Some of my techniques to teach speaking skills

Rishi Ram Paudyal

Background and challenges

I teach English language to Bachelor level students. And it’s quite challenging to teach them because they come from the public schools of rural areas with negligible English proficiency. English teaching- learning experience is not only challenging for teachers but also sort of daunting task for many students’ for some reasons. Firstly, the students don’t have enough exposure to English language during their school life. Secondly, the prescribed textbooks for undergraduate students is way higher than their levels. Last but not least, there isn’t not appropriate place and environment for them to practice English. To overcome this challenge, I employ some techniques and strategies. Here I’m going to discuss few techniques that I use with my students.

Icebreaking and warming-up

When we enter into anything unknown, fear grips us and we may suffer from nervousness. Because English in my context is considered a ‘haau-guji’ (bugaboo) to my students. Therefore, my first role is to create a safe, comfortable, and friendly environment. For that I do various things in the class before starting my lessons. As we know, a teacher has many roles to play – sometimes I’m their friend; sometimes I am their facilitator; sometimes a companion to their academic journey; sometimes an instructor; sometimes a guide; sometimes a supporter, and other times a nurturer or a gardener. Let me illustrate below some of the activities I carried out.

Now let me discuss an activity that I do in class as a warm up or an ice break.

Once I was going to teach a lesson called ‘The Joys of Motherhood’, one of the lessons in compulsory English course in the first year of Bachelor level. On that day, I put on a different get-up.  Instead of wearing my usual checkered coat, I donned a black hoodie. When I entered the class, all of my students were staring at me surprisingly. Needless to say, my hoodie had succeeded in grabbing their attention. For a minute or so, I walked silently up and down the aisles holding my jacket. Then I came to the front and smiled at them maintaining eye contact. After that, I asked a question, “Do you know what it’s called?” Surprisingly, majority of my students’ couldn’t respond the right answer. It’s perhaps they were not getting the right word to say or because of their poor schooling background. Then I told them that it was a hood and wrote it on the whiteboard. Then I further told them that jacket with a hood is called a hoody and I wrote on the whiteboard again and they copied. I could see their faces beaming with new vocabulary. First of all, they learnt a new word ‘hood’ in an interesting way. After they learnt, I added one more new word ‘hoody’ to their mind which they received well.

After that I told them that ‘hood’ is not only a noun like the head cover of the jacket, it could also be a suffix to turn a word noun. Therefore, I wrote a word ‘mother’ on the whiteboard and I told them that ‘mother’ was a noun, whom they could see and touch. Then I added ‘hood’ with the ‘mother’ which became ‘motherhood’.

Here, I told them. “Look! now ‘mother’ became ‘motherhood’.” It’s still a noun but not like the previous one. You can’t see or touch ‘motherhood’. You can only imagine or think of it. Just to make sure they understood the meaning of the newly formed word I also translated it into Nepali (Maatrittwa). Those who were doubtful about the meaning of the newly formed term before were clear now and looked satisfied. Then I showed them, how they could form abstract noun adding ‘hood’ as a suffix. For instance, fatherhood, parenthood, womanhood, manhood, childhood, neighbourhood, brotherhood, sisterhood, girlhood, boyhood, and likelihood. After this was done, I encouraged them to search more words in their dictionaries or mobile phones that end with hood. This made the environment ripe i.e. ready for teaching and learning. Now I could begin the lesson with more elicitation from students. I could continue the lesson by engaging their attention and involving them.

Now I would like to share with you another techniques that I use to teach English language.

Use of pictures to tell stories

When the beginner or intermediate students’ can speak chunks of a sentence or a paragraph without looking at the written script, it’s a good achievement for them. They need support on how and where they could chunk. For this, I chose a video of a native speaker titled ‘’ Emmma Fierberg’s Account’’ and transcribed a paragraph. Then, I chunked the paragraph and sentences so that my students and I could do the reading without looking at the text. After this was completed, I gave them a task where they could chunk paragraphs and sentences to enhance their speaking skills. Here is the transcript of the video.

I wanted to test out for myself how waking up at 4:30 affected my productivity. I woke up at 4:30 a.m. for one week, like a Navy SEAL. I’ve read a lot about how Navy SEALs like Jocko Willink wake up at 4:30 in the morning. Jocko famously says that discipline equals freedom. It is Friday, two days before I start this experiment. Normally, my alarm goes off five minutes before 8:00 a.m. Setting my alarm a full three and a half hours earlier is gonna be really scary. Will I survive? (Source Link: https://youtu.be/5Kp–rm7N2M)

To tell the above story, I made 14 cards out of two A-4 size papers. Then, I drew pictures so that I could tell the story looking at them and even without looking script on it after some practice. Furthermore, after practicing telling the story at the pictures repeatedly, I wouldn’t even need cards to tell the story. The pictures don’t need to have perfection. Rather, they would be just a means to achieve the goal. Therefore, I didn’t waste much time to draw them. And hence, the drawings don’t look funny to you. Here are the fourteen images drawn on the cards along with the script below them.

1) I wanted to

2) test out for myself

3) how waking up at 4:30

4) affected my productivity.

5) I woke up at 4:30 a.m.

6) for one week

                              7) like a Navy SEAL.

8) I’ve read a lot about

                    9) how Navy SEALs like Jocko Willink 

10) wake up at 4:30 in the morning.

11) Jocko famously says that discipline equals freedom.

12) It is Friday, two days before I start this experiment.

13) Normally, my alarm goes off five minutes before 8:00 a.m.

14) Setting my alarm a full three and a half hours earlier is gonna be really scary. Will I survive?

After showing the above examples, I divided the students into group and assigned them different texts to try to represent the texts through pictures so that they would be confident to try any other texts themselves.

I divided a text in the following way to give them to practice. Here are some samples.

A

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. She had put it aside, one cent and then another and then another, in her careful buying of meat and other food. Della counted it three times. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was nothing to do but fall on the bed and cry. So Della did it. (Source: The Gift of Magi by O.Henry)

B

While the lady of the home is slowly growing quieter, we can look at the home. Furnished rooms at a cost of $8 a week. There is little more to say about it.

In the hall below was a letter-box too small to hold a letter. There was an electric bell, but it could not make a sound. Also there was a name beside the door: “Mr. James Dillingham Young.” (Source: The Gift of Magi by O.Henry)

In the same way, I divided the story into eight other parts in the same way and assigned them to read the text and represent that through the pictures.

In a nutshell, I experience myself that the better images we produce the interesting our learning outcomes becomes. We can encourage our students’ to produce better thematic pictures/images then we can ask them to write a short story looking at the images. In doing so, the students’ get benefitted in two ways. The first thing is that they improve their drawing skills and also they develop story writing proficiency.

The author is a freelance writer and a life member of Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA).

 

ELT conference culture and confusions in Nepal: A personal reflection

Pramod K. Sah

A conference is an occasion to bring together professionals to share their research and teaching practices, including day-to-day professional struggles and pleasures. It also provides opportunity to engage with fellow teachers’ and researchers’ experiences. Attending a conference supports continued professional development of ELT teachers. Borg (2015) lists several of such benefits; for example, a) giving participants a sense of achievements, b) allowing positive comparisons with ELT professionals from elsewhere, c) creating a belief in their own potential, d) enhancing their credibility in the eyes of colleagues, and e) reducing feelings of isolation. Similarly, IATEFL (2017) argues that it “provide[s] general support in helping teachers and other ELT professionals in their professional development, and to provide a platform where they can offer their views, exchange research, and teaching experiences and learn from each other in the field of professional development.” These are the basic norms of ELT conferences, but the question remains whether these promises are kept ‘true’ in all conferences. There is also very limited empirical knowledge on whether teachers and other professionals benefit from attending conferences.

