds, the ICAS English Reading Paper I was sat by Year Four Malaysian pupils and Year Three Singaporean pupils in private and international schools respectively.

How can we expect our local students to compete with students from other countries if the standard of English of our PMR exam is even lower than standard of English required for Year Four pupils in private and international schools?

The Education Ministry should upgrade the level of English taught and tested in Malaysian government schools. At least then the English standard of our Form Three students can be on par with Year Four and Year Three pupils in private and international schools.

Via e-mail 

~the thinking teacher~

Thursday, 27 October 2011

National Convention for Excellent Teachers 2011

Date: 21-24 October 2011
Venue: IAB Jitra, kedah

The MGCM convention just ended. I had to miss the closing ceremony as MAS changed my flight to 9.25 a.m. Overall, congratulations is in order for JNJK officers (En Zulkifli Nordin, Ketua Unit GC, JNJK) and MGCM committee members for a well-organised event. We received a lot of input from big names  but I was slightly disappointed that there were only eight papers for the parallel sessions. I must thank JNJK though for selecting my paper and I'm truly honoured. However, since this was a 'persidangan', I thought more emphasis should have been given to the papers. This will inevitably raise standards amongst GCs. I also expected more academic rigour in the conference as this was a national level event and excellent teachers were involved. Perhaps an ideas market on innovations by excellent teachers could also be inserted in future conferences to encourage creativity and innovation?

My paper was on the use of two web 2.0 tools to improve writing and critical thinking. Despite the technical glitches, I managed to share the digital notebook online. This was a project that involved two classrooms in my former school, SMK Canossian Convent, Kluang. Many teachers gave positive feedback after the presentation and I'd like to thank JNJK for the opportunity.

The talk I enjoyed most was Dr Rusmini Ku Ahmad's, Senior Lecturer IAB Jitra. She touched on innovative people who always ask these questions- WHY? WHY NOT? and WHAT IF? I like the part when she talked about FB (yes, facebook) - a gentle reminder to all of us. She was amazed at how people relate every single thing that they do for e.g. what they ate, where they were going, what they were feeling etc. For FB junkies like me (am a guilty party), this was a timely reminder. Dr Rusmini candidly pointed out, "Too much of anything is not good. Trivial matters train your brain into triviality." Thank you Dr, I will surely remember that! Well-done to the organisers for another milestone in MGCM's chapter!

Thanks to Ismail Yon (YDP MGC Kluang ) for the chocolates. Zana, Mail and I had char kway tiau and nescafe tarik outside till midnight. It was a good break for all of us :)

The input sessions:

  1. Wacana Ilmu : Pn Hjh Normah Hj Ismail, Ketua Sektor Penaziran Kepimpinan Institusi Pendidikan, JNJK, MOE 
          (change and managing change, X-PLUS principles for excellence, excellent teachers must have  
          CAN-DO mentality and committed to life-long learning)
     2.  Ucaptama: Tn Hj Sufaat Tumin, TKPPM, Sektor Pembangunan Profesionalisme Keguruan , MOE
          (protecting instructional time in schools to improve students' outcome and instructional leadeship)

     3.  Opening Ceremony : Dato' Dr Ismail Alias, Timbalan Ketua Pengarah Perkhidmatan Awam 
          (Operasi), JPA

          (the need for value-added element in innovation, value-creation)

     4.   Pleno 1: Dr Rusmini Ku Ahmad, Senior Lecturer, IAB Jitra
          (sustainability, innovation, creativity, developing soft skills in secondary schools based on her
            research with University of Cambridge)

     5.   Pleno 2:  Prof Madya Dr. Idris Mohd Nor, UniMAP
          (challenges for excellent teachers)

     6.   Pleno 3: Prof. Madya Dr. Abu Bakar Mohamad Diah, Ketua Pegawai Eksekutif, Jabatan
           Penyelidikan dan Rancangan Kreatif, Inovasi dan Multimedia, Melaka Planetarium Sdn. Bhd

           (Innovation and examples in society)

     7.   MGCM Resolutions:
    • Kepimpinan bilik darjah merangkumi aspek softskills
    • GC berperanan sebagai konsultan di peringkat PPD dan negeri
    • GC berperanan sebagai kumpulan pemikir untuk membantu KPM merancang dasar   baru dalam kurikulum
    • Mewujudkan gred Dg40 bagi guru bukan siswazah
    • Menempatkan semula GC DG48 di sekolah rendah ke sekolah menengah  

Teaching Standard 6 Pupils?

