Teaching Literature: Potato People

By LEE CHEN PING (A126076)

As the Malaysia Form 2 students are learning “Potato People” by Angela Wright in their literature component, I realised the need to expose the background and historical setting for that story. Well, “Potato People” takes place in 1840s at Ireland where extreme famine occurred because their staple food, potatoes were attacked by fungus. People were left starving and death was common. Moreover, the English colonisation has worsened the whole situation. Therefore, most people tried to escape to America in order to survive.

The historical context above is not mentioned in the story. The story straight away starts with famine and the escape to America. Therefore, I believe most of the students will be wondering why there is famine and what had happened. If teachers are able to explain in detail about the history of Ireland, students will be able to understand the “Potato People” better.

So, I have created a short video about “The Great Famine” in Ireland. This video is quite short but very informative. Teachers are most welcome to use it for their set induction.

Enhance Speaking through Choral Speaking


When students think about choral speaking, often they will be afraid because of the long, long script that they will need to memorise. This is the wrong perception that we, as teachers need to change. Choral speaking can always be done in a classroom setting and it can be so much fun if a teacher is creative enough. A teacher can always use classical nursery rhyme in a choral speaking. It has the advantages of being short, easy vocabulary, and constant rhyme where students can remember easily. If a teacher can add few actions into the choral speaking, it will be superb as it enhances students’ memory in the combination of actions and the script.

Based on experience, I have tried a short choral speaking with my classmates back in the year 2010. There were 3 nursery rhymes that we used. When the lecturer taught us the action, the whole choral speaking was turned into a fresh vibe. Everyone is so excited to redo the whole choral speaking again and again. In less than one hour, we had all memorised the script and the action. So, this is our script.

Hickory Dickory Dock,
The mouse ran up the clock.
The clock struck one,
The mouse ran down!
Hickory Dickory Dock.

A sailor went to sea sea sea
To see what he could see see see
But all that he could see see see
Was the bottom of the deep blue sea sea sea

Left, right, left
Left, right, left
I had a good job but I left
I left because nothing went right
Left, right, left

This is our choral speaking performance during the Institute English Open Day 2010. After we had finished the choral speaking, there were many teachers approached us asking for the script and to teach them the actions. I guess teachers all knew students will be very excited with this activity 🙂



Left, right, left

Left, right, left

I had a good job but I left

I left because nothing went right

Left, right, left

Teaching Grammar in a Fun Way


For the course work fulfillment of Action Research GV 3053, my group partner and I have conducted several teaching sessions in Impact Learning Tuition Centre with six lower secondary pupils. In our first teaching, we taught our pupils “simple past tense”. We applied two teaching methods in our lesson. Both methods used video downloaded from YouTube.

In the first video clip, students were first told what “Simple Past Tense” is. Then, examples are given to them in order to let them have a better understanding. This process is clearly a top-down approach. It lets the students to get the general idea of the past tense before they further explore the details concerning “simple past tense”.

In the second video clip, students were shown some funny actions that were done by cats. At the end of the video, we asked the students to recall the actions they saw are in the video clip. We wrote down all the students’ answer on the white board. After that, we aided the students to change the actions they mentioned into past tense form. We summarised the section by telling the students what “simple past tense” is. Therefore, it is a bottom-up teaching approach.

Our students were much more active during the session we showed them the second video compared to the first video clip. In my opinion both top down and bottom up teaching approach is useful in helping the students to learn. It depends on the students’ learning style to decide which approach is better. In our case, the students are from lower secondary form, so, there is a need for us to guide them from bottom to conceptualisation.

Speaking:Jigsaw Activities

Traditional classroom speaking practice often takes the form of drills in which one person asks a question and another gives an answer. The question and the answer are structured and predictable, and often there is only one correct, predetermined answer.

In contrast, the purpose of real communication is to accomplish a task, such as conveying a telephone message, obtaining information, or expressing an opinion. In real communication, participants must manage uncertainty about what the other person will say. Authentic communication involves an information gap; each participant has information that the other does not have. In addition, to achieve their purpose, participants may have to clarify their meaning or ask for confirmation of their own understanding. To create classroom speaking activities that will develop communicative competence, instructors need to incorporate a purpose and an information gap and allow for multiple forms of expression.


