Reflections on my teaching journey: Laxman Gnawali

Laxman Gnawali, PhD

I started my teaching career not by choice but by necessity. Hailing from a lower middle-class subsistence farmer’s family, I saw very few options to get the resources I needed to pursue higher education. With six younger siblings waiting for me back in my home village in the western hill district of Gulmi, my parents had it hard enough without me adding to their burden. In this context, I had managed to get my school-level education from a free Sanskrit school, in Ridi, Gulmi.

Back then, higher education was seen as a waste of time and money; families of that generation believed a better alternative was to go to India to find ‘good’ jobs there. However, the zeal was in me, and after finishing my schooling in Ridi, I landed in Butwal to attend Intermediate of Education (I Ed) at Butwal Multiple Campus. The fact that I had done my schooling in Sanskrit did not prevent me from dreaming to major in English.

You could say that I was naïve, not realizing that I belonged to a class that could not afford higher education. It sounds crazy now. But as they say, “Man proposes and God disposes,” so I got a scholarship from the Campus, enabling me to take the next steps on my path.

When I was in my second year I Ed, I ran out of money. I badly needed a job. I heard from one of my classmates that an education officer from Palpa district was looking for an English teacher for a school in a village called Masyam. The offer looked good to me, so I went to Masyam, Palpa.

Due to financial limitations of the school and my qualifications, I was given a primary teacher’s position but I had to teach students of grades eight to ten. To teach English in the secondary level with just an incomplete intermediate level of education was a real challenge, to say the least. But I did not give up.

In the beginning I simply did not know how to teach! To start with, I lacked even basic English skills. I couldn’t even speak the language. I could only read from the book and translate it to the students. I regularly came across words which were difficult for which I did not know the meanings. I remember, one day I was planning to teach a conversation that included a phrase mind your head. I knew what the word mind meant and what head meant but mind your head did not make any sense to me. I asked around but did not get any definite answer so I travelled to Palpa district headquarters, seeking an answer but I only met people just like me, so I came back without the meaning. The dictionary did not help either. It only gave the meaning of mind and head separately. It didn’t address British idioms. It was only after several years that I was able to find out what mind your head meant – it means “pay attention, don’t hit your head!”.

I confronted other stumbling blocks in my teaching career. In several instances, I did not always have the right answers to the questions given in the book. However, I learnt that being a teacher wasn’t just about being knowledgeable. I later found out that my students in Masyam School had reported to senior teachers that I was a ‘great’ teacher, because I was humble, always trying to help and trying to be friendly. This kind of motivated me to teach.

While my work at Masyam School greatly encouraged me in seriously thinking about a teaching career, I also knew that I was not going to teach there forever. I had firm plans for further education. Indeed, after a year of teaching at Masyam and attending college just to participate in the exams, I completed my Intermediate in Education.

Immediately after the results were published, I learnt that the very same Butwal Campus was launching a new Bachelor of Arts program. The program offered English major along with History and other subjects. I quickly enrolled myself in the program without thinking. However, financial problems reared its ugly head again. I didn’t have a current income source or adequate savings.

I asked Hari Mainali, one of my classmates and the then Principal of Butwal Elite English School, if his school needed an English teacher. And, because I was always regular, did my homework, interacted with the teachers, tried my best to learn, he was already impressed with me! At once I was appointed as an English teacher in his private school.

Butwal Elite English School was an interesting environment; everybody spoke English, teachers and students alike. While I had not developed that level of spoken proficiency, I had to try because that was the rule. I did try, worked hard, soon enough, I was an insider among the teaching staff. As a beginning teacher, the school had given me classes only in nursery, kindergarten and Grade one. However, I took this as a very good opportunity for me to start learning from the beginning.

Looking back now, I realize that I’d made numerous mistakes, not just with language but in the very way I taught. For example, I would get students to shout the names of fruits, vegetables etc. that I was teaching. It was the method I used to make them memorize words. I also made them copy everything from the books. I remember one instance of my pedagogy, which was after I was entrusted with grades two and three as well. I asked Grade three students to write an essay. To ensure that everyone wrote an essay on the given topic, I provided them with a model essay and every student was expected to reproduce the same essay! Most students did. I did this every time I taught them to write essays. Simply put, this was not teaching at all, but that was all I knew then.

And so time passed as I gradually got into the groove. And, the mistakes I made didn’t stop me from making a good impression among my seniors. And so, it came to be that the following year, I was promoted! Actually, the management asked me to start teaching in the higher classes.

This upward growth helped me iron out my shortcomings and learn new things as well. For example, I found out that independent reading was an exercise that immensely helped students. So, I had them read short stories and poems. And those who read more had better writing. It was then that I knew the value of extensive, independent reading.

The years passed and I continued teaching. Even then, not as a career but as a job in which I was just barely proficient. Whenever I moved from one place to another for my next level of studies, I taught in nearby schools. It was a convenient and always available option. However, when I was doing my MA in English Literature Tribhuvan University, Kirtipur, the classes were run in the day time, so I could not study and work simultaneously. I decided to work outside of Kathmandu, in a public school and maintain my study without attending classes – I had to survive first.

I got a position in Dedithumka High School in Kavre district to teach English from grades six to 10. Lucky me, my students were curious and supportive. I experimented whatever I knew; I organized short skits, conversations, sometimes creative writing tasks etc. I taught grammar to the best of my knowledge in contextual ways. Students were happy but I was the one who was happier here. Finally, I was slowly learning the tricks of teaching.

After my Masters, I returned to my own village in Gulmi to teach English to Grade 11 students. Again this upward mobility gave me opportunities to try out new approaches. I could confidently practise what I had learnt with my new students. As with all things, it worked with some, didn’t work with others but overall, the feedback from my students showed that my lessons were well received.

My teaching life underwent a rapid change when I was appointed as a lecturer at Kathmandu University (KU) a year later, in 1993. I had moved to the capital for better opportunities. Newly married, and full of aspirations, I was looking for a proper university position to teach. I learnt through an acquaintance that KU, in its nascent stage then, was looking for an English teacher for its School of Science. I applied and was called to give a trial class. Prof. Abhi Subedi, my former teacher in my MA, observed my test lesson and decided to have faith in me. I was in.

Once in, I went through many experiments, some with pleasure, and more with frustrations. After all, I was somebody who had attended a Sanskrit school for his high school education, someone who had never, as a learner, been exposed to a proper English-speaking environment and well delivered lessons. And now I was trying to teach English to science students who had come from private English medium schools. Their English, particularly spoken, was far better than mine. At times I thought of quitting, I actually tried quitting, but somehow, I held on.

One incident particularly illustrates how much I yet had to learn: I was teaching Romeo and Juliet, a play by Shakespeare. We could have practised the conversations in the play, we could have even presented the drama itself. But instead, I tried to teach the play simply by explaining every line of the play, page after page! Only now I can imagine how traumatic my lessons must have been for my students. There were signs that they were not paying attention, and sometimes I could see clearly that they did not enjoy the lesson. I even took it as a discipline issue. It took a long time for me to understand that the problem was not in them but in me, my teaching process, my teaching, my methodology. I was attempting to teach a drama by explaining line by line, for the whole 60 minute class, every class, three days a week. Had I been the students, I would have quit, but fortunately, my students stayed in class.

Time did remain the same. I moved on, and I seemed to change my pedagogy as illustrated by the forthcoming example. After a couple of years, I had to teach The Day of the Triffids, a sci-fi piece, and Siddhartha, a spiritual novel. This time, while I still used the explanation technique, I made it more interactive. We would discuss the events, linking the elements in the stories to our own lives. Instead of reading and explaining every line, the class became an interaction session between me and the students. Perhaps, this change was responsible for a pleasant surprise I got later in the year. In the students’ magazine, I was voted the best teacher! Although I knew I was not the best teacher, it helped me realize that I was improving.

Later in 2002, after my second Masters from the UK with a scholarship from the A. S. Hornby Educational Trust , I was transferred to School of Education from School of Science because my UK degree specialized in Teacher Training for ELT. As we started the new semester, I felt at home, I clearly didn’t know why. Upon reflection now, I understand I had undergone two things. One, I had been exposed to an excellent teaching methodology at Marjon, Plymouth, with great faculties Tony Wright and Rod Bolitho. I had practised speaking English with native and non-native speakers during my stay there. I had returned with an improved know-how of English and pedagogy. Second, I was teaching postgraduate students how to teach English, something I had specialized in.

With my background and the teaching situation, I was in a good place. I had to demonstrate model lessons so I had to prepare at my best. I worked hard and I enjoyed. My lessons were well-received. I was established.

But the question remains ‘what exactly made my lessons better?’ By this time, I was on the other side of the continuum of teaching. I had stopped giving long lectures. When I had to explain something, I presented lecturettes, not lectures. My students read, shared, worked in groups, gave presentations, argued against each other, critiqued, and reviewed.

I knew that in higher education, particularly at the university level, we have adult students who will not enjoy listening to long lectures. They bring with them a lot of experiences, insights, and ideas. They will also want to participate in the discussions. I knew this so I helped them realize their potential. I feel that my haphazard teaching in early years, and successful experiments with PG diploma, Masters and M Phil level established me as a seasoned teacher. I have tried to exemplify what life has taught me — that a participatory way of teaching is the best way. My success inside the University has helped me to be invited to deliver sessions outside. Conference presentations at the NELTA and other forums in Nepal, as well as in several other countries in the world have become part and parcel of my life.

Like everyone, I too have my regrets and mistakes. I know I cannot travel back in time and undo them. From time to time, I remember the scenes of my lessons in Palpa, in Butwal, in my early years, my mistakes at the University.

However, it may have been that I had to make those mistakes to arrive where I am now.

About the author:

Dr. Laxman Gnawali is Professor of English Education at Kathmandu University School of Education, and Senior Vice President of NELTA.  He can be reached at lgnawali@gmail.com

Language course and methodology: An Innovation or a prescription?

Binod Singh Dhami

Introduction

I have been teaching ESL/EFL in different schools, colleges, and universities for about ten years. In this period, I mostly taught according to what was provided by schools; such as textbook, curriculum, and methodology mentioned in the syllabus. Particularly, schools prescribed the textbooks for my class, and I had to teach and was asked to get an excellent output from students. I did as per the school’s and college requirements, but I was not satisfied with my teaching. I felt like someone was choosing food for me. I wanted to quit teaching and do something different. At one point in time, I hated teaching the most, though teaching English was my dream job in my life. Later, I received teacher training courses and my identity shifted from teacher to teacher trainer. I got opportunities to facilitate training to English teachers from home and abroad. I designed training manuals, reviewed courses and made contextual changes, wrote and adapted materials to better deliver training. The responsibility of a course designer and course facilitator gave me immense pleasure in teaching and training. Recently, I am working as a teaching assistant and teaching English for Academic Purpose (EAP) courses at the University. When I look at my journey of ELT, an effective language teaching and effectiveness of my instruction resulted after I started to design ELT courses and implemented myself in the class. Autonomy is crucial for English teachers in selecting textbooks, methodology, and designing a course of study for their students. In this write-up, I walk through how autonomous Nepali English teachers are.

Prescription on course and methodology

Honestly speaking, teachers have been slaves as they are operated by someone else. The teachers never get a chance to discuss what they need in the classroom. The schools themselves in private schools and the government in government-aided schools prescribe books, and the teachers have to follow what they are asked to do. A few teachers get the expected outputs, but most of them fail. Somebody at the top level (i. e., expert) designs a course/textbook/curriculum for all the students in the nation, and the teachers are sent to classrooms with the course. The course/textbook designers neither consult concerned teachers nor do they go and study what the students need. They design the same course for all the locations from east to west and north to south without having proper knowledge of classroom contexts. Then, the problem comes when teachers use textbooks/courses in the class–the course books are prepared based on pedagogical philosophies or teaching methods. The teacher’s potentiality is spoiled through the activities mentioned in the books because teaching and learning are conducted according to the textbooks. In this respect, English teachers have been methodologically and organizationally slaves. Methodologically slaves in the sense that they teach English with the method that someone has developed for them, which may not be suitable for their classes. A technique/method that best works for one part of the world/classroom may not work or does not work at all for another part of the world/classroom. Therefore, it is the teacher who makes necessary changes in an established method and makes suitable for class, not the one out of the class (expert). Here, I am not questioning experts and established ELT methods, instead advocating for teacher autonomy. Similarly, teachers have been organizationally slaves because schools, colleges, and even the universities never discuss so that teachers know what they need. The organizations choose the textbooks and teachers are thrown in the classes. The question is, how do school administrations know what sort of books/courses a particular group of students need without consulting teachers and students.

Effective teaching and learning

English teachers should be given full autonomy to design, develop and disseminate ELT courses and materials for their classes. They are not only the implementers of what someone has designed but also course and method developers. Of course, all of the teachers cannot design the course for their students since they lack proper training and practice, but they must be trained in such a way that they can develop English language courses themselves or adapt textbooks and methodologies. Moreover, it is necessary to be satisfied with what is done in the classroom. How can teachers be happy and satisfied, if they cannot choose what they need in the classroom? Our students learn English from the early years of their schooling. At the end of the day, they cannot produce English. This is because the materials that they are exposed to are not appropriate to their level or/and interest. We have been teaching in the same way for years and years, and we say we are the experienced teachers. We never reflect on our teaching, for instance; how was my class? Did the textbook/materials, planning, and classroom management work today? Teachers find teaching boring because they are not given the responsibility to hand over all teaching and learning systems. Teachers should be trained to adapt to the materials/ textbooks. Textbook and method adaptation is a process in which the teachers evaluate textbooks and methods and do necessary changes according to what they need, and use in the classroom. All of the teachers must be trained so that they can adapt to the textbook, language course, and methods. Most importantly, teachers and students should be consulted while designing the curriculum, textbooks, and teaching methods. Similarly, teachers should also reflect on their teaching (content selection, content delivery, appropriacy of instructional activities) to contextualize teaching in the current classroom setting.

Conclusion

Unless teachers remain free from methodological and organizational slavery and they are given training, not only on how to teach but also on how to adapt teaching and teaching methods, it is difficult to see remarkable changes in students. Therefore, from an organization’s part, they should organize training for teachers on material contextualization, and teachers have to take a lead and produce teaching materials on their own without depending on the textbooks/language and methodology mentioned in them. Autonomy creates a win-win situation for teachers, students, and schools. So, let the teachers be their boss, don’t put them down.

Binod Singh Dhami is a teaching assistant at Minnesota State University, Mankato, USA. As a TESOL trainer, he served at TEFL International. He also produces YouTube videos on different aspects of teaching and learning that can be accessed on the YouTube Channel called ‘Global Online School.’ L2 writing, World Englishes, methodology and curriculum designing are his research interests.                           

Speakers’ club for enhancing public speaking skills and English language

Gyanendra Yadav

Abstract

These days, public speaking seems to be an essential soft skill for an individual which needs to be focused in school. Speakers’ club can be an effective way to develop such skill in students in addition to enhancing language proficiency. Based on a case study, in this paper, I attempt at sharing my experience of being an active participant in a speakers’ club and conducting it in the school for a couple of years. In the first section of the paper, first I introduce readers with the notion of speakers’ club; then, I briefly talk about how I collected data for the study. Next, I discuss the importance of speakers’ club in public speaking in general and language learning in particular as well as the challenges we faced to conduct it regularly. And finally, I present possible ways to minimize such challenges before moving to the conclusion at last.