Date: 20 Oct 2011
Venue: SM Sains Sembrong, Kluang

40 pupils of SK Sri Lalang, Kluang came for a two-day programme in my new school. The pupils were selected from the group that was targeted to get 5A's in the recently concluded UPSR hence they were in SASEM (SM Sains Sembrong) to get a feel of how it's like to study in a residential school. Besides the ice-breaking and team-building activities, they had lessons as it should be conducted in a residential school.  I had a double-period lesson with twenty pupils and Shamsul, my colleague with the other twenty. It was my first experience teaching primary pupils and it was a great one. We did a lot of pronunciation work and a language game. I must say the pupils were very receptive and responsive. Let's hope that many will make it to SASEM when the new term begins in 2012!

Excellent partipation from students

The category game

Ice-breaking in the hall with Mazida dan Rafi (counselors)

Way to go boys and girls!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Teacher Talk (24): Summary-writing

Some time back I posted on  'Shortcut to Summary-writing?'. Thank you for your response Nuha. I hope it will be useful to other visitors.

To: ""
Sent: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 3:42 PM
Subject: Shortcut to summary-writing?

Dear Puan Rahmah,
Referring to your latest post "Shortcut to summary-writing", I would like to share what I knew & what I did to my very weak students. (I was unable to find the comment button for this post :D big grin)  Firstly, allow me to define "my very weak students". They are the ones who possess very poor vocab, don't understand mostly what they read even a simple passage, don't understand what the question wants & ultimately won't be able to answer a question, which in this case - writing a summary. These students fail to identify the 5 main points from the passage.

I received the following tips from a colleague who attended a seminar organised by the PPD of Sepang early this year:
  1. Copy the first 2 sentences of each paragraph starting from the second  paragraph (because the 10 introduction words are taken from the first paragraph).
  2. Copy the sentences in full.
  3. Copy the sentences without any spelling errors.
  4. Copy only 60 words.
  5. If the 60th word is not the last word, ask the students to complete the sentence.
  6. Omit the 10 introductory words.
  7. Use linkers in order to get 3 marks for language.
I taught the above tips only to "my very weak students" for PMR 2011. By using the above tips, students might get (if they are lucky) 2 -3 marks for contents and 3 marks for language. Not bad huh? Nevertheless, I hate this tips because we merely help them to pass the exam but not to improve their proficiency in English.
(I shared the above tips on my blog...yikes!)

Any thoughts? Feel free to share.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Can we go beyond DG?

How do you feel when a friendly handshake and a few introductory sentences with new acquaintances are greeted with this question, "Cikgu DG berapa?" I mean what kind of question is that? We just met for goodness sake...Let me relate something that happened in May this year. I was attending a meeting for about four days up north. This meeting was an important one and we had IPGM lecturers as well. Right after dinner on the day of arrival, I happened to be in a lift with two ladies, both PHD holders. One of the ladies started a conversation and we discovered then that we were all attending the same meeting (small world). All of a sudden, the lift door opened on the fourth floor and hey, incidentally, we were on the same floor too!

