Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Things I'm Grateful For (Happy New Year 2017!)


It's the second week of 2017...and I hope it's still not too late to wish everyone a happy new year. So, any new year resolutions? I aim to make 2017 a better year by giving myself more time to read for pleasure, to travel for pleasure and to write for pleasure :)

Under 'write for pleasure' is doing this blog...so I aim to blog more often than last year. I realised that 2016 had not been very productive for Beyond Chalk & Talk - only two posts published for the whole year. So 2017 is the year to do more blogging. So, this is my first blog post in 2017, and I want to start by counting my blessings.

2016 was tumultuous, filled with ups and downs - but overall it had been a great year. Here's a list of the things that I'm grateful for:


Friends and family - near and far

I don't think I have the words to describe how grateful I am for my beloved family and for all the wonderful friends that I have in my life. 2016 had not been a very good year for me health wise. I was in and out of the hospital a dozen times. I had been unwell, I had been depressed - during those times I could be horrible and it wasn't easy to be around me, I know. But my dear family and friends were never far from me. They might not be close to me physically but they were always there for me and with me. I'm beyond blessed. Oh, and I have to mention this: God had blessed my brother and his wife with a baby girl. My beautiful niece Jordan Nicole was born on the 9th of September last year, and I'm officially a #proudaunty.

Christmas with family, 2016

I didn't actually want to post this at first (I look super terrible), but I need to give credit to that crazy lady who took this wefie. She's Shoba Macintyre, my good friend, an SISC+ from PPD Papar. She postponed her trip back to Sabah just so she could be with me when I was admitted to the hospital at Seremban.

Shoba, you're crazy. Love ya.

The opportunities to learn new things and work with great people

This would be my second year working in PPD Kota Kinabalu as district English language officer. It had been an interesting year, a year filled with learning experiences. Early last year I had written a post about how much I missed my classroom and my kids - but after one year here's what I can say: I'm a teacher, and I always will be no matter where you put me. This new responsibility has given me the chance to gain new perspectives, but it doesn't in any way affect my passion for teaching. If anything, it only makes me love being a teacher even more. I had the opportunities to see many schools, meet many teachers and spoken to quite a number of great leaders in this field. I had been inspired, I had been rejuvenated. I had learned a lot. A LOT.

And as far as learning is concerned, I would have to say that I'm so grateful for the opportunity to embark upon my postgraduate study in 2016. My academic supervisor and mentor, AP Dr. Lee Kean Wah is the greatest ever and I'm so blessed to have the opportunity to learn from him.

Work trip to Sepanggar Island:




Great leaders - Ms Julia Jock (former Excellent Principal of SM La Salle), Ms Gertrude Jock (Director of IPGM Kampus Gaya), Ms Juliana Johari (Head of English Unit, IPGM Kampus Gaya)


With my 'Going Digital' team
With my MELTA KK family - Ease, Shuba, Aishah, Nigel and Ian. With Dr Sivabala Naidu from University of Nottingham, KL

With awesome KK teachers

With awesome educators and scholars: Associate Professor Dr Lee Kean Wah and Associate Professor Dr Tan  Choon Keong (Universiti Malaysia Sabah) in Miri, Sarawak


With my super cool Head of Academic Unit at PPD KK - Ms Doreen Peter


More opportunities to share

I love sharing with other teachers, and being the English language officer has given me more opportunities to do that. Since I'm no longer attached to any school, I'm free to go to around - within my district and beyond - to help my fellow teachers. I ran workshops, sharing sessions and seminars (most memorable was a two-day workshop with English teachers in Beaufort and a one-and-a-half day PLC-based sharing session with English teachers and students in Kota Marudu). My favourite was the Ed-Camps for UPSR teachers that I organised with my SISC+ colleagues in Kota Kinabalu. Another great one is when I collaborated with Universiti Malaysia Sabah for a PLC-based project to promote technology integration among 'digital immigrant' English language teachers in my district. And we finally set up a MELTA chapter for Kota Kinabalu! And organised the first-ever symposium specifically for Sabah English teachers! Looking back, I find it hard to believe that I was able to do all these in a single year. More on this in my next post.

