“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
– Toni Morrison
A warm welcome to the June and July issue of NELTA ELT Forum. This issue of Forum features a variety of topics ranging from academic Writing, digital storytelling to practical challenges and some ways out the issues of classroom experience by the teachers and teacher educators. We can feel, how teachers initiated practices in a community school in Nepal has helped them overcome existing problems. In addition, you can read why and how writing can be discussed in the classroom.
The first article by Dr. Tikaram Bhatta delineates essential elements of academic writing such as style, structure, audience and tone. It also outlines some problematic areas that novice writers encounter, especially in formal situations.
Secondly, Mr. Gobinda Puri has presented the existing problems of community schools in Nepal and some of the best practices initiated by teachers to solve these problems in various ways.
In our next write-up by Mr. William Wolf, an English Language Fellow in Kazakhstan, briefly discusses why teachers should teach writing to students. Then, he shares his observation regarding teaching writing in Nepalese context. Mr. Wolf, who has had experience of working closely with English language teachers in different parts of Nepal, shares how writing skills are overlooked and the reasons behind that. He then shares some hands-on ideas that teachers can use in their class to teach writing.
In our fourth article by Mr. Tirtha Karki, a teacher and teacher trainer in Eastern Nepal, explains hands-on ideas of developing creative writing ability through model-based activities. The article also shares his observation on how such activities promote the implicit learning of foreign language.
Likewise, the next article by Suman DC elucidates how digital storytelling is one of the emerging trends in the field of education. As an EFL teacher, he feels that it is one of the most engaging and integrating effective tool to develop different skills for our classrooms.
Similarly, Binod Singh Dhami, an M. Phil. scholar and TESOL trainer discusses the issues and strategies of teaching in large classes which, in some extent may help English teachers prepare their plan and materials in a innovative way.
We hope you will enjoy reading these articles and provide us with your valuable feedback. Happy reading and writing!!!
Considerations in Academic Writing
*Dr. Tika Ram Bhatta
Academic writing serves various purposes. It, essentially, concerns the writing in colleges or universities and, for publication. It follows certain rules and, has some guiding principles. This article, briefly, delineates essential elements of academic writing such as style, structure, audience and tone. It also outlines some problematic areas that novice writers encounter, especially in formal situations.
Elements of Academic Writing
Writing is required in many contexts throughout life. We write for formal or informal situations. Being a skill, writing can be literal or poetic, flowery or direct, verbose or cryptic. Whatever the form it takes, the main purpose of a writer is to communicate his/her ideas with the possible audience.
A good writer focuses on various features of academic writing. The style meant to any writing involving economy, tone, examples, motivation, balance, voice, obfuscation, analogy and grammar. (Zobel, 2014). However, in academic writing, titles and headings, the opening paragraphs, variation, paragraphing, explicit message, ambiguity, tense, repetition and parallelism, emphasis, definitions, choice of words, sexism along with references and citation are of importance. At the same time, punctuation, fonts, and formatting, periods, commas, parenthesis can never be ignored.
Academic writing employs only as many words as are required. Convoluted languages such as nuances, ambiguity and metaphors are avoided although they give any literature its strength making its tone more powerful. An academic writing conveys information; it is not meant to impress readers (Norris, 2016). It is advisable to use one idea per sentence or a paragraph avoiding buzzwords, clichés, and slang. Careful and frequent revision not only establishes a logical flow but also makes the text tout.
Academic writers use examples and statistics to illustrate the concept clearly. The introduction usually gives some indication of the organization of the paper by outlining the contexts as well as the results. It is not advisable to use a particular voice all the time. There should be a balance between both direct and indirect statements. Change of voice sometimes changes the meaning and often changes emphasis.
Wrong analogies also take the reasoning drift leading the readers to go astray. The most important thing is to explain the relationship of the new work to an existing work showing how the new work builds on or differs from previous knowledge. Citation and references help demonstrate that the work is new enabling the readers to judge whether the expressed statements are reliable. Continue reading →
Changing the face of a community school in Nepal: A case
This article explores commonly existing problems of community schools in Nepal. Then, it presents some of the best practices initiated by teachers at their personal level to solve these problems, in particular, building school-community-students caring chain, creating positive teaching-learning school environment, expanding its infrastructures and safety, and adopting modern technologies, and adopting a participatory approach in the classroom.
