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.

Looking back and looking forward: hearing from founders and readers

On the occasion of our tenth anniversary, the Choutari editor, Jeevan Karki has collected the reflections from our founding/past editors and readers. Their reflections remind the readers the ups and downs in our journey, our contribution (contribution in education in general and ELT in particular), contents and readers perspectives on them, its sustainability, some valuable suggestions and most importantly its recognition around the world. It’s indeed very interesting to hear from them and we believe you will certainly enjoy these excerpts and know more about Choutari.   

Bal Ram Adhikari

Think about its sustainability: Bal Ram Adhikari, Former editor

Contribution of Choutari

Choutari for a decade has been a good writing zone for professionals and writing enthusiasts. It has been supporting to promote writing habits. It has been a transition point for formal writing and highly academic writing, where writers can express themselves more casually. Moreover, it has also offered a platform for researchers to share their reflections. Interestingly, it is helping to review the teacher-student dichotomy. In the past, only teachers used to teach or write and students used to study or read but now students are also writing and teachers are able to read their students through the means like ELT Choutari.

Besides, Choutari is helping to generate the content on ELT and teaching-learning and education in general. The content published on Choutarih as been used in the course of B.Ed. third year in critical reading as well.

Contents of Choutari

It’s covering the ELT practices and experiences, ideas for professional development, and discourse on contemporary issues. This writing and discourse revolve around the ELT practitioners from Education faculty mostly. Therefore, now it should also cover and include the ELT practitioners from the stream of Humanities in order to back up and view the ELT practices using critical theories.

Sustainability of Choutari

It may be high sounding but Choutari should think about collecting advertisements from the nation and regional publishers. So that the fund could be utilized for the better design of the site, to conduct writing workshops, interaction, talks and also for some full-time editors/reviewers to value their time and effort. Likewise, it can also be used for paying for well-written articles, which could enhance the quality of writings on the magazine.

Likewise, it should also establish the direct connection with the graduate and postgraduate students through teachers to encourage, guide and mentor them in writing, like the way the theatres in Kathmandu do with the students in the university/campuses.

Shyam Sharma

Choutari, the other child of our community: Shyam Sharma, founding editor

“Several of us NELTA members . . . would like to share with you a few materials related to ELT on a monthly basis,” said an email from Balkrishna Sharma, who signed the email along with Prem Phyak’s name and mine. “Our desire is to prompt some ongoing discussion on issues of interest in ELT,” he added, inviting ELT colleagues in Nepal to discuss, in NELTA’s Yahoo listserv, the texts and ideas we planned to share.

That was exactly ten years ago today. A child who was born a few months earlier just had a robust conversation with me about “social justice” as a theme that he looks for in movies that he considers worth watching.

An excerpt from Paulo Freiere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed was one of the three items we had shared for discussion in that first “issue” of [N]ELT[A] Choutari (we were asked to stop using “NELTA,” the acronym of an organization we call our professional home, when its leadership wasn’t, for some time, driven by the positive energy that it used to be). I think that Choutari remains that free spirit, a monkey wrench in a hierarchical socio-epistemic culture.

For me, Choutari is a simple social phenomenon: an additional space born out of the need of younger educators, passed on and changed, and often almost gave up but never stopped using—just to make their voice heard as emerging, passionate scholars.

I’m sure that new generations of our language scholars will continue to use this platform, helping themselves and many more to pursue the profession.

As Bal said in his first announcement, “We wish you a pedagogically productive New Year 20[1]9!”

Choutari articles have been cited around the globe, exciting indeed: Prem Phyak,

Prem Phyak

founding editor

We had started Choutari to connect ELT professionals virtually and engage them in critical and situated discussions on multiple issues related to ELT. In the beginning, we published Choutari as a monthly blog to share NELTA activities, events and thoughts of NELTA colleagues. Mr Ganga Ram Gautam, the then President of NELTA, supported our team. I was Secretary of NELTA during that time. We received passionate support from NELTA central committee to publish Choutari. In 2012, NELTA decided to publish its own blog so we changed the name of blog NELTA Choutari as ELT Choutari. Choutari is now an independent and journal-like space where research articles, personal reflections and thoughts, workshop ideas and other ELT related discussions are published. I am happy to see the growing number of Choutari readers and feel proud that Choutari articles have contributed to expand the existing ELT knowledge by creating space for critical discussions on various issues in the field of ELT. Choutari articles have been cited by the authors from around the globe–this is very exciting indeed. For me, Choutari has become a popular name and a common space for Nepalese ELT community of practice to share personal and professional stories, research and ideas with scholars at the global level.

