The Write Way

July 1, 2014

Mabindra Regmi

When I graduated from my high school, I thought I was a great writer. I had written for countless assignments and examinations. I had written poems and stories. I had scored relatively high marks in English during my high school final examination. How could I not be a writer? It was a bitter shock when reality crashed in and I had to redefine my so called ‘expertise’ in writing when I faced the challenge of writing a proposal for an educational endeavor. I spent many a night poring over the proposal and scribbling on a piece of paper in that pre-ubiquitous-computer era to keep my inflated writing ego alive.

When I look back in retrospect after what seems like eons, and teaching writing to students for over a decade, a few questions arise. Why did I feel that I was ‘good’ at writing when I apparently wasn’t? What were the factors that I had missed altogether to write well? What were the strategies that I had to adopt in order to enhance my writing skills? And what it takes to create your niche in the world of writing- specifically academic writing?

I would like to address the first question regarding why I wasn’t a good writer. The premise to this would be that the writing that I had been exposed to at school was entirely different from the world of academic writing. I had goaded myself to believe that just by getting my grammar correct and by using some fancy words interlaced with ‘impressive’ looking, torturously long recursive sentences, I was good in writing. The praises of my school teachers for writing, what I believe now to be just childish philosophical ramblings that I used to call poetry, did not matter in the real world. I was expected to get results through my writing skills. For example, the very first draft that I submitted for the proposal mentioned above brought cynical remarks and questioned my very proficiency of English language.

This brings us to the second question regarding necessary factors for writing well. The reality is that in order to impress the academic world, writing is more like ‘mathematics’. There is the central idea expressed in the topic sentence. Then the main points have to elegantly support the central idea. Further, clarifications and exemplifications have to be integrated to get the main idea across.And all these are cohesively bound together with connecting devices. Each part added to create the central whole. The structural unity of paragraph writing was something I had to acquire the hard way amidst ridicule and cynicism. This realization introduced me to a whole different game of writing academically.

The word was out that I could be counted on to write and edit works in English. First, my close friends started requesting me to edit their application essays. Then I was logically burdened with the responsibility of editing school magazines at work. Whenever someone had a difficulty in structure or vocabulary, I was the person to ask. It escalated to more professional level when I started receiving requests to write proposals for non-government organizations. My journey into the world of writing was enhanced by these responsibilities I was given, and alternatingly it provided me the impetus to work hard and to come up with polished products that would assist the organisations to achieve their institutional goals. I think it important to believe that you have the skill and the tenacity to perform at a higher level than you actually can. It provides necessary drive to move you forward- keep you on the edge. As I reflect on this journey, I am sure I would not have come this far had I shied awayfrom the trust that my colleagues and acquaintances bestowed upon me. As in any field, it is necessary to accept challenges and strive to excel in the realm of writing as well.

To address the final question regarding creating a niche of your own, it is imperative that you consistently update yourself and the social connections that you have. There are multifarious means that can be adopted for professional growth. The magic word here is collaboration. Without collaboration with peers, it will be difficult to enhance your professional skills in writing and to create a space of your own in the field. Professional networks provide unique opportunities to showcase your skills and to disseminate the knowledge that you have gained. In addition, professional get-togethers provide opportunities for interaction and networking. Another keyword that one should remember in the professional world is ‘sharing’. Writing is a skill that is visible only when you actually write. As I gained more proficiency as a writer of academic texts, I started sharing it to my peers through workshops and seminars. NeltaChoutari can be very effective platform to share your ideas. As I write for this webzine now, I believe this will further enhance my own skills through the act of sharing.

As I wrap up this short personal reflection on my journey in the field of academic writing, I would like to reiterate the main ideas once again. No matter how good you think you are in writing, there is always place for improvement. Since there are many different types of writing, gaining proficiency in any one of them requires constant effort. Moreover, it is through collaborative effort and sharing that one can truly build a niche within the professional circle. Skill enhancement is a constant effort, and as Steve Jobs stated, it is important to ‘stay hungry and stay foolish’ in order to attain and retain proficiency in the field of academic writing.

Mabindra Regmi

M.Phil. English Language Education
Kathmandu University
Email: mabindra@gmail.com

 

 

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Reflections on TSC written test

July 1, 2014

Praveen Kumar Yadav

After a gap of nearly 17 years, recently Teacher Service Commission (TSC), the government body to appoint teachers for community schools, has recruited teachers for Secondary, Lower Secondary and Primary levels across the country. The process consisted of both written and oral examinations. For written examinations, a total of a total of 413,000 examinees across the country had appeared. Based on results of the written examinations, those successful candidates were called for the interview.

NeltaChoutari would like to congratulate all those who succeeded in TSC exams and have recently become teachers in government owned community schools.  

Out of those successful teachers, the three have shared their experience and reflections through this blog entry. They have been  appointed by the government to teach English in secondary levels. Specifically, they have presented their reflections under three different sections included in the written test.

Kishor Parajuli:

I have been teaching aspects of ELT theoretically to students pursuing higher studies on the one hand, and at the same time, I have been implementing those theories while teaching English at secondary level.

As you see all the questions included in this section are basically related to pedagogy. While answering them, I have integrated my experiences of teaching students English theoretically as well as practically.

Even facilitating and attending in different professional development activities, especially conducted by NELTA in Kathmandu, Makwanpur and other branches have provided me enough exposure to answer these questions comprehensively.