As we were stepping out of the lift, one of them popped THE question, "Cikgu Dg berapa?" , to which I responded honestly. "Oooo...", came the reply, with that you-know-what kind of meaning attached :). As we were pacing the hall to our rooms, the lady sarcastically remarked, " Waaaah, kalau naik kapalterbang tu business class cikgu!" My jaws almost dropped but I managed a faint smile. I could sense that she was unhappy about something. I felt like it was a sin being promoted and that we teachers don't deserve  promotion. (The letters to editors about the recent salary increase announced in the latest budget should give you enough clue that envy is the name of the game) And yet we talked about upholding teachers' profession (memartabatkan profesion perguruan)! How can we ever achieve that if we are small-minded?  Nevertheless, I headed straight to my room and so did the two of them. And the lady's room happened to be next to mine ok...enough coincidences for one night I thought. It was only later during the closing speech did I realise the bitterness was due to the lack of recognition on PHD holders by the government or rather the lack of remuneration! One of them was at the rostrum closing the meeting and relating how she could have worked in a foreign university with a bigger pay...The bitter feeling has been there for many years I guessed. 

I understood the bitterness then. Fair enough- I don't blame them for feeling that way but please don't take it on others. Others worked very hard too to be at this level now. Just because we teach in schools does not mean we don't deserve to be on par or even better than those in other institutions. We each have our own path in our respective schemes. Everyone has the chance to upgrade and improve. All it takes is hard work , commitment and performance. On top of that for the nation to remunerate teachers based on their academic qualifications, it has to transform itself into a high-income nation first.

To cut a long story short, on the second day, I discovered that the two ladies were important people in the meeting, one of whom was a key player in decision-making. And to answer the sarcasm on the plane thing- I've never had the opportunity to fly business class since my promotion because  there was either a lack of meetings/courses due to financial constraints or the location did not warrant a flight ticket. I have yet to relish the comfort of a business class seat and I'm not even complaining :)

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

MGCM's latest publication: Inovasi dan Kreativiti Menjana Transformasi Pendidikan, Idea P dan P Guru Cemerlang

I just received a copy of  the latest publication from MGCM. There are 25 articles from a variety of subjects written by excellent teachers nationwide. My article (translated from English) entitled "If You Don't Use it, You Lose It!: Mengintegrasikan Teknologi Web 2.0 bagi Penambahbaikan Kemahiran Menulis dan Berfikir Secara Kritis is one of the articles published. It sure feels great to have your article published in a book. Publishing is the ultimate satisfaction for me. We're only paid an honorarium of RM100 but the feeling of having your ideas shared and published is incomparable. Alhamdulillah...

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Shortcut to summary-writing?

Something is bothering me. I hope anyone who has an inkling of this could share it with me. Had a conversation with a teacher colleague to discuss summary-writing just recently. I was informed that if you teach your weak to very weak students to lift the first three lines of each of the paragraphs in the PMR summary, the students will end up with minimum three content points! My colleague even said that there was a research on this. This is breaking news indeed for me and my first reaction to this was- "Really? How come I didn't know this." My second reaction was, "What are teachers up to now?" Sorry, but something churns in my stomach when I think about this...

Teacher Talk (23): Wherefore art thou technology?

Subject: Nice to meet your acquaintance :)
From: nuha
Date: Saturday, October 15, 2011 9:06 AM

Salam Puan Rahmah. 

First of all, I wud like to thank you for dropping by my blog some time ago which eventually brought me to your fabulous informative blog. FYI, I visit your blog almost everyday lately & I learn a vast of new terms such as lesson study, action research & stuff I've yet to explore. It takes time to catch up on everything but it feels great to discover new knowledge in the TnL of English.

I read your post "Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers- Get there!" with great enthusiasm. I couldn't agree more with you - teachers MUST  keep up with technology! I love technology as it helps me a lot in my teaching. I don't how I'll make do without it! I would like to share my little experience with using technology in my lessons. I still use the old dinasour - PowerPoint ;) Instead of just typing text, teachers can do a lot of things with powerpoint like adding videos, pictures & sounds (teaching poem for example)! I downloaded a lot of videos from youtube as well. Let's say, the topic is about teacher's day celebration, road accident or flood. So, I'll show the related videos to ss as set induction. From there, I get ss to talk abt the incident, ask abt their feelings & personal experience. Sometimes, I use songs or movie snippets to do revision on grammar. Like you, I share the teaching materials that I developed on my blog & FB.