Some snapshots from last year's MELTA KK Symposium:



'Sharing Your Research' Seminar at SM St. Francis Convent, Kota Kinabalu
Sharing session with UMS TESL students

Sharing session with English Unit of PPD Seremban:




Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Confession of an Addict: Some thoughts about Teachers PD (Part 2)

This is my first blog post in 2016.

My previous post was published in September last year. It has been a while, hasn't it? A few people have contacted me requesting that I write posts or share modules about the new UPSR format. Some friends are expecting blog posts about my recent trip to Birmingham. I'm supposed to be spending this Labour Day break to prepare materials for a workshop that I have to conduct on the 5th, or complete my Literature Review for my masters proposal. I'd like to sit down and get all those things done, but the urge to write this post is very persistent and I don't think I can ignore it any longer.

My new role

Some of you might have already known that I've moved to a new role since November last year. I left my last school for a post in the district education office. I am now in charge of supervising and coordinating English language activities for primary schools in Kota Kinabalu. To some people, this means that I have left the teaching job. Accepting this role means I would no longer be in the classroom, and my work would mostly revolve around administrative tasks. I received variety of reactions for this decision, ranging from...

You're the perfect person for this job!
KK teachers are so lucky to have you!
Finally!
You've gotta CHANGE the system!

...to

How could you leave us? 
The best teachers should stay in the classroom.
Anybody can do office works, but not everybody can teach! 
Why would you want to waste your talent?

People who know me know how much I love teaching and how much I love my students. They can't imagine how I can NOT find it heartbreaking to leave the classroom that I love so much for a job that mostly requires me to do clerical stuffs and attend endless meetings. Do I miss teaching? Of course I do. There was one time in my first week at the new office when I locked myself in the wash room so I could cry a bit without anyone seeing. It was during this time when a few close friends received text messages from me, telling them that I had probably made a mistake. I felt like I had made the wrong choice.

I've been thinking about it, and decided to embrace this new role any way. And although I still find myself struggling to find fulfillment (confession: it's my fifth month, but I'm still adjusting) I've made up my mind to stay on for at least a couple of years.

Why? I'll tell you why - but first please read on.

Part 2

In my previous post, I wrote about why I like attending conferences, and how I wish that Malaysian teachers are provided more support to attend conferences. I wrote about the need for teachers professional development to be given more importance. I shared how teachers can do it for themselves. And I also wrote a little bit about what kind of  professional development that inspires me and what kind that turns me off.

I've chosen to make this post a continuation of that previous post. In addition to teaching, I'm also deeply passionate about teachers professional development. One of the reasons why I decided to accept this role as the district English language officer  is because it gives me the chance to play a more direct role on teachers professional development in my area. I'm curious about what I can do about it.

Good quality teaching?

The Malaysia Ministry of Education has decided to include this famous quote from 'How the World's Best Performing Systems Come out on Top' (Barbara and Mourshed, 2007) in its 2013-2025 Malaysian Education Blueprint:

"The quality of a school system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers."

I read through the Blueprint and learned about how the Ministry is making a commitment towards improving the quality of Malaysian teachers. I read about how the Ministry aims to do this - how a large sum of money will be spent on teachers upskilling programmes, how in-service trainings will be more school-based, how the pre-service training will be revamped. And apparently the Ministry also believes that by transforming teaching into a 'profession of choice', i.e. by raising the minimum academic requirements for entry into teachers training institutes, the profession will attract applicants among the best performing students and hence, the system will have more 'good quality' teachers as a result.

What attracts my attention is this statement:

There also appears to be differences in perceptions of what constitutes good quality teaching and learning between schools and the JNJK. (chapter 5, page 5-3)

According to the Blueprint, there seems to be a disagreement between schools and the inspectorates on how 'good quality teaching' should be defined. However, the Blueprint does not provide any definition for 'good quality teaching' or how it aims to measure the 'quality of teachers,' though it does imply that 'lessons delivered at high standards' are those that 'utilise many best-practice pedagogies', 'sufficiently engage students' and 'cultivate higher-order thinking skills.'

Image source: Malaysia National Education Blueprint 2013 - 2025


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Confession of An Addict: Some Thoughts about Teachers PD

A great teacher inspires, so they say. So if you're a teacher and you want to be a great teacher, I think it means that what you really want is to be someone who inspires. The problem is that sometimes the teachers themselves are the ones who are in need of inspiration.

