Constructing support for better language proficiency

Extra boost: Yee (left) presenting the mock cheque to Ng at Ho Hup’s corporate head office. — YAP CHEE HONG/The Star

ON selected Tuesdays every month, three boys in SJK(C) La Salle in Kuala Lumpur – Tan Tze Yuan, Wong Guan Yuan and Wan Ji Yeung – made it their mission to collect copies of The Star newspaper from a designated spot and distribute them to their classmates. They called themselves “Step Up warriors”, because each copy of the newspaper came with Step Up, an English language educational resource.

“Every time the bundle came, they looked forward to picking it up. They were proud of their duties and even likened their roles to the ‘frontliners’ of the school, ” said SJK(C) La Salle English panel head Wong Yuat Peng of her Year Six pupils.

She attributed their enthusiasm to the appeal of Step Up, a 32-page trilingual educational workbook-cum-activity pullout designed for pupils in Years Four, Five and Six. It features translations of English words in Bahasa Malaysia and Mandarin.

Thanks to the sponsorship of the resource by Ho Hup Construction Company Berhad, pupils from Wong’s school, as well as from six other primary schools in the Klang Valley, were able to benefit from the Step Up programme this year.

An initiative under The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE), Step Up aims to enhance the command of English language among pupils, in addition to helping pupils improve their vocabulary, grammar, writing and conversational skills while preparing for the UPSR.

“We have visited five of the schools, principals and teachers-in-charge. The feedback was very positive. It’s a suitable material for English teachers to help students improve their command of the language.

Step Up warriors: (From left) Tze Yuan, Guan Yuan and Ji Yeung taking pride in their roles of distributing copies of The Star newspaper to their classmates.Step Up warriors: (From left) Tze Yuan, Guan Yuan and Ji Yeung taking pride in their roles of distributing copies of The Star newspaper to their classmates.

“We also spoke to the children involved and they really loved the material, ” said Ho Hup procurement, human resources and administration general manager Irene Yee after handing over a mock cheque worth RM20,000 to Star Media Group chief content officer Esther Ng.

Also present at the mock cheque presentation was Ho Hup chief executive officer Datuk Derek K.L. Wong. This marked the first time that Ho Hup was stepping in to sponsor the Step Up pullouts.

“Our corporate social responsibility programme has mainly involved children and education.

“We have reached out to the orang asli community, such as building a library and giving them access to books and volunteers who teach the children how to read.

“We have also done a few English reading programmes in secondary schools to help improve the standard of English among schoolchildren, ” Yee elaborated.

Wong has incorporated Step Up as her classroom resource for three years now. She has a folder filled with the pullouts.

She uses the material with her two Year Six classes.

“Each pupil had a copy of the pullout. The remaining copies were kept in the school’s reading corner for other pupils’ leisure reading. I also encouraged my Year Six pupils to work on the Years Four and Five activities, ” she said.

Even as schools were closed due to the movement control order (MCO) to curb the spread of Covid-19, it was no hindrance to Wong and her pupils as they continued using the resource.

“The pupils had brought their copies of the pullout home and we resumed lessons via Google Meet. We used Step Up as reading material, in addition to the textbook and workbook.”

The main draw of Step Up is its content, said Wong, which is “similar to the UPSR format”, and includes a literature segment.

She shared that her pupils were particularly impressed with an activity based on a cookie recipe.

“They were attracted to the pictures shown. And indeed, Step Up is filled with illustrations that were really refreshing to the pupils.”

Another teacher Datin Noelie Reginald Alexander also recommends the use of Step Up in the classroom, describing the pullout as “effective and of good quality”.

“My school has used Step Up for the past five years. The children were always excited to use it. It’s different from other classroom materials.

“They liked to get their hands on the pullout, ” said the English panel head from SK Seri Mega in Kuala Lumpur, which also benefited from the Ho Hup sponsorship this year.

The fact that it caters for both the weaker and more fluent pupils is an added bonus, she said.

“The mini dictionary with the bilingual translations really helped their understanding. The weaker ones didn’t find it challenging or intimidating, while the better pupils got to think out of the box with some of the activities, ” she added.

Noelie’s school found a way to get the resource to the students during the MCO.

“Parents came in at different times to collect the pullouts in the canteen. For pupils who have devices and access to the Internet, they took part in discussions held via Google Meet and Google Classroom.

“They also took pictures of their answers after they were done with the activities. Teachers would then do online marking and correct their mistakes.

“Students with no Internet connection or devices were not affected as they had the hard copies to work on, ” she added.

Both Noelie and Wong expressed their gratitude to Ho Hup for making the pullouts available for pupils.

Noelie said Ho Hup’s effort in providing education to the poor is commendable.

“If we asked the pupils to buy the pullouts, we wouldn’t have so much participation. Many pupils have benefited through the sponsorship, ” she said.

Wong, who will be retiring in three years, has been training her colleagues to use Step Up in hopes they will carry on the practice.

Step Up is syllabus-based and endorsed by the Education Ministry. There are 11 issues of Step Up a year.

For details on the Star-NiE school sponsorship programme, call The Star’s Customer Care Unit at 1300 88 7827 from Monday to Friday (9am to 5pm).

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