Friday, 28 July 2017

We are in the news!

Organising a national level competition was never easy but we managed to pull it off. All the hard work was paid off when we won the competition. Being the teacher advisor at the same time managing the event was not easy. to read more about our competition please click here.  

Directed Writing : Informal Letter

Informal letter has not been tested in SPM for quite sometime. I think students need to get prepared from all aspects rather than spotting questions ( I have never spotted questions). Here I would like to share a sample.I hope this will be helpful to those who are preparing for SPM English this year. 

The Format 
Students are to write an informal letter, describing their holidays. This piece of work requires students to use descriptive words. It would be easier for students if they are exposed to some examples of descriptive words before they are given the writing task. 
A brief introduction will do 
The first content point is elaborated with precise descriptions
It is always important to have some background knowledge on the topic that you are working on. Students who have better knowledge of the topic will have more things to write. Therefore, it is important for students to read more to develop their knowledge on different things. 

You do not need to use proverbs and idioms in your essays if they are irrelevant. Proper elaboration with good structure and choice of words are the most important. I have noticed, some students are too obsessed with idioms and proverbs that they use them for the sake of using them without even knowing the meaning. 

Also remember to 'call a spade a spade'...

That is all for now,....

Happy writing!

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Directed Writing :Writing a Formal Letter

The last time formal letter was tested in SPM was in 2013. From then, rumours have been circulating that formal letter will not be tested in SPM anymore. Whatever it is, students should always be prepared and taught to write formal letter. Students need to learn to write a formal letter not only for examination but also to apply for  jobs or to handle formal events in future. This article will show you a sample of a formal letter written to invite a guest for an event at school

Format of a formal letter 

The task below contains 12 content points need to be written in the formal letter. The columns has been divided into three. For many it may seem to be nothing but the three columns are actually 3 different levels that students need to handle while writing a formal letter.  The first column is easy but the second and third column requires higher order thinking skills (HOTS).  

It is always important to remind students that writing a formal letter requires the use of formal form of the language. The main purpose of the letter should be stated clearly in the first paragraph. 

The next paragraph elaborates details of the event. The rubric requires students to elaborate the date and time, venue, number of participating schools and the teacher in  charge. It is important to take note that all the content points should be elaborated in sentences. Do not write in point forms. 

The next idea elaborates other information. This part of the task is difficult to elaborate if students do not understand the key word such as 'key address'. It is not a plain sail to elaborate all the three content points given below with coherence. However, with more practice it can be done. 

In the paragraph below, the idea on sponsorship request is developed with much explanation on how both parties can benefit from it. This is one good way of elaborating the ideas. Here the idea is developed with maturity. 

The next paragraph, elaborates the reasons for the competition being organised. Every content point is elaborated with supporting ideas which are relevant to the task. 

The elaboration continues to the next paragraph with the student adding on another two reasons of her own as required in the task. Students should take note that when they write their own ideas there should not be any over - lapping of ideas. Try to think of writing something that is different from the rubric. 

The paragraph below shows the ending of the formal letter. Students do not have to write a lengthy ending for a formal letter. Writing ending for a formal letter is rather different. All you have to do is to say some nice words expressing gratitude and appreciation. 

That's all!!!

 Happy Teaching, Happy Learning and Happy Writing!!! 

Friday, 30 June 2017

Digital Tools for Language Learning

In the 21st century classrooms today,  digital tools should coexist with traditional tools. There are a mixed bag of online tools exist today that students do not need to rely only traditional tools anymore. The online tools are not only free but they are easily accessible and time saving. Besides, online tools provide wider and more precise information compared to the traditional tools. They allow teachers to plan interactive lessons based on specific themes and topics.

A website that provides a wide range of creative phrases. I use this website very often to look for creative phrases, especially for writing. I have also introduced this to my students and they find this site to be very helpful.  You can also find a plethora of vocabulary activities, online test and classroom ideas here!     

I introduced this site to my students so that they can effortlessly look for alternative words and their meanings. I find this web to be both reliable and user – friendly.

Many teachers in Malaysia have been exposed to Kahoot and are using it very often. Kahoot is a user – friendly tool for designing in – class questionnaires and quizzes. Teachers can design  quizzes, surveys or questionnaires to test the knowledge of their students on a topic. Kahoot is an interactive tool that promotes interactive and fun learning environment. Besides, Kahoot also allows teachers to get a better understanding of where their students stand while the students are engaged in a fun learning experience.

Socrative is just another online tool created for interactive quizzes and questionaires just like Kahoot. However, it is less colourful and more suitable for matured students.

Language tool is an online grammar checker that helps in proofreading. All you need to do is simple type a paragraph in the textbox and it will highlight all the errors from spelling to grammar problems.

This page produces children’s educational web sites which are designed to capture the imagination while maximizing creativity, learning, and enjoyment. This page is very user – friendly and one can learn very fast. The page is designed to help young learners, therefore it has the simplest computer interface and the clearest instructions. The pages also has several educational materials that help to enhance creativity and promote fun learning.

Lexipedia is a simple virtual thesaurus. All you have to do is to type any word and it will display all the words that can be associated with the target word. The words are also colour coded  according to their types and it also gives complete definition for the displayed words.

Snappy Words 
Just like lexipedia, Snappy Words is another visual thesaurus. Teachers can actually introduce a few thesaurus tools to students so that they can pick and choose the one that works for them


Shahi is a visual dictionary that combines pictures from Flickr and other similar pages. I think this is a great tool for English language learning.

Lingro is a very useful tool and I find it to be interesting. All you have to do is just type on the Lingro website and it will take you the web where you can click on any words on the web and it will translate the text/word in 12 languages. All you have to do is to simply click on any words and several definitions will be displayed. This is a very helpful too that will be very helpful to struggling ESL learners.