This is normal. Teachers are humans.

As much as I love teaching, I'm human and I have my bad days too. There are days when I find myself literally dragging my feet to go to work. There are mornings when getting out of bed seems the hardest thing. Sometimes I'm tired. Sometimes I'm sick. I'm human.

On days and mornings like that, I would find myself desperately in need of something, anything that can inspire me. It is very hard, even almost impossible, to be a great teacher who inspires when you yourself are uninspired, burned out and unmotivated.


It's an addiction?

I have friends and relatives who love to run. I know a few people who travel all over the world to participate in as many running events as they can. In one gathering, a close friend of mine explains that it's like an addiction. Once you try it, you would want more. And more. And then she adds:

"It's not that much different from your teacher conferences, Cindy. You're addicted to it."
"I am?"
"Of course you are," she chuckles. "You subscribe to conferences updates in the same way that I subscribe to running events. We constantly check out where and when the next conference or the next running event is going to be. We don't mind spending our own money to pay for the fee, the flight ticket, the accommodation. Other people would mind, you know." 

Maybe it's true. I'm hopelessly addicted to conferences in the same way that my friend is addicted to running.


So what is it all about?

Actually, attending conferences and other professional development events for teachers is one of the ways I keep myself inspired and motivated.

By participating in conferences and other professional development events for teachers, I can...


  • ...listen to talks or participate in workshops given by some of the biggest names in the ELT industry;
  • ...build network with teachers and educators from all over Malaysia and all over the world;
  • ...gain new knowledge, information, ideas, resources and materials;
  • ...be inspired by the sharing of other teachers, and sometimes if I'm lucky, I can get the chance to inspire others through my sharing too;
  • ...keep myself motivated. 
For me, conferences give me the chance to rejuvenate. I can give myself a break from the classroom for a few days, fill my brains with new ideas and inspirations, and refresh my memory of all the things that I may have already known and learned but have forgotten. 

In the end, it's all about getting myself in the best shape as a teacher so I can give the best to my students.


It IS fun!

Attending conferences gives me the excuse to travel. Travelling costs a lot, and knowing that I can kill two birds with one stone (professional development and going for a vacation) often makes me feel less guilty about spending all those money. I remember when I was attending the MELTA conference in Johor Bahru in 2013. I hadn't had any break for God knows how long. I travelled a lot for meetings and courses and work-related stuffs, but never for leisure. Right after the conference ended, I took a bus from JB to Malacca where I met a friend. We spent two nights visiting museums, art galleries and historical places in Malacca. Then, we took a bus to Penang where we spent another two nights. Since Penang is Malaysia's food heaven, we spent our whole time there stuffing ourselves with food (with little or no guilt at all). We stopped by at Kuala Lumpur before taking our flight back to Sabah - 100% guilt-free. Heheh!.

The furthest that I had travelled to for a conference was in 2014 for the IATEFL conference in Harrogate, United Kingdom. I got to see David Crystal, Scott Thornbury, Jeremy Harmer and Carol Read in person. I attended Sugata Mitra's inspiring (and controversial) talk. I chatted with Dick Allwright (the Exploratory Practise expert - I read his book!) I attended Macmillan's awesome Dance Party, and took a coach trip to Castle Howard in north England. I listened to Jackie Kay reciting her poems and reading from her book. And I got my first author-signed book after the event. It was the most memorable moment in my life so far. Best of all - it was all for free! I was the winner of Onestopenglish's Creativity in the Classroom IATEFL scholarship and they sponsored the trip for me.

(You can read about my experiences in Harrogate here, here and here).

(You can also read my report on IATEFL 2014 in Harrogate, published on Onestopenglish's website here: My IATEFL 2014 report)

Presenting at MELTA conference 2013 in Johor Bahru


Riding on a trishaw with my friend Felicity in Malacca, right after the conference


In front of Castle Howard, Yorkshire

With Jackie Kay at her book signing

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Downloadable Materials for 'Proud to be Malaysians' (KBSR Year 6)


In this post, I'm sharing some of the materials that I've used to teach Unit 2 of the KBSR Year 6 textbook. The unit title is 'Proud to be Malaysians'. You may have already covered the unit earlier this year, but these might still be usable for revision purposes.

