Exciting Times in Nepalese ELT!
Welcome to the July issue of the NELTA ELT Blog!
Are there any more exciting times than these for Nepalese English Language Teaching? The whole field is in a state of fermentation and dynamic change. As we investigate issues about learning and teaching, we begin to see the broader implications of education: what is knowledge? How do we communicate? How do we communicate our knowledge? How can we learn more quickly, efficiently, easily? How do we help make changes occur where they need to? How can we ourselves become better language learners, teachers, and writers?
This issue has several important articles about writing plus reading as communicative strategy including an inspiring interview with the current President of NELTA, Mr. Hemanta Raj Dahal where he shares his teaching career trajectories and the current affairs of NELTA at the center and different branches across Nepal. Babita Chapagain’s article on “Using Mentor Texts” shows a proven way of helping teachers help students to make writing a creative, joyful venture. Miriam Corneli’s article on various phases of the writing process is helpful to individual writers, teachers and students alike, to help inform the process of “what makes writing clear and comprehensible.” Katherine Kubarski’s piece, echoing her recent training on Proposal Writing here in Kathmandu, shows the vital parts necessary for making a practical proposal. Additionally, Khemraj Sharma Acharya shares the joys and victories of being a new teacher in the Access program. Our other reflections from 2014 TESOLers on attending the TESOL conferences show the international scope and the Nepalese contribution to this Global Language Wave.
Writing has incomes and outcomes: writing can change people’s lives, whether through telling a story, making world-to-text relationships, helping create hope in the life of a student, or getting a proposal funded for better education. Or perhaps, one new idea from this blog will inspire one person, and that idea will bring about more changes… and the ripple effect has begun!
Happy reading and happy writing! We look forward to your dynamic “world-to-text” and “self-to-text” discoveries.
For your ease, you can navigate directly to these write-ups.
An Interview with NELTA President Mr. Hemanta Raj Dahal
Madhukar: Could you share with us your linguistic, academic, and professional background/journey? How did you become interested in becoming an educator, especially a teacher of English?
President: Before I went to the school, I was monolingual – just speaking Nepali. I became interested to learn English after I passed SLC exam in 2033. With a little idea and career plan, I took up English as a major subject during which fear of achieving academic degree in English was inevitable. I started teaching after SLC and continued after Intermediate, Bachelor and Master degrees. Taking up English was a matter of pride and prestige both. During my experience as a teacher while mingling with other fellow colleagues, I realized that only becoming myself a good teacher would not suffice for quality teaching of English in my community and vicinity. I should wait until my students would become an English teacher. I, therefore, shifted from a classroom teacher to the teacher educator where I should be able to develop hundreds of classroom teachers. My dream came true after I joined NELTA.
Madhukar: Would you highlight the status of some of the achievements of NELTA during your tenure? How successful has NELTA been in helping Nepal government in its mission to promote quality education through ELT? How has it been collaborating with other various stakeholders i.e., the U.S. Embassy, British Council in this regard?
President: NELTA, as a voluntary association is not only creating opportunities but it is also equally coping with the challenges. The growth of NELTA has extended its services and opportunities across the country in the mass scale, one the one hand, and on the other, the escalated aspiration of its members has become equally demanding to be addressed. I don’t want to demarcate the tenure of my presidency and the previous ones because the long history and legacy of the association has a meaningful transfer of the leadership. I can only say that I am one of the luckiest presidents to be able to devote almost full times of mine for NELTA.
As far as the our role to assist the mainstream education of Nepal is concerned, we have already reviewed the policy documents of the Government of Nepal with regards to the scope of English language in the government policies. This can be claimed one of the key documents to help identify the role of English in the academia. We would like to disseminate this document among the key stakeholders, including Ministry of Education. NELTA has already shaped its way through English Access Microscholarship and English by Radio programs sponsored by the US Government, and ETTE+ sponsored by the British Council entirely focused on the mainstream education. NELTA has excellent collaboration and relationship with the Ministry of Education, US Embassy, and the British Council.
Madhukar: How can NELTA contribute more rigorously on various issues in the field of ELT?
President: NELTA would like to continue its regular activities, on the one hand, and on the other, it is exploring the scope where it can accommodate the researchers as well. However, more importantly, we shouldn’t forget that the focus of NELTA should remain as an association to enhance professional development of the English teachers and trainers so that we can see positive impact in the classrooms.