Upendra Kafle:

Teaching means creating environment where our students can learn many things. While creating such an environment, we apply many theories, methods and techniques. When applied, some of them become effective while others turn out to be ineffective. Hence, based on the best of classroom teaching practices, I have answered the questions from this section.  Besides, my answers have reflected on my own experience of teaching different aspects, including teaching grammar, use of teaching materials, language games, teaching poetry and writing exercise.

Abadhes Ray:

Apart from my knowledge and experience with ELT, I, as a regular reader, must give credit to Choutari for enabling me to answer these questions. I recalled different blog entries that I have read here on the blog while answering those question. For instance, some of the articles I found useful for me to answer the questions of this section include the blog post.

Not only this, I did two online courses from Oregon University and Maryland University, which were very effective for learning. Training and access program have also enhanced me to effectively write answers.

Kishor Parajuli:

This section includes problem solving questions. While answering such questions, I reflected on my own experience of facing challenges and problems teaching English to secondary schools. Some of key pertinent problems I mentioned in the test include English teachers’ reluctance in adopting changes in teaching practice, methods and techniques, traditional translation method that still exists in schools, lack of reflection about their teaching and how the learners can learn better, lack of evaluation and follow up of trainings, and  application of action research. For such problems, there’s the only solution, i.e. comprehensive engagement of English teachers in various modes of professional development. A teacher should not only teach, but they should also play a series of roles—of a facilitator, a problem solver, a trainer, an instructor, a guide, a leader and many more.

To cater the needs of individual learners from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, the teacher should apply an appropriate method and practice based on action research. Besides, they can organize group discussions, focus group discussions, and role plays for their active and meaning participation in the classroom, by adopting learner centered teaching methods.

Upendra Kafle:

Over a decade of my involvement in English language teaching, I have come across several problems, and I have also solved them properly by adopting practical measures. Firstly, based on my own experience of problem solving, I attempted the question. Secondly, ELT researches and case analysis of different contexts that I have gone through during and after my academic career were equally helpful. Finally, I have used my observation and learning from various professional development trainings in order to answer the questions.

Abadhes Ray:

As a reader of Choutari and a teacher, I was familiar with the problems and their solution faced in ELT. Besides, I had taken two online courses from Oregon University and Maryland University respectively. I was also an access teacher and attended ELT trainings. All these professional engagements with ELT community have been quite supportive while answering the questions.  

Kishor Parajuli:

In my opinion, the concept of open school program introduced by the government is quite good with the view to providing education to all and especially targeting to those who cannot attend school regularly. However, problems I have seen are on the part of execution. The success of the program would reach a high only after all the stakeholders are sensitized on the significance of open school program, and they also play their respective roles.

I find teachers themselves responsible behind classroom problems. While teaching the students, they face challenges and also celebrate their achievements. It is the teachers who witness stories of success and failure of their efforts in the classroom. What they can do is they can carry out an action research in order to learn from failure and replicate and scale up best practices to improve teaching learning activities.

Upendra Kafle:

Awareness for the government’s open school program is yet to be raised as I do not find many target groups, viz. students and guardians familiar with the program. As a result, they have not been able to get benefitted substantially. Besides, local ownership for the program needs to be developed for effective implementation.

No doubt, action research is an appropriate and common tool to solve all the problems related to teaching. It includes problem investigation, taking action & fact-finding. Based on the findings, teachers can adopt most appropriate strategy within its own teaching environment.

Abadhes Ray:

Lack of massive orientation to the target groups and low participation are key problems I have identified so far in the government’s open school program. The participation needs to be encouraged through stakeholders’ engagement in execution.

In order to scale up effective classroom practices and solving pedagogical problems in ELT, action research can be applied for tangible improvement. It is useful for both classroom management and effective teaching practice. A small scale research can be carried out on a specific aspect of teaching. Its application can further improve the teaching and learning outcomes.


Reflection on ‘Behind Academic Publishing-Why, How & What’

July 1, 2014

Krishna Prasad Khatiwada

‘Get your name registered!’… I excitedly followed the post on the timeline of NeltaChoutari, after I came to learn that Mr. Bal Krishna Sharma was the facilitator of the workshop titled Behind Academic Publishing: Why, How and What. I find the workshop as a crucial step forward for an aspiring writer like me to know more about how to write academic journal articles and get them published. Upon signing up for the registration, I made a call to Umes, one of NeltaChoutari editors, prior to the scheduled workshop to confirm my participation. Finally, I participated in the three-hour workshop which I believe paved a way toward academic writing and publishing with the knowledge and styles that the facilitator shared with us during the session.

Academic writing and publishing plays a vital role in pursuing our higher studies. Everyone’s shoes pinches when they sit for writing something, especially starting with what we have thought of and writing the thought in a coherent way. Writers are not born, but made. What those who are already writers or who aspire to become writers do is; they encompass a writing process, that includes some stages such as jotting down the ideas, making mental picture of what we are supposed to write, bubbling the ideas around the theme, organizing them, write, re-write, review, re-review, and final write up. In this reflective blog post, I try to recapitulate the workshop with my own experience of writing aligning with why, where and what to write.

Writing and research are the integral part of facilitating our success in academia. Until we demonstrate who we are with our writing, our knowledge seems like a beautiful flower having no scent, unrecognized, undecorated and unvalued. To be more specific, although writing and publishing is an integral part of the higher studies, many scholars are not found engaging in such an activity. In the wake of such scenario, I believe the workshop organized by Choutari team was so fruitful for over thirty passionate scholars who participated in order to rigorously engage in academic writing and publishing.