Technology can do wonders to the TnL of English but many educators out there don't want to take advantage of it. It's sad when some teachers even refuse (maybe they don't know how) to utilize them & remain loyal to markers n white board (the modern chalk n talk). Some even say that they are too old to befriend technology (they'll be ashamed if they know you). 

Anyway, thank you for setting up this blog Puan. You inspires me & I believe other ESL teachers too. I want to follow your footsteps - to become a thinking teacher & teach with love.  


ps: actually i wanted to send a comment in one of your posts but i figured that this comment is too long 2b a comment? that's why i write an email 2u. i dont mind you publishing my name if you wish to put it in teacher talk. 

My reply

wassallam nuha,
thanks for your email. what a way to start off my day (with two papers not ready for presentation!!) i need help seriously. a refreshing email indeed! on top of that my room is so cluttered beyond imagination- nope i haven't had the mood to clear the files, boxes, bags on the floor...been very lazy lately :) well, am glad you find my blog useful and so is yours ok. you have a great blog. i was a reluctant teacher when it comes to technology but no more. incidentally i shall be sharing my online class project in the upcoming National Convention for Excellent Teachers in Kedah. i'm happy that my blog has connected me with so many teachers and would-be teachers, young and old. if i have inspired you, then i say Alhamdulillah...hope to inspire more :) i wish i had more time to spruce up my blog but this is about the best i can manage at the moment. thanks for visiting and for the permission to publish your email. the 'teacher talk' section has somewhat been very quiet of late, am wondering if if people are shy or i scare people away hahaha. have a nice day nuha! 
p.s. someone's going to be very upset am not using the correct punctuation :)

- the thinking teacher-

Monday, 10 October 2011

Konvensyen Kebangsaan Pendidikan Guru 2011, Teacher Division, MOE

The Teacher Division, MOE is organising it's first conference for educators from 30 Oct - 2nd Nov 2011 in A Famosa Hotel, Melaka. The theme of the conference is Transformasi Keguruan Menjana Profesionalisme Guru. The subthemes are:

  • isu dan cabaran pendidikan guru
  • inovasi dan amalaan latihan terbaik dalam
  • pembangunan profesyen guru permulaan ke arah guru berjiwa pendidik
  • pembangunan keguruan ke arah meningkatkan kualiti guru
  • transformasi kurikulum pendidikan guru
  • keperluan pembangunan guru abad ke 21
  • standard dan kualiti pendidikan guru

I will be sharing my action research in the convention. For more information click the link below:

Konferens Kebangsaan Pendidikan Guru 2011

Passion Shines Through


Dillon encourages teachers to give students an active role in class by introducing competitions and peer-to-peer support groups.
A little extra effort goes a long way, especially when teachers are dealing with students who have different levels of English proficiency. 

KEEPING a lesson lively is hard enough, but in a diverse classroom where some students can speak English fluently and others not at all, how does a teacher ensure none of them are bored or left behind?
For instructional specialist Judith Dillon, establishing a bond of trust is crucial before an English teacher can be effective in a multilevel setting.
“I show the students that I appreciate them in verbal and non-verbal ways,” the 2010 ELS Teacher of the Year said to around 200 participants in a workshop held at Tsun Jin High School, Kuala Lumpur.

“If we’re talking about new students, I learn all their names within a week and I find ways to care for them to earn their trust.
“Constant communication is practised and the students receive constant updates on their strengths and weaknesses.”

This, she said, was necessary as teachers could not allow their students to feel betrayed.
She added that if a bond of trust was in place, a student would value a teacher’s opinion on his or her progression – even when the damning verdict of a semester repeat was issued.
Like all bright ideas, the concept is simple but the execution – or rather the build-up – is far from easy.
For starters, teachers need a lot of preparation to communicate effectively to today’s learners and this involves both the intellectual and the emotive spheres.

