This blog is managed by Song Hock Chye, author of Improve Your Thinking Skills in Maths (P1-P3 series), which is published and distributed by EPH.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

How do I motivate the class? Part 2

Last week we took a look at what are the most common reasons why some students perform badly in PSLE Maths. How do I motivate the class? Part 1

This week, we will be discussing how to improve the student’s performance in English.

English, compared to Maths, takes a much longer time before significant improvement in marks can be seen. While a 20 mark increase is possible within 3 months for students who are weak in Maths, any significant improvement in English can only be observed anywhere from 6 months to a year.

With Maths, what is needed is a basic foundation and practice, practice, practice. With English, it is a different ball game altogether. It is no coincidence that students who read a lot, tend to do much better in English than students who hardly read.

Regular reading helps the students recognize sentence patterns and structures – the key to grammar. At the same time, with wide reading, the students are exposed to a diverse group of words, expanding their vocabulary.

It can be argued that a student, who has weak grammar skills and a weak vocabulary database, will do poorly for his English paper. Many English teachers advise students that they have to read a wide range of books, journals etc.

Weak grammar and vocabulary will lead to poor performances in areas like Continuous Writing and the Comprehension Sections. It is therefore important to strengthen the student’s grammar and vocabulary.

Weak Link Number 1 - Grammar

Some students do not know the rules of basic grammar like subject-verb agreement. If this is not corrected early, there will be more problems later. If the student cannot write grammatically correct sentences involving the Simple Present Tense, eg “He walks to school” and not “He walk to school”, he will have problems writing grammatically correct sentences when more complex tenses like Perfect Tenses are introduced.

Unlike the past, students today are not taught grammar rules in a structured manner. However, there is nothing to stop the English teacher from teaching structured Grammar Lessons in his or her class. From experience, if the class has a very weak foundation in grammar, that seems to be the only plausible thing to do.

Teaching Grammar Lessons however, can be boring, as compared to teaching themes. The challenge is to keep the class attentive when you drive home the grammar rules. However, that can be done if you add a little humour to your lessons.

For example, if you were to introduce the Present Perfect Tense, you can get the students involved. In the following example, let us assume that we are teaching the Present Perfect Tense. Let us get a student, Charles, involved.

After explaining the form of the Present Perfect Tense (have/has + past participle) and the conditions that have to be met for the tense to be used, we can draw a cartoon image to liven the lesson.

Click on image below to enlarge

In the drawing above, the structure and the use of the Present Perfect Tense has been emphasized. In this case, the condition for the use of the Present Perfect Tense, that is an action or event that has recently happened, is drilled to the students.

With this manner of teaching, the boredom of teaching grammar is eliminated.

Weak Link Number 2 – Vocabulary

Some students add “new words” to their vocabulary list. That is good. The problem is that they end up with tons of “new words”, but do not know how to use them!

Hence, for every “new word” the student learns, it is good for him to copy the whole sentence from where he found that “new word”.

For example, noting that the word practice is a noun, while practise is a verb, is basic vocabulary. However, this understanding can be further enhanced, if the student gets to see sentences constructed with those words in it. Example -

“The sports practice will begin at 3 pm. We will practise the 100-metre sprint.”

In the above, the use of the words “practice” and “practise” are both used in sentences. This gives the student a better idea how those two words differ in meaning, compared to just an explanation that “practice” is a noun, while “practise” is a verb.

The Other Sections in the English Paper

Grammar and Vocabulary form a major part of the English Paper. If the student does not get these two basics right, he will do badly for the subject. Having noted that, certain sections are notoriously problematic for the average student. One section where most students lose marks is the Open Ended Comprehension. Another section is Cloze Comprehension.

Just like Maths where multiplication tables, fractions and decimals are the basics - in English, Grammar and Vocabulary are the basics. If the student does not get his basics right (ie grammar and vocabulary), we can expect his other sections to be affected too.

For Maths, with close coaching, we can see an improvement in the student’s performance within as short as 2 or 3 months. For English, the process is longer. It may take up to a year, before we get to see any significant improvement in marks.

Whatever the case, be it Maths, English or any subject, if the student consistently fails in his subject(s), it can be a source of demotivation.

In order for the student to be motivated, the best way is for him to produce the results he can be proud of.

This is the end of a 2-part article “How do I motivate the class?”

Next week, we will feature another article – “How do I handle the class brat?”


Related link: How do I motivate the class? Part 1

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am afraid the example given is bad for student's Science. He is taught and reminded that only non-living things do need air, water and food to survive.