I’m personally often positive about attending conferences and, therefore, I try attending at least one international conference every year. Luckily enough, I have already attended (and going to attend) a number of national and international conferences in 2019. While I’m in Nepal (at the time of writing) for some academic purposes, I also got opportunities to attend two major conferences of Nepal: ‘2nd Annual ELT and Applied Linguistics Conference’ and ‘National NELTA Conference 2019’. I’m sharing what I have recently experienced at both conferences via-a-via my experiences of different international conferences like TESOL International Convention and AAAL Conference in the USA, IATEFL in the UK, Language Planning and Policy Conference and ACLA in Canada. The purpose of this piece is to critically review the overall effectiveness of these conferences, which may help the concerned organizers and attendees to effectively organize and get benefitted from ELT conferences in future. The areas of improvement of these conferences that I discuss are by no means, meant to demotivate the academic spirit to put up these conferences in the low-resource context.

The first conference, ‘2nd Annual ELT and Applied Linguistics Conference’, was organized by the Department of English Education, Tribhuvan University (TU). This conference was able to gather professionals from different parts of Nepal, including a handful number of participants from abroad. One of the keynote speakers was an internationally recognized professor, Gary Barkhuizen, based in the University of Auckland, New Zealand, who has excellent contributions in the field of narrative inquiry, in particular. Other keynote and plenary speakers included locally renowned professors of ELT. Interestingly, the conference looked exciting with the presence of enthusiastic graduate-level students from TU, some of whom were always rushing from one session to another. The second conference was the ‘National NELTA Conference 2019’ held at Solidarity International School, Hetauda, which was attended by a large number of English language teachers from all over the country, including a very few international delegates. All keynote and plenary speakers at this conference were ELT scholars and professionals from Nepal.

The first point I would like to discuss is the central theme of conferences and keynotes/plenaries. Most conferences announce their central theme every year, which basically invites delegates to bring discussions around that theme and extend the debate forward. It’s often the case that, at least, keynote/plenary speakers discuss major arguments related to the themes in relation to their empirical research/theoretical underpinnings. In this regard, the ‘National NELTA Conference 2019’ had theme ‘Transformation in ELT Methods: Addressing 21st Century Classroom Contexts’, which indicated that the conference envisioned to bring together discussions on effective ways of addressing the issues of ELT, prominent in this millennium. However, I struggled to find any talks, including keynotes/plenaries focusing on the theme. In fact, in my search for the term ‘transformation/transform’ and ’21st century’ in the program schedule, the former appeared only twice, and the latter appeared once. In this regard, the topic of one keynote talk, i.e., ELT in Post-Method Era, sounded enthusiastic as I anticipated some critical discussions of different teaching methodologies that can have significant relevance to the Nepalese context, but the talk was merely limited to listing all ELT methods often found in ELT books. The talk also included different microstrategies of teaching English that Kumaravadivelu (1994) suggested about 25 years ago, but the presentation neither made a clear reference to Kumaravadivelu nor there was any critical discussion appropriating those microstrategies to the characteristics of 21st century ELT in Nepal. In fact, there was no element of ‘transformation’ in the talk, at all. Uniquely, the same professor was there as a keynote at both conferences with the same topic, without almost no alteration. The ‘2nd Annual ELT and Applied Linguistics Conference’ had one keynote talk, which nevertheless tried to align with the central theme of ‘Policies, Practice, and Possibilities in ELT’. In this particular keynote, the speaker showed some ‘possibilities’ of ELT through ‘narrative inquiry’ as a new practice.

Further, I was expecting some critical discussions on different issues in relation to the Nepalese context under the light of existing literature of Nepal, but hardly anyone made a reference to research in Nepal. For example, in one plenary at the NELTA conference, the speaker tried to critically review the phenomenon of English-medium instruction (EMI) in Nepal. I particularly liked the points that the speaker made against the uncritical promotion of EMI, but the speaker didn’t make any reference to research on EMI in Nepal. There has recently been some research on EMI in Nepal—available in the forms of journal articles, chapters, and dissertations—suggesting some unique findings. However, the speaker only cited a couple of studies on EMI from other South Asian countries, not any from Nepal. The speaker also made claims, which aren’t valid. For example, the speaker claimed EMI policy as “illegal” in Nepal, which is not true. The National Curriculum of Nepal (2008), stating the medium of instruction as Nepali, or English, or both Nepali and English, gives a clear legal background for EMI in Nepal. There can, nevertheless, be an argument that EMI is illogical/ineffective, but again such argument needs to be put forward in reference to research.

Another unacceptable claim, made by one of the panelists in the panel on EMI in the 2nd Annual ELT and Applied Linguistics Conference, that there is no research conducted on EMI proved the research ignorance of some of the invited scholars. This problem was seen in almost all the talks I attended. There was another professor presenting on the use of L1 in ELT classrooms at the NELTA conference, who didn’t cite any research from Nepal. This time, as it was a concurrent session, I had an opportunity to ask a question and I, in fact, asked why the speaker didn’t cite any research from Nepal. Not surprisingly, the speaker also mentioned that there is no such research undertaken in Nepal. With frustration, I told the speaker that I myself have published a study on the use L1, among some other scholars, and the speaker really needed to at least ‘google’, which will direct to available published research. I think such unacademic practices can be checked during the proposal screening process that proposals not making references to research should be declined. Of course, the conferences will also have to provide a relevant rubric for successful proposals.

There were some other instances of keynote/plenary speakers giving very illogical/unacademic answers to the questions. For example, one plenary speaker presented his/her action research on a given teaching activity that he designed and experimented. S/he claimed that the students developed “confidence” as a process of learner autonomy and hence, the success of the activity. One audience, who was another professor of TU, was seriously concerned about the “validity” of the research findings that how he would believe that the students developed confidence. He specifically asked how the confidence was measured as the presenter hadn’t mentioned research design and data analysis in the presentation. The plenary speaker answered, “I looked at my students’ faces, and I knew they were confident.” I couldn’t believe that the speaker didn’t mention any point of his/her data analysis and, instead, gave such an illogical/unacademic answer. But, unexpectedly enough, there was a huge round of applause from the mass, which made me really confused about what just happened. I couldn’t understand why there was such appreciating applause at that kind of answer. Perhaps the speaker was a well-known ELT expert and the audience—the majority of them were university students—had just “wowed” at the answer without deeply thinking about it.  Similarly, there were lots of “गफ” (bluffs), which also consisted “mocking” of English accent/use of school-level English language teachers with low English proficiency that was not only unacademic but also in-humanizing. As experts, we’re meant to discuss how we can come up with solutions to overcome weaknesses of English language teachers in Nepal and we can also check our own practices in teacher education programs at the university, instead of making fun of poor teachers at academic gatherings. For instance, while presenting research findings, another plenary speaker often made fun of the teacher participants who didn’t have the technical/practical knowledge on “teaching writing”, which also received lots of laughter and claps from some audience.

There were some other less significant issues that looked bizarre to me. First, the management of both conferences lacked mobilization of volunteers and clear plans. While TU conference had mobilized some graduate students as volunteers who tried to take up their responsibility seriously, NELTA conference had school children as volunteers who were not really able to understand the conference situation. The conferences should try looking for volunteers from the conference attendees, which I think will be more effective. Moreover, the catering service was another area to pay high attention as due to long queue it was affecting the preceding and the following sessions. Similarly, I often saw one of organizing committee members at the TU conference requesting attendees to join on-going sessions as it seemed the majority of attendees weren’t going to sessions. Although it’s true that many attendees like to connect with fellow attendees, but not at the cost of on-going sessions. Attending sessions and engaging in discussion, I think, should be the first priority, which I found missing at both conferences. Keeping track of session-time was another big area of improvement, which really influenced the schedule of different sessions. Most keynote/ plenary speakers seemed to take so much of extra time, which eventually influenced the timing of the following sessions. As a result, I missed several sessions that I was interested to attend.