“No textbook can help you on this and you need to be aware of the little things like cultural sensitivities,” continued Dillon.
“Most student groups are not homogenous these days and teachers need to learn the do’s and don’ts of each culture to win mutual trust and respect.
“This requires teachers to prepare more and it’s hard. However, not doing so would do a disservice to the students.”

At the workshop, a number of teachers admitted to making their lessons simpler to accommodate weaker students, but Dillon stressed that the well-intended action posed different problems as it could bore students who were ahead of their peers.

“Many teach to the majority but this bores good students and confuses weaker ones,” she said.
“We need to ensure no child is left behind and address the needs of each student group.”

To this, a participant ventured that she gave top students – and herself – more work while providing extra support for weaker students.
However, this indicated quite a toil and Dillon passed a timely reminder that even “super teachers” could die of overwork.

Student contribution

Dillon pointed out that teachers could actually depend on their top students to ease their toll by assisting their weaker peers.
“Get the top performers on your side and everyone wins,” she said.
“They will enjoy the satisfaction of being able to help and contribute in a greater way and peer-to-peer support groups will keep the interest up.
“When students have an active role, results will be better for everyone and you’ll be surprised how motivated students could make a world of difference.”

Dillon – also the recipient of the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (Tesol) award in 2008 – went on to elucidate how motivation could be carried out effectively.
Kicking things off with positive reinforcement, Dillon stressed the need to for teachers to constantly drive the agenda for students to know how an activity was done.
This was followed by the setting of clear goals and instructions and the availability of surprise elements to keep interest up among students.
Greater variety in lessons, she said, was an added advantage.

“A teacher who only teaches one thing for 15 minutes often loses half the class,” she said.
“Additionally, competitions could be another good element in classrooms as it inculcates the winning mentality and enthusiasm by encouraging students to try harder.”

Hailing from Oklahoma, the United States, Dillon has more than 30 years of teaching experience under her belt. This includes a fair bit of international exposure including conducting workshops in Vietnam, China and Turkey, as well as a tour of duty as a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia.
Speaking from hindsight, Dillon said that overcrowding, a lack of equipment and the unrealistic evaluation of student progress were common problems in developing countries and the best countermeasure was the availability of informed and prepared teachers.
Apart from encouraging the participants to go the extra mile, Dillon also suggested a number of activities – icebreakers, video clips, field trips, demonstrations and memory games, among others – that teachers could use to keep attention levels up.
Breaking the participants up into groups of threes and fours, Dillon encouraged the teachers to brainstorm on how they could make a topic like acid rain interesting.

“Draw and explain the cycle which leads to acid rain and test the students’ comprehension by asking true or false questions,” she encouraged.
 “Genuinely seek to understand how they feel and the subsequent discussions could see them taking a stance on serious issues.”

Although Dillon’s recommendations meant more work for teachers, many were delighted with the insights they picked up at the workshop.

Workshop participants, Pin Hwa High School teachers Anita Ramalingam and Vidaya Dhalinthi said they were excited to incorporate the activities in their respective classes.

“It was helpful as today’s students expect a lot and we must keep up and learn new ideas,” said Vidaya who has taught for seven years.
“I’ve learnt how to approach lessons effectively by using interesting classroom activities.”
Meanwhile, Anita said she would follow Dillon’s lead and be fair to all her students.
“Some don’t speak English often as they are afraid of making mistakes but I won’t give up regardless of the circumstances,” she said.

Organised by ELS Malaysia, the workshops were provided free to commemorate the organisation’s 20th anniversary and participants will be awarded with a certificate of attendance.
The training programme was approved by the Education Ministry’s Teachers Training Division.
Similar workshops were held in Penang and Johor Baru.