Netra Lal Pandey

Choutari should organize workshops and interactions: Netra Lal Pandey (from the lens of a reader) 

Earlier up to my bachelor level, I was unknown about ELT Choutari but when I came to Kathmandu for my master’s degree, I came to know about it. Since then, I’m enjoying with its contents regularly. As a reader, I found this forum as a good resource bank with fresh ideas regarding the current issues and practices of ELT. Sharing and discussing such practices and experiences have really become beneficial for ELT practitioners and beginners like me to be professionally strong. Because I can find some reflections there, some innovative practices, latest trends of ELT around the world, national and international perspectives, which would keep me abreast in my field. Choutari has brought opportunities to know about the recent trends and practices of ELT staying at home using our own smartphones and other digital devices. For example, the article by Yashoda Bam (October 2018) entitled “My Experiences of Teaching reading in Secondary Level” helps all teachers to deal with problems that they face in the course of teaching in the same level. In the same way, the interactive blog post by Ashok Raj Khatri (July 2018) entitled “Writing Practices in ELE Programs in Nepali Universities” in which the participants (lectures of different universities) have mentioned the fact that research and writing has been an integral part of the curricula in the universities but the practice is different in the universities. The striking point in this post is our degree is unable to develop our writing habits for this or that reasons.

Finally, I feel that Choutari should organize workshops and interaction programmes for the emerging ELT practitioners like us to have more ideas on framing topic and producing publishable writing, which the university degree has never taught us.

Include the videos too: Siddhartha Koirala (from the lens of a reader) 

Ekraj Koirala (Siddhartha)

Usually, I go through almost every issue of ELT Choutari since I came to know about its website. I mostly pause to read the contents like the discussion on classroom practices, the novelty in lesson delivery, and interview of different scholars on the issues like language development, aspects of language and use. I also love the articles written by new writers on language issues. I mostly prefer reading the experiences of the teachers from various corner of Nepal. I really enjoy reading them as they brought genuine issues/problems and way forward from their classroom practices. Since their experiences are based on real practices, it offers a wide range of knowledge about the challenges faced in teaching language in the schools of Nepal. Equally, I do love to read scholars’ interviews as they pass the message to the readers about the national and international perspectives of teaching-learning, professional development and so on.

To sum up, I would like to suggest the editorial team to involve a wide range of contents like teaching English/Nepali and other languages in primary grades, review of curriculum, practices of the directions and provision of the curriculum in the actual classroom teaching-learning. Equally, I love to see the editorial team starting discussion programmes among the teachers to share their experiences. Finally, it should start uploading real classroom delivery videos too.

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.

Welcome to the Fourth Quarterly Issue of ELT Choutari: Special Coverage on Teaching Reading #Vol. 10, Issue 89

First Let’s Talk About Reading Skills Then Only the Habit

Source: Richard_Rivera

Longman Dictionary of Applied Linguistics defines reading as the process of “perceiving a written text in order to understand its contents.” The written text here indicates written symbols of languages. Therefore, reading is making meaning from written symbols. Reading can be both aloud or silent. When you are reading this paragraph, perhaps you are reading silently and making the sense of what I’m trying to convey. Now, please read this statement aloud, yes please start reading aloud and feel the difference yourself. Have you read? That’s great. You read aloud so easily and subconsciously at the moment but I bet it took a great deal for your teacher to make you able to correlate each written symbol and their corresponding sounds and pronounce words accurately, which you just did without much effort and feeling that. Ok, just a moment for you to think, can we read silently without first being able to read aloud? Umm, generally not. Reading experts urge that a reader reads silently once s/he is fluent enough and to be fluent, one should have a considerable practice. And the practice comes from reading aloud. Therefore, the sub-skill of being aware of symbols and their corresponding sounds is a basic skill for reading.