The session started with the statement, ‘It is too late to dig a well when your house is on fire’, meaning that, it will be too late to start writing and publishing when one thinks of applying for the M. Phil or Ph.D. abroad. So, let’s start writing for the purpose of, name and fame, eligibility for pursuing our higher studies, sharing our expertise and contributing in a larger society, and also for our passion. Until we do not start writing and publishing, what worth we write, we do not know who we are. Forget about the rest of the world who are unknown to us, and let’s write to make us known to the world.

Looking back to few of my academic papers, they have been well written and the problem what I always faced is publishing them. Hence, once writing task is over, many of novice writers wonder where to get it published. We cannot deny the fact that scholarly writing contribute to the larger society and the field they are aligned with. However, such a contribution is not worthwhile until they are disseminated through publication. No worries for where to get them published; why not to start with our own weblog, local journals and other publication venues like NeltaChoutari, Journal of NELTA, and Journal of Nepalese Linguistics. They can be the better options for novice writers to write and get published locally or nationally. Even beyond the boundary, one can publish in Asian EFL Journal, Indian Journal of Applied Linguistics, Korean Journal of Applied Linguistics, JALT, and other regional journals. Based on publication experience in domestic and regional journals, the novice scholars in ELT can easily get their work published in the world renowned TESOL Quarterly, Applied Linguistics, Modern Language Journal, Studies in SLA, Language Learning, Journal of Sociolinguistics, etc. Local and national newspapers, magazines can also be the venues to get one’s writing published for the wider readership.

Let’s talk about what to write, and how to we make our writing worth publishing. We can start publishing our academic articles, may be, the term paper, if worth, to the local journals. It gives us a lot of feedback for polishing our writing. The publication may be of data-based empirical articles, conceptual and theoretical proposals, reflections and anecdotes, commentaries of field related survey, book reviews, software reviews, article reviews, and responses to the articles. The data-based empirical articles are the highly prioritized for of the best manuscripts of publishing. And it is recommended that they are to be specific format according to the need of the publishers’ guidelines.

The major part of the academic writing is giving credit to previous knowledge creators. Addressing, taking, assimilating or confronting with their ideas need rigorous reading process and we need to plan carefully for making our writing an established one. The concept of academic theft or plagiarism was highly brought to a live discussion among participants during of the workshop.
These acts of academic dishonesty, or theft, or plagiarism include: representing the words or ideas of someone else as one’s own without giving credit to the author; cheating: getting credit by deceptive means; fabrication: making up information; falsification: altering information/records; multiple submissions: using the same work to receive multiple instances of credit. These sorts of plagiarism are very common to us, knowingly or unknowingly we plagiarize other’s is which is an academic crime. Our reluctances, lassitude habit, lack of time for the submission of the work, language deficiencies, cultural differences and lack of knowledge about what is plagiarism and how it is held are some of the reasons for committing this crime. Sometimes, without knowing what would be the consequences, we plagiarize, resulting defaming our name, being expelled from the universities, rejection from the job, publication and grant. So, it is highly prioritized area in academia to be conscious about giving and taking credit to the sources we work on. These focuses of Mr Bal Krishna Sharma has given me a view the world of academic writing consolidating the ideas with the plagiarism.

Finally, the workshop, a highly participatory one, has given us the fine particles of ingredients in writing and publishing academic journal articles. The only thing we need to do is to make the ingredients mix up with the established knowledge we have with and develop reader friendly write up. This not only makes our writing a sharper and stronger but also contributes us in our professional development. I believe, we are in the process of getting eternity through our write up and the only thing we need to do is ‘start with a good heed’. Let’s write with passion. Happy Writing!
krishna

Krishna Khatiwada

Krishk.2007@gmail.com
http://academicskrish.blogspot.com/


Giving a Benefit of Doubt During Assessment

May 30, 2014

Umes Shrestha

I am a teacher who likes being very liberal while checking answer papers and in this article I am going to talk about why I detest our testing system; why I give a benefit of doubt to the students; and why doing so, I believe, helps foster their confidence and reinforce their learning. I’d like to start by talking about how difficult it is for me to fare with tests and exams, and suggest that we stop doing to our students what many of us as teachers can’t bear ourselves.

Besides teaching, I am also pursuing a Master’s degree in Education. It is a semester system, which means there’s a final examination every six months. And I find it really stressful; in fact I have always found examinations very stressful throughout my life. I may not know my strengths but I know one of my weaknesses for sure – I cannot read books or notes to memorize answers. I do understand the overall concepts but I can’t memorize them in order to spill them all over the answer sheet. I can’t do it even if my life depended on rote memorization. Far worse, my attention span is shorter than an ant’s tail. I cannot remain calm for more than 10 minutes. I am always drowning in a sea of distractions. Family. Friends. Facebook. Music. Home. Job. Deadlines. I can’t quite keep up the concentration. I get itchy and I have to take a short break every 10 minutes or so. My mind operates that way.

While taking exam, I can’t think fast enough to frame and organize my answers. I need time to generate ideas, plan a structure and write essays. I make a lot of spelling errors because I heavily rely on spell checkers. My handwriting and presentation look impeccable in the first two pages but they soon start deteriorating as the clock in the exam hall ticks away in a flurry.

That’s my story. I don’t like being tested in such constrained time and in such ominous hall. I feel it is completely unfair to be judged on what I write in three hours. And to add to my frustration, I am always haunted by the usual mentality of language teachers who are very strict while checking answer papers. And I’m pretty sure there are many out there, both teachers and students, who can perfectly relate to me. Therefore I believe this extreme emphasis that our educational system puts on summative testing as the only mode of assessment could be very damaging to our students and, as a consequence, to our society at large.