(credit: The Star Education, Oct 9th 2011)

Sunday, 9 October 2011

SPM Excellence Talk

Date:  8th October 2011 (Saturday)
Venue: UTHM, Parit Raja, Batu Pahat

This was my sharing session with forty-nine students who attended the Skor A seminar organised by UTHM Kluang branch in the main campus in Batu Pahat. The students came from STK, SSAJ, SMK Tun Hussein Onn, SM Agama Kluang and others. Held in an impressive hall in the new library, the participants definitely had the opportunity to experience being on campus for two days and see for themselves the facilities. Thanks to En Ezzudean and En Jamal from UTHM Kluang branch for the invitation. Perhaps in future they could carry out the programme earlier. May all the students succeed in their English paper!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Life goes on!

This has been a week of sorts. And I feel really exhausted although it's not the end of the week yet- Friday beckons tomorrow. I contracted gastritis on the way to a meeting in Kl on Monday. The nescafe had to be it. It was thicker than usual and I remember gobbling a bun to go with it that morning before pushing off to KL. Fortunately, TBS had a pharmacy and I grabbed a box of Gaviscon tablets to chew. Thank God that worked, at least while I was cracking my head completing the tasks at the meeting. Then half-way through a disturbing phone call jolted me at 12.30 a.m.- a family matter which needed my presence. This has been going on for the over a year now and we have all been trying our best to turn things around. However, God hasn't granted all my wishes yet maybe so I can be a patient person. He knows that I have been praying day and night for my daughter's recovery. Despite the strain I've been facing all these months, Alhamdulillah I'm still walking and laughing. It's God's challenge to make me a better mother and person. What's life without challenges? It's God's way of strenghtening your iman and subservience...

Now that am finally home- a call from the PPD stunned me this morning. There's been a change of date for the state level Action Research Seminar in Kulai. It's now 22nd October. But hold on. I've booked a flight to Alor Setar for the MGCM National Convention from 21-24th October, the tickets of which are non-changeable and non-refundable. But I so badly want to take part in the seminar because earlier this year I couldn't make it to the innovation discourse due to a clash of events too Spent the whole day calling and persuading some friends to represent me in the seminar. Although it's only a state level event, I feel differently because this has something to do with research and my interest in action research is far greater. It's not about winning - all you get is a certificate and probably a plaque as 'langkah penjimatan' is always in force :)  I've tasted success before (and success is sweet) but what's more important is sharing your ideas with teachers especially when I think I've done a pretty solid and comprehensive research. It's the satisfaction of sharing what you've done in the classroom with your peers and creating that awareness on the importance of teachers dabbling in research that really matter. The PPD officer was sympathetic and advised me to look for a representative. After much searching, I found one! Thanks ever so much Shima! I will be content now to know that my research will be shared in the seminar after all.  

This has been a busy week indeed and a trying one. There's a talk in UTHM on Saturday and then a quick visit to my ailing mum. I'm trying to squeeze in visiting my sister who will be leaving for haj on the 10th October and a staff in JB hospital on Sunday, God-willing. Perhaps I'm being overly ambitious...the neck pain is still stinging despite the physiotherapy session this afternoon- a recurrence of an old problem after the long drive to Lumut and Pangkor. Prior to this, I had thirteen physio sessions to recover. I hope this one won't be as bad.

But hey! Life goes on! And for all that God has bestowed upon me (challenges and rewards), Alhamdulillah...for if I were to count Allah's blessings, never will I be able to quantify them...

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Action Research- WORDWISE: Using pictures and explicit vocabulary teaching strategies to improve 5S1 descriptive compositions

Recently I posted on the Action Research Seminar I took part in. My apologies for having to retract the report as the seminar isn't over yet - the state level seminar is scheduled for 22nd October. In place of it, I've decided to share this one which I did in 2008, all in the spirit of sharing. I'm posting the action research report below and on the left sidebar under 'Action Research'.  I think it will give those of you interested in action research a headstart. I don't claim it to be the best but it should give you some ideas how to go about it. Incidentally, this research won the following awards:

***I'd appreciate that it is used strictly for educational purposes, that credit be given to the researcher and that copyright is observed.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Kluang District Action Research Seminar 2011