In order to explain the process of reading more clearly, researchers have identified five components required for reading success. They are Phonemic awareness (sound- symbols relationship), phonics (name of the symbol and its sound), sight-word recognition, and fluency (NICHD, 2000), as well as vocabulary (Stahl & Bravo, 2010) and comprehension (Snow, 2002). Once we teach our children these five components of reading effectively, the children become independent readers and being an independent reader is the foundation for being successful in all areas of education. Check yourself now. You are reading this editorial independently because of these five components. Yes, our reading skill is based on these components and all other reading strategies we learn as we grow are also based on them. Similarly, our reading habit comes from these basic reading skills. Until and unless we children master these basic reading skills, we cannot expect a good reading habit in them. The ultimate goal of reading is to comprehend the text or grasp the meaning, which is equally important for any early grader to any university graduate.

Now as a teacher, future teacher, teacher educator or policy maker, we need to ask ourselves, in our reading lesson, do we really teach reading skills in our classes (like phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, reading fluency and comprehension)? When we remark our children do not have a reading habit, have we assessed whether they have a proper reading skill? How do we assess the reading skills of children? Mostly in written? Isn’t that somehow funny that we assess oral reading skill in written? These are some questions I leave up to you to reflect on our teaching reading practices.

Presenting you a special issue on reading skills and reading habits, we have opened up a discussion on developing reading skills- reading skills required for an early grader to the skills required for a university graduate. Moreover, we also have tried to capture some of the practices of promoting reading habits in this issue. We have covered six posts in this issue, which all are based on the experience of the authors. Some of the posts explore the challenges in developing reading skills and reading habit followed by some ways out. Likewise, other offer wonderful strategies and tips for accelerating reading skills at school level and also in research level. Moreover, some post views reading as the means of exploration and experience. Interestingly, this issue brings up the writing from three ladies and three gentlemen, gender equality, isn’t it? It is so good to see them coming up with academic discourse here at Choutari.

Read our posts to explore more about reading. Please follow the link below, read, drop your comments for the writers, share the posts among your circle and most importantly, write your experiences, reflections, best practices, challenges and so on in your profession and email us at 2eltchoutari@gmail.com. We will take your writing in the process.

Finally, wish you all a joyous, colourful and brightest Tihar and Chhat festival. Have a good time. Here is the list of the posts for this issue:

  1. Let’s Borrow Something from Nepali Language Classrooms into English Classrooms: Ekraj Koirala (Siddhartha)
  2. Some Ideas of Developing Reading Habits in Children: Babita Chapagain
  3. How to Review Literature Effectively: Sharing My Research Experiences: Karna Rana, PhD
  4. Why There is No Good Reading Habit in Our Students: An Exploration: Nabina Rokka
  5. My Experience of Teaching Reading in Higher Secondary Level: Yashoda Bam
  6. A Professional Journey of Exploration, Experience and Expression: Balram Adhikari

Catch you up in the January issue.

Before leaving, I would like to thank all the contributors to this issue. Likewise, I would like to offer special thanks to Ashok Raj Khati and Karna Rana for their rigorous reading and review of the articles.

Jeevan Karki, the Lead Editor of the Issue

Follow me at Twitter: @G1Karki

Let’s Borrow Something from Nepali Language Classrooms into English Classrooms

Ekraj Koirala (Siddhartha)*

I worked as an English language teacher, then worked as a teacher trainer. Now I have taken the new role of basic reading skills development expert in the Nepali language! Actually, it has been an interesting experience for me to work in the teaching-learning of both languages. Now, I am now trying to see how English language teaching can help Nepali and vice-versa. With the recent development of the five component- based reading approach around the world, the focus of reading skill development in native language has been shifted. And the latest approach is giving better results. In this post, I am trying to explore the trends and gaps in reading skills teaching in English language and share some encouraging changes in the reading skills in the early graders in the Nepali language. Finally, I propose to borrow the five component- based reading approach from the Nepali language classrooms into the English classrooms.

Reading skills in English language classroom

Though the curriculum states English as the second language in the classroom, there are students from many different backgrounds, which makes Nepali the second language for them and English after that. In a way, it is taught and practised as the foreign language. One of the general objectives of primary level English curriculum (Primary Education Curriculum, 2063) is “…to help them develop enthusiasm for reading so that they will be responsive and knowledgeable readers” On the other hand, one of the objectives of reading in early grades (1 to 3) is to “put sounds together to read words and sentences and read words and simple sentences, and understand them.” English teaching as a subject in early grade aims of developing students’ ability to use English effectively in real life situation as per the national curriculum framework of Nepal.

As the curriculum suggests teaching-learning activity is to be based on oral-situation-approach. However, during my time of working closely with teachers and students as well as the close observation of teaching-learning in classrooms, I found only a handful of teachers using target language i.e. oral situational approach in the classrooms and most of them use the grammar-translation method to deliver the lessons. Mostly, teachers are active and take more talking time in the learning process, while students are passive receivers and get no or insufficient time to use or practice the language in the classroom. As a result, students learn about the language only not the language itself. During the lessons, for instance in alphabet teaching, teachers ask students to follow him/her like, a… for apple, b… for ball, c… for cat… The early graders are provided with the Nepali translations of new words from the teachers and they are also supposed to mug up the meaning of a particular word in Nepali. Even teaching chant is done in a very unsystematic way where students read chant like reading any other text. Yes, read not sing! Students are seen decoding the letters but cannot decode (read) words or utter them at once. On the other hand, those who decode do not understand the meaning. In my observation, a very few numbers of teachers engage students inchild-centredd activities as prescribed by the curriculum. Group work, pair work and other learning strategies with specific learning tasks are very rare in the classroom activities. As the most popular strategies the teacher uses are; explain unfamiliar words and text in Nepali, read aloud, choral reading, reading by a few students, and answers the comprehension questions using the grammar-translation method. During my observation, I found few measurable gaps in teaching English in early grades (1-3) such as;

  1. Less exposure of English language: Not only the students get less exposure to use the target language in the classroom but teachers themselves use handful expressions of English. Few short expressions of English is used such as stand up, come in, ok, you read, did you understand, now read, your turn, turn page no are the most common expressions as the classroom language.
  2. Focus only on teaching items rather than skills: The teachers only cover the teaching items of the textbook where they focus only on the contents. They are less aware of the basic reading skills such as phonological awareness, concepts of print, letter-sound association and blending of sounds, syllable reading, vocabulary building, comprehension and fluency.
  3. Comprehension teaching is less focused: The main emphasis of teaching is mostly based on the drills and deliver the meaning of the whole text in Nepali. Although reading comprehension is regarded as the essential part of reading, it is mostly neglected during the lesson. Actually, teachers read the text and write the answers on the board and students are asked to copy that. Now the question is who is learning here- teacher or students? Students are not prepared to strengthen their reading comprehension.

Nevertheless, a few good examples of letter recognition is seen in English learning. Few teachers were seen using readymade domino game to link relationship with sound and letter. Students were able to utter correct pronunciation of English letters after the domino practice. They were able to decode the letters in words. When it comes to the matter of word reading, a few students were able to decode words with proper pronunciation. Generally, they were able to decode the monosyllabic words such as bus, high, red etc. but had difficulty in multi-syllabic words. In my observations, I found most of the teachers struggling in making students read words at once. In addition, teachers are struggling to develop vocabulary, reading fluency, and reading comprehension in students.

Reading skills in Nepali language classroom

While working closely with teachers and students and closely observing the Nepali language classes, I found some changes in teaching the Nepali language.  First, there is an extension of time for the Nepali language in schools. With the emphasis of giving more inputs and exposure of Nepali language to students, two periods a day is allocated for it. Second, a new approach called five components based learning approach is used in teaching the Nepali language. And third, a new strategy called gradual release of responsibility is used in teaching learning process.