So let me ask you to do this: imagine yourself being a teenager, surrounded by technology and media, having access to unlimited knowledge and resources, having friends who are hyperactive on the internet and social networking sites, having too many options at hand. Imagine yourself sitting in the class for hours and hours, sitting on the same desk and ‘listening’ to the teachers who use the same deadbeat methods day in and day out. Imagine yourself not knowing (or doubting) the relevance of the traditional education, getting certificates, getting degrees, joining the workforce and doing the same old jobs.
exam-makes-no-sense

(Pic: a screenshot of one of my student’s facebook status. This student is perfectly clueless.)

And we ask them to sit for exams. We ask them to write an essay on festivals of Nepal. Or we tell them to compose a speech on Nepal’s historical figures. We tell them to write a complaint letter with date, salutations, body and closings in a precise format. We tell them to write coherently and cohesively. And we want them to write without any spelling errors.

Worst of all, we don’t try to find alternatives to the discouraging test-driven system. Instead, we make the overall process and environment of learning frightening for students by using the fear of exam to work like slaves throughout the year, by focusing on what they lack all the time, and by being strict when assessing their work.  And at the end, even when we could have done otherwise, could have at least made a better combination, we just tell them to sit for three hour exams and expect them to compose perfect essays with their perfect handwritings. We stress on neatness and cleanliness; we write comments, underline wrong answers, we circle misspellings and with red ink we cross out answers that don’t match our expectation. That’s what we usually do, don’t we? There could be different ways to assess our students but at the end of the day, we (have to) judge students based on written examinations.

It would seem as if in the present context, there is absolutely no way out of this final written examination module but dear teachers, here are some of the things I do, and as a teacher, this is what I propose you to try out these and similar things as well.

I give my students a benefit of doubt while checking their answer papers. I understand, they don’t take exams because they like it. I have never come across any student who loves taking exams. On top of it, they have to take exams of seven or more subjects every term. I can perfectly relate to the maddening pressure to perform. They have no option, and neither do we. So while I check their answer papers, I gently remind them of their spelling mistakes but don’t deduct any marks for it. I overlook minor errors and slips like she don’t have friends. If they write any brilliant essays with a logical framework, I get super joyous about it. And I give it 10 out of 10. Why not! (This one student glared me back with disbelief and said: Sir, you gave me 10 out of 10? And I said: Yes, you deserved it.) If their essays look messy and are riddled with terrible structures, I don’t butcher their effort thoughtlessly. They would have done it better if they didn’t have any time constraints or if they had time to draft and re-draft the essays. I try to be sensible about their handwriting too, because writing for three hours straight is a real pain in the ass and the wrist. I go through the same pain every time I take an exam. One reason, many of us are used to typing on computer rather than writing with a pen. And I am never picky about grammatical errors. I have seen my professors at the university make grammar errors. I have seen me making horrible grammatical errors. We all do.

I try to keep track of the students, their progress, their assignments, classroom participation, portfolios – but I don’t judge them based on one written examination. I am definitely not seeking an easy way out. I communicate with the students who are lagging behind and make them feel safe. I do demand high, push their limits but I want to be realistic, and set realistic goals and realistic expectation. At the end of the day, I feel like I have done my part and go to bed without any resentment or bitterness.

Our testing system is full of holes, and it desperately needs a facelift. However, we can’t change the entire system right away, let’s be realistic. But what we can do is empathize with the students. Therefore, dear teachers, give your students a benefit of doubt, because sometimes we too need it.

I’m going to wrap up my ‘rant’ with one more facebook status that I came across –  just to add to my argument.

umes

Umes Shrestha

M.Ed. ELT

Teaches Business Communication and Literature to undergraduate students


YouTube: My Best Friend Forever

May 1, 2014

Chandra Pd. Acharya

Before I started pursuing my master’s degree in English education at Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, I didn’t have any inkling that YouTube, a video sharing website, was there. On my birthday, one of my girlfriends gifted me a laptop and she suggested me to spend some of my study hours on YouTube surfing educational videos. For the first time, I learnt about the video sharing website. No sooner had I came to know about this than I befriended with it since it turned to be like a friend in need is a friend indeed. In this blog entry, I have shared my experience of using YouTube for enhancing my English language competency.

In the initial days, I did not exactly know how to use YouTube. I did some researches on web and however, some odd months later, I got the idea as a result of learning by doing, and kept on using it to the fullest. The English pronunciation that I have commanded over today is the outcome of watching English videos uploaded on YouTube. My current English is gratifying me, even some of my friends find it awesome. But, I love to opt for ‘good’ rating for the good has a chance to learn it for the better as learning begins from cradle and lasts to grave. So my English learning through YouTube surfing could by no means be an exception provided that I had in one way or the other fallen in love with it. Once in love, forever in love, I think I internalized this adage. To be honest, surfing YouTube videos time and again became my forte and I am damn sure it will continue till my last breath. Maybe this is because of my forever longing. Now I feel I should immensely grateful to three former PayPal employees Steve ChenChad HurleyJawed Karim who fathered YouTube in February 2005.

The point I want to make is YouTube for me was the best way to learn English however there are a lot of means available these days. So choose whichever you think the best. Truly speaking, my passion for YouTube surfing was and is to expand the storage of vocabulary and to polish the fluency in speaking English. Hence my penchant for YouTube surfing gives birth to this article.

As I believe fluency in English is the key important factor for people around the world for communication in English. It is one of the important language components to be developed. Fluency is a speech language pathology which means the smoothness or flow with which sounds, syllables, words and phrases are joined together when speaking quickly. Hence, fluency in English can be termed as ease and smoothness of speaking.  Stressing much on this feature of language, Brumfit (1984, p. 56) opines fluency as natural language use.