Date: 1st Oct 2011 (Saturday)
Venue: PPD Kluang

Tn Hj Shaharudin Basri Ibrahim giving a welcome speech
Cg Maulana and his research...

making my point...

the jury

another presenter

A total of 269 action research were submitted by Kluang teachers from primary and secondary schools and all the reports were evaluated by a committee. Ten best research were selected from primary and secondary schools and all researchers were given the chance to present today. Prior to that, a pre-seminar stage was held to help presenters fine-tune their presentations. Tn Hj A. Manaf Muslimin, District Education Officer was present to give the opening speech. Each teacher-researcher was given 15 mins plus 5 minutes of Q and A from a panel of jury. I was the sixth participant to share my action research entitled " A Piece of Cake: Using multiple contexts to enhance the understanding of idioms in 5S1". 

I seem to have a habit of exceeding the time limit these days, a 'virus' I picked up at ICELT :)) I took an extra one minute or so to complete everything. The Q and A? Well, it was tough I thought- five questions thrown by the jury and yours truly tried her best to answer them all. Overall I like the questions asked throughout the seminar as they were probing and thought-provoking questions...especially that of Pn Zam Zam Abas. 

I was quietly embarrassed to be the most senior in the group of presenters...eight out of ten presenters were young! Maybe I should call it quits after this one but the problem is I love doing research.  It keeps my mind agile and active! My last participation was in 2009 when I won the district and state level and went on to win the Dr Basil Wijsuriya Award at Melta 2009 for the same research. Time will tell if I should stop and train the young ones who are interested in research perhaps. Meanwhile I look forward to the state level seminar come October!

Results for secondary category:

The jury announced that the following were the best presentations (not in any order):
Mr Mohd Maulana Masbor (SMK Dato Abdul Rahman Andak)
Pn Che Hasnah Nuh (SMK Spg Renggam)
Pn Rahmah Hj Sayuti (SM Sains Sembrong) 

***En Zainuddin from PPD Kluang informed me later in the evening that I will represent Kluang for the secondary category to the state level action research seminar in Kulai on the 15th October 2011. Will do my best and make Kluang proud and stick to the T.I.M.E :))

Friday, 30 September 2011

Form 3 Literature Component Texts 2012

The following are the Form 3 literature texts for all the zones. My preference is The Railway Children, an easy-to-follow story with many moral values. Around the World in Eighty Days is also an interesting novel with many delightful adventures the students will surely like. Click here for another excellent link on this novel. How I met Myself is rather abstract I must say. Happy teaching!


Sunday, 25 September 2011

Lesson Study: SM Kahang Timur, Kluang

Date: 24th Sept 2011 (Saturday)
Venue: SM Kahang Timur, Kluang

Today I had a two-hour session with the teachers of SMK Kahang Timur on Lesson Study. The concept was explained and videos were shown to help teachers carry it out well in school. Thanks to En Ibrahim Omar (Principal) and En Abdul Razak Mohd Noah (Senior Assistant) for the invitation. Unfortunately the battery was weak so no photos...

If you don't use it, you lose it!

Date: 23 Sept 2011 (Friday)
Venue: SM Sains Sembrong, Kluang

My two-hour session with 146 Form 1 students from Sekolah Tun Fatimah, Johor Bahru last Friday. I thoroughly enjoyed being with these bright children. The focus was pronunciation and speaking activities. Thanks to Pn Safiah (Senior Assistant, STF) for the invitation.

ICELT 2011

Date: 18-20th Sept 2010
Event: ICELT 2011, Damai Laut Resort, Lumut, Perak

I finally have time to post this. ICELT came to a close last 20th Sept 2011. So many things to say and at am at my wit's end where to start! Maybe the venue first- a pretty resort I must admit but we were swarmed by flies!! Room 6 was the worst case and I simply refused to go to the room again even if the queen was presenting :) I was worried  that the flies might end up in the presenter's mouth!!

