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Teachers Who Make Mother Tongue Learning Come Alive

18 Nov 2008

TN Awards 2008

Besides Tamil vocabulary and science, Mrs Janaki uses stories to teach values such as respect and love for animals.

“Drill, baby, drill!”

Is that how you remember Mother Tongue learning in the past, when pupils had to memorise realms of idioms and long vocabulary lists? Perish the thought of arduous rote learning - today, there’s never been a better time to be learning your Mother Tongue. Be it Chinese, Malay or Tamil, teachers today are delving into their creative wells to make language lessons come alive and kicking.

From reading stories about our furry friends at the zoo or discovering the healing power of Chinese herbs, Mother Tongue language classes are now adventures that connect language with life. And three teachers who played key roles in bringing about such changes were honoured recently at the 2008 Teachers Network (TN) awards.

TN Awards 2008

From chinese medicine to comics, Ms Lim Siew Gek’s lessons make learning Chinese a cool thing to do.

Making it cool to learn Chinese

For her efforts in enlivening Chinese language learning, Ms Lim Siew Gek could probably be a shining ambassador for the “HuaYu Cool” Speak Mandarin campaign. But the winner of a Fellow of TN Award is content to have helped her colleagues improve the effectiveness of their classes.

Ms Lim, who teaches Chinese Language at Ahmad Ibrahim Primary School, makes it a point to infuse her classes with infectiously intriguing facts and snippets. From the botanical world of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to Chinese comics, Ms Lim blends the old and the new in her classes to show her pupils not just the power of the language but the richness of Chinese culture.

“It’s rewarding to be able to impart Chinese culture to the next generation in ways that they can easily relate to,” states Ms Lim. Her pupils even pass on the knowledge, as she recalls, “One of my Pri 2 boys could even advise a media producer who visited the school to take some green bean soup when he noticed the producer perspiring under the hot sun! He explained how it would “cool” him down,” she laughs.

Ms Lim’s special TCM-infused lesson for her school’s Pri 2 curriculum has been so successful that colleagues, parents and pupils named her for the Most Outstanding CL Lesson Plan award in 2006. Since then, Ms Lim has shared her lesson plans with many other schools in Singapore, even going as far as China.

TN Awards 2008

Ms Juraida combines Malay language learning and like-skills in her tales about the zoo.

Beastly tales to build better character

Since her first foray into creative writing during her teacher training days, Ms Juraida Miswari has never looked back. Today, the winner of an Outstanding Resource Teacher at the TN Awards has her hands full with various book projects to enhance Malay Language learning for primary school children.

Already, Ms Juraida has a collection of “Malay Singapore Zoo Stories” under her belt. Now, she is collaborating with fellow teachers on book teaching packages for Concord Primary School as well as a Teachers Network publication introducing Malay Language learners to the Jurong Bird Park.

It doesn’t end when a book is written. Ms Juraida continues to help teachers in other schools and even parents who want to know how to use her “Malay Singapore Zoo Stories” more effectively. Here, she brings her counselling skills to the table to show that the books aren’t just about learning the language but also lessons in life-skills through the mental and emotional development of the characters.

TN Awards 2008

Mrs Janaki continues to find innovative ways to teach the Tamil Language.

Held captive by her stories

Mrs Janaki Amma Prankumar, who teaches at Marsiling Primary School, knows a trick or two about capturing her pupils’ interest whilst fortifying their arsenal of Tamil vocabulary. Using story-telling techniques such as sign-language, dramatisation and puppets as well as props like cards or musical instruments, she stimulates her pupils’ senses and caters to their different learning styles.

A recent project that tapped on her story-telling skills is “Vilanggu Thotta Kathaigal”, a book package jointly-published by the Teachers Network and the Singapore Zoo. “Through this package, pupils can pick up a variety of vocabulary, such as the names of the animals and their distinct characteristics,” explains Mrs Janaki. “This is also a powerful way to integrate science using the Tamil Language.”

“Since pupils can easily identify with stories of our local animals, they are more open to learning,” she adds. “It is also a good platform to integrate values education, such as respect and love for animals.”

The winner of a Fellow of TN Award, Mrs Janaki is noted for her active involvement in workshops for the N5 and N7 Clusters. Besides benefiting from her bag of story-telling tricks, fellow teachers and parents too have also learnt from Mrs Janaki how to use mind maps to teach Composition and Comprehension, as well as effective oral communication techniques between parents and children.