Finally, the conference culture is not new in Nepal but, for me, its effectiveness is really an issue. The organizers, first, have to move beyond the ideology of making some limited people happy and re-think of people who could best support English language teachers with new ideas during the conference. We don’t need repetition of ideas and experts at the conference. International conferences don’t really invite the same scholars every year. I think there are several Nepali scholars working in different countries, doing excellent works, who can be invited to these conferences. We also really need to think about maintaining diversity in experts who are invited, meaning the representation of race, gender, ethnicity, age, etc. Second, we need to peer review proposals, otherwise, there is danger of unintellectual/illogical/inhuman discussions. The local national conferences should also be a means of promoting/up-lifting local scholarship. This reflection is a kind message to many of us, who tend to fall into the (mal)practices discussed above, to bring in intellectual and critical discussions instead of repeating old ideas/knowledge and mocking the less-knowledgeable others. Third, the conference organizers really need to plan the conference in terms of employing volunteers, not only for on-site needs but also for the peer-review process. Most importantly, we should start teaching what “conference” really means to our university students, so they can utilize most from attending conferences. They need to be prepared to problematize and question ideas being presented rather than uncritically accepting everything and clapping, shouting, and hooting as we do in cinema theaters.

 

References

CDC (Curriculum Development Centre). (2008). Primary education curriculum. Sanothimi, Bhaktapur: Government of Nepal.

Kumaravadivelu, B. (1994). The postmethod condition: (E)merging strategies for second/foreign language teaching. TESOL Quarterly, 28(1), 27-48.

IATEFL (2017). IATEFL’s mission, goals and practices. Available at:https://members.iatefl.org/downloads/member_info/IATEFL_mission_goals_practices.pdf

Borg, S. (2015). The benefits of attending ELT conferences, ELT Journal, 69(1), 35–46.

The author:

Pramod K. Sah is PhD Candidate and Killam Scholar in the Department of Language and Literacy Education at the University of British Columbia, Canada. He has earned an M.Ed. in English Language Teaching from Tribhuvan University, Nepal, and an MA in TESOL with Applied Linguistics from the University of Central Lancashire, UK. His work is driven by the core values of social justice indexes, for example, class and ethnicity, in English language education policies and practices in low- and middle-income polities, often drawing on Pierre Bourdieu’s critical social theories. His research works can be accessed at: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Pramod_Sah5

My reflection on second ELT and applied linguistics conference in Nepal

Somy Paudyal

I attended NELTA (Nepal English Language Teacher’s Association) conference last year which was my first experience of attending a conference in my life. I learned a lot regarding English language teaching in the conference. I remember one presentation where a teacher shared her experience of telling stories to her students by the use of wheel cycle and I thought to myself, ‘Wow, English language teachers are so motivated.’ I felt energized and encouraged at the end of the three-day conference. After a year, when I first heard of second English Language Teaching (ELT) and Applied Linguistics Conference that was going to be held in TU, I could feel the flutter in my chest out of happiness.

The image of the first day of the conference is still fresh in my mind. It was February ninth, Saturday and it was raining heavily. The weather was chilly, the clouds gloomy; nevertheless, I could see smiling faces of the people around me who, like me, had come to get something out of the conference. I also saw expats coming to the university arena, some on tourist buses while some on the back of the motorbikes with raincoats on. The program was delayed by half an hour or so due to the weather as many failed to arrive on time. However, by lunch time, the rain had stopped and all could bask outside in the lovely sun.

Regarding the events on the first day, I remember cultural dances, plenary sessions and there were nine concurrent sessions going on at the same time. I was enthralled and had a hard time choosing which session to attend to as all of them seemed really interesting. However, I do remember one of the very first workshops I went to. It was Jeevan Karki’s workshop on academic writing where I learnt a lot about how we can choose a good topic, brainstorm ideas and give a proper shape to our writing. The highlight for me that day, however, was panel discussion on the topic: English Medium of Instruction: Assumptions, Policies and Practices. Dr Jay Raj Awasthi, Dr Lava Deo Awasti and Mr Dinesh Thapa did a really good job on raising some burning issues regarding the medium of instruction for effective learning. The insightful discussions compelled the audience to think about those serious issues. There was equally good wrapping up of the program with some cultural programs.

The next day, however, was a sunny day and everybody seemed to enjoy basking in the sun in the little break they got. The spirit of the conference did not die out but instead was more enlivened with Sanjeev Uprety being a keynote speaker who gave the message on how literature can indeed be used as ELT resource and he also talked about discourse. For me, the hero of the second day was V.S. Rai. His talk inspired me and I became a fan of him. In my opinion, he gave us an important message on how we should rethink our methods and policies of using one language over others in our teaching and how that can lead to dying language like Tulung. It was a great insight for me. The concurrent sessions went on. There were interaction sessions and panel discussions with some interesting cultural shows in-between. A drama at the end was like icing on the cake to wrap up that day. I went home fulfilled with lots of ideas and things to think of.

The final day was as exciting as the first day of the conference for me.  I was so much inspired by the speech of Dr Jay Raj Awasthi , the  keynote speaker who is the guru of gurus how he explained about the trajectories of ELT and Applied linguistics in Nepal. He told us about ‘Post-modern method’ and added that we, as teachers should not only adhere to western method but should also research in one’s local context about the appropriate method to teach. I got to see wonderful presentation of Dr Laxman Gyawali on teachers’ readiness to learn and their practices of EFL writing in Nepali Secondary Classrooms. In addition to that I got to see wonderful presentations in the concurrent sessions. One of the presenters was Guru Prasad Poudel who talked a lot about teacher’s identity. Finally, I got to see Ganga Ram Gautam’s plenary session on Fostering Learner Autonomy in Large ELT Class.

The highlights for me of this conference were: getting to meet international and national scholars, networking and this conference opened the door to opportunities for new ELT practitioners like me to get exposure to a lot of new content. I have heartfelt gratitude toward Dr Prem Phyak and his team for organizing the conference for us. I have gathered the experiences that I am going to remember all in my life.

The Author:

Somy Paudyal is an M.Ed. student of Central Department of English Education at Tribhuvan University, Kritipur, Kathmandu.

My story of growing as a professional English teacher

Narendra Airi

I adopted teaching as a profession some 18 years ago. My teaching career commenced from a private English medium school. It was after I completed proficiency certificate level examination. In this blog post, I am sharing my experiences from a novice teacher to a professional English teacher. The article explains that how I grow as a professional English teacher. It also depicts what different stages of my journey of teaching passed through.  

Teaching is my favorite profession. It is my passion too. I have been turning my passion into action teaching in different levels and schools. What I adore is standing in front of enthusiastic pupils and delivering something. This passion led me to adopt teaching as a profession. Before I started teaching, I had some exposure of English Grammar and language for the Level I had to teach. After I had completed the examination of intermediate level, I started teaching. I was selected as the teacher after my class observation. In order to perform well and mark good impression on the part of observers, I had gone through all the topics of grammar that I studied in high school level. Furthermore, I went through an English speaking course book to improve my speaking skill. The book incorporated various language functions, vocabularies used in daily conversation, class room language, Nepali –English translation and so on. When I read the book twice, it broadened my horizon of knowledge in using the English language.

