‘A total eye-opener’

Farhad (left) and his group member presenting their work at the student workshop.

“PICK it up, read it out, fold it up...” – as the instructions rang out to the beat of a tambourine, the English language teachers responded in excitement, each carrying out the actions with a sheet of newspaper in hand.

It was a Saturday morning yet the 46 participants who turned up at the workshop were all eyes and ears, ready to take in all they could from The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) freelance consultant trainer Lucille Dass.

Held in SM Imtiaz Yayasan Terengganu Kuala Terengganu, the NiE workshop was organised for the state’s primary and secondary school teachers, as well as the Terengganu Hired English Language Personnel (T-HELP).

It was one of four workshops sponsored by Petronas to support the use of newspapers in the classroom.

The oil and gas giant is also sponsoring RM150,000 worth of NiE pullouts to supplement the Trenglish (Transforming English in Terengganu) programme for the third year.

Introduced in 2015, the Trenglish programme, involving 50 schools in the state, is a collaborative effort between Petronas, the state education department and Yayasan Terengganu to improve English language proficiency among students.

Having carried out all the actions, the teachers had an “aha!” moment when it was revealed that the kinaesthetic activity could be used to teach grammar, specifically, phrasal verbs.

For many of the participants, the workshop was their first exposure to using newspapers as a classroom resource.

Teacher Muhammad Fadh Othman and his group members were tasked with a cut-and-paste activity which required them to look for pictures in The Star and write their own captions.

“I’d like to try the activity with my Form Two students. Cutting and pasting is like art education. They won’t feel overwhelmed by too many English words. But I have to modify the activity based on their proficiency levels,” he said.

The SMK Permaisuri Nur Zahirah teacher, who is new to the school, has glimpsed firsthand the benefits of using newspaper activities.

“A couple of months ago, our T-HELP asked some students to make Raya greeting cards using newspapers.

“I could see that the students had fun and showed more interest in English, compared to when the traditional chalk-and-talk method was used,” he shared.

T-HELP Nur Aizatul Munirah Pauzai from SMKA Wataniah assists teachers by carrying out supplementary English language activities such as games and riddles.

“I enjoyed the workshop very much, especially when the instructor asked us to move around and listen to her instructions.

“I’m very excited to introduce the activities to my students,” she said, citing her favourite NiE activity as the one that required participants to design a food pyramid using pictures and words from newspapers.

She finds newspapers a relevant tool for learning even in this digital age.

“Not every school can afford a classroom full of computers. Most times, students have to share a computer at the lab.

“With Petronas’ sponsorship, students get a copy of the newspaper each. They can focus more, and are free to do activities individually and in groups,” she said.

The workshop, conducted by Dass, is sponsored by Petronas, as part of the Trenglish programme.
The workshop, conducted by Dass, is sponsored by Petronas, as part of the Trenglish programme.

Nurul Atiqah Ali Zapar from SK Gong Badak said the workshop was “a total eye-opener” as she had never been exposed to the NiE concept throughout her teacher training.

“Seeing all the activities being carried out here made me realise there are a lot of creative ways you can teach with the newspaper like making full use of the pictures and colourful visuals, which are good for primary school pupils,” she said.

“I will downgrade the activities to match my Year Four pupils’ proficiency levels. Some of the activities incorporate music, movement and art. When blended together, they can create an enjoyable classroom environment.

“When the lessons are enjoyable, students can retain the language, which will help them in their examinations,” she added.

Nurul Atiqah is appreciative of the initiative undertaken by Petronas.

“This workshop has been very helpful. It opens up our minds. We want to be more versatile and flexible.

“The sponsorship of the pullouts gives us an extra resource that is useful for both teachers and students,” she said.

Unlike the newer teachers, Siti Noor Hashina Md Latip has 16 years of teaching experience under her belt. She said that throughout her teaching career, NiE has been her go-to resource.

“Petronas is indeed making a difference. At my former school, we used to subscribe to The Star, which comes with a copy of NiE.

“It helps that Petronas is sponsoring the pullouts now. Some students have never had a chance to read newspapers before.

“They read online but not the physical copy. After the experience, they realise there are many things inside,” said the SMA Ittifakiah teacher.

She shared that newspaper activities have helped her to see her students’ creative side, citing an example where a group impressed her with an advertisement designed from pictures in The Star.

She is eager to use the ideas gained at the workshop in her classroom.

“My students would enjoy creating speech bubbles based on cartoon strips.

“Their lack of vocabulary may be a hindrance for completing sentences, but comics use short sentences, so they won’t be afraid,” she said.

“It’s good for all teachers to look at what’s relevant for students, and not just be exam oriented or just looking at textbooks.

“I believe that NiE blends in nicely with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), which focuses more on the communicative approach. Students will love it,” she added.

On the same day, 40 students attended the student workshop held at the same venue after the teacher workshop.

Form One student Farhad Imam Iffat Fansuri Mushadat from the host school said his teacher uses the newspapers and NiE in the classroom.

“It helps to improve my vocabulary, grammar and writing style and at the same time, encourages group work and builds confidence through presentations,” he said.

Farhad especially likes the StarAsean+ section in The Star, which he said “opens a window for me to know what’s happening outside of Malaysia and in Asean countries”.

Having learned more about the BRATs teenage writing platform in NiE, he feels motivated to submit his work so “more people will read my articles”.

Form Two student Muhrizah Huda Idham from SMA Khairiah found the activities fun and engaging.

“It’s really fascinating. I learned different concepts and terms such as jump line and standfirst.

“I had never come across such vocabulary. I will keep an eye out for more articles written by teenagers in the BRATs section,” she said. Present at the event was Terengganu state education department English language head assistant director Wan Zuraidi Che Wan Zaid.

He shared that according to feedback he had received from schools, teachers and students use NiE as a weekly classroom resource.

“I have received positive response from the teachers and hope that they continue using newspapers in and outside the classroom, which has been very useful for students and teachers in the past years.

“Petronas has been so helpful not only in financing the Trenglish programme, but also coming up with ideas on how to improve the programme like bringing in the NiE programme,” he said.

Written by a team of experienced English language specialists, the NiE pullouts are packed with engaging hands-on newspaper activities for the classroom.

With 33 issues published per year, the 12-page NiE pullout presents activities divided into elementary, intermediate and advanced levels to suit students’ English language proficiency.

The pullout is syllabus-based and endorsed by the Education Ministry.

The two other NiE workshops – one for teachers and one for students – will be held at Imtiaz Yayasan Terengganu Dungun next month.

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