Saturday, 7 April 2018


Teacher collaboration and professional learning communities are frequently associated with school improvement and educational excellence. Keeping that in mind Madam Kashmira from Navrachana School, Sama Gujarat and I have been working on our collaboration for the past six months and finally, our proposal for the collaborative project was awarded the Global Teacher Grant by IREX and The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the U.S. Department of State.

The aim of our project was to bring different perspectives into the teaching and learning practices in both our schools and districts. Hence, Madam Kashmira and I decided to travel to each other's countries to conduct workshops on developing 21st-century skills for both students and teachers. 

The project kick-started with my visit to Navarachana School in Sama Gujarat on 20th March 2018. I was given the traditional Indian welcome by the teachers and students by applying what known as 'tikka' on my forehead and adorning garlands around my neck. It was touching that I instantly felt at home. Madam Bijoya Bakshi who is the Director of the School gave a welcoming speech and it was followed by a row of brilliant performances by the students. 
Pictures were taken during the welcome assembly 

During the assembly, I was also entertained with some memorable performances. One of them was a Kuchipudi dance by one of the students, Sindhuja. 

Kuchipudi By Sindhuja of Navrachana School,Sama Gujarat. 

After the assembly, it was time for a short school tour. I was told that Navrachana has a strength of approximately 3000 students and 145 teachers. During the school tour, I met a number of teachers and also all the coordinators. I was impressed by their passion and enthusiasm towards educational excellence. Each and every teacher whom I met was filled with passion for teaching. The school tour was a learning experience. I definitely understood the reason for Navrachana being among the top 100 schools in India after talking to the teachers and coordinators. 

Teachers' Hard Work Creating a Board Game Library 

During the tour, I was taken to the board game library where a group of teachers innovated board games for various subjects. The board games were both interactive and mind-challenging. I was impressed with the fact that the teachers worked together and innovatively developed their in-house products. It is the first of its kind and also first in India! The team is headed by Madam Kashmira Jaiswal. Kudos to the entire team for making their board game library a success. 

On the next day, I had a half-day workshop with the students. 
These pictures were taken during the workshop with students. 
The workshop with students turned out to be very fruitful. Their positive attitude and engaging nature made the workshop meaningful. They were willing to try, share and accept new ideas. They were also very much interested in exploring new ideas shared during the workshop. I also had story-reading sessions in between the workshop where I shared some interesting Malaysian folktales. 

What I liked about the students there was they were eager to try and speak throughout the workshop which I don't normally see when I conduct workshops in Malaysia, we can't deny the fact that our Malaysian students are very passive or trained to be quiet especially when there is a visitor.

Just like my workshop with the students, the workshop with teachers turned out to be very rewarding as well. The teachers were fun to be with. I did not only share my ideas but learnt a lot from them too. They were given the opportunity to share their ideas so that I could understand what was happening in their ESL classrooms. 

Pictures were taken during the workshop for teachers in Sama District. 
I noticed that the teachers are all well informed about teaching methodologies and classroom strategies. I was told that they have to keep themselves abreast of all new strategies as teaching is their bread and butter, being lackadaisical will cost them their job as they are all teaching in private schools and the schools demand them to be the best. They can't afford to take teaching profession for granted. Being in private school they have to constantly perform and show good results, which is why I understand the students are performing well. The teachers there are constantly on their wheels!!!! 

My four days visit ended eventually and I returned to Mumbai and then to Malaysia, I have not only enriched myself with new knowledge but I also made a handful of good friends. It takes time for us to warm up to some people but instantly get connected with some and just like that there were some people in Vadodara whom I instantly 'clicked' with. 

Memorable Pictures 
These are some people whom I have spent less than 24 hours but we developed a great sense of camaraderie. Madam Krishnamah(1st row, 1st picture)  a fellow Tamilian whom I enjoyed talking in Tamil when I was there. Madam Kamna Gupta (1st row, 2nd picture)  who gave me the tastiest homemade samosa, Dr Jamila ( 3rd row, 1st picture)  the counsellor whom I spent only a few minutes but those few minutes are to be treasured lifelong. As for Madam Gita ( 1st row 3rd picture) and Madam Kashmira (2nd row, 2nd picture), I have known them for quite some time. Madam Gita brought her students to MGS for INTELAH in 2016 and Madam Kashmira is a fellow ILEPER whom I met in 2015. from being acquaintances we have become good friends. Last but not least Ms Nigma, (2nd row 2nd picture) a history teacher who turned out to be an excellent tour guide. She made me understand so many things about the ancient architecture of  Baroda which might have been some dilapidated buildings in my eyes without her explanation. I have to thank her for being my tour guide and helped me out with shopping too.....