After teaching in two private English medium schools for a year, I joined a government-aided school. It was the school where I had studied at lower secondary level. The school proved a turning point in my life both as a student and a teacher. It proved a turning point in my student life in the sense that I could make my foundation of English strong as a volunteer teacher from the U.S.A. taught us.  In the beginning, it was quite difficult to grasp what she uttered. She was the class teacher for a whole academic year. We, the students, were exposed to native tone in English in EFL (English as a foreign language) setting. Gradually I could get what she spoke. The way she pronounced English words or the way she delivered in the class helped me to grasp the native accent. Moreover, the school proved a turning point in my teaching career as I took my further study and teaching ahead simultaneously.  I completed my Bachelor’s Degree (B.Ed in English education) during my service there.

Then I attended training on ‘Interactive Radio Teaching’. All the trainee teachers had been given one set of radio to each. A live program would broadcast from 2:05 to 2:50 pm by Curriculum Development Centre. I had to teach English taking the radio set in the classroom to Grade five. It was a formal training in distant mode. All I had to do was to turn on the radio in the class and make the students listen to. And I had to repeat after the instructor on the radio so that students could understand what was delivered through the radio. The program particularly helped me to improve my pronunciation of English sounds and pedagogical skill.

Moreover, I attended micro-teaching (also called peer teaching) by the end of bachelor’s 3rd year. Later on, I had to teach the 10th graders for one and a half month as practice teaching. I got acquainted with practicality of communicative approach of teaching during this period. The course book that I studied in Bachelor’s level and the practice teaching I was involved in proved fruitful for my teaching. This practice teaching added some teaching techniques, skills and application of knowledge in me. During 45 days’ practice teaching I received feedback from my peers who taught English in other classes. Moreover, my classes were observed by the internal and external supervisors as the subject experts. Thus, the peers’, subject experts’ feedback made me more competent and confident to handle the class and deliver subject matter effectively. To be well prepared, I came to know that the teacher’s guide was helpful. I borrowed and went through it during this period. It has multiple benefits in teaching in a way it provides clear direction to teach English.

Besides I grabbed an opportunity to attend short-term teacher training program which helped boost my performance. After having attended the training, I started teaching the students using learner centered approach. I also learnt how to teach grammar creating situation to the context. Furthermore, I learnt to teach the vocabularies more than just giving synonyms and translating. I grasped some techniques and ideas on how to motivate the students towards learning English too.

While teaching English in grade 10, I felt some difficulty to teach some poems. I consulted several practice books; went through questions and exercises in the textbook and made notes in diary. I could interpret the poems. However, I was not fully satisfied. I went through many hurdles at personal and professional level. On the one hand, I was only job holder in the family and the other I went through obstacles in teaching career too. As I had strong passion for reading from which I could get sheer satisfaction and joy, I pursued my higher study and completed my master’s degree. After the completion of teaching practice by the end and M.Ed. 2nd year, I was offered to teach in Grade XI and XII. I got a decent platform to consolidate the subject matter that I had learnt in campus and university level. In this teacher education program, I studied various course titles such as linguistics, phonetics, translation studies, grammar, semantics and pragmatics and so on. These courses made the foundation of language, linguistics and grammar stronger in me.

In the course of time, I joined a residential Military school in western Terai of Nepal. On the very first day, when the students had enrolled, the school organized an orientation program for the first batch. I had been assigned the responsibility to host the entire program. I did not have any difficulty to teach English and to speak in English. But I had never got the exposure of public speaking in English. I did not have much idea on how to conduct a program though I know what to speak.  The principal just gave me the program details. I went through it. It struck my mind. It was the first time I was going to host a formal program in English. I mustered courage, I made notes; prepared rough draft; read it. Then I consulted one of my friends in the telephone who had the experience of conducting such program. I was well- prepared to host the program. I hosted the program. I received good feedback. It shows speaking in English in EFL setting is not an easy task. Furthermore, these types of real life contexts are really instrumental to enrich the professional growth. Like me, many students hesitate to speak English in different situations. Therefore, positive attitude toward target language can definitely enhance learning of the language. It also indicates that the abstract knowledge (competence) is to be brought out (concretized) through performance. The competence of an individual has to be sharpened through performance.

After I had attended 23rd international Conference of NELTA, I received a congenial atmosphere to learn more. The key speakers from foreign universities, presenters belonging to the expert groups and practitioner groups gave wonderful sessions. I received many insights on various issues and topics in ELT (English language teaching). Likewise, a mentor, my principal, who usually assigns me to work on various responsibilities – proof-reading the articles, writing articles and editorial for school magazine, writing proposals and certificates in English, inspires me to improve my writing skill. It shows that attending conferences and collaborating with experienced teacher or mentor helps to grow professionally.

Where there is a will, there is a way. In other words, every problem has a solution. During my teaching career in the school where I have been teaching for 8 years, I taught several course books in English. Almost every year or sometimes after 2 or 3 years the course book are changed. Moreover, a teacher has to teach three/four course books in a class. The teachers have to work hard to perform well in the class. I am not the exception. I taught an English Course book which mainly dealt with English literature to the 4th to 7th graders for two years. In other genres of literature, I had no difficulty. But I felt difficulty to teach poetry. It doesn’t mean I was unable to teach poetry; I could teach poetry to the students; I could interpret the poem. But I was not satisfied myself. Later I found myself less interested in poetry. It shows that teachers’ area of interest matters a lot in teaching learning process.

It is said handwork pays. Working as a teacher, I teach 4 to 5 periods a day. Besides classroom teaching, the teachers have to conduct co-curriculum activities in the school. Not only this, the teachers are assigned various other tasks- writing proposals, reports, certificates for various purposes, and articles for annual magazine and so on. Among the four language skill writing carries comparatively a greater importance. In this connection, the words of Francis Bacon are worth-quoting ‘Reading makes a full man, conference a ready man and writing an exact man.” This quote highlights the importance of writing. Furthermore, writing is considered to be more difficult than other skills of language. One has to read a lot to enhance writing skill.

To conclude, in the journey of my teaching, day-by-day I began to feel more excited and motivated. Moreover, I felt more confident and competent. It was possible because of the readings, working with mentors, peer observation, feedback from the experts and most importantly my passion for teaching, a positive attitude toward the English language; an internal motivation to perform better.

Through my journey from a novice teacher to a professional teacher, I come to a conclusion that it is not difficult and impossible to transform ourselves. One needs to have desire to grow and enhance the professionalism in the course of time. He/ she needs to update to adjust him/herself in the changing context in a regular basis. It is possible only if he/she is dedicated, inquisitive and studious.

The author:

Narendra Airi is an M.Ed. from Tribhuvan University and the head of English department at Sainik Awasiya Mahavidhyalaya Teghari, Kailali.

TPD in community campus in Nepal: Importance and expectations

Nani Babu Ghimire

Background

Reflecting my experience of teaching in community campus in Sindhuli, I realized that very few teachers from community campuses have participated in professional development training or other aspects of teacher professional development. I am not aware if there are any training agencies active in providing professional development training for teachers of community campus. However, University Grants Commission (UGC) provides some grants for training, seminar, course refresher training, training on capacity development, etc. Few campuses apply for UGC grants to conduct small scale research and short-term academic training.