Generally, we need to make our fluency a comfortable one so that the communication moves ahead between the parties (encoder and decoder). It gets matured through simple day-to-day tea talk to public speaking. Likewise we have to know the organization, pronunciation, word use, body language etc. Here, I am pinpointing some of the important guidelines required to become those who want to develop their fluency in English through YouTube.

1. Technical Qualities

Here ‘technical qualities’ refers to overall qualities of videos available in YouTube. This includes clarity, video resolution, sound effect, etc. As suggested by Mullen & Wedwick (2008) and Trier (2007), quick access to vast quantity of video database provides a great deal of opportunities in enhancing learning. The video clips downloaded from YouTube or other similar websites are very educational and practical to use. For instance, in the technical dimension, many users claim that online videos clips are high in quality. According to Hubbard (2009), attributes like fine audio and visual are very important in aiding learning and sustaining the interest of learners. Thus, the quality of freely available YouTube videos is good, and learners can be benefitted from them without difficulties.

2. Content Focused

The contents of selected video clips do not only meet individual learners’ need, but also help them learn how to present the information attractively and effectively. Muniandy & Veloo (2011, p. 177) conclude that “the claim of many users and researchers on content of video clips uploaded online are indeed presented in a dynamic way that can enhance mastering of English language among students.” This is highly concerned with the language used is appropriate or not, the language used is conversational in nature or not, the videos scaffold constructive learning or not etc.

3. Engaging

The next important this that a learners should consider while surfing YouTube is whether the videos can engage learners or not. Mostly the content of online video clips are indeed engaging and could help learners to be more focused. At the same time one should consider the following things in his/her mind i.e. whether the contents of videos are attractive or not, either they are well organized or not, whether the duration of the videos are appropriate or not, is the content easily understandable or quite difficult.

4. Optimistic Attitude

‘Optimistic attitude’ refers to the positive expectancy that one gets after surfing the videos in YouTube channels. Frankly speaking the learners themselves should be very optimistic about the outcome of surfing the video clips. To this one should be sure that they learn something and the reforms will take place. Thus optimistic attitude and keenness is also a strong indication so that the learning goes at pleasant manner and becomes strong one near natural future. To this, the criteria to be considered are; whether the video more interesting or not, whether the videos can capture and retain ones’ attention or not, can the videos generate new ideas or not.

As similar to the saying, ‘the better learners today are the better teachers tomorrow; a learner should keep the above mentioned things in one’s mind in order to strengthen fluency in speaking English. There is a belief based on research findings that the more one use video clips either from YouTube or any other online sites the better the fluency s/he develops. And the ability they earn woks as a mechanism in their future teaching. This can be their public image among the learners they deal with.

Likewise, I think it would be better if I mention some of the links of YouTube videos I went through and visit these days too in timed conditions for developing fluency in English. One of the effective video clips I went through in the beginning days was ‘Learn How to Speak English Fluently and Confidently’ . This was a tutorial like video clips that added some skills of speaking fluently on my side. The clip suggests that the more one listens the better he speaks.

Similarly, a video clips entitled ‘Fluency in English’ talks about the suprasegmental features such as stress, length, rhythm, tone etc. in a practical basis. The video further suggests that practice and practice until one gets what he wanted to get is the key thing in developing fluency in English.

The other effective video clips that taught me a new kind of lesson was ; ‘How Do You Speak English? Speaking Exercises To Improve Your Fluency in English’ What I learnt through this video is that I have developed fluency one need to speak as s/she sings a song in his/her native tongue. Regarding this ideas, here I would like to connect suggestion from one of my Gurus that if one needs to be a good speaker in English,  s/he needs to speak it as similar to his/her native language.

However,  one of major problems in teaching students I have noticed is how to make the teachers’ talk comprehensible to the learners. Traditionally, the input, the subject matter in general, had been directly translated into the students’ mother-tongue. Teacher used to be like a bilingual dictionary having meaning of one word into two languages. The job of students was not to exercise mentally to extract the teachers talk but to memorize and repeat spelling and meaning time and again to form habits. But, at present this approach has become obsolete. Now, the main objective of teaching speaking skills is to make students able to make teacher talk as comprehensible as possible so that the learners can themselves be familiar with the content delivered in different contexts. So, a teacher needs to use numerous ways to make input comprehensible so that the pattern of rote learning gets avoided.

Another  significant problem with developing fluency in speaking English is that what has been learnt today is often forgotten tomorrow. Hence, to speak smoothly, smart usage of vocabulary is also important which can also be possible through English videos. For this, one should surf the videos in an appropriate time interval. Besides,  to boost up fluency in speaking, it is advisable not only to revise the video clips periodically, but also start each day with a new clip and practise, and imitate it throughout the day. In addition, it is necessary to develop the habit of making casual talks with the friends.

Frankly speaking, for me, to develop my fluency in speaking I didn’t felt hesitation to make talks in English with a tourist from core English speaking countries to varsity teachers from home and abroad either through online video calls or the face-to-face context-specific conversation.

To draw a conclusion from my experience shared here, I feel myself proud of developing an adage that the enormous number of video clips available online or offline can be a gateway to success in developing fluency in speaking English. However, one needs to be careful to select appropriate clips based on his knowledge and understandings in English so that the pace of his/her making fluency in speaking English gets matured in a natural way.  This will help the users capable for earning bread and butter in their career. 

