MANY teachers nodded their heads in agreement when Anna Cherubin said: “Students should have fun in the classroom. They learn much better when they are having fun.”
This is why the newspaper is an excellent tool for the classroom, said the Star-NiE freelance consultant trainer to a room of 40 Terengganu teachers and Terengganu Hired English Language Personnels.
“The newspaper is a fun learning tool. It has something for everyone. Each student will have his own story or news article to be excited over. They may even talk to their friends about it,” she said at a Newspaper-in-Education (NiE) workshop sponsored by oil and gas giant Petronas.
This was the second teacher workshop sponsored this year to supplement its sponsorship of The Star’s NiE pullout worth RM150,000 for the Transforming English in Terengganu (Trenglish) programme.
The pullouts, which come with a copy of the newspaper each, are written by a team of experienced English language specialists. They are packed with engaging hands-on newspaper activities for the classroom.
Four NiE workshops -- two for teachers and two for students -- were planned to bolster the use of newspapers in class.
The first teacher and student workshops were held at SM Imtiaz Yayasan Terengganu Kuala Terengganu, while the later two workshops were held at SM Imtiaz Yayasan Terengganu Dungun.
Attending the workshop at SM Imtiaz Yayasan Terengganu Dungun was Fathen Suriati Jusoh. The English teacher from SMK Chukai said: “The trainer was right. Students learn and remember better when they are having fun. Newspaper articles give context. Students understand words and idioms better.
“I like this method because the newspaper is authentic. Students also enjoy it because they don’t have to sit still at their places. So whenever they get the newspaper, they’re excited because they know they can move around.
“They also want to do their best to compete with other teams -- it’s just like how we teachers feel when doing activities in this workshop!”
She added that she was glad to attend the workshop as she had gained a lot from it.
“I like doing hands-on activities instead of reading and memorising,” she said.
Teacher Zaini Kussin said that he, too, felt lucky to be there.
“I have always requested to join the NiE course, so this was like a wish come true.”
Teaching at SMK Kuala Jengal, Dungun, his students are predominantly from villages in the interior of Hulu Dungun.
“If you talk to them about ambition, they don’t seem interested. They see no reason to learn English,” he said, adding that he travels 30km every day to get to the school.
“Sometimes, when we have extra classes on Saturdays, half the class does not turn up,” he said, explaining the challenges that he faces.
“Students these days also do not like to do homework. If it is not done in school, the work will not be finished. Perhaps NiE can change this. They are very excited when they get the newspaper because it’s something novel.
“My students have difficulty when it comes to vocabulary, so pictures from the newspaper would help them a lot. They also have low confidence in public speaking. When you ask them to present, they are shy.
“With the newspaper, they would tend to forget about being shy. The activities are more stress-free. They can discuss among themselves and use the newspaper to help them.
“It is also very diffficult for them to express themelves. I think these kinds of activities help them to be more vocal,” he added.
On the same day, 50 students attended the student workshop at SM Imtiaz Yayasan Terengganu Dungun, which was held after the teacher workshop.
Form Two student Anis Sofia Zahari from SMK Chukai said she enjoyed the workshop.
“I think this workshop is very cool. All the activities here make us communicate with each other. We get to know each other and make new friends. I learned new newspaper games that I can play with my classmates when we have free time.
“I don’t usually read the newspaper, but today I learned that the newspaper is actually very fun to use. We can create new things from it. Learning English is fun. It’s an international language so it is important for us to know how to speak in English,” she said.
Nik Arlina Nik Abdul Rahman, Form Two, said that it was a refreshing experience as she had never attended a workshop like this before.
The SM Imtiaz Yayasan Terengganu Dungun student was amazed at the many activities that can be done by just using the newspaper.
“I had lots of fun and I learned new words. I like learning English with the newspaper. The activities are simple but I feel that I learned a lot.”
Muhammad Amirul Zulqarnain Sa’don, Form Two, said: “I learned to work together with new friends and how to be more creative. Apart from that, we learned about current events and English, too.”
The SMK Tengku Intan Zaharah student said that he wants to be proficient in English as he wants to study overseas. “I aspire to be a lecturer,” he said.
Present at the event, Terengganu state education department assistant director Nurul Huda Omar said that the teachers are thankful as they have more materials and resources for English lessons.
“The newspaper is a good supplement to their teaching. News articles are suitable as they concern everyday life. Students can relate to real-life issues to what they study. Teachers can also use the newspaper to inculcate moral values.
“More people are speaking in English in Terengganu these days as there is more exposure. The state government and Petronas are very progressive insitutions and many recognise that English is an important language to learn,” she said.
She also said that NiE activities have more collaborative and teamwork activities compared to the usual lessons in class.
“With NiE, students work more on critical thinking skills. That is why I think it is better to have NiE in the classroom when there is so much room for creativity.”