Lessons of love, humour and tragedy

Show of appreciation: The students and Nair (third row, left) pose with NiE pullouts and ‘Thank you’ cards for the sponsors.

Show of appreciation: The students and Nair (third row, left) pose with NiE pullouts and ‘Thank you’ cards for the sponsors.

A classroom comes alive with interesting stories in English with a local flavour.

THE imaginative ability of school-going teenagers really shines when they use The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (NiE) pullout.

English teacher Umavathy Govendan Nair gave a task to her students.

The teens from Form Five Science Two at SMK Sungai Kapar Indah, Selangor, were told to pick six random pictures from the newspaper and then string a story out of them. Good grammar and spelling came first. Story logic, second.

The resulting narratives were hilarious. The English lesson was filled with laughter as the students presented their stories in front of the class. Their tales included a love story between unlikely pairs (James Bond and Mak Cik Minah), a tragic story (of a chef who worked at a chicken rice shop) and a humourous fable (of how someone became king by eating a strange fish).

The content and lesson plan were extracted from the NiE pullout, a 12-page colourful English language resource that comes together with a copy of The Star. The pullout provides creative, ready-made activities to make language learning exciting for students.

While the stories were wildly constructed, the lesson remained a learning process. Nair corrected grammar and spelling as they went along.

The teacher recalled the time when she was first introduced to NiE by the English panel head in her previous school.

Special thanks: Syed Muzakir is happy with the cards from students.
Special thanks: Syed Muzakir is happy with the cards from students.  

“NiE activities incorporate fun with learning. They are useful especially after the examinations when they have a lot of free time.

“If I try to teach them something from the textbook during this period, they don’t pay attention.”

Nair found it refreshing to use a resource quite different from the textbooks, yet in line with the national syllabus.

“The content is up-to-date. When students hold a newspaper, they get a wealth of information. It is a good learning resource,” she said.

“It also adds variation to my lessons. It’s something extra and different. They’re happy and excited when I have NiE activities. Even my mood is lighter when I use NiE!” she shared.

The NiE activities had encouraged timid students to come out of their shell, she added

“Some are quiet, but I can see them trying to open up during these activities. I started teaching this class when they were in Form Four and I have seen them develop and much of that is attributed to the NiE,” she said.

Muhammad Ikqwan Azmi said that using the NiE pullout was fun. “We learn new words each time, and it’s not like using the textbook,” he said.

Learning more words enabled him to write better essays. His classmate Monalissa Bahran said that reading the newspaper had also improved her writing skills.

“There are lots of statistics and information in the newspaper. I can use them to gain more points for my English exam essays.”

“The many graphics in the newspaper also make it very attractive to read,” she added.

“When we go for vacations in other countries. we can talk to locals in English and chances are they will understand you. It’s also easier to ask for directions.”

Her classmate Muhammad Nur Akashah Mazlan, said that his father would speak to him in English sometimes to encourage him to do the same

“My father wants me to be successful in life and to further my studies in a good university – that’s why he wants me to be proficient in English.”

Muhammad Nur Akashah said that reading the newspaper improved his grammar. While he enjoyed reading articles on food and recipes, keeping abreast with current affairs and especially social issues, gave him content to write in essays.

“The newspaper also creates conversation for me and my friends. We talk about our interests, like sports,” he added.

The NiE session was made possible as copies of The Star newspaper together with the NiE pullout were sponsorsed by the SMR Group.

In appreciation of their contribution, the students made “Thank you” cards for the company.

SMR Group corporate office CEO Syed Muzakir Al-Jofre, who received the cards on the company’s behalf, was pleased by the students’ gesture.

“We feel very appreciated. This sponsorship is part of our CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) programme and we are glad that the students are benefitting from it.”

He also added that supporting NiE was in line with SMR Group’s corporate goals.

“The company is involved in English Language programmes for primary students – NiE has a bigger catchment as it involves secondary students as well.”

“It takes a lot of effort in order to improve language proficiency. NiE is something that is good and we hope that schools make use of the pullout for students to gain proficiency in the language,” he added.

Supported by the Education Ministry, the NiE pullout is published every Wednesday and consists of 33 issues per year.

For details on the Star-NiE school sponsorship programme, call The Star’s Customer Care Unit at 1 300 88 7827 from Monday to Friday (9am–5pm).

Education , SMK Sungai Kapar Indah