My visit to Vadodara ended soon and I left for Mumbai and then Malaysia, but our project continued with Madam Kashmira's visit to MGS Malaysia. 

Welcome Assembly in MGS for Madam Kashmira 

Madam Kashmira Jaiswal is the Creative Director of Navrachana School, Sama. She is also the recipient of  Pearson ELT Teacher Award. She is a respective person in her school and community for her continuous outstanding contribution to both her school and society. It was a great honour to have had her in our school for a week. She was given a warm welcome during our morning assembly with a welcoming speech by Pn. Pushpinder the Head of English Panel and also our Principal Pn. Gan Lee Lee. Soon after the assembly Madam Kashmira was given a short school tour and soon it was time for her workshop with our students. 

Madam Kashmira's Workshop with Students 
Madam Kashmira's session with our students was rather mind-boggling. She conducted a workshop on developing critical and creative thinking skills and it turned out pretty well as students were seen actively participating in the tasks given to them. This was a welcoming workshop for students who were so used to academic-oriented seminars and workshops. Our students truly enjoyed the workshop. 

Madam Kashmira Conducting a Workshop for Teachers in Ipoh

The next two days Madam Kashmira conducted a workshop for about 52 teachers in Kinta Utara District. I was there throughout the workshop and I could see that Madam Kashmira's workshop had definitely brought in ideas from a different perspective. All that she shared are applicable in the Malaysian ESL teaching and learning context. I hope that teachers who had attended the workshop will disseminate the knowledge gained to colleagues in their respective schools. I am also grateful that the Kinta Utara District English Language Officers Ms.Shallyna and Pn.Zuhira have been my pillars of support in making the workshop a success. Not forgetting the State English Language Officer En.Faisal who has been instrumental in making the collaboration a success. 

I could see that during Madam Kashmira's visit to our school both Pn.Gan Lee Lee and Madam Kashmira had developed great camaraderie. Madam kashmira also warmed - up with the English teachers and soon became one of us. I was happy that we could show the same love that was given to me when I was in India.

In conclusion, our collaborative exchange project has definitely brought in new ideas and knowledge to both schools in India and Malaysia. There are so many things to learn from each other and one project is just not enough. I believe that this collaboration has opened more doors for networking as well as collaboration and the success of this project is just a beginning for more collaborative projects between Navarachana and MGS.

We are planning for pen - pal project for students from both schools. Hopefully, it will work out well.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Effective Use of Technology in the Classroom : Writing Article

According to Shelly Pasnik (2016), incorporating technology into the classroom requires double innovation. At the same time, teachers need to ensure that they are prepared to use technology effectively in the classroom. Effective use of technology in the classroom should be able to support the learning objectives. 

At times, the use of technology deviates from the main objective of a lesson and focus is given to the use of technology rather than the learning. This happens due to lack of preparation by the teachers.

I think teachers should explore more ideas on incorporating technology in the classroom for effective learning. I have always been using technology in my classroom but it has been one way. Now, I want to make my lessons more interactive with more hands-on activities involving technology in my English language lessons. For that, I  have asked my students from class 4S1 and 5S3 to bring their own laptops and tabs to school two weeks once on every Tuesday. 

My portable wifi
As I teach in an urban school it is not impossible for me to get them to bring their gadgets. Since the internet connection in the school is not easily accessible and I do not want to waste my time to walk the students to the lab, I subscribed my own portable wifi which will be able to connect 30 gadgets at a time. This saves a lot of time.

For this particular lesson, the pupils were to write an article about a famous personality of their choice on an online newspaper generator tool. It is free and user-friendly. Please click here to visit the newspaper generator website. To ensure smooth flow of the lesson students should have identified the personalities before the lesson and gathered necessary information for their articles. They were asked to refer to Besides, students should have also been exposed to vocabulary that is used to describe people. They were given 2 sets of vocabulary list beforehand to study. Please click here and here to download the vocabulary list.

The Lesson Plan

The lesson plan above should be able to draw a picture of how the lesson was carried out. The lesson plan template was adapted from the 'Teacher Collection' facebook page. 

Students were paired up and they were required to type their articles on the news generating website.  Teacher's role here was minimized as it involved a lot of discussions between the assigned pairs. The teacher facilitated the lesson and dropped by whenever he was needed...Students were also reminded that their work should be original and not plagiarised. 