Teachers are the change agent. They can bring change in the classroom as well as to school even in the society if they want. Keeping this mantra in mind, we started a collaboration with the fellow teachers and school administration. Eventually, we got the success in our campaign to raise the students learning achievement level, to increase the number of students to be enrolled in schools, to increase the parental involvement, to adopt ICT based teaching learning and expand the infrastructures as well.
It is a challenging task to change the existing environment in community schools and the mindset of community stakeholders. They feel that their responsibility is fulfilled by sending their children to a school. Parents hesitate to pay for their child’s education, but the support provided by the Government to schools can barely cover managerial costs and the costs for learning materials. Some of the biggest challenges faced by teachers and school leaders can be listed as political instability and interference, irresponsibility of teachers and their commitment to the school, insufficient parental involvement in schools and Physical facilities in few schools.
First, political instability and interference are sensed too much in community schools for lagging behind from ascertaining quality education. Mostly teachers are the members of political parties, and they are accountable for their leaders and not for the students and parents. Sometimes there is an instance that the primary teachers politically become so powerful to transfer the head teachers even more education officers. Individual interest is given priority rather than laws and policies. Rules and regulations have been misinterpreted and misused so that school has been turning to be chaos. Furthermore education system is being a failure due to the political instability in the country. Continue reading →
Students need to improve their writing because it is one of the important language skills and also because learning to write well helps students with other skills: grammar, vocabulary, and reading. In an ideal class, there will be enough time to practice writing as a skill and also to use writing to help students integrate other skills, for example by writing responses to things they have read or heard.
Although writing is important, it’s also difficult to teach. The best way to teach writing is to have students frequently write about many topics and to have the teacher provide feedback on this writing. But this takes a very large amount of time. In Nepal, where many teachers see more than one hundred and fifty different students each day, spending just one minute on each student’s compositions would mean two and a half extra hours of work each day. Because it is so time-consuming to give students feedback on their compositions, most teachers have to do less work on writing than they know is necessary. Perhaps they don’t assign writing as often as they know they should or perhaps they don’t give as much or as frequent feedback on students’ writing as they would like.
At the heart of the problems of teaching writing are issues of time management. How much time should we use for writing in class? How can we find more efficient ways to give students feedback on their writings? How can we encourage students to spend more time on writing homework?
First, we need to understand that there are several ways to give feedback. Of course, we want to give individualized feedback to each student, but this is generally not possible in every class. If we only use this type of individualized feedback, we will find that we can comment only occasionally. It is possible to give students feedback that is effective without always being individualized. Many of the mistakes that our students made are due to the role of their first language (their L1). This means that many students make the same kinds of errors, whether these be spelling, grammar, vocabulary, or sentence structure. It is not a practical use of the teacher’s time to correct, individually, each of the mistakes. It is far better to select some of the common errors that students are making and to offer a correction to the class as a whole. This saves the teacher a great deal of time. Continue reading →
Developing Creative Writing Ability through Model- Based Activities
When I asked my students in ‘English Access Microscholarship Program’ to write poems on any topic they liked, no students were able to compose poems except three. This situation made me explore activities that could help them to write simple poems. I started exploring possible websites and consulted with creative writers to receive insights so that I could adapt and use them in my creative writing lessons. Having got some inspirational suggestions and creative ideas from different websites and creative writers, I employed some creative writing activities in my class. Those activities enhanced my students’ creative writing abilities. In this article, I have shared my classroom experiences of teaching poetry writing using models.