Now I would like to retrospect to reiterate if she was the best friend, who gifted the laptop with internet access, or the laptop with internet access. But I feel the latter is the best of the best for me because YouTube has been a great companion to develop my fluency skills. 

References:

Brumfit, C. (1984). Communicative methodology in language teaching: The roles of fluency and accuracy. Cambridge:                                                                CambridgeUniversity.

Hubbard, P. (2009). A general introduction to computer-assisted language learning. In Japan. Retrieved on 11th Feb, 2011 from                                              http://www.robon.org/gary/captioning

Mullen, R. & Wedwick. (2008). Avoiding the Digital Abbys: Getting Started in the Classroom with YouTube, Digital Stories and                                                                        Blogs, Vol.82 (2), 66-69.

Muniandy, B. & Veloo, S. (2011). Managing and Utilizing Online Video Clips for Teaching English Language: Views of TESOL Pre                                                                        Service Teachers. 2nd International Conference on Education and Management Technology.                                                                               IPEDR vol.13 (2011) © (2011) IACSIT Press, Singapore.

Trier, J. (2007).“Cool” engagements with YouTube: Part 1. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy 50:408–12.

aacharya

 

 

 

 

 

Chandra Prasad Acharya

Masters in English Education, TU


Five Books That ‘Changed’ My Life

February 1, 2014

Hem Raj Kafle

‘Change’ is not my word in the title above, but I agree to use it. Do books change our lives? Someone said it is the reader who has the potential to change; the book only triggers that potential. And one who does not have that potential does not respond to the trigger. I agree to this, too.

But I am not here to present a thorough appreciation of ‘five classics’. Not that I avoid reading classics, but I am willing to write about those books that have told me their actual worth.  Each of the five books came to me almost ‘out of nowhere’ and left a lasting message. Not that any of them should ever satisfy your intellectual need if you someday decide to read.  I write here simply because I have deemed them contributory to my own growth as a teacher. An English teacher.

I was delighted when the Choutari Team asked me to write on five books that ‘changed’ my life. I decided to speak up: I have already read a book with the same title and loved it so much. It is The Book That Changed My Life (2006) by Roxanne J Coady and Joy Johannessen. A book about books, and about how books change one’s life – I had loved this idea long ago. The Book indeed was a reward, such as Coady herself would like to regard as a gift “from heaven”.01. The Book That Changed My Life

I bought it in the summer of 2008 at Books and Books, Coral Gables, Florida, only as a memento of my US visit. And, because it was a casual pick, my interest in it turned into epiphany as I read through the short essays inside. This was an opportunity to peek into seventy one writers’ celebration of “the books that matter most to them.” These seventy one people gave credit to certain books and their writers as their life’s important change agents. So, the writers’ appreciation of their favourites helped confirm that none of my previous and recent cravings for ‘good books’ were without meaning.  Anyone, even you, will subscribe to Coady’s prefatory justification for publishing this book, so will I.

Reading is a way to live more lives, to experience more worlds, to meet people we care about and want to know more about, to understand others and develop a compassion for what they confront and endure. It is a way to learn how to knit or build a house or solve an equation, a way to be moved to laughter and wonder and to learn how to live.

One book that has made great sense to me as a teacher of English is The Elements of 02. Elements of StyleStyle, the tiny work of William Strunk Jr. and E. B White. You may wonder why such commonplace as ‘elements of style’ would strike anyone who boasts of degrees in English and years of teaching in a reputed University’s central department. But I realized, after having gone through the authors’ terse admonitions against verbosity and carelessness, that degrees and years of teaching do not make one a writer and a teacher of effective communication. The actual prerequisite of being a writer is not only the mastery in grammar and vocabulary, but craftsmanship in stylistic and rhetorical choices. 

The Elements offers an extremely concise treatment on style. I have nurtured the following assertion more than anything in life and, of course, for writing in Nepali as well:

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

Strunk and White made me aware of the beauty of brevity in writing. Then Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark, a writing instructor at Poynter Institute, Florida, helped polish this awareness. The “50 essential strategies,” more as rich illustrations of good and bad samples from various established sources than commonplace imperatives, have best corresponded with my zeal for learning rhetorical styles.  Clark taught me writing as an artful yet serious activity and knowledge of grammar a means to shape the artistry of expression.03. Writing Tools

Assuming the role of highly active, playful teacher along the “strategies,” Clark encourages every aspiring and established writer to become an entertainer, a performer. He likes to take writing for carpentry, and then has this to say: “You can borrow a writing tool at any time. And here’s a secret: Unlike hammers, chisels, and rakes, writing tools never have to be returned. They can be cleaned, sharpened, and passed on.” 

Clark’s metaphors of gold coins, ladder of abstraction, internal cliffhangers, X-ray reading etc. will surely tickle one’s sense of sufficiency as a writer and editor. Initially, he makes you skeptic about every sentence you write yourself and read from others. As you move on, because Clark will not allow you to drop midway, you become a better writer, better reader, better editor. Clark follows you directly into your profession. He is with me – in lectures, in instructions, in formal presentations – and now as I write these lines.

I got Wayne Booth’s famous book The Rhetoric of Rhetoric at a time I was trying to get clear knack on rhetoric in scholarly, philosophical and practical terms.  Booth proved a rescuer, and a guide to the fact that rhetoric is a vastly developed academic discipline way beyond its everyday currency as a signifier of a cheap lie or a political 04. The Rhetoric of Rheotricbombast.   