Key words: public speaking, speakers’ club, language development, social skill

Background

When I was doing my Masters, I attended a  Speakers’ Club in 2013, which was organized by senior English language teaching scholars at Kathmandu University. The speakers delivered wonderful speeches; in fact, they were so inspiring and motivating for me.  The programme encouraged to take part as a speaker in the next Speakers’ club. In the following programme, I was one of the featured speakers speaking on The person who shaped my life. It appeared to be an easy and interesting for me as I had written an essay on the same topic. I prepared as much as I could but I felt nervous to speak in front of mass. Actually, that was the first time I had ever participated in any speech competition. I shared how a teacher transformed me from an average student to a teacher. The participants were found to have touched by my story and some of them praised my speech at the end. I do not recall exactly who got the prize on that particular day but I cannot forget the way the toastmaster and other judges analysed and gave their feedback on my speech. This proved to be bedrock for my passion I developed in public speaking. Then onwards, I became one of the regular speakers of speaker’s club. It has been more than five years, but I still love to be part of it.

After years of practice, I realized that I have significantly improved my public speaking skill which has been an asset for me as a teacher. As a regular participant, it worked as a platform for me where I got familiar with the ingredients successful speeches and practised them in my own speeches. I was able to grab best speaker awards a number of times. I was so influenced that I introduced this concept in my school as well. Some students were found interested and they successfully conducted it throughout academic year. After one year, they became so confident that one of the students from my school took part in KU Speakers’ Club and was able to raise the best speaker award from the hand of ELT scholars doing masters and M. Phil. Similarly, the other students also followed him and gave influencing speeches and were successful getting award several times. Despite the fact that we could not run it regularly every year; many students were found to be benefited from this club and have developed themselves as powerful speakers.

Reflecting upon my experience as a participant in KU and coordinator of Speakers’ Club in my school, I realized that Speakers Club can be used as an effective means of developing public speaking and language proficiency. Thus, in this article I attempt at exploring the use of Speakers’ Club in the EFL context of Nepal.

Notion of speakers’ club

Speakers’ Club can be simply defined as a platform for language learners to develop their public speaking skills. Like an international toastmaster, it is a club one delivers and observes each other’s speeches. Participating in such club gives students an opportunity  for practising their public speaking skills and their language skills. First time, speakers’ club was introduced by a group of ELT scholars of KUSOED and it became so famous that many of us implemented it in our respective schools and college. I was one of them to take this program in school level.

The notion of speakers’ club was guided by the International Toastmaster which aims at developing public-speaking and oral communication (Sun, 2008, as cited in Hsu, 2012). While implementing this at my school, we modified some of the rules to make it suitable for school children. First, we became little flexible about the time in the beginning as students often ran out of ideas in the middle and could not speak for four minutes. Likewise, we paid little attention to grammatical errors  so that they would speak freely without stress . Moreover, we created a post: highlighter, whose job was to give compliment  on only positive aspects of the speech. This was found to be encouraging for students to take part in the club.

Besides these changes, the main notion of feature and impromptu speakers remained the same like in toastmaster. Thus like in toastmaster club, we also have two kinds of speakers in a session: four feature speakers and four impromptu speakers (see agenda sheet in Appendix 1). The feature speakers are given a topic of speech and they are supposed to speak for four minutes, not less than three and more than four. But the impromptu speakers, as the word suggests, are provided the topics for their speech on the spot and they have to speak for at least two minutes. This is found to be challenging for speakers as they are only informed about theme but the topics are unknown to them. Besides speakers, we have  toastmaster,  grammar checker,  fidget counter,  highlighter, and  timekeeper. The toastmaster  selects topic and theme of the speech and conducts  session effectively. Sometimes, guest speakers are called to deliver mock speech and their experience of public speaking and  sometimes we watch famous speech by professional speakers. Speakers’ club can also be significant for language learners in enhancing their speaking skills. In relation to speaking skill, Ur (1991) emphasized the importance of small talk that advanced or academic students need to develop ability to speak at length which can be developed through short lecture or talk. Likewise, Harmer (2007) takes student’s presentation as an activity for developing speaking skill by giving talk on a particular topic. It seems that when learners take part in speakers’ club, they get ample opportunity to deliver and hear many speeches and harness their skills by collaborating and learning from each other.

The case study

This program was introduced in our schools’ academic calendar and was conducted twice a month. Basically students from grade eight and nine participated in the program. In the beginning, the students were hesitant; I had to guide them in selecting title, themes and word for the day for speech. Sometimes, I had to play the role of grammarian and check their grammatical errors as they could do on their own. But slowly and gradually, they not only improved their speech but also learned to organize the event themselves with little support from teachers. Now, they seem to have become independent; they can organize the program on their own. After successful implication of Speakers’ Club for two years, last year the school introduced Nepali Speakers’ Club as well.