Madhukar: The sustainability of a professional association/institution lies on its dedicated professional members/volunteers. What has NELTA been doing so far to enhance professionalism of its members/volunteers/prospective future leaders?
President: My understanding is that leadership cannot be achieved over night. Giving my example, I worked for 12 years in different positions in the central committee before I became President. The leadership positions demand considerable voluntary times and energy, which doesn’t allow many aspirant members to take up the responsibility. Leadership to me should not only be dependent to the others but it should also have motivation, dedication and selflessness. NELTA is ready to groom such leadership.
Madhukar: How do you consider for future possibility of NELTA for collaboration with TESOL and IATEFL?
President: You must have realized that NELTA is the affiliate member organization to TESOL and IATEFL both, with a foundation for collaboration. We have been encouraging the members of NELTA to participate in the activities organized by these two international associations, including in the annual international conferences. Furthermore, we are looking for possibilities how we can further partner for the benefit of our members.
Madhukar: How do you think NELTA ELT FORUM adheres with the NELTA’s goals and mission and contribute to promoting professional development of its members/volunteers?
President: First of all, please allow me to congratulate those life members who came up with the idea to commence NELTA ELT FORUM as an official blog. I believe, this blog will be and should be a common platform for all members of NELTA and interested ELT professionals and contributors giving them opportunities to express their experiences, views, and suggestions. I would suggest the editorial team to create such an atmosphere so that the entire NELTA community will take its ownership. The executive committee will always remain supportive to such endeavors for the benefit of NELTA community at large.
Madhukar: Since its inception in 1992, NELTA has now grown huge with 42 branches in total from Illam in the East to Kanchanpur in the Far west with lot of aspirations of its members/volunteers? Has NELTA been planning to spread all over the map?
President: NELTA central committee doesn’t persuade to the ELT professionals to set up the branches. Instead, we would like to see the interest of grassroots ELT professionals to come up with a proposal for setting up the branches because we believe on the bottom-up approach rather than the top-down. Therefore, the stake of the branches will remain with the local professionals. The central committee will certainly facilitate and support to set up the branches in all 75 districts in the country if the bottom-up proposals are received.
The branches of NELTA are the blood and heart of the association and they are instrumental to reach the association in the grassroots. Their continuous toil is praiseworthy and I hope to see this in the future too. We are ready to strengthen their capacity within the resources available and possible access to the resources.
(Mr. Madhukar K.C is an editorial member of NELTA ELT Forum)
Scaffolding English Language Learners to Read as Writers
Babita Sharma (firstname.lastname@example.org)
As I reflect on my own experiences with creative writing I still remember how I started panicking or my mind went blank when my English teachers asked me to write a story or a poem in English. Now I understand, as a teacher, that this is a common phenomenon among the students who are learning English as a second or additional language. In a Creative Writing session when the students are asked to create a piece of writing such as a story or a poem, the students are often confused and do not know where to begin. Therefore, to make writing lessons interesting and productive, teachers can use a “mentor text” as a medium of teaching some aspects of writer’s process or craft. Using mentor texts is a powerful tool for scaffolding the writers in creative writing. Even if the teachers are not great creative writers themselves, they can scaffold their learners to become good writers with the use of mentor texts; as Katie Wood Ray says in her book Wondrous Words, “With a room full of authors to help us teach, teaching writing doesn’t have to be so lonely.” (Ray, 1999)
Here I am going to share some of my successful creative writing sessions where mentor texts were used as tools for supporting the learners creating their own stories.
A few months ago I had conducted a writing session for a group of thirty English teachers from public schools of Nepal who came to Tamghas, a small town of Gulmi district, to learn English. The lesson aimed to help the teachers understand the importance of using mentor texts to teach creative writing.