Booth observes rhetoric’s relevance as much in persuasive communication and study of such communication as in the resolution of conflicts, teaching of science and general upbringing of people. Of special value to me has been his idea of “rhetorology” defined as a “deepest form of listening rhetoric: the systematic probing for ‘common ground’”, which in other words involves a practice of paying attention to opponent views during a conflict situation.

Booth emphasizes that rhetoric is simply the way we think and communicate in the process of creating a better life, and eliminating slippery situations. So, I believe, after Booth, that “the quality of our lives, moment by moment, depends on the quality of our rhetoric.” Isn’t it then even more appropriate to say that the kind of political system and social structure we see/experience “depends on the rhetoric of our leaders and our responses to them”?  Booth is equally true in his belief that “our children’s future depends on how they are taught rhetoric.” That is, by us.

Literature, Science and a New Humanities by Jonathan Gottschall is one of my recent readings. It has made much sense in my decision to work across humanities and other disciplines in Kathmandu University. It has reshaped my understanding of the common tension of where humanities needed proper overhaul.

05. Literature, Science and a New HumanitiesGottschall makes readers aware of three main fault lines of the current humanities scholarship. The first includes the excessive use of jargons and “theories of human nature that are defunct.” The second is a methodological problem involving the impossibility of getting tangible evidences unlike in science because the “theory-generated hypotheses” in humanities are not “closer to truth.” The third problem involves attitudinal dilemmas where the dismissal of the “possibility of generating reliable knowledge” is critical among humanities scholars.

Reading Gottschall coincides with two very important contexts of my academic life. The first involves a larger concern of the humanities ‘fraternity’, to which I belong. This is the concern for the visible decline of interest and intake in certain traditional university programmes like geography, history, political science, psychology and philosophy. That some people still desired to study English literature or journalism is nothing of a solace to a career-ambitious young man in that it is gradually subjected to preparing ‘service’ writers or higher-secondary teachers. Personally, working in an institution heavily focused to profession-specific academic programmes in science and engineering, I have always felt the need of reconfiguring my disciplinary orientation to more goal- or job-centric terrains. The second context has to with the recent shift in my disciplinary priorities. I moved from where I liked to work (social sciences) to where I loved to belong and contribute (humanities and sciences). The move has also added a challenge of helping to interface the mutually complementary facets of communication, teaching, management, entrepreneurship, and economics in the promotion of engineering and science education.

I feel now that Gottschall’s book endorses my decision to work across these terrains. It lends adequate confidence in the goal “to establish a  new  humanities  on  surer  foundations.” The foundations would then take more conciliatory yet “diverse and sophisticated methodological toolkit, and the pursuit of disinterested inquiry.” I have subscribed to Gottschall’s “call to move closer to the sciences in theory, method, and ethos.” I have accepted this mandatory, though difficult, challenge to “participate more fully in revealing the ultimate subject of the humanities: humans.” To this my life is directed with tenacity. To reiterate, I have set conciliatory, empathetic performance in scholarship to be the main motto of my further scholarly priorities.

Finally, books do not respond to the extent of leading to change unless you approach them with love and passion. Love for books comes with birth.  This love becomes passion when books become a part of your upbringing. Books shape our thoughts which shape our actions. Thoughtful actions are change agents. A book’s contribution to change lies here. With this belief I seek to read good books, more and more.

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Hem-Raj-Kafle-bioHem Raj Kafle is one of the senior editors of NELTA Choutari. He is an Assistant Professor of English at the Humanities and Management Unit, School of Engineering, Kathmandu University. For more of his literary writings and works at his personal blog: http://kaflehem.wordpress.com/


An Access Teacher’s Reflection on ELT Training

February 1, 2014

Mandira Adhikari

I have attended a number of training sessions on English language teaching facilitated by both national and international trainers. And I have conducted some training sessions myself. Whenever I attend or conduct such sessions, I ask this question about their significance: Will I be able to translate (transfer) the ideas into my classroom? If such session doesn’t seem relevant to my classroom setting, I return with a sad face, thinking that the time, money and resources invested in that session went in vain. However, I returned home with a happy face from a recent training organized by NELTA in Kathmandu on 20th and 21st December, 2013. Access teachers from the different parts of Nepal participated in the two-day English teachers’ training. I found it very effective for my classroom and I learned several new ideas and concepts to implement in my classroom. In this blog entry, I am going to reflect on my experiences.

FIRST DAY

Following the introduction of the participants, the first day of the training began with ‘Gallery Walk’ and concluded with two different sessions ‘Songs in Access Classroom’ and ‘Co-Teaching’.

Gallery Walk

Through a gallery walk, we reflected on our success stories from Access Program being implemented at different district branches of NELTA. I found the activities of the Access Centers unique, fascinating and different from one another.

Let me begin with GorakhaCenter. The teachers had their students engage into convening an educational fair and they learnt that the students could learn different things when they are engaged in organizing such programs. Similarly, they had organized a literacy campaign targeting the illiterate people of their community with a view to raise awareness, motivate, and encourage them to be literate by joining literacy classes.

Kathmandu Centers had done something remarkable. They had taken the Access Students to the US Embassy, Kathmandu, where the participant students observed various equipments operated with the help of solar power. And the painting titled ‘Wall of Hopes’ highlighted violence against women. On the International Human Rights Day, they showed a movie related to human rights. They also made their students participate in ‘English by Radio‘ program, which is aired through radio stations in partnership of NELTA and the US Embassy.

Unlike Gorkha and KathmanduCenters, PokharaCenter had facilitated their students to prepare and perform a ‘Drama’ on the occasion of ‘Thanks Giving Day’. I like the concept of students’ engagement in the drama as it helps them to be confident, creative and to improve their speaking skills.