So, here you go.


Sub-topic: Describing Malaysia 

Vocabulary, gap-filling and paragraph writing exercises. You can use this worksheet to accompany the activity on page 24 of the textbook.





Sub-topic: Fun at School

Information transfer, paragraph writing. These materials can be used to get students to practise Section B of UPSR Paper 2.

Big text - you can print these out, paste them on larger sheets of paper (manila cards or mahjong paper) and put it on the board for whole-class reading activity.






Here's a worksheet for parallel writing exercise that students can use to practise Section B, Part 2 of the UPSR English Paper 2.





Word cards / phrase cards for whole-class information transfer activity.





The picture below is from another unit's lesson, but it demonstrates how you can use these word / phrase cards in your lesson activity.



After doing the whole-class information transfer activity on the board, students can do the task individually using this worksheet below.






Sub-topic: Synonyms

I made these word cards based on the word list provided in the textbook.







Here's the worksheet for the word list:





Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Lesson Share: Everyone is Special (Part 1 - Information Transfer)

In this post, I'm going to share some activities based on a sub-topic in Unit 1 of the KBSR Year 6 textbook. The sub-topic that I've chosen is called 'Everyone is Special'. It is about people who are physically challenged, and the textbook has a reading text on three special people: Siti Aishah, Beethoven and Stephen Hawking.

I realise that this is a topic from the earliest unit, and so most of my colleagues have already done it with their Year 6 students. But I decided to share this because it's one of my favourite lessons. My students enjoyed the activities, and I could see how the topic had sparked their interests, ignited their curiosity and made them want to learn more about the lives of amazing, inspiring people.

I will divide this lesson into three parts. In Part 1, I will share the activities for reading and information transfer. Part 2 is about paragraph writing. Part 3 is an extension lesson - lesson activities that are still dealing with the same topic but go beyond what is in the textbook.

So, here is Part 1.

Part 1 

Year: 6
Unit: 1
Topic: Wonderfully Made
Sub-topic: Everyone is Special
Focused skill: Reading (Information Transfer)

Warm-up (Speaking)

I started the lesson by writing the statement 'everyone is special' on the board. I asked the students what the statement means to them. I asked a few questions:

Who is the most special person to you?
Why is he/she special?
What do you like the most about this person?

I asked a few volunteers to share their special person with the class. Then I proceeded to tell the students that they are special, too - each and everyone of them. Ali is special because he likes to help people. Siti is always the first one to arrive. Razi has the most beautiful smile, it brightens my day and for me that is so special. A lot of you in this class can read and draw very well. Yes, you are all special.

I asked the students to turn to the person next to them and tell him/her why he/she is special.

Reading

Before reading the text, I showed the students pictures of Siti Aishah, Beethoven and Stephen Hawking. I told the students that these three people are very special, and that they have some things in common. I wrote the phrase 'physically challenged people' on the board and explained what it means. The students listed some conditions suffered by people who are physically challenged, e.g. blind, deaf, mute, on a wheelchair, no arms or legs etc.

Then, we read the passage together.


We highlighted the difficult and unfamiliar words. We used the dictionary to find the meanings of the words, and the students wrote them down in their little vocabulary books.


Information Transfer

I printed the information about the special people on cards and put them randomly on the board. The students read the text again and tried to match the information to the correct person.





Group Work

I divided the class into small groups of four or five. I gave each group a packet containing pieces of paper with information about the special people printed on them. Each group would also have a piece of manila card. The students' task was to choose one of the special people and create a graphic organiser about the person.






Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Downloadable Materials for 'Wonderfully Made' (KBSR Year 6)

I was browsing through files and folders in my tired, overworked computer, and I found some of these materials for the topic 'Wonderfully Made' (Unit 1) of the KBSR Year 6 textbook.

I know that it's already July and teachers have covered 'Wonderfully Made' a long time ago. The reason I'm uploading these on Slideshare is because my computer has been sending me some subtle signals. Signals that urge me to back everything up and store all my files somewhere safe.