The respondents for the present study were M. Phil graduates and my students who had been actively taking part in Speakers Club. They were selected purposefully so that I can get the required information for the study. I used interview and FGD as data collection strategies and my own reflective notes. The participants were given pseudo-names to maintain confidentiality in the study. First, I interviewed three respondents using interview guideline (see Appendix 2), however, it was used just as a guideline to cover the emergent issues. It mainly covered three aspects: participants’ experience, challenges in conducting speakers’ club, and their learning as speakers and language learners. Similarly, I also conducted an FGD with my students focusing on the same aspects. Their interviewed were transcribed and finally I developed different theme for analysis and interpretation. These themes have been presented and discussed in detail in the following section.

Importance of Speakers’ Club

All the respondents expressed that Speakers’ Club has been beneficial for them in enhancing public speaking as well as other skills. Regarding importance, Bimala argued, “I have not found anyone who express speakers’ club is not beneficial or uninteresting”. All the respondents agree that they have benefited from speakers’ club in many different ways which was also reported by Yu-Chih (2008). Their responses can be presented and discussed under three major sub-themes: Building confidence, enhancing public speaking skills and developing language.         

Building Confidence in speakers  

Most participants expressed that they developed confidence as a result of participating in speakers’ club. Building confidence appears to be a common phrase in almost every respondent’s   answer when they were asked to express the benefits of speakers’ club. In the process of sharing her experience as a speaker, Bimala mentioned that earlier she had habit of looking at ground while giving speech and she would become nervous when she looked at her audience. In her own words, she put “I learned to be normal” by thinking audience as nobody and herself to be superior to them. Similarly, Rajan emphasized that hesitation or fear of speaking is one of the main problems which he overcame by giving speech in speakers’ club. He believed that through practice one can decreases their hesitation and can become better speaker. This seems to be supported by students in the FGD and by other study (Iberri-Shea, 2009). Most students agree that after long practice, they felt confident while giving speech in mass.

Improving public speaking skills

Enhancing public speaking was found to be the main expectation of each respondent. However the way they express their development as speakers vary from one to another. First, Sunil opined that he adored being part of speakers’ club. According to him, speakers’ club is “a platform for learners where they can practice and develop their skills to deliver effective speech in the mass”. Furthermore, he shared that he learned to use quotation and personal stories in his speech which made him winner twice. But he believed that winning is not final goal; rather speaking is an opportunity to explore their ability and a process to collect required information on particular topic which can be used to influence our audience. So, he seems to have connected speaking skills to personal and professional development as well. This seems to be in line with Yu-Chih (2008) who states that through such club students improve their proficiency in public speaking and other various skills.

Next, the respondents of FGD view public speaking a way to develop research skills. They expressed that speakers club gave them opportunity to research on different new topics. As a result they developed habit of collecting information from different sources to prepare and give speech. Their understanding was found to be in line with Iberri-Shea (2009) who states that “public speaking tasks require students to conduct research and develop support for their arguments” (p.23). Likewise, Rajan articulated that he became conscious about his errors yet it did not decrease his fluency. He expressed to have learned to maintain both accuracy and fluency even after being aware of his error.

Above all, the participants were able to learn to present themselves as speaker, use anecdote and quotation, research on different topics and developed as speakers. By the same token, Al-Tamimi (2014) argues that “public speaking such as speakers club has been proved as a suitable pedagogical activity for ESL/EFL students to develop their speaking competence” (p.66). They can better relate their stories with the context, make inferences from observation and experience, and derive conclusion effectively. These skills can be important in real life situation besides learning language and public speaking. In this line Thornbury (2005) states that for language learners, the experience of presenting ourselves in front of class and giving talk can be an effective way of preparing for real life speaking.

Opportunity to practice target language

In response to my question regarding language development, they believed to have developed their speaking skill and improve their grammar. First, a respondent in FGD put that learning English or any other language is not limited to book; it can be learnt better by speaking. He belied that the more one speaks the more they develop speaking skill. In the same line, Sunil also echoed this respondent when he stated that speaking, as a productive skill, needs practice; so the more we speak the more we develop speaking proficiency. He also added that such practice can have positive impact on writing as well since speech can be turned writing.

Next, Rajan and Bimala expressed that speakers could improve their grammar by focusing on the comments given by grammarian in the speakers club. They believed that speakers club can be used as platform to reflect on our error in order to minimize them and become better speaker. In this line, Ur (1991) states that developing leaners’ ability to express through speech is an important factor in language course.

Thus, delivering speech in speakers club seems to provide EFL learners immense opportunity of using language to influence people. They learn to use their communicative competence – “knowing when and how to say what to who” (Hymes, 1971, as cited in Larseen Freeman, 2000) in their speech to influence people. Thus, such meaningful discourse can help EFL learners acquire language subconsciously just like in natural setting (Krashen, 1982).

Challenges in conducting speakers’ club

From the interview and FGD, I found three main challenges in conducting speakers’ club successfully. First, they expressed that most students were hesitant to participate in speakers’ club. Bimala and Sunil mentioned that some appeared to be unaware of the benefits that speakers club can offer and therefore they were not interested in being part of it. Similarly, Rajan added that some participants were even found to have fear of speaking in public as it might reveal their mistakes. Rajan was in line with Ur (2005) who mentions being worried about committing mistake and fearful of criticism or losing face as common problems in speaking activities.