During our first lunch, one of the workers told us there would be more seats and food under the tent but to our disappointment, the food wasn't topped up after the long queue. Suziana and Fuziana managed to get some fried rice and we shared it.
My blog visitors, Saidatul, Laila and Olivia from Sabah!

Now the papers- there were hundreds of papers to listen to and as usual you have to choose the right ones...probably too many? There was one that ended at 7.45 p.m all because the 10 minute sessions overran. My paper was on the third day- silly me was poor on time management this time and couldn't finish my presentation, what with the impatient people barging in for Alan Maley's slot right after mine. I mean, who am I compared to Alan Maley :) Well, we actually started 5 mins late. To be honest, I was startled by the 'rudeness' of the participants. I've come across conference participants who come in quietly but this was a different thing altogether.  Even with their coupons, they rushed in. A lecturer apologised for barging in and she commented on typical Malaysians rearing their ugly heads.. sigh..Could it be that many were first time participants who were worried they could not secure a seat? I would have been contented to sit on the carpet...Oh well. I just have to manage my time better in the future. I was trying very hard to keep to the theme of the conference which was'teaching as performing arts' and I believe I was one of the earliest to send a proposal. Well, this time around, being early is not a good thing after all because all sorts of papers were accepted and had nothing to do with the theme.

Almost developed a sore throat and a fever (the seven-hour drive this week and the week before took a toll on me- am not young anymore) but thanks to Arian Minhat (ex-student SMSJ)- he came to the rescue with some lozenges and tablets. Met Rohaida, Saidatul and Anizah Masbah (I think) from MRSM. I enjoyed Anizah's session that morning and Muni said she won the coveted award. Congrats! Fuzi, Suzi, Fazleen and I left at 10 a.m. and reached Air Hitam toll safely seven hours later. Two days later, one of the back tyres went took two days for this to happen :)

Jan Blake, Jazilatur from Indonesia and I
I didn't quite enjoy myself at this conference am afraid- too many flies, too many papers, the mad rush, the long registration queue, insufficient food, no dinner invitation card given during registration but hey, the best part was listening to Jan Blake, story-teller extraordinaire!! She was unmistakably in a class of her own! I also enjoyed listening to Navinder (a friend from JB) and Jenny Ho from Perak. I must also mention Elisabeth from Indonesia, who spoke eloquently on 'Drama Parody'.

Final thoughts- conferences have become so popular among teachers in Malaysia as a means of gathering knowledge and teaching ideas, networking or just making new friends or catching up with old friends. It's a meeting place of sorts- meeting some of my blog visitors, Saidatul, Laila and Olivia from Sabah was one such instance. I salute their willingness to pay out of their own pockets to attend the conference all the way from Sabah! And having Club Sandwiches in the Thai Restaurant with Rohaida was a breather to catch up on lost time :) To Jenny Ho, thanks ever so much for the honey. I love it! Tastes good :)

Friday, 16 September 2011

Professional Learning Community: Lesson Study: NKRA, BPG, MOE

Date: 12-14th September 2011
Venue: Telok Dalam Resort, Pangkor

When I arrived at Teluk Dalam (after a gruelling seven-hour drive), the chalets that greeted me looked familiar. I thought I'd seen them in some movie or programme. Only later did I realise that the resort was filmed in one of the movies by the Senario group. It was a fantastic retreat I have to say- kampung house on stilts welcomed us and the sounds of waves lapping in the open sea. The cafe was strategically placed overlooking the sea and the breeze was refreshing. This was my third trip to Pangkor after more than ten years! Was excited to meet Jugdeep and Hayati particularly, being English teachers! This was the more exciting part- meeting friends. Incidentally, I shall be driving this route again tomorrow for ICELT with Fuziana, Fazleen and Suziana, so it should be quite familiar. Meeting was great and I hope for more success for Lesson Study next year!

The compound

Some Pangkor anchovies to take home.

A gazebo by the sea..