I showed them the cover page of the book ‘The Fireflies by Julie Brinckloe. (Brinckloe, 1986 )
|On a summer evening I looked up from dinner, through the open window to the backyard. It was growing dark. My treehouse was a black shape in the tree and I wouldn’t go up there now. But something flickered there, a moment — I looked, and it was gone. It flickered again, over near the fence. Fireflies! “Don’t let your dinner get cold,” said Momma. I forked the meat and corn and potatoes into my mouth. “Please, may I go out? The fireflies — “Momma smiled, and Daddy nodded. “Go ahead,” they said. I ran from the table, down to the cellar to find a jar. I knew where to look, behind the stairs. The jars were dusty, and I polished one clean on my shirt. Then I ran back up, two steps at a time. “Holes,” I remembered, “so they can breathe.” And as quietly as I could, so she wouldn’t catch me dulling them, I poked holes in the top of the jar with Momma’s scissors……….|
After showing the cover page I asked if they knew fireflies. I showed the picture on the cover page again to those who did not understand the term. I stuck two different pieces of paper having written ‘fireflies’ and ‘feelings’ on the board, brainstormed some words related to the terms ‘fireflies’ and ‘feelings’ and wrote them around the key words. I read a few pages of the book carefully with expressions and ask them to predict whether or not the boy would be able to catch fireflies. Some participants shared their prediction. I read the whole story showing them the pictures and asked them to think of a time when they had a similar or different experience when they were young, for instance they might have tried to catch insects like butterflies, tadpoles, etc. I asked them to note the incident and write how they had felt while they caught or tried to catch something or they saw other people doing this. The participants who said they had a story to tell were sent to the writing corner to write down their story.
I read another simpler story named ‘Mela’ to the teachers who stayed back because they hadn’t had any story to tell yet.
By: Babita Chapagain
It was Saturday. Sita went to the market to see a Mela. To her surprise, she saw lots of funny people there. There were five men dancing on the stage. There were ten shopkeepers selling pets and toys. There were five mothers carrying their babies on their backs. There were thirteen children playing volleyball. There were two elephants with two children riding on each of them. There were ten jokers wearing masks. There was a woman singing a song. There was a man selling balloons. There were 15 children sitting in a circle and playing ‘Hot Potato.’ They all looked very funny. I could not believe my eyes.
Can you answer how many people and animals were present in the Mela?
Similarly we discussed if they have attended this kind of gathering in their town. They were asked to go to the writing corner to write if they have a similar or different story to share about any festival or fair they have attended. Some learners who were not sure what to write I read to them a very short story named ‘ Birthday Gifts…’ which they could easily relate to their life experiences.
By: Babita Chapagain
Today is my sister Aruna’s birthday. I go in her bedroom with a green circular gift. Baba and Amma come in with a red square gift. My grandmother and grandfather come in with white beautiful triangular gift. My sister is still sleeping. We wait there until my sister wakes up. We wait there until Aruna wakes up with the gifts in our hands. Then she wakes up. SURPRISE!!! We all hug my sister. It is the most wonderful birthday my sister has ever had.
Now they were asked if they remembered someone’s birthday celebration and if they have a similar or different story to tell about them. Now they all went to the writing corner to write their story.
After writing the first draft they all sat in the groups of two and shared the stories with their partners. Some of the interested students read their story to the whole class. Then I explained that good readers think about what is happening in a story and they try to remember something similar that has happened in their own life. They do this to help them understand the story better. This is called a text-to-self connection.
I read all three stories again and we discussed the sequence of events and authors’ writing style/craft which they used to make the language interesting. For instance: a lot of repetitions, e.g. “Fireflies! Blinking on, blinking off, dipping low, soaring high above my head, making circles around the moon, like stars dancing”; expressions, e.g. “I couldn’t believe my eyes,” and other interesting language used, e.g. “I can catch hundreds!”
Then we discussed “The Five parts to Reading like a Writer” from the book Wondrous Words: Writers and Writing in the Elementary Classroom by Katie Wood Ray, p. 120 (Ray, 1999)
|The Five parts to Reading like a Writer From Wondrous by Katie Wood Ray, p. 120
1. Notice something about the text.
2. Talk about it and make a theory about why a writer might use this craft.
3. Give the craft a name.
4. Think of other texts you know. Have you seen this craft before?
5. Try and envision using this craft in your own writing.
They wrote the second draft adding some more details and description about the character’s actions and feelings, trying to make their language more interesting. They shared it to the whole class and gave each other some productive feedback to improve their story. Then, they wrote the final draft and made a story book with some beautiful illustrations.
Finally, the participants reflected on the writing session. Our conclusion was that mentor texts can be used as a powerful tool for scaffolding the learners in creative writing. The trainee teachers were very happy being able to produce a story book and were determined to do this activity in their school. The books they developed and their feedbacks on the session made me feel like it was the most successful experience.
Looking back at my blissful experiences of teaching creative writing I remember what Katie Wood Ray wrote: “Everything we know as writers we know as readers first.” (Ray, 1999) I hope the trainee teachers, with whom I had spent so many hours creating stories for children, will continue to read children’s literature, develop reading materials for children and make an effort to help their students to read stories as writers and become more creative.