Jigsaw activities are more elaborate information gap activities that can be done with several partners. In a jigsaw activity, each partner has one or a few pieces of the “puzzle,” and the partners must cooperate to fit all the pieces into a whole picture. The puzzle piece may take one of several forms. It may be one panel from a comic strip or one photo from a set that tells a story. It may be one sentence from a written narrative. It may be a tape recording of a conversation, in which case no two partners hear exactly the same conversation.

  • In one fairly simple jigsaw activity, students work in groups of four. Each student in the group receives one panel from a comic strip. Partners may not show each other their panels. Together the four panels present this narrative: a man takes a container of ice cream from the freezer; he serves himself several scoops of ice cream; he sits in front of the TV eating his ice cream; he returns with the empty bowl to the kitchen and finds that he left the container of ice cream, now melting, on the kitchen counter. These pictures have a clear narrative line and the partners are not likely to disagree about the appropriate sequencing. You can make the task more demanding, however, by using pictures that lend themselves to alternative sequences, so that the partners have to negotiate among themselves to agree on a satisfactory sequence

  • More elaborate jigsaws may proceed in two stages. Students first work in input groups (groups A, B, C, and D) to receive information. Each group receives a different part of the total information for the task. Students then reorganize into groups of four with one student each from A, B, C, and D, and use the information they received to complete the task. Such an organization could be used, for example, when the input is given in the form of a tape recording. Groups A, B, C, and D each hear a different recording of a short news bulletin. The four recordings all contain the same general information, but each has one or more details that the others do not. In the second stage, students reconstruct the complete story by comparing the four versions.

Taken From: The National Capital Language Resource Center


Listening to English on Regular Basis

These days, students find it hard to comprehend words articulated by native speakers. The major factors that cause students to have poor understanding of speech delivered by Caucasian are students’ poor vocabularies and low English competency. However, the advancement of technology has allowed researchers to develop audiobook. The audiobook is the digital recording of a speaker reading a written text out. Therefore, the audiobook is synchronized to the reading texts distributed to the students. Audiobook not only allows students to concentrate on the reading materials but students are now exposed to the correct pronunciation, intonation and accents of good English speakers. Audiobook will serve as a platform for teaching listening in a classroom where a teacher might seek some topics of general interest which would motivate students in listening English texts. Apart from that, a teacher can introduce audiobooks of different genres where students would engage in listening during their free hours outside the schools. The introduction of audiobook allows the students to catch up their interest in sports, world issues, history, latest technology development etc via listening. Hence, the use of audiobook in a classroom serves a major step to encourage learning takes place in a listening lesson.

Yu Ching Hung

Know your listening strategies!

Listening strategies can be classified by how the listener processes the input to be comprehended.

Top-down strategies are listener based

The listener taps into background knowledge of the topic, the situation or context, the type of text, and the language. This background knowledge activates a set of expectations that help the listener to interpret what is heard and anticipate what will come next. Top-down strategies include:

  • listening for the main idea
  • predicting
  • drawing inferences
  • summarizing

Bottom-up strategies are text based

The listener relies on the language in the message, that is, the combination of sounds, words, and grammar that creates meaning. Bottom-up strategies include

  • listening for specific details
  • recognizing cognates
  • recognizing word-order patterns

Here is a good example of informative listening that can be viewed in You

Teacher can use this video as listening material and construct questions based on the information!

Writing No More Worries


Writing is an essential skill required by the students in order to express themselves in their learning. However, generally, writing is claimed to be the most difficult among the four language skills (Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening).

“Every writer I know has trouble writing.” Joseph Heller, an American satirical novelist, short story writer and playwright.

This essay will discuss why it is important to have writing in elementary and secondary school. Besides, an image adapted from which consists of the writing rules that one will ever need in his or her writing.

The most important reason for teaching writing is to enable the students to learn a target language more deeply. Writing requires students to understand the topic given. Besides, it involves the use of vocabulary and grammar. Thus, having writing tasks in a language class will encourage the students to apply what they have been taught in the class.

Secondly, writing is important in aiding teachers and parents to identify the students’ weaknesses in the target language. At the same time, the students’ writing can serve as records for themselves. They can look back and see clearly their own progress in language learning.

There are many rules in writing that proposed by the expertise in teaching writing. It is hard to explain them all. Thus, I would like to share with you an interesting image that I came across recently. It claimed that there are only 12.5 rules in writing that we will ever need.

12.5 ????

Image adapted from: