Wednesday, 28 May 2014

WadahSiswa No.13/2013

Just received this in the mail today! A nice surprise.

Those who can Do Those who can do more TEACH

Monday, 19 May 2014

Are English teachers dull and uninspiring?

"Most of the English teachers I know are dull and uninspiring." (Dr Willy Renandya, NIE, Singapore) Food for thought for all us. Thanks Bapak Willy for allowing me to share your presentation slides below:

 Becoming an inspiring teacher (pdf)

 Those who can Do Those who can do more TEACH

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Best Practices: Teaching Regular and Irregular Verbs

I was observed by my principal in 4 Abu Hanifah two weeks ago and he was very generous with his evaluation (95%). I believe that the right kind of materials are important but more important is your delivery. It would be interesting to see how Teacher A and B deliver the lesson given the same materials and teaching conditions. Will there be differences in results? Which one will be more effective than the other in delivering the content? What distinguishes teacher A from B?

A research by Stronge, J.H, revealed that the most important quality a teacher should possess is verbal ability. The other qualities of a good teacher are listed below. The ones in red are the most important qualities that a teacher should posses. It's interesting to note that 'pedagogical skills' is not the top quality.

Stronge, J.H. (2007) 2nd edition


1.Verbal ability
2.Educational Coursework: pedagogical skills
3.Certification in the field area
4.Content knowledge
5.Teaching experience
6.Teachers of At-Risk & High Ability Students
7.Caring  (listening, understanding/knowing students)
8.Fairness & Respect
9.Social interaction with students
10.Promoting enthusiasm and motivating learning
11.Attitude towards teaching profession
12.Reflective Practice

"Verbal ability refers to a person's facility at putting ideas
 into words, both oral and written. This facility involves possessing not only a strong working vocabulary but also the 
ability to choose the right words to convey nuances of meaning to
 a chosen audience. Verbal ability also includes the ability 
to organize words in coherent ways." 


To me verbal ability simply means clarity of delivery and excellent communication skills- how a teacher, supported with good materials, deliver the content of the lesson effectively by taking into account students' learning styles and needs. Good verbal skills have a positive impact on student achievement.

All that said, here are the materials I used with 4 Abu Hanifah:

1. Mingle: a two-minute activity where students mingle and talk about their previous day activities
2. Song lyrics: Set fire to the rain (Adele)
2. Information Gap Activity: Crazy dictation
3. Tasks: Regular- Irregular Verbs

Happy teaching!


Those who can Do Those who can do more TEACH

Friday, 16 May 2014

Happy Teacher's day!

I feel like it's my birthday today with all those watsapp, fb and sms messages.
Thank you! Jazakallah hu khair. To all teachers out there, you are beautiful! 

 Keep up the good work!
Keep the passion burning!
 Selamat Hari Guru!


Those who can Do Those who can do more TEACH

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Another phase?

Going through another phase again? No!! Yes!! Feeling bored with routine and trying to break that routine. Say what? Another project? New Deal? Integrity? Sports Day? Meeting (again?) Well sock them all! This hols am going somewhere nice by the beach :) And I'm going to read, read and read the many books I've bought...I have Terengganu and Sarawak in mind- palm trees, white beaches and the sound of water lapping against the shore. Bliss.

Little me had a discussion with the higher ups about some pressing matters just the other day. Truth be told, I'm feeling a little demotivated at the workplace. I'd like to play a bigger role but somehow some people think I don't have to be given certain responsibilities. It's not me to ask for privileges. Some have this idea that I'm 'overqualified' to be in school. Once this officer told me that I shouldn't be in school but in the PPD or the JPN. "Saya sangat hormatkan hajah"...whatever that means. What's the whole point of the GC scheme? Wasn't it to alleviate the status of teachers? (memartabatkan profesion perguruan) Little did I realise reaching this level would mean that I was 'overqualified' to be sent for courses, attend meetings etc. Regret? No. Pissed off rather.

Alhamdulillah for giving me that love for teaching without which I'd have whittled much earlier. It was with this intention (niat) that I applied for the GC scheme and this same intention has kept me going for 26 years. I truly believe that if your intention is wrong something will backfire.

The reward in teaching is seeing your students succeed.

But some things have been a tad ridiculous. To have come this far and to still be 'begging' about my timetable and a bit of space is an insult. I need a little respect. O.K respect has to be earned you say...but how about just giving it? 26 years into the teaching profession and having reached the max, I still have to ask for your respect? Makes no sense at all. It's not about throwing my weight around silly. It's about a little acknowledgement. Everyone needs a little acknowledgement time and again. A little pat on the shoulder.

Farahin and Faqih came a visiting today!