Brinckloe, Julie (1986) Fireflies, Aladdin Paperbacks, United States
Ray, Katie Wood (1999) Wondrous Words: Writers and Writing in the Elementary Classroom, National Council of Teachers of English
Free-Writing, Pre-Writing, and Re-Writing: Three Stages of Writing Practice
Miriam Corneli (email@example.com)
Often timesnovice writers think, “I have to get this down on paper right the first time.” But if we examine the process of writing, we can see that writing is a skill comprised of several totally different activities. In this article I am going to talk about three of them: pre-writing, free-writing, and rewriting. I’ll add another, “me-writing,” as a type of brainstorming activity.
Free-writing is a daily practice, much like building a muscle by exercising, that encourages fluidity, flexibility, and creativity (Salas, oral communication, 6/2014). It helps build writing strength and in addition gives the writers something to chew on as they go about presenting or sharing their work.
Pre-writing is another sort of activity that could be compared to planning. In planning what to write, we can take ideas from our free-writing; we can craft an outline, or some kind of scaffold, use graphic organizers or writing prompts; we may even listen to music; or use moveable note cards such as index cards that can be physically manipulated and moved into different sequences (much like playing the card game “Solitaire,” different ideas can be put into place and their organization played around with).This technique is very useful for devising a writing outline or a final structure, as it is a mental precursor to a subsequent “cut and paste” that we can do with a computer these days.
And finally, we must think about writing itself, which is an active and sometimes arduous process. Without belaboring the fact, writing is usually better with rewriting, or editing; often, however, this “editing” skill is not something that is overtly fostered and seems to come about randomly as a writer develops his or her “voice,” struggling to clarify what s/he has to say. So in the following paragraphs we are going to look at each area in detail and provide ideas for manipulating our texts – using our hands, pens, paper, tablets, or word processors – to free-write, pre-write, and rewrite our way to success.
In general, free writing –as its name implies– is “free;” that is, we do not prescribe grammatical forms, linguistic rules, or even a topic. In free-writing, the only thing we ask ourselves (or our students) is “to keep the pencil or pen moving across the paper.” If using a keyboard, one should set a timer and write without stopping, backing up, or re-editing. In general, free-writing is most successful if the initial time periods are short; Spencer Salas (oral communication) recommends three or four minutes for beginning practice. I traditionally use five to ten. But it is like any kind of exercise or physical skill practice: the longer we do it, the easier it is to do for lengthier periods of time.
Students are instructed (or we instruct ourselves) to just keep writing, even if it is writing over and over again, “I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to say!” Eventually some kind of thought breaks free and a new, creative idea will emerge. For second language learners, it is also acceptable to insert L1 (first language) words in order to encourage fluency over accuracy. Topics may be given (see the links below); writing may relate to a particular theme; or it can be a completely topic-less activity.
Julia Cameron, in her book The Artist’s Way, recommends a similar approach when she suggests doing “morning pages,” and every day, regardless of mood or inclination, writing three pages about whatever one wants. This serves to “prime the pump” and get mental debris out of the way, as well as give a life to the subconscious urgings that are waiting for self-expression.
In the old days in grade school in the USA our teacher often told us, “write an outline.” I remember the carefully-writtenRoman numerals, capital letters, small Roman numerals and small letters that decorated these carefully enumerated lists. The problem was, it was hard to organize them right off the bat. Now, brain research shows that many people tend to think in a much more associative manner. Thus, a number of useful pre-writing strategies have evolved. These involve mind-mapping, clustering, flow charts, sketches on paper napkins over the lunch table, the aforementioned shuffle-able file cards, bubble charts, and others. In any case, all these systems are ways to utilize the “organizing” property of the mind to connect ideas, and the “associative” qualities of the mind to think of related ideas, and then the winnowing or sifting part of the mind to simply throw away those ideas that don’t work.
From our initial mind-maps or clusters we can then choose to write a more linear and orderly outline. These again can be organized by theme (e.g., five senses: how does it feel? Taste? Smell? Look? Sound?) or by chronological order (what happened first, second, third) or by order of importance (topic sentence? Supporting details?). In the pre-writing phase, though, we don’t have to worry quite so much about getting the order “right” as there will be a chance to work out the kinks later.