While doing that, I thought I would like to make these files available for my colleagues as well.
If you've done 'Wonderfully Made' with your students, you can still use these materials for revision purposes. They're just some simple word cards and worksheets, nothing special. But if you find them useful in any way, feel free to download them and share with others.

I'm also sharing some pictures of activities in my classrooms, using these materials. If you have any suggestions on how to make learning this topic more interesting for the students, or if you have links to any interesting materials, feel free to share them with others by dropping your comment below this post.


Year: 6
Unit: 1
Topic: Wonderfully Made

Sub-topic: Parts of the Body





Sub-topic: Feelings




Feelings (word cards) from Cynthia James

Some pictures from my classroom:


Pharell William's 'Happy' song - I used this as a warm-up

We've Got Pandas in Our Classroom (Part 2: The Photographer)

In my previous post, I shared a classroom activity using a sound clip and a video. The lesson that I'm going to share in this post uses an image as the main teaching aid and an activity called 'mental picture dictation.' Lesson 1 was inspired by Jamie Keddie's talk at the British Council's ELTDP Symposium 2015. The activity in this post is adapted from a lesson plan in Mr Keddie's book 'Images' (published by Oxford University Press).


Lesson 2: 'The Photographer'

Warm-up

I told my students that I had a very interesting image in my tablet. I looked at the tablet, pretending to be very amused by what I was seeing on the screen. 

'Teacher, let us see it!"

I will let you see it, I told my students. But first, I'm going to describe this picture to you. You would have to use your power of imagination. Listen to my description and imagine how it looks like.

Ready?

Listening

I read a short description of the picture out loud, while my students listened. I didn't allow them to take any notes, I needed the students to practise their listening skills and fully utilise their power of imagination. The description went something like this:

This picture is taken at the zoo. There is a young photographer and a little boy at the zoo. The boy who is wearing shorts and a long-sleeved T-shirt is sitting on a chair. The photographer is taking a picture of the little boy. The camera is on a tripod. The photographer is standing on a chair to reach the camera because he is not tall.

Speaking

We discussed less familiar words and phrases, such as 'young', 'tripod' and 'long-sleeved.' To check the students' understanding, I asked a few questions:

Where is this picture taken? (At the zoo)
How many characters are there in the picture? (Two)
Who are they? (A photographer and a little boy)
What is the boy doing? (Sitting on a chair)
What is the photographer doing? (Standing on a chair to reach the camera)
Why is the photographer standing on a chair? (Because he is not tall)
What is the boy wearing? (Shorts and long-sleeved T-shirt)
What else is in the picture (A camera on a tripod)

Writing

Next, I asked the students to work in small groups and write at least five sentences about the picture. I encouraged them to use all the information that they could remember (and imagine) from the description.





Feedback and Peer-Correction

Next, we put everyone's work up on the board. The students looked at the works of other groups, tried to spot the error (if any) and then gave feedback to one another. I use peer-correction strategy a lot, because I notice that my students seem to be paying more attention when it's their peers who are attempting to correct their mistakes. They can, of course, 'defend' their work if they think it's necessary. I notice that the students have become less careless, and peer-corrections have also sharpen their abilities to spot (and avoid) errors. One very important rule: no negativity is allowed. No one is allowed to condemn other people. All comments must be positive and constructive. (I'll write more about feedback and peer-correction in my next post).

After the peer-corrections are done, I did the recap by summarising all the common mistakes. In this particular activity for instance, a few groups were confused by the words 'photograph' and 'photographer.' I explained that the first one is a thing, while the other one is a person. There were also some confusions over the use of the words 'the' and 'there.' Confusions like these were dealt with during the recap session. 

The students made the necessary corrections and copied the sentences in their exercise books.




Saturday, July 11, 2015

We've Got Pandas in Our Classroom (Part 1: The Mysterious Scream)


I attended Jamie Keddie's talk for the first time at the British Council's ELTDP Symposium in March this year, and watched his webinar on the Pro-ELT conference sometime a few weeks later. I enjoyed both of his sessions tremendously.

Then I stumbled upon his book 'Images' (published by Oxford University Press) at the MELTA Conference 2015 in June. After reading the book, I got more inspirations for image-based lessons that I know my students would definitely enjoy.