Now let me basically share about the five component based reading with a short account of classroom activities and the gradual release of responsibility strategy. The five component- based reading includes phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, reading fluency and reading comprehension.

Teachers start his/her ninety-minute class with the everyday lesson with Phonemic Awareness activities like sound recognition, blending syllables into words and segmenting words into syllables. Then they gradually move to Phonics activities like introducing letter, its corresponding sound and possible words that it comes with. In addition, they involve students in stroke writing, syllables (Brahakhari) reading, word reading and reading a short decodable text. Moving onto the next component of Vocabulary, teachers introduce the vocabulary before presenting a decodable text/story. They introduce three new words with proper pronunciation, meaning and use in a sentence. Then the students are asked to read the text/story to improve their reading Fluency followed by necessary support and model reading from the teacher. Then to assess the reading Comprehension, teachers use factual and inferential questions. Finally, to test the students reading and writing skill, teachers use dictation technique.

In order to teach these components, teachers use the Gradual Release Responsibility strategy. There is basically three phase of presenting a learning item according to this strategy. At first, the teacher demonstrates the new skill of language for a few times, which is known as “I do”. During this time, students are only supposed to watch and listen to the teachers. Then the teacher and students practice the skill together, which is known as “We do”. Finally, the students are given the responsibility to demonstrate the new language skills, while the teacher observes closely and supports them. This phase is known as “You do”. This concept is developed to transfer the new skills of language from teacher to student in a non- threatening way. After all, the ultimate goal of teaching is to enable students to demonstrate knowledge and skills themselves. Gradual release of responsibility believes that students should be presented with a good demonstration of what the teachers expect from them. Then the teacher should slowly engage students in the activity. This phase is mostly teacher guided but both teacher and students are involved. Finally, the students are asked to practice and demonstrate the skill. This concept can be illustrated in the following figure:

Gradual Release of Responsibility- Pearson & Gallagher (1983)

Student learning in the class

I was surprised to see that most of the students in classrooms were able to decode the taught letters and bring themselves into storybooks of different genres from classroom corner library. Teachers, on the other hand, were seen feeling comfortable in doing the lesson in a structured way. They shared that they had never ever experienced such a learning environment in the classroom since they begin to teach the Nepali language. And they believe that this approach is significantly supporting even the students from non- Nepali background to learn Nepali in a better way.

In the follow-up discussion, the teachers expressed that a majority of students have been dropping out from schools when they reach the upper grades. They also revealed that the majority of droppers could not read the text properly and comprehend the meaning. Consequently, they feel ashamed, disheartened, ignored and are punished in many cases and leave the school.  Those who continue their education struggle to achieve better.

Researches have shown that students who do not learn to read in the early grades are more likely to repeat the grade. Those who are upgraded are more likely to drop out of school. In Nepal, if 100 students enroll in grade one, only 30% of them stay in school till the end of their school education. About 70% of students drop out of the school system. It is believed that this horrible situation will lessen once they get competency over the language during their early grades and achieve overall academic success.

Achieving the objectives of the English language curriculum primarily in early grade is inevitable in order to retain the students in upper grades. If students cannot achieve competency over the English language in early grades, their academic success in upper grades cannot be ensured. To address the lacking part in English learning and make the students competent reader in English, Nepal government should introduce five components based reading approach as the core approach to teaching language in early grades. As discussed with cases of Nepali language above, students in this approach get good opportunity to practice reading skills in a carefully guided environment. Moreover, it controls teachers from being active every time and gradually releases the responsibility of learning from teacher to students.

References:

Curriculum Development Centre (2007). Primary Education Curriculum (in Nepali). Curriculum Development Centre, Ministry of Education.

Pearson, P. D. and M. C. Gallagher, (1983).The Instruction of Reading Comprehension. Contemporary Educational Psychology, (8), 317-344.

* Mr Koirala is an MA from Tribhuvan University. He has been working in the capacity of literacy officer in an organization. His area of interest also includes writing, theatre performance and art.