As a lecturer of a community campus of Nepal I feel that there is very important role of teacher professional development to improve teaching and learning activities of our community campuses. Professional development training is an opportunity for teachers to share their knowledge and develop new instructional practices. Teachers’ professional development (TPD) keeps academics up-to-date with the changing world and knowledge. Teacher agency is considered to be a core section of educational institutions, who can bring change in the performance of students as well as institutions. Teachers’ participation in all-round academic activities including their professional development training is expected to transform conventional practices of educational activities and produce dynamic graduates who can explore wider world across the border. Pokhrel and Behera (2016, P. 190) asserted “Teacher professional development is defined as a process of improving both the teacher’s academic standing as well as –acquisition of greater competence and efficiency in discharging her/his professional obligations in and outside the classroom”. Pennington (1990) considered that every teacher needs professional growth throughout their career. Gnawali (2008, P. 220) argues that continuous professional development of teachers is significant to enable them to understand classroom environment and changing pedagogies. Teachers can participate in various professional activities such as training, seminar, workshop, symposium, conference, teacher exchange, reflective practice, peer discussion, blog writing, researching, writing article, publishing, further study, online program, etc. Their participation in such programmes develops professionalism and strengthens their academic skills. Wajnryb (1992) emphasises teachers’ self-motivation in professional development activities increases their learning and becomes highly effective in their academic activities.

Importance of TPD for Teachers

Teachers’ professional development is significant aspect of teaching profession. It helps teachers develop various professional skills and knowledge Continuous professional development activities upgrade teachers’ teaching skills and help teachers survive in the profession. Their learned skills and ideas bring a kind of shift in classroom teaching and learning activities.  Teachers’ professional development, which has direct association with students’ learning, improves institutional performance, particularly academic achievement. They become creative as well as energetic through various exposures in TPD programme. They learn to understand the problems of students and they can address and handle students’ needs. TPD programme may encourage teachers to do researches in academic fields.

Teachers’ Expectation of TPD

As I mentioned above, I am unaware of university teacher professional development programmes where I have been teaching for many years. If I were one of them who develops university programmes, I would priorities professional development programmes for university teachers. I would say at least my campus could develop such programmes for faculties and administration staff for upgrading their skills and knowledge and for improving academic activities of the campus. Similar to Western universities, I have observed that my university needs to emphasise conferences, seminars, workshops, orientation and visiting programs. Academic activities particularly research and publication, which promote the university, would develop individual teacher’s professional personality and institution. I wish I would have such opportunities for participating and developing my academic knowledge and skills.

TPD in Community Campus

There is mixed perception about autonomy of institutions for the educational performance. Crossroad conversations in Nepal lead to criticisms against the current system of university management, a single body governance over all universities, which has spoilt educational quality. However, all the community campuses in the country are autonomous in their management as they rely on students’ fees similar to private colleges. Does this matter in educational achievement? Many may argue that autonomous institutions can develop better and perform outstanding like the ones which are totally privately managed. Why are the majority of community campuses not able to perform at the level of private colleges? There is always a strong financial support for community campuses from University Grants Commission although they are autonomous. Does this make any difference in academic performance? If so, why are they unable to demonstrate educational qualities in results and academic activities? These areas can subject to researches in Nepal.  Regarding TPD of the teachers of community campuses, I believe that teachers themselves need to understand their professional role and development of their professionalism, and they need to explore learning opportunities for their own career. . They need to be conscious and enthusiastic to take different training for their own professional development. However, there is always a greater role of institution to inspire teachers to find professional opportunities.

Conclusion

Qualification is of course a valid document to join an academy, but it is not all that can work throughout one’s professional life. With the changing context, an academy needs to upgrade own life skills for the place where he has been working and is going to work. An academic tutoring hundreds of students has a great role to change their lives whereas an institution has a greater role to all-round development of many youth generation and the country itself. Therefore, universities have to provide academics with options of professional development so that they can contribute to the development of institution and society.

References

Gnawali, L. (2008). Teacher development: What is it and who is responsible? Bodhi: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 2(1), 219-223.

Pennington, M. C. (1990). A professional development focus for the language teaching practicum. In J. C. Richards and D. Nunan (Eds.) Second language teacher education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pokhrel, T. R., and Behera, S. K. (2016), Expectations of Teachers from Teachers Professional Development Program in Nepal. American Journal of Educational Research, 4 (2), 190-194. doi: 10.12691/education-4-2-6

Wajnryb, R. (1992). Classroom observation tasks. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The author:

Nani Babu Ghimire is a lecturer at Siddha Jyoti Education campus Sindhuli, (TU) Nepal. He is currently an MPhil scholar in English education at Tribhuvan University.

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.

A Step-by-Step Lesson Plan and Assessment for Paragraph Writing

Dr. Md. Kamrul Hasan*

Background

The main purpose of most language courses today is to facilitate communication in the target language, formulating a successful and effective lesson plan becomes indispensable. The idea of how to prepare a successful and effective lesson plan fundamentally depends on the alignment of assessment activity with the objective(s) of a lesson plan. This piece of writing deliberates on the different parts of effective lesson design and assessment and keeping the discussion into consideration, a sample of lesson design and assessment has been provided. Even though the current discussion focuses on the classroom teaching activities at the tertiary level, the same lesson plan and assessment can be applied in other classrooms at different levels with minor adaptation.

Firstly, an ELT (English Language Teaching) professional needs to have a clear picture of putting those actions words/verbs that would fit his or her in the portion of the lesson objective(s). In addition, he or she needs to know that his or her lesson plan objective encompasses a clear statement of measurable outcomes which can be achieved by providing action words, such as ‘identify’, ‘state’, or ‘demonstrate’, not words like ‘comprehend’, ‘feel’, ‘learn’, etc. since the latter cannot be measured or evaluated.

Furthermore, an ELT practitioner needs to have knowledge of an effective warm-up activity and its objectives. Then, he or she needs to investigate whether his or her warm-up activity makes an attempt to get students’ attention, recall of prior learning, and introduce new ideas and connect these ideas to the past learning. Likewise, an English teacher (ESL/EFL) also requires to include objectives, which consist specific aims of the lesson.

Moreover, an EFL/ESL teacher needs to have knowledge of “instruct and model” while formulating his or her lesson plan; under “instruct and model”, he or she needs to apply the use of teacher talk, to know how to keep things conversational, and to employ activities that would make the instruction sticky (memorable, usable, durable). He or she necessitates having the knowledge of either using traditional modelling (teach, model, question) or inductive reasoning (model, infer, elaborate).

In addition, we as English teachers require to understand the importance of “guided practice” and “independent practice” that would be included in our lesson design. Under “independent practice”, English teachers (EFL/ESL) should check and allow students to show that they have understood the instruction provided by the teachers. Finally, under “assessment” activity, an ELT practitioner needs to check that his or her assessment activity is aligned with the objective, and the assessment activity is authentic (The situations, where the students are placed in during the assessment, are as similar as possible, to situations they may encounter outside the classroom).

Now, here is a sample of such a lesson design and assessment to have a better understanding of the ways that could be employed while formulating a lesson design and assessment.

A sample of a lesson design and assessment

Basic   Intermediate √ Advanced

Theme: travel

Objective: Students will be able to use the simple past tense to describe and write a paragraph describing their travelling experiences in Bangladesh.

Business/Materials: Pictures, videos and question prompts and model paragraph

A warm-up activity: I would place some pictures of attractive and historical visiting places of Bangladesh on the whiteboard E.g. the pictures of St. Martin Island of Bangladesh and the Red Fort of Mughal Empire in Dhaka city. Then, I would show the video clip of “beautiful Bangladesh”, prepared by the government of Bangladesh.

I would mention the pictures of other places we discussed in our previous class to relate to the previous lesson. Then, I would ask my students whether they can recognize the pictures and places of Bangladesh and provide positive feedback to those willing to speak.

Asking questions is one of the ways of triggering the recall of prior knowledge; thus, it would bridge old to new information.

I would also draw students’ attention to the written prompt on the whiteboard by offering a quote from St. Agustine:

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”.

An example of prompt:

Level Theme Prompt (Statement)
Advanced Travel The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page. Agree or Disagree?