BirgunjCenter had their own uniqueness, in celebrating ‘Raksha Bandhan’—a popular Hindu festival of the love between brothers and sisters celebrated in Terai, southern part of Nepal and also in many parts of India and Mauritius. In this festival, sisters tie the thread and attractive rakhi (simple, woven and colorful thread or may be intricate with amulets and decoration on top of it) on wrist of their brothers for their long life, welfare and protection. Other remarkable activities in Birgunj —Traffic Week and Ocean Day—impressed me. Students’ engagement in traffic management over a week has not only helped traffic police but also they have learnt traffic rules. Considering busy traffic in Kathmandu and need of traffic knowledge in our students, I wish I could replicate such activity for LalitpurCenter where I am an Access teacher. I think that the celebration of Ocean Day could be adapted in the context of our Access Centers too.

I was fascinated by the special idea of developing reading skills among our students from KanchanpurCenter. They have formed a readers’ group and a book reviewers’ group. We had conducted classes on ‘Book Review’, students, however, have not been confident enough to write the book reviews. I think the idea of forming of groups of readers and reviewers would help me further building on their confidence.

Songs in Access Classroom

Following Gallery Walk Session, Suman Laudari, former Access teacher facilitated a session on ‘Songs in Access Classroom’. Based on his own experience as an Access teacher, he highlighted on the effectiveness of the use of songs for language learning. Songs are the great exposure to our students and using songs is one of the best ways to teach pronunciation with a fun. We can also develop classroom test activities such as gap filling, match the words with their meaning, and put the shuffled stanzas of the song in order. Through this way, language learning can be a fun making for them.  On the other side, while using songs in the classroom, some possible challenges such as offensive words and deviated forms were explored in our discussions. However, the learners should be pre informed not to use offensive words and consider deviated forms because they are more often used in songs.

Co-teaching

Access Program has a salient feature of co-teaching at its Centers. As an assessment for such a feature, Ganga Ram Gautam and Miriam Corneli jointly facilitated co-teaching. During the facilitation, they introduced ‘Tree Metaphor’, as a tool for effectively analysing our co-teaching. Using tree metaphor, the assessment and analysis of co-teaching was carried out by participants from different Centers in terms of fruits, shoots, seeds and roots. We found our analysis of co-teaching almost similar. For instance, when I and my co-teacher analyzed our co-teaching classes, the fruits of our co–teaching –making   classroom a fun zone, our shoots –utilizing our experience to make our classes effective by discussing with each other, the seeds—about five hours’ discussion to prepare a lesson plan and though we haven’t been successful in executing it yet to and the roots—we both are from education background and quite familiar with different methodologies. We both are co-operative and flexible. As a result, our co-teaching has always been successful.

The co-teachers at Access Centers are co-operative and they have been successful in making their classes effective, applying a variety of teaching methods. Before both the facilitators concluded the session, they provided us the effective model of co-teaching, which further helped us to improve our co-teaching further. Our co-teaching would have been more successful and we would not have faced challenges in managing the roles while implying this concept if the training on ‘co-teaching’ was provided before the Access classes started.

SECOND DAY

The second day of training consisted of four different sessions; ABCD model of lesson planning, public speaking, group discussions and American culture.

ABCD Model of Lesson Planning

Upon the presentations of the lesson plans made by respective Centers, Hemant Raj Dahal, president of NELTA made comments on them. Based on his observation and experience, he shared that most of the teachers usually miss the important parts ‘context’ and ‘expectation’ of our learners while planning their lessons. The discussion became livelier when Access teachers shared their challenges for preparing an effective lesson plan. To address those challenges, facilitator Dahal concluded the session with the introduction and use ABCD model of lesson planning for preparing effective lesson plans.

Public Speaking

The second session ‘Public Speaking’ facilitated by Motikala Subba Dewan was worth effective as it provided us the ideas of public speaking in various contexts. During the session, we were divided into different groups and each group was assigned a topic to prepare a speech. After the group leaders delivered their respective speeches, they were analyzed in terms of both strong areas and the areas to improve. I found the session constructive for not only for speaking in public but also for facilitating students to present their ideas in our regular classroom instruction.

Group Discussions

In the third session, Sara Denne Boltan facilitated us how to conduct group works effectively in our classrooms. She presented to the idea of evaluating the involvement of group members with the help of questionnaire.  It can be an effective tool to actively involve all our students in a group work. The handouts and materials provided by her were helpful for our Access classes while organizing group discussions. She also facilitated us with how to play ‘Dice Game’, which can act as an important catalyst to energize our students for developing speaking skills.

U.S. Values and Culture

Besides improving English language skills, Access Program aims to impart the knowledge of the U.S. values and culture to the participant students and sensitize them about cultural differences. The session facilitated by Sara helped us better understand the American culture that students are expected to learn. Her presentation included contextual conversational patterns, different meaning of facial expressions, and notion of leadership, concept of ‘self’ and other different American cultures.  She further clarified that Access students are expected to learn visible parts of American culture such as the food Americans eat in different festivals, their language and music.

Acknowledgements:

As an Access teacher, I got this wonderful opportunity to attend the training I have reflected above. For this, I am grateful to ‘English Access Microscholarship Program (Access Program)’ implemented by Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA) with sponsorship and support of the U.S. Embassy Kathmandu/the US Department of State.

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Mandira

Mandira Adhikari is currently working as a teacher for the Access Program in Lalitpur. She has completed her M.Ed in ELT from Kathmandu University. She is also a life member of NELTA.


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