The pictures above show that students were engrossed during the lesson and very busy completing the assigned task. Using the gadgets have definitely made the lesson more meaningful as I could see students were showing interest in their written work for the first time. We all know that writing task is often abhorred by students at all levels. 

Upon completion, students emailed their articles to the teacher. The teacher will print, read through, check and return the articles to the students. 

You may ask, 

This lesson can be done effectively without even having to use internet and laptops, why waste time then? 

My answer : 

I know that this can be done without having to use technology, but I believe that the use of technology has made the lesson smoother and students actually liked typing their essays in the newspaper generator than writing them in their exercise books. Besides, I also noticed that students were more engaged in their task. If you don't believe me, try it! and you will be amazed! 
These are some examples of my student's article done in the newspaper generator. Don't they look interesting? 

Reflection : 
Students find the lesson to be interesting and they were interested. Since they were interested they followed all my instructions. The lesson was not only about using the tools to write an article, it was also about demonstrating the use descriptive words and phrases that are used to describe people. Students have demonstrated effective use of vocabulary in their essays. Grammatical errors were minimal as students have checked their essays in the grammar checking tool .  

Friday, 29 December 2017

A Look Back : Always and Forever

Gosh!! how time flies.....we're in the closing week of the year already, with a bright new year awaiting us in 2 days time. Although everybody is still excited about Christmas, what excites me is the fresh new year. It gives me a chance to look back over the year and to assess how it went and to look forward to what the new year has for me.  

Now let's see why 2017 has been a great...

MGS debate team was the 2nd runner-up in the district level debate competition. It was a great achievement for the newly formed team. The last time we made it big in debate was in 2014 when we won the Datuk Wira Abdul Rahman Arshad Cup National Level Debate Competition. Hopefully, we can once again reach that peak in future.

Besides debate, I was also the teacher advisor for the Scrabble team. Form 2 students Swettha and Eva were the district champions. Unfortunately, the state and national level competitions were cancelled this year. What a waste!

My student Chelsea Joy Vilson was one of the top ten winners of the National Level Sunway - Oxbridge Essay Writing Competition. One proud teacher I am!! 

In 2016, under the cluster school banner, I spearheaded the International English Language Academic Heptathlon. In 2017, we decided to do something on a smaller scale and The National Level Storytelling Competition was held. I was the program coordinator as well as the teacher advisor for MGS school team. Guess what? The event turned out to be very successful with 20 schools from all over Malaysia participating in the competition. Shrriya Jawahar and Keshrina from MGS emerged as the overall champions for the event. 

I had also conducted a number of workshops and seminars for both teachers and students this year. Unfortunately I had to decline many invitations due to busy work schedule. I hope I will be able to do more sharing next year. 

I was given the privilege to join the team of CEFR Observers. We were given the responsibility to observe the CEFR Curriculum Induction courses. I made many new friends and shared a great rapport with the entire team. It was a great learning experience indeed. 

I was also validated by British Council as a trainer this year. The trainer validation course was held in Bangkok, Thailand for 4 days. I was among the 3 academicians from Malaysia to be selected to be validated as a BC trainer. 

The year 2017 had also brought awards along my journey. I was awarded the Basil WijayaSuria Silver Award during the MELTA Conference for my presentation on my classroom research on the teaching of writing. Besides, I was also the first runnerup for the ASEAN Essay Writing Competition held by Ministry of International Trade. I also took part in Innovative Teacher Competition organised by Universiti Utara Malaysia. I was also awarded the 'Guru Cemerlang Ko - Kurikulum' Award on 2 November 2017 by the Perak State Education Department. 

Contributing to the news was part of my hobby this year, but my busy schedule did not allow me to continue with my contributions despite having so much ideas. I hope I can make more contributions to the newspapers in 2018. 

Team teaching with Pn.Aishah Hamdan, another Guru Cemerlang from SMK Raja Permaisuri Bainun materialised this year as a district collaboration project. I hope to work on more collaborative projects with this efficient teacher next year. The team teaching project was fun, but it is on hold now as both of us have so many things to do at the moment. 

Last but not least, 2 days ago I received an email stating that a collaboration project proposal that I submitted for the Global Teacher Grant (GTG) Competition has won and I will be given USD2000 to carry out the project with a school from Gujarat, India. I am very excited about this and it would be a great way to start my new year. 

I hope 2018 will be another great year for everyone. I am really looking forward to the new year and praying hard that it will be kind to us again and may all of us be in good health to do greater things.....

I take this opportunity to thank everyone and wish all of you a splendid New Year with all the good tidings in your way! Happy New Year folks!!!

