Rote learning gives way to drama and creativity in Lynette Siva’s English language classes.
Contributed By Annie Wong
|VISUAL COURTESY OF SPEAK GOOD ENGLISH MOVEMENT|
Sometimes all it takes is a little creativity and initiative to make a big difference. Nominated by a parent and endorsed by her school, Lynette Siva from North View Primary School was one of the 10 English teachers from the primary, secondary and junior college levels of the national education system to be awarded the “Inspiring Teacher of English Award” in October this year. Her contribution was determined through a series of observations and interviews conducted by a panel of 13 judges.
The “Inspiring Teacher of English Award” is jointly presented by The Straits Times and the Speak Good English Movement, and supported by the Ministry of Education. The award honors exceptional teachers of the English Language, English Literature and General Paper subjects who use innovative methods to ignite a love for the language in their students, engaging them to speak and write better.
Working closely with her school’s senior teacher, as well as through the sharing sessions held within her department, Siva rolled out a literature program for her Primary 3 and 4 students last year, weaving literature into the teaching of the English language. Well aware that constant reading forms the cornerstone for good English, she used story books like Charlotte’s Web and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory as her texts, and designed worksheets and lessons based on these books. The move met with success—having successfully whetted an appetite in the students for reading, they naturally graduated to more mature books written by E.B. White and Roald Dahl.
Besides encouraging her students to read, she also uses drama to encourage her students in their writing. Prior to giving story-writing assignments, she would show videos from YouTube related to the story. To further encourage and draw them into the scene or the character, she would go one step further, asking her students to reenact the story. She discovered that as they took time to role-play, it helped them to understand the emotions and actions of the characters better, which in turn helped them to express themselves more effectively through their writing.
At the same time, she spearheaded the set up of a safe environment founded on guiding protocols and procedures whereby students are encouraged to correct one another’s English without the fear of intimidation or embarrassment. Within a nurturing environment, the students were encouraged to become more confident speakers.
TAG IT, POST IT
Besides the creative and inspiring work done in schools, this year’s Speak Good English Movement employs the novel method of using sticky notes to put its message across. If you see a sticky note pasted over signs with poor English, do not think that it is the work of inconsiderate vandals—it is just part of SGEM’s way of promoting the correct usage of the English language in Singapore. The initiative has gained the support of local businesses like Ya Kun Kaya Toast and food court operators Kopitiam and Banquet.
“By writing the correct expressions on these sticky notes and pasting them over these errors, others may become aware of the mistakes and take action to correct them,” said SGEM chairman, Goh Eck Kheng. On the other hand, he dispels the misconception that the government is out to eradicate Singlish. “That is a very, very common misconception. Singlish has become part of our national identity. In fact, at the last National Day speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong referred to Singlish twice in the context of national identity. So, it is one of the markers of being Singaporean. But it’s not the role of the Speak Good English Movement to champion Singlish. We are here to promote good English …, ” he said in an interview on Channel News Asia’s Primetime Morning on Oct. 12.
Indeed, the lines are rather blurry between bad English and Singlish—one is a literary malady, while the latter is a necessary evil, so to speak. Check out the “post-its” which can be seen at various locations at the afore-mentioned establishments and see if you can tell the difference between plain bad English and Singlish.