I would ask them whether they agree or disagree with the statement. In addition, as my students are in the advanced level, I would ask them “What do you think this quote has to do with what we talk about today?”

I would ask them to write their agreement or disagreement in their notebooks. Then, I would record their answers on the whiteboard and provide them feedback (mostly encouraging ones)

I would write a phrase ‘travelling experiences in Bangladesh” and ask them (by getting their feedback) to relate the discussion of some beautiful places of the previous class. After that, I would ask them whether their experiences were pleasant or bitter. I would mention the probable reasons for having mixed experiences and concerning issues, like safety, accommodation, food problems and so on. I would make some groups and ask them to discuss various points among themselves and come up with answers by brainstorming. Likewise, I would record their answers on the whiteboard and offer them feedback.

I would mention that we were going to discuss more on the travelling experiences in Bangladesh and write in a paragraph ensuring there is the topic sentence, supporting details and concluding the sentence.

Objective Discussion

I would ask my students whether they would like to go abroad for their further study. If they would like to, they need to sit for international language testing systems (e.g. IELTS, TOEFL) or any other competitive tests for the job search in Bangladesh. In these tests, they need to write some paragraphs. Then I would motivate them my writing class would be helpful for them to learn the structure of paragraphs (*this is important for the objective) and practice developing good paragraphs.

I would tell my students that they are going to learn the basic structure of paragraph writing and provide them with a model of a narrative paragraph with topic sentence and three supporting details with the use of transition words, and finally, tell them about the concluding sentences. The model would help them to internalise the structure of the paragraph. (*This is for specific details/instructional objectives). I would ask them whether they can relate or differentiate the structure of the previous lessons and the present one.

I would mention here about the structure of other types (for example, descriptive or cause-effect type of paragraph writing) of a paragraph in from the previous lessons. Then, I would ask them if they would be able to differentiate between or among the types of structures of paragraph writing (*this is for the check for understanding).

I would ask them to get ready for the next class whether they would be asked for a paragraph writing impromptu in the class. Similarly, the evaluation of their wring will lead to their final grading. (*This is for stating the objective)

Instruct and Model

Even though I would prefer using the inductive reasoning (model, infer, and elaborate), I would wait for quite some time to see whether my students would be able to grasp (wait for an opportune time) before providing the models of the paragraphs.

First, I would tell them a very popular folk story about a king and his four daughters (narration of a story is to keep things conversational). I would ask them whether they could come up with any structure of the story. I would note the responses on the (teacher talk: using board work to introduce the topic). I would clarify that a story generally has a beginning, middle, and ending; so does a paragraph have (use of analogy). I would repeat those key sentences and check their understanding (teacher talk: repetition). I have chosen the story keeping the objective of the lesson plan in mind. The story uses the past tense; as I am going to focus on the use of past tense in the paragraph writing.

After that, I would show my students some of the models of paragraphs using multimedia and I would also give them hard copies (photocopies) of the models of paragraphs (more than one) from the Book by John Langan (part of teacher modelling) to my students, and also my prepared samples of paragraphs (‘Sharing your own work so that students can see what you have done’ is a part of teacher modelling) for suiting the learning of past tense and a structure of a paragraph. I would ask my students whether they can see any beginning, middle, and a concluding part of a paragraph (the analogy is a part of teacher talk). I would provide them copies the model of paragraphs and form some pairs or groups (‘Giving students a problem to solve in pairs or groups’ is an example of inductive reasoning) to do the brainstorming to figure out the structure of the paragraph.

After getting my students’ feedback (‘Getting feedback’ is a part of keeping classes conversational), I would write the main concept on the whiteboard; ‘topic sentence’, ‘supporting points’, and ‘concluding sentence’. Then I would emphasise the following:

Topic sentence of a paragraph: the main idea of a paragraph is known as a topic sentence. The two parts of a topic sentence is called subject and the controlling idea.

Supporting point/details: when we provide the main idea of a paragraph, it must be supported by three main points. Each supporting point needs to have an idea that supports the topic sentence

Concluding sentence: the paragraph is summarized with a concluding sentence. In this part of the paragraph, a new concept or idea is not introduced but the idea the topic sentence is rephrased using the transition words.

I would also mention or elicit the importance of using transition words, such as using ‘firstly’ with first supporting point and ‘secondly’ with second supporting point and ‘finally’ with concluding sentence (sign post expressions).

I would ask my students (‘asking questions’ is a part of teacher talk) whether they can compare and relate the three things mentioned in the story and in the models provided. By asking questions, I would check whether they have understood my elicitation (‘Elicit reactions and responses from your students’ is a part of keeping classes conversational); even sometimes students say that they have understood, I would repeat (‘clarifying and elaborating when students don’t understand’ is part of teacher talk). My experience shows that repeating the same concept more than once help students remember the concept better and use for a long time (As the learning sticks, it becomes usable and durable). All through my lecture, I would use warm language and speak clearly if any of my students fail to understand.

Guided Practice

Since I would be working on a paragraph writing unlike an essay writing, I would pick up the three parts (topic sentence, supporting points and a concluding sentence) of a paragraph writing as a whole under my guided practice in the class.

Firstly, I would mention “A topic sentence is”, and ask one from one group of my students to complete the required information of the sentence, and then I would inform “there are three supporting points in a paragraph”, and invite others from other groups of students to complete the three supporting points. The same goes for “the concluding sentence” (A teacher-led activity includes responses from a variety of students; it also encompasses starting a sentence and inviting students to complete the sentence). For each correct response, I would give them “thumbs up” and encourage them to speak more if they would be able to add up more information.

Less Guided Practice

After that, I would divide my students into different groups, and I would provide some samples of topic sentences (without three supporting points and concluding sentence-‘backwards fading’) to one group (group 1) and some samples of paragraphs with topic sentence and three supporting points without concluding sentence to other three groups (group 2, 3 and 4). Under the instruction and model section of lesson template, I have already provided the models of a structured paragraph to all my students. As the strength of my class is around 30, I would make 5 groups. I would ask my group 1 to deal with a topic sentence (to discuss the two parts of a topic sentence; the subject and the controlling idea). Then the other three groups; 2, 3, and 4 would deal with each of three supporting points (the use of transition word and the idea that supports the topic sentence), and the group 5 to discuss on the concluding sentence of a paragraph (to come up with the idea of rephrasing the topic sentence and use of transition words, and not to introduce new concept or idea again). I would give low-performing students the most difficult task under each group and ensure that groups are of mixed levels and abilities. While my students are working on their assigned task, I would go round the class, observe, and ask them to see if they needed any support. (‘Walking around the room, checking work and answering questions’ are known as facilitators of independent practices).

I would make sure that each group would have a scribe to jot down the summary of their discussion, a spokesperson to present the summary of the group work and a controller to ensure that everybody is taking active participation in the group activity. I would give 10 minutes for each group to discuss and prepare for the presentation and give three minutes to present their work.

Independent Practice

I would ask each group to present their work in the class (students give a presentation relating new information to the class’- an example of independent practice activity). After finding that they are able to get the fundamentals of the structure of a paragraph, I would ask each student to write a paragraph on their travelling experiences abroad (or different places of Bangladesh or similar topics) as home task, and they would make sure that their experiences and writing would be different from one another. Then I would ask them to submit their home tasks in my pigeon hole one day before the next class (Generally, in my institution, students get one or two days break before the next class). I would check all the home tasks before going to my next class.

I would provide feedback on the written tasks and discuss any improvements required for them (with positive and motivating words). In addition, I would ask them to submit their write- up again at the end of the class.