ThingLink is a tool for making interactive images. Teachers could us ThingLink to teach students key vocabulary or students could design interactive images with the vocabulary provided. Anyways, there are just many ways that one can use ThingLink.

I am sure all of us are aware of Wordle. Just like Wordle, Wordsift id just another tool where students type or copy and paste text and Wordsift will just sort them out based on word frequency. However, Wordsift has additional visual thesaurus displayed. With the visual thesaurus, students immediately see how words are grouped semantically. 

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Answering SPM Literature Component (Sing to the Dawn)

The question given in the slide above requires students to relate an event and how the event has affected the way they look at life. The question may seem to be difficult but if students have good understanding of the story it would be very easy to link one of the events and how it has changed their perspective towards life. 

Students can always start with a brief introduction but they should always keep in the mind that they should answer; in this case the event and their view on life. 

It is essential for students to always make things very clear in the beginning of their answers. In this case, they should make it very clear which event they are to narrate. They should also know what is an event so that they do not deviate from hitting the nail right. In many cases, students do not understand events and end up narrating the entire story as event which may not fetch them a high score. 

Sustainability is also important while answering a 'literature question'. Many a time, I have noticed that students would start off well but get carried away and write answers which are irrelevant to the question. It is important for students to stay relevant at all times. To stay relevant one should always stop and read their answers and think how it is related to the question. The elaboration in the slide above has linked to the event very well. In this answer, the student has chosen to write about Dawan's encounter with Bao in the marketplace and has related to her own life on how things are better for her but not everyone has a good life, therefore she has learnt to appreciate what she has. 

The student has also further elaborated how her perspective on things around her has changed based on that one event. To answer well it is important for a student to think and plan the answer well. There may be many events in a story but selecting an event that we can elaborate better is important as we will have more ideas to link, but always remember do not try to dump everything in one idea, that may make your composition messy. 

In this slide, her elaboration leads to the ending note. It is important to notice that, from the beginning till the end the student has linked her perspective towards life based on only an event as required by the instruction. The utmost important thing is we should not only read the story but  understand  the content well and try to link the ideas. I notice that the questions for the literature component has changed and they are most likely to be HOTS. 

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Peer Correction Activity for Writing Lesson

Writing lessons can be thought - provoking when teachers involve peer correction activity. This activity is a way to help students to correct themselves and their friends. It is simply an evident that students will be much aware of their mistakes and correct themselves when peers correct their mistakes. It is greatly effective with low - proficiency learners. I believe the activity would be a festal in classroom when done in groups as no individuals get insulted for making mistakes. Any mistake made is from the entire group. The activity would be more conducive if students of the same proficiency level are put in the same group as they work within their level. Here are the steps for an effective peer correction activity :

The task
The teacher should ensure the task is right for the students. For this task I chose an intermediate writing task where the students have to elaborate 12 content points for directed writing.

Step 1 

Students are working in their small group

Group the students in small groups. Preferably 3 to 4 in a group would be ideal. it would be better if students of the same proficiency level are put in one group as it would help them to work within their level and when the weak ones are grouped together they will struggle to construct sentences. Let them struggle as that is how they learn. If they are assigned with others most likely they will be left out. 

Step 2

Assign each group one content point from the task given and ask each group to write an elaboration for the assigned content point in about 30 to 40 words on a piece of mahjong paper/mini whiteboard. Do not allow them to refer to any materials. The idea should be solely based on their discussion. Give them about 15 to 20 minutes to complete their paragraphs. Once the task is complete,  students should display their work for other students to read. The teacher should prepare an empty space below each completed task for the peers correct. 

Step 3 
Students discussing their peers' work

Once all the groups have put up their work, students from other groups will walk around from one group to another to do the correction. Be aware that some students might correct the right thing, don't say anything until the entire correction process is done and do not let the groups that are being corrected to retaliate. Also please remind the students that they should not correct their own group and also remind them that they should not correct the corrections. 

At the end of the correction process you will find that some errors are corrected 'correctly' and some errors are not.  Remember, this is a process and students learn from their mistakes. This is one way to help them to correct themselves from the  frequent errors they make in composition writing.    


Monday, 12 June 2017

Creative Writing Workshop During Holidays

I conducted a two - day workshop for  form five students during the holidays. I thought nobody would turn up for a workshop during holidays but could not believe that almost all the students who were hand - picked to attend the workshop turned up and it was almost a full house. The commitment from the students  lifted my spirit and I was more than enthusiastic throughout the two days. 

Discussion of task 
I decided to have a creative writing workshop this year as in the past I did not have much time to guide students to develop ideas and creative expressions during formal lessons and most of the time I only shared with my own students and did not have the opportunity to share with students from other classes. Therefore I decided to have this workshop during holidays so that I could work with all the students. 

The objective of the workshop was to help learners to develop ideas and techniques to write creatively. The workshop started with word level activities where students were taught how to use adjectives creatively to make their composition interesting and then it was followed by creative sentence construction. 

The final slot was paragraph writing. It was time for students to let their creative juices flow without any limitations. At the end of the day they shared their ideas with other students. Pondering from the workshop, I could see that many of them have got the talent in them and if guided to the right path they would turn up to be better writers one day. 
Sample of powerpoint presentation 

I hope through the workshop the students have learnt some new ideas and techniques for essay writing that would help them to obtain a better grade in their SPM examination. 

For those who are interested on the materials used for the workshop. Please click here to download them. Sharing is caring. However, I do not provide answers as I don't believe in spoon feeding.  
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