In this post, I will share one of the two lessons that I've done with my Year 5 and Year 6 students. Special thanks to Mr Keddie for the inspiration.


Lesson 1: 'The Mysterious Scream'

Warm-up

I told the students that they were going to listen to a sound clip. I needed them to use their imaginations to predict what was happening. To guide them, I listed the following questions on the board:

1. The place - where did it happen?
2. The characters - who were they?
3. The activities - what were they doing?
4. The conflict - what was that noise in the end?
5. The conclusion - how did the story end?


Listening and Speaking

Then, I let the students listen to this clip:


Download Music - Listen Audio Files - Scream!

The students discussed with their partners and tried to predict what happened, using the questions that I had given them as guidance. I allowed them to listen to the sound clip over and over again, as many times as they liked. Then I invited some volunteers to share their predictions with the rest of the class.


Writing

Still working in pairs, the students wrote a very short paragraph to describe their predictions. I let the students turn their predictions into a story. They could name the characters and add some details if they like. Here are some of the students' work:










Giving and Receiving Feedback

I asked the students to go around the class and showed their stories to other pairs. They read each other's stories and provided their feedback for one another. I asked the students to look not only for errors (spelling, grammar, vocabulary, sentence structure) but also for interesting points in their peers' stories. Is it a funny story? Is it scary? Do you have the same ideas? How are your stories different?

A few volunteers would then share their stories in front of the class. I let the class voted for their favourite stories. 

The students handed in their work to me at the end of the lesson for a more thorough correction. The students rewrote the corrected work in their exercise books.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

IATEFL 2015: Engaging Parents in Their Children's English Language Learning by Karen Saxby



IATEFL 2015

The IATEFL 2015 conference was held in Manchester, UK from 11 to 14 April. The Manchester Online website offers live coverage of some of the sessions during the conference. The conference was already over 5 days ago, but the recording of some sessions and interviews are still available on the site for you to watch if you like.

Engaging Parents in Children's English Language Learning

Since one of my passions is working with the parents of students to help students optimise their learning, naturally this would be one of the sessions that caught my attention. Karen Saxby from Cambridge English talks about the importance of engaging parents in their children's English language learning and offers some tips on how teachers can guide parents to do just that.

Why and Why Not

According to Saxby, here are some of the reasons why parents might want their children to learn English:

  • They have huge ambitions for their children; they want their children to pass the test
  • They want their children to be bilingual
  • They want their children to be able to use English to study other subjects
  • They want their children to integrate within an English-speaking community
  • They just want to have fun and enjoy the experience of learning a foreign language with their children.
And here are some of the reasons why parents might not want their children to learn English:

  • The parents themselves have very little knowledge about the English language
  • They lack the time and confidence to teach their children the language
  • English might not be considered as important as other subjects by some parents
...and a lot of other reasons. According to Saxby, there is no 'one size fits all' - each situation is unique. There are a variety of reasons why parents might be reluctant to let their children learn English, or a bit hesitant in providing their children the support in learning the language. 


The Four Roles of Teachers/Parents

Saxby lists the four roles of teachers/parents as follows:

  • Information - giving children the knowledge and information that they need
  • Direction - providing a sense of direction, i.e. telling children what they should do and how they do it
  • Caring - children need to be seen and heard, they need to know that the teacher (or parent) cares if she/he progresses or not
  • Energising - children need the courage to learn and progress, and it is the role of the teacher (or parent) to give the children the support that they need
Saxby refers to these four roles as "the four essential union functions to wellness and the path to maturity" i.e.  'I think' (information), 'I feel' (caring), 'I do' (energising) and 'I know' (direction). I love how Saxby also refers to the characters in the Wizard of Oz as the archetypes for these four roles; 'information' is represented by the straw man who needs a brain, 'caring' by the tin man who needs a heart, 'energising' by the lion who had no courage and 'direction' by Dorothy who knows the way down the Yellow Brick Road.

Of course, a teacher or a parent can't do all the four roles all of the time. However, as Saxby puts it (and I think this is very important), when the parents and the teacher combine their two roles, they can cover all the four roles together.

I firmly believe that students always benefit hugely from the support of both their parents and the teacher.