Next, it appears to be challenging to run this program smoothly. Time management because of busy schedule was expressed to be a major cause for irregularity in speakers’ club both in KU and in my school. In addition, toastmasters’ inability of selecting suitable topic and conducting program was also viewed as one of the reasons for discontinuity in the program. Third and most importantly, most participants argue that voting system had negative impact provided that some speakers could get more vote because of their popularity. They mentioned particular session in which the deserving candidates did not win even after giving better speech; instead a popular friend was selected as winner.

Ways forward

Having shared the above challenges, I present some possible solutions offered by the respondents in order to overcome them. First, managing suitable schedule and time can minimize a number of issues mentioned above. As suggested by Bimala, it would be better to manage routine in a way so that maximum students can participate. Next, Rajan suggested that guest speakers can be called to deliver speech, especially inspirational speeches. This might make demotivated participants realize the benefit of public speaking and motivate them to take part in the club. And they can be the in charge of their leaning (Iberri-Shea, 2009). Finally, voting system can be modified giving fifty percent right to the judges and fifty percent to the participants. This can minimize the biasness so that deserving candidate will have better possibility to be winner.

Conclusion

Speakers’ club is proved to be an effective platform for me and my students. This seems to be beneficial in EFL context as it builds confidence in speakers, enhances their public speaking skills, and develops language proficiency. Running this program smoothly for long period of time appears to be challenging if the participants are not enthusiastic and hesitate to participate. This can be minimized by planning, preparing and conducting the program properly. Effective time management and inspiring speeches by guest speakers can lead to better participation.

References

Al-Tamimi, N. O. M. (2014). Public speaking instruction: Abridge to improve English speaking competence and reducing communication apprehension. International Journal2(4), 45-68.

Harmer, J. (2007). How to teach English. London: Pearson Longman.

Hsu, T. C. (2012). Enhancing college students’ global awareness through

campus Toastmasters clubs. International Journal of Research Studies in Education, 1(1), 21-34.

Iberri-Shea, G. (2009). Using Public Speaking Tasks in English Language Teaching. In English Teaching Forum, 47(2), p. 18-23.

Larsen-Freeman, D. (2000). Techniques and principles in language teaching (2nd edition.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Krashen, S. D. (1982). Principles and practice in second language acquisition. New York: Pergamon Press.

Thornbury, S. (2005). How to teach speaking. London: Pearson Longman.

Ur, P. (2005). A course in language teaching: Practice and theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Yu-Chih, S. (2008). The Toastmasters approach: An innovative way to teach public speaking to EFL learners in Taiwan. RELC Journal39(1), 113-130.

 

Contributor

Gyanendra Kumar Yadav is a research scholar at Kathmandu University and teaches English language at different colleges in Lalitpur. He is pursuing his M. Phil. in English Language Education from Kathmandu University, School of Education. He is also a life member of NELTA, and has published several journal articles and presented papers in NELTA conferences. His areas of interest include teaching English through literature, teachers’ professional development, and critical pedagogy.

Appendixes

Appendix 1

Speakers’ Club-KU (Season 7, Session 1)

4th Floor, Building C, KUSOED Hattiban

10 September 2017

Topic for Featured Speakers: Introduction

Theme for the Impromptu Speakers: Teaching profession

 

 

Word For the day: Passion

  • Toastmaster: Gyanendra Yadav
  • Grammarian: CB Khatri
  • Highlighter: Raju Shrestha
  • Time Keeper: Anupama Manadhar
  • Ah counter: Sharmila Parajuli
  • Fidget counter: Kausalya Khadka
  • Tech-support: Manuka Adhikari
  • Prize Sponsor: Regent school

 

Featured Speakers Impromptu Speakers
  1. Damodar Poudel
  1. Sudip Neupane
  1. Ishwar Koirala
  1. Keshab Prasai
  1. Jhaggu Gahatraj
  1. Deepak Regmi
  1. Yogendra Ruwali
  1. Birat Chaulagain

 

Best featured Speaker Best Impromptu Speaker
 

 

Appendix 2

Guideline for interview (speakers’ club)

Experience sharing

  1. Have you taken part in speakers club?
  2. Would you like to share you experience of being part of speakers’ club?

Importance of speakers’ club

  1. Do you find any benefits in participating in Speaker’s club?
  2. Can you share any concrete changes that you notice after participating?
    1. In Public speaking
    2. In Language development /as EFL learners

Challenges and ways to overcome them

  1. It is found difficult to continue the program for long. What is your view regarding it?
  2. What other challenges do you find?
  3. What can be done to overcome such challenges?

Three techniques of teaching writing to college students: my experience

Sagar Poudel

Introduction

Perhaps, it was the month of December 2018. One of our classes in B.Ed. first year grouped into another section as the students were high in number in the former section. Then, I was asked to take class in the new section. The next day, I went to the classroom taking my laptop and few materials. I had few short videos and slides related to the subject matter that I was going to introduce in the classroom. In the very beginning, I asked few things to the students regarding their previous classes and the topics that they studied in earlier section. At the same time one of the students said, “Sir, we need notes”. Then I asked, “What notes?” Then again another student said that I need to write note of each and every topic on the board. Then I said, “If I have to give you notes, then what do you do from your side?” There was silence for few seconds. Then the students admitted that they cannot write themselves as they are very weak in writing. I leaned on the lecture desk, spoke nothing and thought for a while.