Defining creative writing is a challenging task as it is deiffic to demarcate creative writing from other forms of writing. In this regard, Hale (2008) maintains creative writing as “anything where the purpose is to express thoughts, feelings and emotions rather than to simply convey information.” She incorporates stories, novels, poetry, (auto) biography and creative non-fiction in creative writing. Similarly, Maley (2009) opines creative writing as “the production of texts which have an aesthetic rather than a purely informative, instrumental or pragmatic purpose. Most often, such texts take the form of poems or stories, though they are not confined to these genres”. In the same way, literaturewalks (2016) defines creative writing as “the fine art of making things up, in the most attractive, apt and convincing way possible.” It is the telling of lies to reveal illuminating and dark truths about the world and our place in it. Likewise, Writerstreasure states creative writing as “any form of writing which is written with the creativity of mind: fiction writing, poetry writing, creative nonfiction writing and more. Continue reading →
Digital Storytelling: An Effective Teaching Tool
*Suman D C
In this short essay, I am going to discuss how EFL instructors can apply “Digital storytelling” in classrooms to enhance students’ comprehensive skills. In other words, it shows how learning process can be optimized by integrating digital technology tools such as; photographs, sound tracks, computer, internet, and most importantly own voice. Moreover, this tool can become the shortest (2-10 minutes) means to digitalize our lessons that is equal to thousand words. On top of that, this idea is generated with the vision of engaging and making learning process effective for both teachers and learners. Here, I will also share basic ways to create our own version of digital story to make our lesson interesting.
What is Digital Storytelling?
Bernard R. Robin (2008) has defined digital storytelling (DS) as ‘…combining the art of telling stories with a variety of digital multimedia, such as images, audio and video.’ In other words, it is the skill of integrating various spices to prepare a story. Furthermore, Widodo (2016, p. 2) argues that digital storytelling helps children learn ‘integrated language skills, such as writing, speaking, listening, and reading’
Process of Creating Digital Story
The digital storytelling process is personal and engaging at the same time as it starts with the script of the story we would like to tell. Then, we search for readily available materials, such as, photographs and videos. After this, we integrate all those materials with our voice to create a video by using various programs and web 2.0 tools, such as, www.wevideo.com. Continue reading →
Teaching English in Large Classrooms: Issues and Strategies
* Binod Singh Dhami
English teachers face many problems while teaching in large classes. They often have problems of student involvement, classroom management, and material preparation and so on. The phrase ‘large class’ is relative term because the large class differs from place to place or context to context. In some contexts or countries, large class may contain 50 to 100 students or more and in other contexts, the large class may contain 40 or less students but this may not be the case in all the contexts. If the teacher cannot manage the teaching and learning activities, materials properly, he/she may have to face many challenges to achieve the goals of teaching. I, therefore, in this paper discuss the issues and strategies of teaching in large classes which, in some extent may help English teachers prepare their plan and materials.
Setting the Scene
To set the scene, I present a case of the TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) trainee who took TESOL certificate course under my guidance in Kathmandu center, Nepal.
I teach in secondary level, where students are 13- 18 years old. I have 50 students in my class. I always want the class to have been silent when I teach but I find my students doing opposite than I expect them to do. When I start teaching, I explain the content from the prescribed book clearly. Though I explain and illustrate everything clearly, students do not pay an attention and have side talk with their friends. I do not find them active and responsive in the class that makes me upset. I finish my class and come out from the class and think about my teaching activities, methods, students’ work and their participation during the class. I do not find my activities have been effective for the students. I have them read the lessons and do the activities given in their textbooks also support if they commit mistakes. I cannot go to each and every student because I am given 45 minutes for a class. If I go to each student and diagnose individually, I will not be able to conduct a single activity in the class because I have 50 students and am given 45 minutes to teach. I have attended some teachers’ trainings in which facilitators of the training keep saying; individual attention, facilitation, individual monitoring are very essential elements that teachers have to keep in mind while teaching the students. It means teachers have to give individual attention, facilitation, and monitoring to the students which is impossible in my case. I am reading some of the books on handling large multilevel classes. I hope I will get some of the techniques to handle the class. I (as a trainer) stopped him in the middle and asked, “What are the activities that you mainly conduct in the classroom?” in response to this question he says, I generally explain the content given in the book. This response reveals that he usually uses lecture method in the class.
As this anecdote explains, there are many English teachers around the world, who are facing similar problems in large classes. Most of the teachers face the problems because they cannot develop the activities and tasks so that students can get involved in the activities and tasks in the class. Language teacher should be creative so that he /she can create the materials for the class. Continue reading →