WHEN Omar Awwaluddin Ghazali turned up at The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) workshop held in SMK Seri Dungun, Terengganu, early this month, he was curious to find out what was in store for him.
The SM Imtiaz Yayasan Terengganu Kemaman teacher confessed that he had rarely used newspapers as a classroom resource.
“The problem is we don’t have enough to distribute to the classrooms, ” he said.
He also admitted to being unfamiliar with newspapers, as he usually obtained the latest news online or from the television.
But when the workshop began, Omar could be seen paying close attention to Star-NiE freelance consultant trainer Lucille Dass, actively contributing to discussions and even taking charge of his group’s hands-on activities.
It was precisely this kind of positive learning attitude that Dass urged the English language teachers in attendance to adopt in their profession.
Quoting Alvin Toffler, who wrote Future Shock, she said: “The illiterate of the 21st century are not those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”
“Are you open to learning? Learning starts from the womb to the tomb – that means there is no end to learning. Once you stop learning, you are brain-dead. This is very serious, especially for teachers. If you don’t accept other people’s views, you are brain-dead, ” she explained.
“As teachers, we must first of all be learners. When you learn something new, you unlearn what is old and useless – you throw it away because it is of no use anymore at this point in time – then you would have relearned.”
Dass also emphasised the need for teachers to cultivate a genuine love for languages among their students.
“When your students enjoy learning, they take ownership of their learning; they become motivated, inspired and independent learners – that’s what you must aim for.
“Make them fall in love with the language, whatever language it is – then they want to learn, not because it is a school subject but because they love to learn – that is the kind of attitude a teacher must have, ” she said.
“A textbook is just a guide. Exams are only a snapshot of their abilities. It is better to use the language for life, ” she added.
Learn, unlearn and relearn
Sponsored by Petronas to support the use of newspapers in the classroom, the NiE workshop in Terengganu saw the participation of 35 primary and secondary school teachers, as well as the Terengganu Hired English Language Personnel (T-HELP).
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.
At the end of the teacher workshop, Omar was so inspired by Dass’ session that he gave it a nine out of 10 rating.
“Before coming here, I wasn’t exposed to such activities. I didn’t know I could use the newspaper in such a way to teach English, for example, getting students to find pictures and having them write their own descriptions.
“Now, I have more activities to apply in class. I will use The Star newspaper and the NiE pullout more often from now on, ” he said.
Omar is grateful for Petronas’ initiative to provide a better classroom environment and resource for teachers and students.
“The students in Terengganu lack the opportunity to use the English language in their environment. Because of Petronas’ sponsorship, they get more chances of familiarising themselves with the language through the newspaper, NiE pullout and student workshop, ” he said.
Teacher Zaini Kussin from SMK Kuala Jengal, Dungun, could also be seen eagerly raising his hands and sharing his answers several times during the workshop. Although this was his second year being a participant, he found new ideas worth exploring in his classroom.
“The instructor gave us two activities that I found interesting and lively – the kinaesthetic activity where we used the newspaper to mime some actions, and the pronunciation activity where we practised our intonation to the beat of a tambourine, ” he said, adding that he is inspired by Dass to use the maracas and other musical instruments in his English language lessons.
Zaini also shared that after attending the NiE workshop last year, he entrusted his school’s T-HELP Soleha Soleh with conducting newspaper activities during relief classes.
“I gave her a set of NiE activity cards I got from the workshop. She has tried them out with the students, ” he said.
Soleha, who was a first-time participant at an NiE workshop, rated Dass’ session a full 10 out of 10. She shared that she carries out newspaper activities four times a month.
“The students like using the newspaper. Every time they see me, they expect something different. I use both the newspaper and the pullout.
“I usually adapt the activities in the pullout if the level is too difficult for my students. We focus on fun, simple activities such as coming up with dialogues for characters in comic strips and pictures, ” she said.
While Zaini acknowledges the effort that Petronas is making to boost the state’s English language proficiency, he feels more can be done to ensure that the programme produces results.
“It’s a good thing that Petronas is doing this. But right now, it’s up to the teachers to use the newspaper. If we are not doing it, there won’t be results. Maybe Petronas and The Star can come up with a competition that can motivate us to be more active, and get the students to produce some work. It will cost more for Petronas but if you don’t have an exam, students don’t have the motivation to learn because they have nothing to worry about; likewise, if there’s a competition, it will challenge them to do more, ” he said.
For teacher Toharah Omar, the NiE workshop was a timely refresher as she attended a similar workshop some 10 years ago in Pahang.
“Sometimes the same teachers go for workshops while the others don’t get the opportunity. I’m thankful that I’m here for this. I hope Petronas and Star-NiE organise more workshops for teachers so that we gain new ideas and be more confident when carrying out newspaper activities in the classroom, ” she said.
As an English language teacher at SMK Tengku Lela Segara, Toharah has done her part to broaden her teaching repertoire through the use of newspapers.
“The students are more excited when I use the newspaper and NiE in the classroom. It’s a new experience for them because not all the teachers use it as a resource. They like to look at the pictures. It’s also useful because they get ideas and information which help them to enhance their essays or in debates, ” she said.
“I always advise my students to refer to the dictionary to learn new words from the newspaper, and not rely on me as a walking dictionary, ” she added.
Later on the same day, 52 students – ranging from Forms One to Four – attended the student workshop held at the same venue.
Toharah’s student Nur Syamimi Zuhayra Mohd Razini found the experience enjoyable.
“This is my first NiE workshop. I realised there are many things I didn’t know about the newspaper. I learned new terms like jump line and byline.
“I particularly enjoyed the group activity where we were asked to label everything that we saw in a picture. It was so interesting and allowed us to practise our vocabulary, ” she said.
A passionate learner of the English language, the Form Two student hopes to see her articles published in the BRATs section of the NiE pullout.
“I like writing compositions and often look out for stories written by the BRATs participants, ” she said, referring to The Star’s writing platform for teenagers.
Nur Syamimi is grateful for Petronas’ sponsorship, which enables her to read The Star once a week.
“I bring home a copy from school every Wednesday and my family reads it, too, ” she added.
A second-year participant of the workshop, Form Three student Aleya Maisarah Azmi from SM Imtiaz Yayasan Terengganu Dungun found new takeaway points.
“I learned new vocabulary and many new things that I can do with the newspaper. I’m always excited when my English language teacher uses the newspaper in class. I especially like reading the comic section. I wish I could experience more of the NiE activities, ” she 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 teacher and student workshops in Dungun were part of four workshops sponsored by Petronas. The two other NiE workshops – one for teachers and one for students – were held at SM Imtiaz Yayasan Terengganu Kuala Terengganu last month.