It was my first lesson for them. A question came into my mind continuously, why the students demanded written note in my first class before I started the lesson. Again I began to wonder how they were taught in their previous lessons. How did they practice writing in the past? Then I asked them to attend my classes at least for a month and assured them that if they were not satisfied with my strategies for teaching writing, the campus would address their problem immediately. After that, I started my lesson through PowerPoint presentation where I played few videos related to the topic to be introduced that day. I could notice that few of my students were enjoying the videos and my delivery but few of them were not happy as they were not given written note on the board. I asked my students to have patience and assured them that they would become independent writers if they followed my instructions well.

As I came out from the classroom, their words ‘we need written notes…’ were buzzing in my mind. It was obvious that they got the habit of copying notes from the board which must be the reason why the students had no interest in trying to write themselves. Although copying and memorizing notes for examination must be easy for them but that would certainly not help students develop their creativity and become independent writers. I always learned from my teaching experience that the learners require ample opportunities to explore by exercising to write themselves and it is teacher’s responsibility to give an appropriate environment. I always remember one Nepali proverb “Machha khana matrai hoina, machha marna pani sikaunu parchha.” which means we should teach a man how to fish instead of just teaching him to eat fish. Keeping this proverb in my mind, I started dealing with these students differently. That evening, I planned something different for that classroom.

My techniques of teaching writing

First technique: come near to me

It was my second day in that class; however, it was the first day of my intervention of a new technique. That day, I used brainstorming technique to encourage my students to come up with some ideas and write a short story. As I asked them some questions to stimulate ideas for writing many of them were too shy to respond. Then, I wrote few sentences on the board which was the starting of a story. Meantime some of them were ready to copy out from the board but I requested them not to copy but write similar expression changing the major words i.e. content words of my writing. I had also given few content words in a box and asked them to replace content words of my writing. Most of them did but again few of them were still confused. I told the students who already completed their task to help other students too. On that very day, I asked the students come near to me but did not let them stand on my foot i.e. copying my exact sentences. My students practiced writing in this way for five days and I also gave them few tasks as their home assignment to be done regularly. I was not very strict about their assignment; rather I encouraged them to write whatever came in their mind related to the topic. In this way in the beginning, I brought them near to me/my writing.

Second technique: hold my hand

During the third week of my intervention, I tried out another technique to deal with the writing of my students. I asked them to recall the story they all had read in my previous lesson. I then wrote some points that represented important events of the story that but did not write the whole story or the summary. Then I asked my students to write just two paragraphs including the given points in them and adding few ideas from the text. Few of them hesitated to start writing and few of them said that it was difficult to write two paragraphs themselves. I asked them to write what they know and how much they can without worrying about the correctness of the sentences. As I went through their writing, I found that some of my students did not write anything at all while some of them created good pieces adding very good points and joining the given sentences in the sequences. Thus, I did similar activities for a week and I could notice changes in their writing. Many of my students improved and developed confidence in writing. I felt that, I was somehow able to make them walk holding my hand in the journey of writing.

Third technique: walk now

‘Walk Now’ is another technique that I used in my writing lesson. It was the last week of my intervention period. Now, I wanted to make my students walk themselves or in other words I wanted to make my students to write freely and independently. To make this happen, I read aloud an interesting piece of writing, e.g. a story and asked my students to jot down striking and important ideas or points they find in the text. I read the text twice or even thrice giving emphasis on the important points with specific sentence structure or events and guided them to elaborate those points and write at least one page. The one page writing could be a summary of the text or they were free to modify the text and rewrite it or if the text was a story, they could give it a different ending.

The next day almost all the students who were present in the previous day wrote one page and even those students who struggled a lot in writing were improving rapidly. They began to talk about their assignments and write summary of the previous lesson. It was encouraging to see my students making progress in writing.

After a month of intervention, I gathered students’ response about my writing lessons. Most of them admitted that copying notes and memorizing could probably help them pass the examination but that did not help them build confidence in writing.  One of my students said, “Sir, now at least we started writing ourselves and if we go on following these writing strategies, we can write easily on any topic. You made us to write rather than expect and wait for your notes”. I realized that my students at least started to walk themselves, although they were not ready to run in their journey of writing.

From that very day I continued teaching same class and the students were happy with me. However, I used to give note if I felt that the concept were somehow new and challenging. In other cases, my students of that very class started writing and exploring their ideas themselves rather than depending on the teachers even for the simple topic, issue or concept.

Conclusion

Writing is one of the most desirable skills of language. We need to make our students write something themselves rather than letting them to copy our note. If we give ready-made notes, they just copy out and read. But if the situation became slightly different than our note, students explore nothing because they have just ready-made answers for particular questions. My experience of one month teaching writing with my own techniques i.e. ‘Come Near to Me’, ‘Hold my Hand’ and ‘Now Walk’ became somehow successful in my writing lessons. So, to make our students walk themselves and make them able for fishing, i.e. to make them write themselves, I think we teachers need to create the environment to writ. We should avoid giving ready-made notes which, in my opinion, kills the learners’ creativity.