Then for some time I've had to deal with someone who thinks I would like be an SISC + but did not get it. Haih...if I wanted to be a coach so badly I would have gone all the way to the PPD and JPN. I just have to offer myself and the rest will be taken care off. I believe I have what it takes to be a coach but it's not me to jump into a profession just because I am tired of meetings, marking, sports events,  etc. etc. (the stuff schools are made of). Again it boils down to your intention ('niat') and if the intention is virtuous, you'll be richly rewarded now and hereafter.

Perhaps I'm going through a phase because I'm not young anymore. Granted there are certain activities that are unsuitable for me and the young ones would definitely do a better job at. Perhaps I've been through it all and some people think I shouldn't be doing the same thing. Perhaps they think I should take a back seat now that there are many young ones. Perhaps they just want a fresh face and not this old woman again. Perhaps they just want me to enjoy my salary! Aha! Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps! (Doris Day)

Those who can Do Those who can do more TEACH

Thursday, 1 May 2014

What's with exam techniques talks?

I have no quarrel with exam techniques. As a young teacher I conducted many be honest, they were a training ground for me. As an excellent teacher, I sharpened my skills and extended my repertoire by doing those talks. It was one of those "must do" things in school.  However, as I grew in my career, there are some questions we need to ask ourselves about our common practices in school. Now, whenever I receive an invitation (I don't do many) my first question is always "How many students have you got?"

150, 200 are the usual numbers.

If I have the choice I prefer small groups as it is more effective. School counselors can set a target group instead of having a one size fits all approach. After all counselors are trained in this area. But more often that not, all students, excellent and poor are cramped in one session. Once, I gave a talk in a packed hall with 350 students and half of them were not listening. They were the weaker students in the end classes and the teacher on duty was reading a newspaper at the back of the hall. I struggled for two hours with 350 students and that taught me a lot of things. I was 'smarter' in the years to come :)

On another occasion ( more than fifteen years ago) , a school invited me to a quaint resort to talk to about seventy top students.  The quaint resort did not help in any way because there was no microphone! I was expected to talk to seventy hyperactive students who couldn't keep their mouths shut. They were speaking in their mother tongue all throughout the talk and they were supposed to be the top students in the school! Phew! A learning journey for a teacher definitely.

What do you deal with in your talk?
  • how to score?
  • how to answer the novel question? the comprehension questions?
Some speakers 'teach' adjectives, connectors for example instead of giving exam tips. The materials they use are teaching materials you would use in a grammar lesson for example. I always thought exam techniques mean sensitizing students to reading the question, answering as required by the mark scheme...well, if anyone has any other thoughts please do share.

Some questions I want to leave you with:
  • How serious are schools about exam techniques talks?
  • What are the objectives? Is it just another programme in the counselor's calendar?
  • Who are their target students? Can you break them into groups based on their ability?
  • Does size matter?

Perhaps workshops to improve language skills are more effective than exam techniques?

Those who can Do Those who can do more TEACH

Teacher Talk (32) : Feeling demotivated...

Calling teachers out there! What advice would you give to the following teacher?

To Me

Apr 29 at 10:04 PM

Salam Pn Rahmah,

I am a newly-posted teacher in an XXX in Kelantan. I feel so lost not knowing how to plan my lessons.I don't mean to underestimate or degrade my students but they all have very very low proficiency in English.I have lowered my expectation, methods and content of teaching but they still can't follow. They don't even know simple words like 'know', 'we', 'clothes' thus making it hard for them to construct sentences.  And these are form 3 and 4 students. In class, they refuse to speak. I tried asking them to just use BM but they still refuse to do so. 
The teachers here told me these students find it hard to pass their Bahasa Melayu, what more English. I'm starting to worry if I can't continue doing this anymore. I really need some motivation now to keep going and believing in myself again. Can you give me some tips, advices, methods or techniques that i can use to teach very weak students like this and helping them to score in exam?

Thanks in advance,

My Response:

Today at 3:51 PM
Wassallam XXX,Sorry for this late reply. I understand your predicament. Obviously you are teaching in a very challenging situation. You have done the right thing by lowering your expectations or else you would be demotivated. If your ss do not understand or know common words that you mentioned, then you are dealing with very weak students. I simply cannot understand if your school has high expectations on them performing in the SPM then.

I would do the following:

1. Forget about public exams (I'm being realistic if what you tell me is the real situation in your class) but instead get them to like English first. I mean is there a point in shoving exam materials down their throat when you know they can't handle them? Get them to like the subject through games, vocabulary activities etc.

2. Do sentence and paragraph level activities because writing a whole essay is too daunting - guided ALWAYS.

3. Provide a lot of support for poor learners e.g.s vocab list, options in answers, phrases
I know you are worried about the SPM but as you said they can't even handle BM which is a first language...Between what the school expects and what they can do is a lot of thinking on your part. As the teacher you know where they are now. Try to bring them to the next level even if that level is not the SPM. You shouldn't blame yourself. The children started learning English since primary school :) There are many stakeholders involved here :) Good luck!

The thinking teacher