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Let's Use Hot English Magazines in Classroom

I have been using the articles and activities from the HOT English Magazines for quite sometime now. My form 4 and 5 students like the activities from these magazines very much. This is because the activities and articles are close to the hearts of teenagers. Besides learning the language, students definitely get to expand their knowledge in various issues. I have also used the materials from these magazines to design writing tasks. All the tasks were proven to be successful. 

I am sharing some of the magazines here so that all teachers and students can benefit from them. 

Please click on the links below for different editions of Hot English Magazines. 

Hot English Magazine issue 90 
Hot English Magazine issue 91 
Hot English Magazine issue 92
Hot English Magazine issue 93
Hot English Magazine issue 94
Hot English Magazine issue 95
Hot English Magazine issue 96 
Hot English Magazine issue 97
Hot English Magazine issue 98
Hot English Magazine issue 99 

Let's make our lessons hotter with Hot English Magazines...

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

A Collection of Essays

I am sure many form five students are having jitters right now, some might be panicking not knowing what to do. Be calm. At this point, the best thing to do is to read and develop vocabulary and ideas from good sample essays. The following are some 'A+' sample essays that I used in my lessons. Feel free to download them and share. Please be reminded that these are not spotted questions.

Good luck and all the best! 

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Continuous Writing : Advantages and Disadvantages of Technology

The sample composition below elaborates the advantages and disadvantages of technology.  If you are preparing yourself to write a factual essay, the composition below will be very helpful. I noticed that many students are unable to write a good factual essay due to two reasons ; 

a) lack of knowledge on the subject 
b) lack of vocabulary related to the subject

If you are preparing yourself to write a factual essay, it is important for you to ensure that you are fully equipped with the knowledge and vocabulary. Without these two, your  written work will fail to impress your teacher. 

In order to do that, all you have to do is read on the subject related as much as you can. Besides, you also have to do the most important thing, which is practice your writing skill. The essay below has four parts ; the introduction,  advantages, disadvantages and  conclusion 

 The introduction. I very detailed introduction on technology which further leads to the advantages.

The next paragraph starts with the keyword 'The advantages', this shows that the writer is showing the he is going to elaborate on the advantages of technology. The phrases used in this paragraph are quite impressive.

The word 'however', indicates that the writer is about to elaborate the disadvantages of technology. I like sarcasm shown by the writer ; 'increasingly loud chorus of dissenting voices'. These phrases are to die for and it shows that the writer has demonstrated good writing skill and excellent use of vocabulary. 

The writer ends without the use of 'in conclusion' or 'to conclude'. However, as you read the first sentence of this paragraph you would find that it is the tone used in this paragraph and it is written in such a way that anyone who reads it would understand that it is actually a conclusion.

I hope this is helpful. Good luck in your SPM!

Sing to the Dawn (Sample Question and Answer for SPM)

This is a sample question and answer for the novel Sing to the Dawn.  Students are to write about a decision made by a character in the story and further discuss whether they agree with the decision by giving concrete examples from the novel. I hope the sample answer below will be helpful.

It is important to highlight the keywords in the question and use them while writing the answer. This will serve as a signpost to indicate that you are actually relating your answer to the question. 

It is important to give a clear picture of what you are going to write further by pointing out the main issue. It is advisable for you to do so in the first paragraph. Do not waste time by writing lengthy introduction and synopsis  (you do not get marks for that). The writer has highlighted the main answer for the question which shows that 'I am going to write about an important decision made by Kwai'.    

While writing your answer, it is also essential for you to elaborate the 'decision made' in detail. It is important to elaborate the situations that has led the character to make such a decision before moving on further. 

The next paragraph elaborates further on the decision made. It also ends with the writer's stand. In this case the writer agrees with Kwai's decision. Thus far, we have seen that the write has clearly explained 'the decision' made by Kwai by relating the decision to a few events in the story. Next the writer, has to elaborate the reasons for agreeing with Kwai's Decision. Let us look at the first reason. 

This is where your HOTS skills need to be used.  You have to relate the evidence to the decision made and wrap it up by including your own thoughts. Now let us look at the next reason. 

The coloured (in yellow) sentences are the 'singposts' which show the readers what the writer is going to do next. This is a good way to write as the essay will be more organised. 

The most difficult part in this question is to give reasons for the decision made by the character. This is because you have to link the decision to the reasons and justify the decision made. In this piece of work the student has given three reasons for agreeing with Kwai's decision which is well elaborated and beautifully justified with good examples from the story. 

I hope this is helpful... Good luck for your SPM. 

Credits to Ho Lee May (5S1)
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