Some Ideas of Developing Reading Habits in Children

Babita Chapagain*

It is always important for the teachers and parents to read children’s literature themselves, understand the effectiveness of extensive reading and create an appropriate environment for children to read books. This article presents the existing teaching reading culture to young learners in Nepal and ideas for teachers and parents to provide opportunities to read and support their children’s learning.

The Context

Several studies have been done globally in the field of language teaching regarding the importance of the use of children’s literature for their learning. However, in the context of Nepal’s public primary schools, this is a very rare practice. (Koirala & Bird, 2004: 128). Koirala and Bird (2004) mentioned that the culture of reading for pleasure is very limited in the context of Nepal. It does not mean that people do not read books or other publications.

The government has invested a large amount of money in primary education and showed a willingness to reform the education system. However, the education system is conventional, and it needs to be transformed to meet contemporary global education. For instance, the government provides textbooks for the school children and the children follow the texts and instructions of the textbooks which they have to do for getting promoted to the upper grade every year. There is a rare access to the library of reference books and additional reading materials for the children in schools, and neither the schools (excluding few schools,  having managed fund for the library), have managed resources to develop a library in their schools. Although some international organizations such as Room to Read and Nepal Library Foundation have been working to enhance educational opportunities through public libraries by donating English as well as Nepali story books in rural communities, their work in limited areas is unlikely to reach every corner of the country and most of the children in Nepal are still far away from such opportunities. Unless the government invests massively in education particularly in providing learning resources, the current support for the schools by a limited number of non-governmental organisations may not result in the immediate change in the traditional culture of reading. In addition to this, a lack of awareness among teachers and parents is another obstacle to foster a reading culture of children. For instance, when a question is raised about reading culture at home and at school, the majority of Nepali people consider reading means reading prescribed textbooks and understanding a text refers to enabling children to answer the questions based on the text. Moreover, it is a general tendency of the people that they tend to treat their children in the same way once they were treated.

In addition to this, the education system in Nepal lacks a holistic approach to teaching and learning a language and it is focused on teaching one aspect of language at a time in isolation entirely based on textbooks in general. For instance, the students are taught Nepali or English alphabet in preschool which can take over a year as it has no meaning for the children. Similarly, the students may know prepositions, but they have no idea of presenting it in context and it takes many years for them to internalize and use language in their everyday life. Beard’s (1991) study in children developing literacy found that a fundamental support of parents and teachers can help children set up their learning goals. Therefore, parents and teachers need to feel that young learners need exposure to develop their reading habit which serves as a vehicle to make a tremendous difference in their language development, intercultural understanding.

My Experience as a Teacher Trainer

When I was a teacher trainer at one of the organizations at Kathmandu, I worked in a training project ‘Bringing English to Classrooms’. During that training period, I conducted some story-based activities to provide the teachers with hands-on knowledge regarding the effectiveness of using literature throughout the curriculum. Teachers also wrote stories themselves for their students and made books using the local materials available. The teachers enjoyed a lot in my sessions and seemed to believe that stories can play a powerful role in language learning. However, in the beginning, many of them were not sure if they could take what they learned in the training centre. They came up with questions such as ‘how is extra reading possible while both teachers and students are busy completing the course syllabus fixed by the school administration and preparing for exams?’ So, it was still challenging to persuade the teachers that reading widely does not mean it has to be separated from their everyday task based on the syllabus but the two can be integrated. During our monitoring phase, I found some of my trainee teachers who implemented what they had learned and some of them were still not sure how it would exactly work in their school where they still lacked enough books, time and concrete ideas. From the training programme, I learned that some teachers could not transfer the skills they had learned from the training to their classrooms. And the limited time the project had did not allow me to go for regular mentoring.  Had I got further opportunities to follow those teachers, the result would have been far better than what our project really achieved. On the other hand, the teachers who were aware and who could internalize the process succeeded in implementing what they learned. It made me believe that it is possible for the teachers to establish a new culture if the teachers are aware, self-motivated and are mentored carefully.

Why is child literature important?

