Tag Archives: teachers reflection from nepal

Two good practices of teaching vocabulary: reflection of a teacher

Samita Magar

This blog post presents the two good practices of teaching English vocabulary for primary level students based on my action research “enriching vocabulary of the primary level English language learners”. Among several intervention techniques used in the research, I shall discuss key two techniques including my personal reflection as a student and teacher.

My experience of learning and teaching English vocabulary

Reflecting back on my own learning process, we had to learn the meaning of difficult English words by rote in our native language (i.e. Nepali). We were taught English vocabulary through the Grammar Translation Method in isolation. As a result, we were not able to use them in our day-to-day life though we learned the words. I could read the words but could never speak in English by the time I completed the school level education. Now, I think that students’ language learning is shaped by the exposure they receive in the target language in and out of the classroom. Forget about using the English language outside the classroom, we rarely heard our teachers speaking in English, so I only knew words but was unable to use them in real communication.

I was destined to be an English teacher but before I started teaching, I had doubts whether I could teach English in English medium schools having schooled with such a background. I had a feeling that the students taught in English medium could communicate effectively in English. I even had a thought that the students studying in English medium schools in the capital city (Kathmandu) might be far better than the students from peripheral parts of Nepal. I had doubts that I would not be able to communicate effectively with them and handle the classes in English medium school if I had the opportunity. This feeling continued for years when I was teaching in my hometown. Later, I started teaching in a school in Kathmandu city, I explored that the reality was different than what I had thought.

In my classes, I gradually found most of my students were Englishizing the Nepali verbs. For instance, if they had to say ‘I forgot to do’ they were using ‘I  birsing (Nepali equivalent for forgetting). If I asked them to speak in English, they would use the suffix ‘ing’ at the end of Nepali verbs to form English sentences. This phenomenon occurred repeatedly in my classroom. Then I felt that it was happening because of the low command over vocabulary and lack of continuous practice. 

On the other hand, they used to listen to me with patience but often failed to answer the questions I asked and they would ask me to translate words into Nepali. Very often they used to stop me and ask the meaning of vocabulary and I used to get surprised when they were not able to comprehend and communicate in English even in the fifth grade. Similarly, while writing a paragraph, they often used to count the words more than five times. I realized that it was the result of having less exposure in English and having a very limited repertoire of English vocabulary, like the situation I went through in my student life. 

The situation demanded some investigation and intervention to improve their vocabulary. Therefore, I prepared a list of the ‘most frequently used 2000 words’ and told them to tick the words they knew. From my initial inquiry, 50 percent of them knew around 1000 words (50%), while a few of them were familiar with 1500 words. As a teacher of English, this finding encouraged me to support my students to enrich their vocabulary at least up to the level of 2000 words. So, they could communicate in English more fluently and express their ideas better than earlier. Finally, I decided to carry out an action research on teaching vocabulary. I used several interventions and I would like to share two of the effective techniques in the rest of my blog.

1. Sharing one word each day technique

This was one of the intervention techniques based on everyday practice. There are many other techniques for teaching vocabulary items but I chose ‘sharing one word every day’. It is because I believe that if the learners cannot use the learned words to express themselves effectively, they have not achieved mastery over the words and the real learning starts when they can assist their peers in vocabulary. 

In this technique, firstly, the students were assigned to choose one word from the lesson discussed in the classroom. They could consult the dictionary and keep the record in the diary every day. The record included the dictionary meaning of the word and contextual meanings, word class and its usage. Then they could share their words in the class with their classmates and support them in using the words in daily communication. It was really difficult to manage time to let every student share their words personally in the whole class. Therefore, they worked with peers first and later five students got an opportunity to share what they learned after the pair work. Similarly, it was equally difficult to follow  them up regarding the use of the words in daily communication and observe their improvement. However, I managed to continue the same activity every day. As a result, they demonstrated increased confidence in their communication, especially in their verbal communication.

2. Speakers’ club technique

I wanted to see my students using the learned words confidently in their day-to-day conversation and overall communication. So I formed a speakers’ club, where they could have speaking practice. I made them practice freely without worrying about accuracy. I gave them topics which were discussed in the previous classes so that they could feel comfortable to speak. The familiar and simple topics encouraged them to speak. When they were familiar with the format of speaking, I provided them a word as a theme to speak. They had to speak on the topic and also remember the theme and use the words related to the theme. However, it took time to get them to understand the theme, its related vocabulary and the way of presentation. So I gave them a demonstration on a topic, which helped them a lot to understand it well. Despite having challenges at first, this intervention remained so effective. As a result, they enriched the use of their vocabulary level and it also gave a good impression to the students of other classes as well and they were invited as speakers in the club. Therefore, forming a speakers’ club even in lower grades was not difficult for me. Since I succeeded in that activity, I proposed to the school administration to include it in the co-curricular activity every Friday which was a great accomplishment for me and my students. With the continuous support and encouragement, gradually my students  were ready to deliver impromptu speeches. I always provided them with positive feedback and supported them by showing the better ways to improve. Finally, with the permission of the school administration, we were able to include a short speech session in the assembly every day.