The author: Sagar Poudel is an MPhil in English language education from Kathmandu University. His areas of interest are Second Language Acquisition, Socio-linguistics, Academic Writing and ELT pedagogy and materials. He is currently working as lecturer and the head of English department at Aadikavi Bhanubhakta Campus, Damauli Tanahun.

Some of my techniques to teach speaking skills

Rishi Ram Paudyal

Background and challenges

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

Icebreaking and warming-up

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

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

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

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

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

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

Use of pictures to tell stories

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

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

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

1) I wanted to

2) test out for myself

3) how waking up at 4:30

4) affected my productivity.

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

6) for one week

                              7) like a Navy SEAL.

8) I’ve read a lot about

                    9) how Navy SEALs like Jocko Willink 

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

11) Jocko famously says that discipline equals freedom.

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

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

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

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

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

A

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

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

B

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

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

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

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

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

 

My story of growing as a professional English teacher

Narendra Airi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The author:

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

TPD in community campus in Nepal: Importance and expectations

Nani Babu Ghimire

Background

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

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

Importance of TPD for Teachers

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

Teachers’ Expectation of TPD

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

TPD in Community Campus

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

Conclusion

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

References

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

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

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

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

The author:

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

Welcome to the 10th Anniversary Issue of ELT Choutari: Special Coverage on Reflection #Vol. 11, Issue 90

Dear readers and contributors,

Moving forward with ELTChoutari.com rejoicing new years and new tastes of academic curries, here we come with new issue of the online magazine. While saying big bye to 2018 and wishing Happy New Year 2019 to you, the editorial board would like to thank millions of readers and those who have contributed something to the magazine in the past ten years and so. We would like to express our gratitude to the past editors for giving birth to Choutari and their invaluable effort to give it a shape. On this occasion, Dr Sharma, Dr Phyak and Bal Ram Adhikari also share their reflections on the journey, contributions and the future of ELTChoutari.com. We, Karna Rana, Jeevan Karki, Ashok Raj Khati and Praveen Kumar Yadav, the current editors, would like to collectively extend sincere gratitude to millions of readers who have ever supported us and many other writers by reading varieties of articles published on this magazine and by providing feedback to develop our works. Your continuous support has ever made us promising academics and ever inspired to volunteer our time and effort to promote this magazine and we hope you continue your academic activities and share your reflections in the future issues of this magazine.

In the previous ten volumes, ELTChoutari.com has published teachers’ experiences of learning and teaching English, university students’ reflections on their academic writing, researchers’ views, ideas, arguments and suggestions on improving academic productions and teacher trainers’ experiences of training Nepali teachers to teach the English language in public schools. Particularly English as a medium of instruction (EMI) in government schools in Nepal, teachers’ poor English, under-developed research culture in Nepal, learning to research, teaching writing skills, unclear language policy, ICT in the classroom teaching, and reflections on learning and teaching English have attracted the attention of thousands of readers in the past 89 issues of this magazine. We believe that the writings would have positive influence on academic activities of teachers, students and professionals. Also, this magazine would have contributed something positive in policy making, language planning, classroom teaching and research writing.

ELTChoutari.com, an open online magazine, allows professionals, researchers, teachers and students from across the world to share their writings as few issues in the past have published international articles from various countries such as India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Pakistan, Jordon, Ghana, and so on. Many articles published in various issues have received good impact with citations in standard peer-reviewed journals. We hope the magazine will have much brighter days in the future.

This issue includes various reflective writings including instinct responses from the founder editors, teachers, ELT practitioners and workshop participants’ (the participants attending the reflective writing workshop the last month) on-the-spot lived reflections on reflective writing.

Here is a list of posts for this issue:

1. Looking Back and Forward: Hearing from the Past Editors and Readers

2. A Journey of Gaining Pedagogical Capital: Reflection of an English Teacher by Ganesh Bastola

3. A Step-by-Step Lesson Plan and Assessment for Paragraph Writing by Dr Md. Kamrul Hasan

4. Radio, My Coach for English Language Teaching by Sreejana Chamling

5. Reflection on a one-day-workshop “How to Write and Publish Reflective Writing” by Muna Rai

6. Video Changed the Way of Teaching Poem by Ram Chandra Pokhrel

While releasing this issue, we take the pleasure of welcoming and introducing two new energetic colleagues Babita Sharma Chapagain and Ganesh Kumar Bastola.

Babita Sharma Chapagain is a Hornby Scholar (University of Warwick, UK, 2014/15) having completed MA in ELT and Master’s degree in ELT from Kathmandu University. She is a freelance teacher educator from Nepal having gained 15 years experience of working as a teacher and teacher trainer. She also brings in experiences of writing and reviewing articles.

Likewise, Ganesh Kumar Bastola is an M. Phil graduate from Kathmandu University in English Language Education. He is a teacher, teacher educator, and researcher and translation practitioner, who also brings writing and reviewing experiences.

They will work together on our editorial team.

Finally we, the current editorial team, would like to thank the contributors in this issue and founding editors for their continuous support. Jeevan Karki, a leading member of our editorial team, deserves special thanks for his overall support in this issue. Thank you Ashok Raj Khati and Praveen Kumar Yadav for your cooperation. We hope we will have brighter days ahead.

Karna Rana, PhD

Leading editor of this issue

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

1 2 3 17