Literature not only helps children learn to read but also helps them develop an appreciation for reading as a pleasurable aesthetic experience. Likewise, a team of researchers (as cited in Pantaleo, 2002) claimed that “literature entertains, stretches imagination, elicits a wealth of emotions, and develops compassion.” (pp. 211). A piece of story stimulates readers to generate questions, can give new knowledge and provides encounters with different beliefs and values.  Good stories can work as a powerful device to show children right direction, help them make decisions, learn to empathize and become good humans. It can change their perception and attitude towards certain things. For instance, from the story ‘The Grouchy Ladybug’ written by Eric Carle, children learn the importance of being friendly and interacting politely with others in the community. Literature also opens the springboard for discussions. For instance, after reading ‘The Giving Tree’ children can discuss for hours regarding human development, their behaviour, selfishness and so many other issues. Thus, using literature is a natural medium of teaching children a second language, developing a love for literature in the learners and motivating them to read and grow as a ‘human’.

Why extensive reading across the curriculum and what teachers can do?

An act of reading extensively is likely to produce positive attitudes and interest towards reading. Materials, which are interesting at the appropriate linguistic level, always motivate students positively. Such materials give pleasure and generate interest in reading and support language learners to develop their overall language skills and progress academically. Day (1997) compares the pleasure and achievement the students get from extensive reading with a garden where it is always spring. Children’s literature or real books used in language classrooms and across the curriculum also contributes to foster their lifelong reading habits, good problem solving as well as decision-making skills (Ghosn, 2013). The more children get to read books, the better speaking and writing competence they acquire. In this regard, Harmer (2001:251) argues that “what we write often depend upon what we read” and so do the children as they draw attention to the structure of written language and begin to internalize its distinctive features of language when they read or listen to stories. Thus, they also learn to speak simultaneously when they get to participate in the activities where they require speaking skills such as dramatization and making predictions.  Therefore, it is very important for the teachers to read books, promote reading and give children enough opportunity to interact with books by surrounding them with good texts in the school.

It becomes easier for the students to understand the concept of the curriculum content and it broadens the horizon of their understanding if they get to participate in such activities based on stories. For instance, children have fun by listening to the story; ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ and simultaneously they get the concept of the lifecycle of a butterfly. Thus, through the practice of reading extensively across the curriculum, teachers can encourage young learners to read and have the love for literature. This way, the teachers can scaffold them to acquire competence in language as well as the subject content.

Conclusion

Teachers can start collecting reading materials through various sources or develop stories themselves working collaboratively in co-ordination with the headteacher despite the difficult circumstances with lack of resources. Most importantly they should be aware and make themselves familiar with child literature. Teachers can make a difference in the language classrooms for young learners if they have a good selection of stories with beautiful pictures, various sentence structures and repetitive patterns and stories that represent a various culture of Nepal. Therefore, the teachers need to realize it is important to maximize reading opportunities in school and encourage parents to read to and/or with their children at home.

*Ms Chapagain is working as a freelancer teacher educator. She earned her Master’s degree in English Language Teaching (ELT) from Kathmandu University. She has also completed MA in ELT (with specialization in Young Learners) from the University of Warwick, the UK as a Hornby Scholar 2014/2015.

References

Beard, R. (1991). International perspectives on children’s developing literacy.  In C. Brumfit, J. Moon and R. Tongue (Eds.), Teaching English to Children: From Practice to Principle. Collins ELT.

Day, R.R., & Bamford, J. (1997). Extensive reading in the second language classroom. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Ghosn, I. (2013). Humanizing teaching English to young learners with children’s literature. CLELE journal, Volume 1, Issue 1, 39-57

Harmer, J. (2001). The Practice of English Language Teaching. (3rd Ed.) Longman: Pearson Education Limited. Longman: Essex England.

Koirala, N. & Bird, P. (2004). Library Development in Nepal: Problems and prospects. EBHR-38, 128

Pantaleo, S. ( 2002). Children’s literature across the curriculum: An Ontario survey. Canadian Journal Of Education, 27, 2 & 3: 211–230

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