Assessment

From the objective of my above lesson, it can be gauged that the lesson assessment would relate to knowledge learning, not memory learning (recalling). The objective of my lesson plan is to teach my students how to write a paragraph, so I would provide them the actual model of a paragraph in my assessment before the final examination; as a result, this task would be authentic and require them to apply their learning of writing the paragraph. By doing this, I would be able to assess that students should be able to transfer classroom knowledge to the real world; for example, at the time when they would go for different examinations in writing paragraphs in English.

After finishing the independent practice (which is a part of formative assessment-given below) [in my class] mentioned above, I would take a test (which would be upgraded; and the reason for that is that in order to get the best idea of performance of the students, a teacher does not need to grade everything that students do in the class) on a paragraph writing, providing the outline of a paragraph. A sample of such a test is given below:

Instructions: Write a paragraph within 150 words on the basis of the outlines provided. You will have 15 minutes to complete the task.

I had experienced some wonderful memories while travelling the picturesque island of Saint Martin in Bangladesh. (Topic sentence). Firstly, (the first reason) —————————————————————————————————————————————————. Secondly, (the second reason) ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————. Finally, (the third reason) ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-. Moreover, (concluding sentence) ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————–.

This type of assessment would help us understand that the students would have higher order thinking (analyse, evaluate and create) since such as assessment requires them to talk what they know about a topic, and what the structure and organisation of a paragraph, and combine the two into a coherent product.

I would also provide them with a scoring rubric for a paragraph writing; as a result, they would be able to have a clear picture of how their work would be evaluated in their final examination.

Name: …………………………………………… Score: ……….. /10

Criteria Excellent Good Fair Poor
Formatting The paragraph has proper indentation ½ inch
Mechanics
Use of Tense Uniformity of the tense
Spelling No spelling errors
Content
Task Fulfilment Clearly demonstrates the use of past tense and his or her experiences
Quality Carefully written
Body paragraph Provided all the three supporting points in details
Cohesion and coherence Ideas are connected to each other
Summary Restates the main idea (the topic sentence); no new ideas are introduced again
Errors Very few errors that do not interfere with the meaning of the sentence
Total: ……/10

*Dr. Hasan is the assistant professor, English, English Language Institute, in the United International University, Dhanmondi, Dhaka, Bangladesh. You can reach him at: md_kamrul_hasan@ahsgs.uum.edu.my

Radio, My Coach for English Language Teaching

Sreejana Chamling*

I grew up in a democratic, open-minded, middle-class Kirati (also known as Kirat; one of the indigenous ethnic groups of Nepal) family. Despite being a member of middle-class family, I never had to confront difficulties regarding my education. I was a curious and a talkative girl in my school and college days. I loved talking and interacting with seniors. My father was a primary level school teacher, so I got opportunities to visit school early. I used to go to school with my father and sat with other school children. Such kind of environment and opportunity truly supported me to enhance my curiosity explicitly and perhaps that led me grow personally. After completing my basic education, I left my home for secondary education. Leaving home for my further study was really difficult (moment) for me. I was very young and not much familiar with the outer world. I felt sad and I always missed my family and friends specially my Aapa (father) and going school with him

Time passed by, I changed my school and went to the district headquarter to continue my study because of Nepali Civil War (10 years internal conflict between the Government of Nepal and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).When I started my new educational journey in a new place, I had no friends with whom I could share my feelings and emotions. I experienced different facets of life .I had an old radio bought by my Kokpa (Grandfather) as a means to spend time with. I started tuning radio regularly and soon felt that the radio had become my best friend. I came to know about different innovative ideas such as child rights, child marriage, and mensuration hygiene from the radio. I tuned in radio from the morning to the late night in order to collect information. I became huge fan of Radio Kantipur during those years because I liked the ways the Radio Jockey (RJ) presented programmes. More specifically, I was impressed by their commanding voices. However, the English programmes attracted me more because I enjoyed the English speaking style of the RJs. I especially liked their pronunciation, speaking styles, confidence etc. Then I started dreaming of being able to speak like them and started tuning English programmes even if I did not fully understand what they were /talking about. However, I loved and entertained all the programmes believing that if I tune in English programmes regularly, one day I would be able to understand fully and be able to speak English fluently .So, I thought that at first I should learn vocabulary to speak or understand English. My Aapa (father) used to tell me that good command on vocabulary of any language is essential for language learning. Then, I started making note of some English words and expressions and consulted dictionary for the meaning. Similarly, I started consulting the seniors and school teachers for the new words and expressions. They suggested me that regular writing and learning new words can be a good way of learning. As a result, I attempted writing my thoughts and feeling in English as simple as I love my family, I like to watch TV/ Movies. This is my favorite color, place…etc. But I didn’t try speaking because I thought, first writing would be easier than speaking.

My eagerness of learning English became stronger even if I was very young, I used to think that if I speak fluent English I will get good respect and love in our society. It was because people having confidence in English were treated respectfully in our society. I felt English teacher was one of the most respected and prestigious persons for students and parents rather than the subject teachers of Nepali, Social, and Population.

By the time being, , I decided to study English as a major subject in college dreaming of being fluent English teacher because I understood being English teacher is to get reward  respect and love (However, now I think, that I was too much inclined towards English because of the perception of the society. Now I feel that, all languages and teachers are equally important.). In the thought of excelling in English, I used to ask a lot of questions to my elder brother in English at home, which would annoy him sometimes. At night, I used to keep radio nearby me and tuned in in low volume and to my surprise; it used to go talking the whole night!

In this way, Radio had been my friend and coach which not only supported me to learn English but also taught different life skills. I learned new words and pronunciation via radio. Most importantly, the loveliest thing, I learnt is listening to others speaking fluently in English. I sometimes understood nothing as they used to speak very fast and used some informal words like guys, what’s up, rocking… etc. I found myself confused several times but it provided me a kind of opportunity of ear training. I used to open dictionary or ask to my teachers for those words, sounds and phrases.

To sum up, radio is my first inspiring coach for English language learning. Not only that, it encouraged me to choose English as a major subject. Now, people get diverse access to the means of learning such as YouTube videos, social media (Facebook, Messenger, and Imo), online courses, etc. Popularity of the radio has been sharply decreased as it has been replaced by new technologies. I think these new technologies have brought massive opportunities and exposures for learning English and many other things around the globe. Therefore, we should seize the offers and make the full ultilisation of them.

However, I still believe that there are places in Nepal where people have to still rely on radio for learning, information and entertainment the way I did during my school life.

*Sreejana Chamling is the student of M.Ed fourth semester in the Central Department, TU. Her area of interests includes research in education and teaching. 

Reflection on a one-day-workshop “How to Write and Publish Reflective Writing”

Muna Rai*

I received the information about reflective writing workshop in the messenger a few days before the event through Jeevan Karki. We were asked to be there with our laptops. Finally, the day came. I and my friend headed towards the program venue. Before we reached there, many of the participants had already been there. Mr Jeevan Karki and Dr Karna Rana were busy arranging furniture and other stuff in the hall. We exchanged our greetings. We were approximately 20 participants there.

The first activity was the opening session. One of the facilitators welcomed us and talked very briefly about the topic and its objectives and the benefits for the participants using power points. Then in the next activity was the introductory session and scene setting, led by the next facilitator. We all became excited when the facilitator came along with some pieces of paper on his hands. He told us to pick one piece of paper each and find our pair. Everybody became busy to find their pair. I happened to pick the digit 9 and began to search my pair but I couldn’t find anyone. When none of them in the hall had the digit 9. Then the facilitator asked me to pause as someone was on the way. I waited for a while. I could see all the participants were seated with their pairs. After a few minutes, a young gentleman with a shiny beard appeared at the door. I guessed he was my pair. Fortunately, he was placed next to me as my pair. The climate setting was over. One by one the peer began to introduce their partner. We did the same.