Another useful brainstorming, idea generating, or prewriting technique is what I call Me-Writing. This technique uses a completely self-referential set of questions to engender ideas and emotions about any given topic, e.g. Do I like it? How do I feel about it? What does it remind me of? When is the first time I came across this idea/topic? What problems or blockages do I feel about it? How could I solve this problem if I had a magic wand? These and other such questions can be used to get at a different “angle” and see the topic perhaps in a new way. Also, writing about things from an intensely personal eye allows other more objective data or outcomes to arise. Since English academic writing usually tends to be more objective, getting the “me” out of the way can allow that objectivity to happen more easily. On the other hand, the “me” side of writing can establish the motivation to investigate the topic, bring unanticipated insights, and give the writer more pizzazz.
We won’t say much about actually writing in this paragraph, because so many other people have written about that process. But at some point, one has to sit down and write the blasted article, journal piece, blog, research paper, letter to the editor, biography, or romance novel. It has to come out and it has to be finished!
The final finishing process reminds me of artists who are carving a sculpture out of stone. How do we know when it is done? When no more needs to be added, and no more needs to be taken away.The “rewriting” process, below, is what those finishing touches consist of.
Rewriting (Revising, Editing)
Although editing and rewriting are two separate processes, editing naturally is involved in rewriting, so I am lumping them together here. (The assumption is we couldn’t re-write if we hadn’t edited first.) This under-appreciated step of editing one’s own work is crucial and involves several different parts.
- Let the work sit and “mellow” for a bit. This step also allows you to get critical distance and to put on your editor’s cap.
- Read the work over again – and read it out loud. We nowadays can over-rely on spell check. But spell check can’t help us with the difference between rely and relay, modality and morality, college and collage, and so on. Also spell check is no good for rooting out our redundancies, or getting rid of fuzzy ideas and vague pronoun references.
- Reading aloud also helps you establish your own “voice.” If you are working with students, have them read their writing aloud to one another. It creates ownership, authorship, and shared communication.
- Actually reading the work backwards –sentence by sentence(or at least paragraph by paragraph) –from the end is another recommendation by many writers.
- Finally, get someone else to read it over. Ask a friend to help read it out loud and look for redundancies or just plain dumb spots. Hire an editor. Mixed metaphors, stupid spelling mistakes, or poor turns of phrase can ruin an otherwise good piece of writing.
Also at this phase double-check your ideas and general flow. Do things have an ease, a clarity, a coherence about them? Are you and your reader led easily from point to point, or do you feel like you have to struggle to try andunderstand where you are going?
Finally, after you have done all this rereading, checking, and enlisting your friends to lend you their eye, you can get busy with pen and word processor in hand and rewrite! And you may find that this process goes on several times. You may find you have entirely new ideas appearingin the second or third draft. You may throw away the entire first draft and have a different article entirely. But, it is to be hoped, the final copy will be the one that says it all, no more, and no less.
In writing classes I teach, we talk about the 5 C’s of writing: writing should be clear, coherent, concise, cohesive, and comprehensible. We could add other C’s: for example, commanding, complete, crisp, clever, and cogent. How many other words can you think of to describe how your writing would like to be? Let’s not use words like “irritating,” “confusing,” “long-winded,” or “dull.”
In summing up, when I end an article or writing project, Iask myself the following: Have I left anything unclear for the reader? Have I confused the reader in some way? Have I left anything out? Have I said too much or gone off on tangents? If I were the reader, would I have any unanswered questions?
If the answer to all those questions is “no,” then I am done with my writing.
Cameron, Julia. The Artist’s Way. Penguin Group (USA), 1992.
Salas, Spencer. Personal Communication, June 11, 2014: Language, Literacy, and “Learning Incomes”: Additive Teaching and Learning in Adolescent Classrooms workshop series in Katmandu, Nepal.
Free-writing topics: these and many, many more can be found on the web:
“morning pages” links: (again, oodles of these on the web):
Graphic organizers, mind mapping:
(Ms. Miriam Corneli is currently an English Language Fellow serving in Kathmandu, Nepal. She was most recently teaching English as a Second Language at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design and the Santa Fe Community College, New Mexico, USA. Her MA in TESOL is from the Monterey Institute of International Studies. She has taught in Nepal, Vietnam, Taiwan, California, Wisconsin, and New Mexico. Her interests are brain-based learning, pronunciation, and the role of positive affect in the classroom.)