Conclusion

To sum up, vocabulary represents one of the important aspects of learning a language and learning the language remains incomplete without mastery over vocabulary. Robust vocabulary enables a learner to communicate fluently and effectively. Thus, empowering the learners to master vocabulary should be one of crucial tasks language teachers, and several strategies and techniques can be used to do so. Therefore, I shared two of the techniques I tried with my students and would love to hear your ideas, tips and techniques of teaching vocabulary in the comment section below. 

The author: Samita Magar is an emerging writer. She currently works as a secondary level English language teacher at Manthali secondary school, Ramechhap. Ms. Magar has completed Masters in ELT from Kathmandu University. She is a life member of NELTA and she has presented her papers in the international conference of NELTA.

[Note: since you have come up to here reading the whole piece, please share your feeling, feedback or any question related to this post in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]

Can be cited as:

Magar, S. (2021, January). Two good practices of teaching vocabulary: Reflection of a teacher [Blog article]. ELT CHOUTARI. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com/2021/01/two-good-practices-of-teaching-vocabulary-reflection-of-a-teacher/

 

A Journey of Gaining Pedagogical Capital: Reflection of an English Teacher

Ganesh Kumar Bastola*

Generally, pedagogical capital is the capability of teaching effectively to the learners by applying various methods and techniques such as pair work, project work, group work, power-point presentation, etc. In this reflective narrative, I will share my journey of gaining pedagogical capital as an English teacher while also aligning my reflection with the available literature.

Prologue

It is very hard for me to visualise how teachers would come to my classroom when I was schooling but when I joined higher education (+2), I found my English teacher having an attractive outlook. Perhaps, I thought, a very impressionistic ideology he had. He would immediately start delivering his lectures. The classroom would be pin-drop silent, he was only the all-in-all inside the classroom. There was no autonomy of questioning in the classroom. After my +2 graduation, I became a private school English teacher. Since I was guided by my teacher’s philosophy, my prior focus remained on how I could be the best kind of teacher as my teacher was. I practised the same practice I learned from my mentor. My classroom would also be silent because I wanted to be as strict as my teacher was. Later on, when I was called by the school principal to report the student progress and achievements, I had no words to explain. I tried my best to know how to teach but I never tried to know how they would learn better. Then, I realised that I did not facilitate them to put forward their views and also I did not encourage them to practise in a pair or in groups.

Recollecting Experiences

I became quite aware of the philosophical construct of Lovat (2003) who quotes pedagogy as ”a highly complex blend of theoretical understanding and practical skill” (p. 1). More specifically, I envisaged theoretical ideas into my classroom to reflect my own practice blending different assets of language teaching in the context of Nepal.

Finally, I realised that the conventional practices of teaching and learning were counterproductive in my classroom because my teaching hardly transferred knowledge, rarely practised innovative thoughts and didn’t use internet sources and electronic devices to facilitate learners in the digital era of 21st century. I knew technology facilities to my learners would increase their learning habits. Moreover, it is primarily expected to use power-point presentation, bring online mode of learning and practise technology blended teaching-learning activities in the 21st-century classroom. Enriching teachers’ experiences and shaping the way we do is always embarking on behalf of the learners. I experienced there must be mutual understanding, positive attitudes, pedagogical reasoning for every teacher, thereby; they can offer various effective strategies in their classroom.

As I already confessed that I didn’t allow my students to make noise in the classroom. I either facilitated them to practice in group/pair or encouraged them to work in projects. I hardly paid proper attention to the sitting arrangement of the students in the classroom. Time passed by, I happened to consult various e-sources and learned various activities to empower my students. I made them work in groups. Every weekend I organised cyclical sitting arrangement. I realised cyclical sitting arrangement would really foster positive vibrant in lower level. I also tried to bring innovative ideas of language games and strategies. More specifically, I facilitated them with ‘Chaining Stories’, ‘Word Linkage’, ‘Essay writing’ and ‘Storing Vocabulary’ etc. to improve their language learning proficiency in lower level. I consulted different websites and pages such as ‘Coursera’, Learn on Demand’, etc. to practice in the higher level classroom. I realised blending the philosophical notions and the theoretical praxis could be the innovative ways of empowering learners. I also realised that I had not gained much pedagogical capital during those days.

I experienced that the philosophical constructs of teaching have not only been the notion of bread and butter rather it has been the aesthetic part of human life. Teaching, in some point of time in history, was taken as absolute phenomena. The teacher would be all-in-all. The teachers were treated as the great persons who deserve to know everything and their every advocacy would be correct in spite of the fact that they were wrong. But unfortunately, it does not currently exist.

