PRESENCE in the classroom is that special edge that teacher Mark Lim Ming Hau has. The teacher, who is only in his third year of teaching in SJKC Kuo Kuang, Skudai, Johor Baru, was fully present in the moment as 50 pupils worked on activities using the newspaper. The school had yet to be exposed to learning English with the newspaper as this was its first demonstration session. But Lim exuded an air of confidence and was on hand to help his charges with pointers as he walked from group to group.
So it did not come as a surprise when Lim said that using the newspaper as a resource to teach the English language was not something new to him. Lim was exposed to The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) programme while he was undergoing training at the Ipoh Institute of Teacher Education in Perak four years ago.
The two-hour workshop at the school was sponsored by MagnumCares, a corporate social responsibility (CSR) unit of the Magnum Group (Magnum). Under the umbrella of MagnumCares, the programme actively reaches out to the community in various sustainable and charitable programmes.
Lim had not yet taken the first step to initiate using the newspapers in the classroom, but he was impressed by his pupils’ reactions to the activities.
“The pupils are able to identify words they are familiar with but there are also many other clusters of vocabulary they do not recognise. I noticed they actually enjoyed these kinds of activities because they give the pupils extended practice on the vocabulary they are already comfortable with,” said the assistant head of the English panel.
Lim feels encouraged to try the activities after observing the session that was conducted by Star-NiE freelance consultant trainer Shyamala Sankaran.
“This is practical in the classroom once pupils get more exposure. The pupils can be trained towards that goal,” said Lim.
As a teacher, he believes that the materials can be adapted to suit the classroom needs of the pupils.
“I think that the pupils feel more relaxed and in this way their creativity can be heightened. It is fun,” said Lim who plans to start using the newspaper with his Year Three class.
Head of the English panel Lillian Tey Boon Lian is all for using the newspapers in the classroom to add to a broader repertoire of instructional strategies. This, she believes, will serve pupils better in the classroom.
“There is a great impact when we use the newspapers in the classroom. The reality is, most of us are always bound to our boring, lengthy textbooks to teach and set questions. We can incorporate the newspapers into pupils’ learning based on today’s sampling of activities,” said the teacher, who is in her 14th year of service.
Magnum Group CSR and public affairs executive Jennifer Chin, who was present at the workshop, was pleased to see how pupils from different classes warmed up not only to the activities but to each other after a while.
“They took the initiative to form their groups and make friends with pupils from other classes. After getting to know each other, they were no longer shy and passive, and were able to express their views and share ideas in completing the assignments.
“We can see that the pupils are comfortable with their new friends in the learning process. Besides learning the English language, they also learned to adapt themselves through different learning experiences. It is good that the pupils made new friends and learned to socialise and communicate with each other in English,” said Chin.
The foundation was also pleased to learn that several English language teachers and trainee teachers attended the session to observe the workshop. Sharing of positive learning is one of MagnumCares’ core principles.
“MagnumCares hopes that the teachers continue to be the role models by instilling the ‘sharing is caring’ spirit. They are empowered to share the experience with their pupils and colleagues to make the learning of English fun and interesting. By doing so, we strongly believe that the pupils can be motivated to learn and improve their proficiency in the English language,” explained Chin.
“MagnumCares hopes this workshop will generate interest, increase creativity, build strong team spirit, cultivate the reading habit and inspire pupils involved as future leaders of the country,” she said.
Sylvia Cho Xun, Ng Xi Wen and Janice Ong Wen Hui, all aged 11, were thrilled to know that they could learn English using the newspaper. It was a new experience for all three girls as they spoke Chinese at home. The Chinese newspaper, too, they said, was a common household item in their homes. This was the first time that they had actually seen, much less used, an English daily.
Despite being unaccustomed to the language, the Year Five pupils were enthusiastic about sharing what they experienced.
“I didn’t know I could learn English easily from the newspaper,” said Sylvia who likes to read. “It was fun.” So naturally it came as no surprise that her favourite NiE activity was writing a short story.
“I read mostly Chinese storybooks but sometimes, I read an English one,” she said.
Xi Wen said that this was the first time she had seen The Star newspaper and what she liked best were the comic sections in Star2.
“I am going to tell my mother that I learned English from the newspaper today. I will tell her I learned many new words,” she said.
Janice, too, enjoyed her English lesson for the day. She was excited when she found out what was in store for the next two hours.
Janice, who learns English by reading English storybooks, was surprised that there were so many things she could learn from the newspapers.
“It was interesting to use the newspaper because there are so many stories in the newspaper,” she said.
SJKC Kuo Kuang is one of 20 schools receiving sponsored copies of the Step Up and NiE pullouts from MagnumCares under the flagship of the English for Better Opportunities (EBO) project spearheaded by Star Media Group. The Step Up pullouts cater for pupils from Years Four to Six in national and Chinese primary schools. The pullout features Chinese and Bahasa Malaysia translations of difficult English words. It also includes samplings of NiE activities suitable for primary school pupils.
As one of the several corporate companies in Malaysia that are supporting this programme, MagnumCares aims to lend support for these immersion programmes to enhance young learners’ abilities to read, write, speak and understand the English language in authentic settings.