After that, the facilitator asked us to reflect on ‘self’ and select the best wearing of our own. We were provided one minute to reflect on. The facilitator threw some questions: What do you like the most? Why do you like it most? How do you feel on that particular wearing? We had to answer those questions. Everybody began to reflect, and so did I. The facilitator asked us to share the idea we had on our mind. At that point, the environment remained quiet. No one spoke. Later the facilitator himself reflected on his wearing. On his reflection, he found the muffler the best on his body. He described it and he focused on its colour and comfy quality. After the demo, many voices came aloud. Many hands were raised to share their ideas. I listened to them attentively. Their choices were varied as jackets, shoes, scarfs and so on. It sounded really interesting.

The next session was the discussion on ‘why to write?’ The facilitator raised the same question for the audience. Everybody started thinking about the question. Suddenly, the facilitator asked me “Why do you write, Muna?” I simply answered, “To express myself, my ideas…” He took more responses from other participants too. There was a variety inside varieties. Some of the responses were like to express ideas, to connect with others, to improve writing and many more. Finally, the facilitator presented some ideas that were taken from other renowned scholars. Their thoughts were stimulating for us to make habit of writing. Then the other facilitator discussed on the difference between academic writing and reflective (non-academic) writing. He discussed the differences between the two terms regarding its structure, language and flexibility. Then we had a short tea break.

After the break, the other facilitator distributed a sample of reflective writing. It was about the ways of improving children reading habits in early grades. We were asked to read and find a few strengths and areas of improvement in it. Everyone started reading it. The text was so long that I couldn’t catch it. I was unable to understand it though I read it twice. Perhaps, my eyes just ran over the unintelligible text. After some time, the facilitator started collecting responses. I completely remained silent as I didn’t have to say anything. The fact was that I didn’t understand the whole text. Likewise, the second sample was given to us. It was about the author’s experience of learning the English language. That text was clearer and easier than the previous one. I enjoyed while reading it. I also noted the strengths and areas of improvement regarding the text.

Then, the facilitator presented the context setting for writing. He talked about the possible context i.e. striking moments, habits, college, and profession to reflect in writing. He told us that our lived experiences in those contexts can be turned into a good piece of writing. The context can be created around what, when, who, where, how and why structure. Further, another facilitator talked about the frame of the reflective writing. He mentioned it into three facets: action, reaction and reflection. The framework was figurative and expressive which I liked a lot. Further, he also talked about how to write a reflective essay. He said that a good piece of writing requires a rigorous furnishing. According to him, good writing possesses several steps: write, self-review, peer-review, review and finalise the writing. I came to know that writing is an art which is possible through devotion. He also shed light on the three major aspects that the writer should be aware of viz, issue, language and style. He said that before writing any piece of text we need to choose the issue/area on which we are going to write. The issue should be unique and draw the attention of readers. Then we need to make a framework of writing and read the related literature to collect ideas. At that moment I thought that a good writer is a good reader; a reader who can make of the writing and sees a frame in writing so that she can develop a piece of writing herself. Then it was the time for a short break. We had some snacks during the period.

After the break, the facilitators highlighted the eight habits of a good writer. A good writer is also a good reader and a good listener is the striking one for me. A writer can write effectively after reading enough, listening carefully to others and observing the context. Then he asked us to transform the theory into practice by writing a reflective essay in the workshop itself. They asked us to reflect our own past and remember the most influential event that had happened in our lives and turn it into writing. Everyone opened their laptops and began writing something. I was still busy to recall the past and choosing an issue to write. Many things came in my mind, but one incident drew my attention. The incident was about saving a mother cow from sinking. I began to write, ‘last year…’ After forty-five minutes, we were asked to submit the writing. Then facilitator taught us how to make comment on others’ writing in an electronic copy. He displayed that on the projector and we were asked to follow the process and practice. I became happy to learn about the practical knowledge which I was wondering before. Finally, the facilitators collected the feedback from us and the event was formally closed.

Finally, I concluded my day as a productive one. The best part of the workshop for me was the introductory part. In this part, we had a pair to introduce each other. It sounds simple but that thrilled me a lot that day. Next is the graphics. I really liked the design of power points. The power points were full of pictures and drawings that caught my attention. Likewise, I also liked the feedback collection method. That was really wonderful. Most of all the workshop stimulated me to write something and hence, you are reading this piece now.

To sum with some feedback for the workshop, it would be more effective if it could start on time. We were in a sort of rush towards the end, which could have been avoided had it been started in time. We were many participants in the program. It would be more interesting if different activities like pair work and group were organised. For example, the session ‘sample of reflective writing’ was so pressurising for every participant, I think. I could see that all the participants were feeling hard to find the ideas. I myself was feeling empty. Had that work been done in a group, it would have been easier to discover many more things. In the same way, it would have been better if the writing of the participants was exchanged among the participants to get constructive comments. Critical comments and exchanging ideas are essential parts of good writing. As a whole, the motive of the event was praiseworthy. It brought ELT students and ELT practitioners together to equip them with some skills of writing and motivate them to reflect and write.

*Rai is the Master’s student at the central department of education, Tribhuvan University, Nepal. She is also a life member of NELTA since 2015.

Video Changed the Way of Teaching Poem

Ram Chandra Pokhrel*

These days, teaching has been my passion though I was not clear about my profession when I initially joined this job. Now I have been striving for the improvements in my profession so that I can update myself of the latest. I can experience a lot of changes taking place in the field of teaching and learning globally. So, I’m interested in exploring the modern trends in English Language Teaching (ELT). While talking about modern trends, I’m focusing on the techno-friendly. My experience says that students are more curious about techno-based learning. Students are found more curious and attentive in digital-based teaching-learning compared to the traditional lecture or book-based teaching method. Hence, these circumstances drive my mind for exploring modern trends in ELT.

I always focused my interest on teaching and practised it in a normal way, but it was the day when I brought a poem from YouTube entitled, “I Wandered Lonely as Cloud” by William Wordsworth for High School students particularly for Class 10 compulsory English. My teaching took a new turn. I made my students listen to the poem through YouTube in the classroom. It was a nice video with clear audio backed by thematic pictures to help the students catch the theme easily. Here, students learned speaking skills such as pronunciation, enjoyed the rhythm and also practised English reading by following the records. This made the students excited to tell the summary of the poem and then do the exercises given in it. More than that the interesting part was finding the students humming the lines from that poem. Students who were often engaged in math-science work were humming the poem with perfect music. So, this particular event touched me a lot and made me realise the importance of technology in class and further motivated me to explore the other ways using technology in the classroom.

For instance, I commonly use British Council website and app as the supportive digital education materials, which are convenient for achieving learning outcomes. Here I used British Council learn English site, which is for all level, Kids to University, here I used Learn English Teens level with exercise sheet for dialogue and equally I used British Council Podcast which is an app and could be used at any time without internet after we download it. While teaching a dialogue, tuning audio record of the dialogue was more productive than just my lecture as the high school students started speaking naturally. Then I started bringing audio clips of dialogues in the classroom, they started learning the conversation in a real sense with the use of figurative language, gesture, mood and many more. Hence, they not only participated in conversation but also developed writing competency than before.

Nowadays, I have been searching for and adopting the technology in my class to yield more learning outcome than before. Technology has been a part of my teaching which eases my teaching and plays a supportive role for students using technology in my class.

*Ram Chandra Pokhrel, is a high school teacher of English language at Him Rashmi High School, Dandagoun, Tarakeshwor – 9, Kathmandu.

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