Teachers’ Pedagogical Capital

In course of my learning as a teacher I linked the two terms Pedagogy (comes from education) and Capital (comes from the economy) to recapitulate its cognitive layer and the educational intelligibility. More specifically, I explored as to how I gained the greater amount of exposure to contribute to my storehouse. I began theorising any asset an individual owns is capital since there are different forms of capital such as economic, human, educational, pedagogical, professional, materialistic, cultural and symbolic, etc. Bourdieu (1998) claims that economically any property an individual owns is economic capital and any educational asset which an individual owns is educational capital. Therefore, for me, pedagogical capital refers to the profound knowledge that a teacher gains in his/her subject. Thus, I envisaged that the teaching and learning activities are always grounded on the belief system of teachers where their perceptions, knowledge, and realisation become the key components to impart knowledge in favour of the students. So, I questioned myself about my own profound knowledge about subject matter.

I also experienced different types of problem and employed some strategies to overcome students’ problems in the classroom such as guidance and counselling, focusing on practical activities, motivation, and encouragement, raising awareness, and telling success stories, etc. I also developed sharing culture among and between students. In doing so, the students at the lower level had to share their diaries and students at the higher level had to share their experiences or success stories or other events. Realising the classroom culture, I developed classroom planning. I designed communicative activities to improve their communication skills in lower level and games to teach content effectively. Moreover, in case of a higher level, I began teaching using power-point slides. I stopped my lecture method and initiated student-centred approaches in which students freely put forward their views and understanding. I divided the whole course content among students and asked them to prepare and present themselves, which resulted in the main benefits for them. The first is to know about the content in detail and the second is to learn presentation skills in a standard format at the higher level. I began guidance and counselling as positive tools at the higher level. For adult learners in higher level, I very often motivated them towards their study. I provided plenty of reference materials for my students collecting from different sources.

Munro (2007) emphasises that the pedagogical knowledge base of teachers includes all the required cognitive knowledge for creating effective teaching and learning environments. I realised if I needed cognitive skills to teach my lessons. Following Yousif and Aasen (2015), I considered teachers as the analytical thinkers and realised that they have a crucial role in their professional life. Eventually, I got opportunities to teach at university campuses and I learned teachings from professional forums, conferences, seminars, workshops, etc. to develop the proficiency of my students. I not only followed what my mentors did but also I practised innovative styles to contextualise in our Nepali classrooms. I gradually joined several online groups such as Facebook group, internet channel, skyping, twitter, blogs, etc. I integrated cell phone in the classroom teaching at a private institution. It was a great challenge for me, however, I was able to convince the campus administration. It really helped me empower my students and self to grow professionally.

Moreover, there were some issues left to address. Ahmad et al. (2012) argue that classroom teaching has issues not due to the learners alone but due to the lack of the teachers’ competency to create the setting, to decorate the classroom appropriately and to speak to the children clearly and to respond to their questions. Due to teachers’ pedagogical richness, they very often address the issues in the classroom but sometimes they fail to address those issues because of different circumstances. Of course, I realised students had different problems such as psychological, linguistic, physical, disciplinary, academic, etc. Additionally, I confronted with different issues such as classroom setting arrangement, students’ disruptive behaviours, teachers’ lack of planning and preparation, etc. in the classroom. For addressing classroom issues, I repeatedly used guidance, counselling, motivation, threat/treat, encouragement, focusing on different practical activities, technology-oriented teaching, student-centred approach, sharing success stories and experiences, etc. Thus, I understood a pedagogically enriched teacher is to have content, confidence, continuation, collaboration, coordination and technological awareness to grow professionally.

Therefore, I earned my pedagogical capital rationalising the huge evidence of my own learning as a student and a practitioner teacher. I implemented my own pedagogies succinctly, for example, preparing proper lesson planning before going to the classroom, consulting my seniors and various sources and being updated and upgraded in my own repertoire. I fundamentally valued teachers’ pedagogical knowledge which includes teaching, learning, curriculum, and assessment, etc. Thus, I didn’t impose my vested interest on students because I knew my increasing experiential knowledge would help me disseminate content better day by day.

Conclusion

In course of my teaching journey, I gained actual knowledge of English language and how to teach the language.

Moreover, I perceived the use of different methods/ strategies enable teachers to be determined, rigorous and professional. I am with those teachers who consider the internet as a good source of learning. Teachers’ technological awareness and experiences help them apply modern pedagogies in the classroom. It is believed that experience contributes to one’s pedagogical storehouse. Teacher’s self-reflection develops their pedagogical capital.

*Ganesh Kumar Bastola is an M. Phil graduate of Kathmandu University in English Language Education. He is a teacher, teacher educator, and researcher and translation practitioner.

References

Ahmad-Shaari, M. Z., Jamil, H., & Razak, N.A. (2012). Exploring the classroom practices of productive pedagogies of the Malaysian secondary school geography teacher. Review of International Geographical Education Online, 2, 2.

Bourdieu, P. (1998). Practical reason: On the theory of action. California, CA: Stanford University Press.

Lovat, T. J. (2003). The role of the teacher coming of age. Australian Council Deans of Education. Discussion Paper, 2003.

Munro, J. (2007). Pedagogical capital: An essential concept (and tool) for effective school leaders. Seminar paper. Jolimont, Vic.: Centre for Strategic Education.

Yousif, A. H., & Aasen, S. F. (2015.). Ways of making teachers’ pedagogical capital visible and useful. Journal of Workplace Learning, 27(5), 332-344.