Educators give their feedback on how students fared at lessons where the newspaper was used as a learning tool, after gaining invaluable tips and techniques from trainers at earlier workshops.
FROM February to August, Newspaper-in-Education (NiE) workshops were held at Menara Star for Primary and Secondary school teachers in the Klang Valley.
The workshops by The Star freelance NiE trainer Lucille Dass equipped teachers with techniques of using the newspaper as a language resource in the classroom.
Teachers who attended any one of the NiE workshops were to return to share discoveries, insights and challenges when trying out the newspaper activities in their classes.
The last two sharing sessions on Sept 19 and Oct 13 were complemented with feedback from Institute of Teacher Education, International Languages Campus (IPGKBA), Kuala Lumpur, lecturer Manoharan Nalliah and Dass respectively.
These sharing sessions were a platform where the Klang Valley school teachers exchanged insights and learnt new ideas from each other.
Tan Wei Wei, an English teacher from SJK(C) Chen Moh, Petaling Jaya was pleased to see that all students are involved whenever she conducts an NiE activity, even the ones who are poor in English. “I was also impressed that they were able to complete their tasks.
“The only thing I struggle with is time management – it always seems like there is never enough time!” she said, adding that cleaning up after the activity, was also a challenge as she teaches Year One pupils.
Nurr Azreen Abdul Karim who teaches English at SK La Salle, Petaling Jaya, chose to encourage creative writing skills through her NiE activities.
“Students have negative views about writing. They also have a limited vocabulary. So in my activities, I don’t usually focus on correcting mistakes, but mainly encouraging them to write and to have a more positive view.”
What she found was that the weaker pupils in her class started showing interest in the lesson. “They have been more participative. I also find that they relate better to the newspaper, compared to workbooks or the textbook. This is because the newspaper is an authentic resource with content on the real world. “
“There is peer teaching in the respective groups. The students are sensitive to the people around them and their surroundings, and that I think has inspired them to read even more outside school hours.”
Teacher Jessica Lim Wee Keun from SMK Bukit Rahman Putra, Sungai Buloh, found that NiE activities could be used during any part of the lesson – from a starter to a wrap-up.
“It’s a very good tool. I’ve tried out many activities. I would get students to bring their own sets of newspaper from home – they just need two copies for a group of four or five. And it is better this way as they have a wider selection of pictures to choose from.”
One challenge she had was dividing students into groups, as they would tend to group with friends.
“I preferred mixed ability groupings so that stronger ones can help weaker ones.
“Based on my observation, everyone was involved in the activities – cutting, pasting and writing. NiE encourages group work and activity. It helps students build better relationship with friends.
“It also boosts their creativity as they come up with funny and amusing works,” she added.
Following her sharing, others pitched in their ideas on ways to group students, by drawing lots, making use of their birth dates and colours.
SJK(C) Yuk Chyun, Petaling Jaya, teacher Tabitha Sunder tried NiE with her weakest Year Five class pupils.
Although it took more time than she had previously allocated, the pupils were curious about some articles, and so the whole class read the stories together, she shared.
“The pupils took time to analyse the pictures and their captions.”
During a word search activity to introduce new vocabulary, she noted that the class was more participative.
“The pupils in this class usually do not speak much. I have a special needs pupil who never does much work in class. But she was holding the newspaper and she found three words. To me, it was amazing. I think they would benefit more from using the newspaper as a resource.”
Manoharan too gave suggestions to the teachers.
“Flood the class with language. Put up children’s artwork on classroom walls. When their work is exhibited, they get excited.
“This is a good way to help students expand their vocabulary by exposing them to words – we call this incidental learning.”
He also noted that language learning should be fun.
“The reason Language Arts was incorporated was so that students can have fun with the language. Once in a while, leave the focus on grammar aside or students will not learn to have fun. Too much focus on grammar can stifle the writing process,” he said.
From the teachers’ feedback, Dass noted that students are enjoying the NiE activities conducted by the teachers and encouraged teachers to continue the good work.
“Don’t let it be a one-off activity. You have already aroused their interest and they are looking forward to more.
“Teachers would know best when to use an NiE activity. It can be used as an ice-breaker, filler or a full-fledged lesson. NiE can also be used for camps, society meetings and debates.”
All the sessions were part of the NiE workshops planned until September to mark Star-NiE’s 20th anniversary.
They were held in collaboration with the Selangor State and Kuala Lumpur Federal Territory Education Departments and the IPGKBA.