THE English language was their least favourite subject and The Star newspaper was a resource they had near-zero experience in using.
So when the group of Form Two students were asked to hold copies of The Star and look for nouns, verbs and adjectives in it, they appeared perplexed and fumbled for answers.
But as they grew more confident, a few of the students opened up and became more engaged in the activity.
That marked the students’ first encounter with using the newspaper to learn the English language. It took place at a recent talk held in SMK Seri Indah in Seri Kembangan, Selangor, where The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (NiE) assistant manager Rowena Chua was invited as a speaker.
Titled English in My Heart, the talk was part of the school’s Highly Immersive Programme (HIP) aimed at motivating students to improve their English language.
Ahmad Kamal Isyraf Ahmad Kamaruza was among the students who did not have any prior experience of, or interest in, learning through the newspaper.
He conceded to learning the English language only in the classroom and not beyond his teacher and the textbook.
“I have more interest in reading the newspaper after this, especially the travel section (in StarLifestyle). As a student, I have a limited allowance but from now on, I will read it more often in the school library if I can find a copy of it there,” he said.
“I will also make an effort to speak to my mum in English. She usually speaks English to her workers and I think I can learn from her and improve my speaking skills,” he added.
His friend Muhammad Reza Tanti shared that he had never thought of using the newspaper as a way of learning the English language.
“People around me don’t read English newspapers. I only read the news online occasionally. But I learn English from my teacher, and through movies and YouTube videos,” he said.
Having been introduced to the various sections in The Star at the talk, Muhammad Reza said what attracted him the most was StarSports. A Manchester City fan, he looks forward to reading more sports news in The Star.
Apart from the students, the English language teachers of SMK Seri Indah found inspiration in using the newspaper not only as a reading material, but also as a classroom resource.
“I’ve learned that we as teachers can use the newspaper in teaching grammar, reading comprehension, writing and literature,” said SMK Seri Indah English panel head Marhafiza Mahmud.
She believed that the newspaper would renew the students’ interest as it offers a novel way of learning the English language.
“It is something out of their routine and they can also get away from the exam format for a while. They will find it interesting because the content is fresh, up-to-date, and based on real life and what’s trending,” she added.
Another teacher Jeewa Malar Jaganathan found the talk to be informative as it helped both teachers and students to familiarise themselves with the newspaper and gain tips on using it as a resource.
“Reading the news enables students to improve their vocabulary and write effectively on topics related to current affairs, society, places, the environment, sports and technology, among others,” she said.
“I will use the newspaper in the classroom to help students identify the main points and supporting details in a writing activity,” she added.
Event coordinator Rose Aliza Sutrisno hoped that through the talk, the students and teachers would be motivated to make full use of The Star and its NiE pullout in enhancing their English language learning and teaching.
“Not only does the newspaper offer a lot of information that can be applied to any subject taught in school, but its NiE pullout can also help students realise how exciting learning English can be,” said Rose, a teacher from SMK Seri Serdang who is currently undertaking the National Professional Qualification for Educational Leaders (NPQEL 2.0) course in SMK Seri Indah.
Also present as a speaker at the event was SMK Seri Serdang English panel head Kalpana Jayavalan.
The Star newspaper, together with its NiE educational pullout for primary and secondary school students, is available for school subscriptions at a discounted rate.
Published on Wednesdays, NiE is a 12-page syllabus-based English language resource endorsed by the Education Ministry.
It includes a writing platform for teenagers to contribute short stories, as well as tips and strategies for students taking the Malaysian University English Test (MUET).
To subscribe, call The Star’s Customer Care Unit at 1 300 88 7827 from Monday to Friday (9am–5pm).