When English is an indispensable part of modern life

Students work through a newspaper activity during a workshop conducted by Shyamala in SMK Taman Tun Aminah, Skudai, Johor.

The newspaper can make for an effective learning resource in an interactive way

WHEN Sarasvathy Theva Kumaran attended a Newspaper-in-Education (NiE) workshop for teachers in March this year, little did she realise that she would be reaping its benefits by leaps and bounds. The session, which was conducted by Star-NiE freelance consultant trainer Lucille Dass in Johor, proved to be quite an eye-opener.

A couple of months later, Sarasvathy took to dabbling with the newspaper by using photographs taken from The Star to construct a story telling session. She deemed the collaborative learning activity a success judging from the fun her Form Four students had during their English language lesson.

So when Sarasvathy was informed by the Star-NiE team that her school, SMK Taman Tun Aminah, Skudai, Johor, had been selected for an NiE student workshop, the teacher eagerly agreed to organise the session. The two-hour workshop, sponsored by MagnumCares, a corporate social responsibility (CSR) unit of the Magnum Group, was conducted for 50 students from Forms One and Two.

“There are so many things we can do with the newspaper. I didn’t realise this until I attended the workshop. There are plenty (of activities) that we can actually do to engage the students and I saw this again – today,” said Sarasvathy. The teacher was reflecting on the session that was facilitated by Star-NiE freelance consultant trainer Shyamala Sankaran.

“I could see that the students were really active and they were enjoying the activities they were doing. Although they were from different forms and mixed in different groups, I could see that all of them were participating. Sometimes you can see passive students in the class but in this session, everyone was working together,” said the teacher with 17 years of teaching experience under her belt.

Classmates Akhileshini Sundarajan and Muhammad Alif Hafiz Zailani were no strangers to using the newspaper in the classroom. The students were familiar with learning the English language through newspaper-type activities.

“We have a lot of fun when we use the papers to learn English in the class. This lesson was fun, too. We stood in front of our friends and talked with confidence while learning new and different meanings of words,” said Akhileshini whose favourite NiE activity was the scavenger hunt.

“If we read from the textbook, we are just going to read and write but having fun like this with the newspaper increases our knowledge, too,” added Akhileshini.

Though speaking in English is a challenge for Muhammad Alif Hafiz, the bubbly lad was easily one of the most enthusiastic students during the session. He was seen helping his team members as they competed to complete and hand in their assignments.

“The activities were fun. But I liked the teamwork more. I like to study this way with friends,” said the 14-year-old. “We learned from each other even though my team members were only in Form One,” said Muhammad Alif Hafiz about cooperative learning.

Muhammad Alif Hafiz also liked the fact that he learned more about current affairs compared to what he would normally find in the textbook. He is a firm believer in doing one’s best – whatever the circumstances.

“Work hard if we want something. Keep trying,” said Muhammad Alif Hafiz. “English is an international language. We must learn to communicate in English.”

Head of language department Laila Kenchana Seri Abadi who has 18 years of teaching experience, is familiar with the NiE programme. In her opinion, many students are prone to using their mother tongue during English lessons but having the students learn in a less stressful environment does prove that “the students can manage learning”.

“They think that learning English is difficult but when they are grouped, we can see that they just need a push,” said Laila. “Most importantly, it is a good sign when students are trying.

“I would like to thank The Star for selecting this school to help our students here and to MagnumCares who sponsored this programme. I hope that there will be more programmes in the future,” continued Laila.

MagnumCares CSR and Public Affairs manager Eliza Chang Meei Lee found the support from the principal, teachers and panel head who were present at the workshop “very encouraging”.

“It was also good to see that the students were put into smaller groups comprising multiple races and ages. The students got to know each other and had better interaction as they worked on the assignments given. Though some were shy in the beginning or were lacking in English proficiency, they showed interest in learning and strove to learn from their teammates while working on the assignments.”

MagnumCares champions communities through value creation initiatives that are impactful and sustainable. So it was “heartening to see the better ones make the effort to help the weaker teammates to complete the assignments,” said Chang.

“Learning English can be fun. Through interactive games and assignments, the students can be motivated to learn more about the English language,” added Chang.

This is exactly what teacher Sarasvathy and her colleague, Jerusha Yap, have planned. As both teachers attended the NiE teacher workshops earlier and are now familiar with the programme, they will share what they have learned through the Professional Learning Community (PLC) with their colleagues.

“I’m going to try these activities with the other teachers in my school as they were very excited to learn that I had gone for the NiE teacher and student workshops. We have our Professional Learning Community meeting every week. Jerusha and I are going to carry these activities out.

“Besides that, the panel head and I are already planning to do NiE activities with the Form Three classes after the PT3 exams,” said Sarasvathy.


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