Engaging Parents' Help

As a teacher, how can I engage a parent's help? I can:

a) ...explain how vital the parent's role might be even if he/she has little command of English. The parent's main role is to trigger intrinsic motivation. They should ensure that the learning experience is meaningful, fun, varied, interesting, and allow for personal selection and expression.

b) ...give parents more information. I can familiarise the parent with the tasks (tests, assessments, assignments) that the child will undertake. Some examples in Malaysian context: Teacher can give parents more information about LINUS - the constructs, how the screenings are conducted and etc. Or parents of Year 6 students can be given more information regarding the format of the UPSR paper and how their children can score in each question.

c) ...show the parent how to access online (or offline) resources. I can recommend websites, books, learning aids and other tools that the parent can access in order to help his/her child learn.

d) ...share ideas with parents at a parents' meeting. I can let the parents know that it is okay to make mistakes. I can tell the parents that children learn better through creative activities such as drawing, role-play and etc. I can share with the parents how they can effectively use pictures and stories to help their children learn English. Even one minute practice now and then will help build children's confidence.


Friday, March 13, 2015

Inspiring and Being Inspired: ELTDP Symposium 2015



Thanks to British Council and Malaysia Ministry of Education, I had the opportunity to present at the English Language Teachers Development Project (ELTDP) Symposium 2015 which was held at Hilton Hotel, Kuching, Sarawak on the 4th to 6th March 2015. It was my second time after the ELTDP 'Teacher as Researcher' Symposium in 2013.

The theme for this year's symposium is 'Keeping It Going: Sustaining Professional Growth.' You can visit the symposium's main website for more info.

I went with ELTDP mentor Justyna Skowronska (she was also the mentor in my former school in Kunak from 2011 to 2013, we went to the previous symposium together). I moved to Kota Kinabalu in January this year, so this time I went with the team from PPD KK.


My Session

I saw my session at this symposium as a continuation to what I did in the first one. In the first symposium, I talked about how my work with the parents had succeeded in changing my students' perception of reading. After ELTDP ended in my former school in 2013, the work with the parents continued. It had expanded beyond the project and transformed into a home-school partnership. Through my session in this second symposium, I narrated my journey and experience in trying to develop that partnership. Here's the summary of my session:

Reaching Beyond the Classroom: Creating Sustainable Learning Opportunities through Home-School Partnership

The community outreach in SK Kunak 2, Kunak, Sabah started in 2011 through several meetings and workshops with the parents under the British Council’s English Language Teachers Development Project (ELTDP). Today, it has expanded beyond the project and has transformed into a home-school partnership. The main aim is to create better learning opportunities for the students. This partnership is built through parent-teacher conferences, collaborative projects, home visits and other outreach activities. In this session, we will share our journey – how the partnership started and developed, the challenges that we faced, how it finally transformed into a long-term collaboration and how we plan to keep it going. We will also show how we inspire others with our story by sharing it in conferences, blog and publications. The impact of the partnership on teachers, parents and students is reflected through feedback from the community members, the students’ attitudes towards learning and the school’s academic performance. Throughout this session, we will share our story by showing pictures and videos that would prompt interactive discussions with the participants. Participants will be invited to reflect on the question: “Is going beyond the classroom worth it?”

I think the session went well - better than I expected. A lot more people attended my session this time, and I also got some encouraging feedback from the audience. After my session, a few people came to me and told me that my story had inspired them. Some expressed their interests in learning more about the work I did with the community. I didn't remember anything special about my presentation, I just tried my best to tell the story. Apparently, something about the story had moved people.

Anyway, I also received some requests for my presentation slides, so I decided to make it available here. Also embedded in this post are the 'uncut' version of the videos that I used. Send me an e-mail or drop a comment below this post if you need the shorter version (the ones that I used in the presentation).


Presentation Slides


Reaching Beyond the Classroom: Creating Sustainable Learning Opportunities through Home-School Partnership from Cynthia James

Also available here: Presentation Slides on Academia
and here: Dropbox


Video: What is 'reading'?




Video: LearnEnglish Family (LEF) Workshops in SK Kunak 2





Video: Students' Feedback (Two Weeks After the Second Workshop)





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