Teaching Comprehension Question Types

We teach our graduating students systematically on how to ace comprehension exercises.

Our 5-step approach consists of teaching them (1) what makes up the structure of a comprehension passage, (2) how to annotate every paragraph in the passage, (3) how to match questions to answers in the passage, (4) what are the different question types and how to answer them, and (5) how to derive the meaning of selected vocabulary asked in the questions.

We share with you here resources we use teaching our graduating students the different question types for 5-mark comprehension questions. You’ll find our lesson recording above and the PowerPoint slides used in the lesson here useful. We hope you benefit from our sharing.

Recent Graduates Shared Their O Level Experiences (and More!)

We invited our most recent graduates to share with our graduating students their experiences preparing for their Malay Language O Level Examinations experiences. This sharing was part of the motivation segment that we conducted on the last day of our Intensive Mother Tongue Programme and has become a tradition that we have maintained for several years now. Following the sharing was the prize-giving ceremony that we have discussed extensively here to end our programme on a high.

The selected students whom we had invited scored distinctions for their Malay Language O Level Examinations and represented both the Secondary 4 Express and 5 Normal Academic streams. Their sharing was meant to inspire our graduating students to work hard specifically for Malay Language and generally for other subjects in the O Level Examinations, In addition, they had the opportunity to learn first-hand experiences from those who ‘have been there and done that’. This was facilitated by the Q&A session where our students could ask these graduates any questions at all.

From our experiences thus far, the questions our students put forth did not necessarily centre around Malay Language and other subjects alone but touched on a range of other topics like EAE application and interview, life in polytechnic and BGR. It was amazing to see our students being comfortable discussing openly and learn from their seniors (under our close watch of course, where we jumped in when we felt it was important to enlighten any possible misinformation *smile).

We conducted the session via Google Meet this year because of the pandemic. Nevertheless, the session was still as engaging as when we did it face to face in the previous years. This year we had Adibah, Asyiqin, Nadhirah and Adam. They had been generous and also volunteered to share in our Pelajar Cemerlang Series sharing on this website. We have seen a lot of benefits from holding this sharing and we encourage you to consider having it during your yearly Intensive Mother Tongue Programme for your graduating students. All the best!

Motivational Gifts for Graduating Students

We continued our yearly tradition of holding a prize-giving ceremony during our intensive mother programme this year. We held this ceremony at the end of the programme and it was meant to lift up our graduating students’ spirits, as the programme was quite an energy-sapping experience. The ceremony was also to reward them for working hard to learn Malay throughout their 4-5 years stay in our school.

We have seen our students grew and mature right before our eyes. We felt honoured that we had the opportunity to teach them not just the content of our subject expertise but also nurture them into individuals with wholesome values and good work ethics from our classroom interactions with them. How we wish that our influence would sustain and be far-reaching, even after our students have left us. With this in mind, we have thought of the right gift for them.

This year we have decided to gift each of our students a Solar System Crystal Ball. This 6 by 6 cm crystal ball can be part of their bedroom decorations whereby upon looking at these gifts remind them fondly of us and the advice we gave them, as well as the memorable experiences they had during our lessons.

Why the Solar System Crystal Ball?
Well, a documentary about the Apollo 8 mission that sent humanity to circle the moon for the first time in 1968 had inspired us. Though it took the following year for Apollo 11 mission to land humans on the celestial body, this mission was still nothing short of spectacular. The Apollo 8 crew were fixated at the moon as the spacecraft circled around it was understandable. The inaugural mission to the moon was a momentous moment for humanity. The whole proceeding was telecasted live that many people around the world could see the moon’s surface up close for the first time to concur if the moon was really as it was described in their local folklore of romance genre.

Something profound happens when astronauts see Earth from space for the first time

Just as all eyes were fixated on the moon, one of the Apollo 8 crew had a Eureka moment to turn the camera around to capture the sight of the Earth. He must have been curious how our planet looked like as arguably no one had seen our blue planet from space up till then. The sight of the Earth the size of a soccer ball was a gasp of surprise. Looking at our mother planet for the first time gave rise to a profound and overwhelming shift in awareness. This sense of awe is now described as the Overview Effect.

What is the Overview Effect?
While the Overview Effect is understood and discussed broadly by commentators (as evident in the Vimeo video below), we narrow its applicability to looking at one’s challenges in life from a wider perspective.

How do we mean by this?
Well, life offers us unexpected challenges as we moved along its different stations. These challenges often knock us off our feet as we are caught by surprise and left unprepared for them. During those moments when we are down and out, we are likely to fall into depression and to recover out of our predicament will prove difficult and long if ever possible. Chances are for the weak hearted, they may even call it quits and choose to end their life.

However, if we look at our challenges in a wider perspective, we are bound to ask: Does all our present challenges so great that they add up to the size of Singapore? Definitely no, right? I can only think of the Prime Minister of Singapore who has a challenge that fits the size of Singapore because he burdens the nation’s problems.

Still, even if our present challenges do fill up the size of Singapore and possibly the whole world, the world as we can see from the Solar System Crystal Ball is no bigger than a saga seed. Moreover, even if our challenges add up to the size of the whole solar system, they are still no bigger than a speck of dust in the context of the whole universe!

A knock of reality
Remember, there are 40 billion Earth-sized planets orbiting in the habitable zones of Sun-like stars and red dwarf stars within the Milky Way Galaxy. The nearest such planet may be 12 light-years away. This is with only within our Milky Way Galaxy while there are an estimated 100 billion galaxies in the universe or so. And this number is likely to increase to about 200 billion as telescope technology in space improves.

How is that for a perspective? In short, no matter how huge our challenges we perceive to be, in reality they are just a speck of dust.

So what does Overview Effect teach us?
Overview Effect teaches us all life challenges put together are no more than a speck of dust and we should not be afraid of them. We should expect challenges and challenges are meant to help us grow qualitatively to be better in what we do so as to prepare us for more difficult times in the future. For example, a good entrepreneur can only be at the cutting edge of his business if he takes every challenge as an opportunity for him to reflect on his practices to seek ways how he can improve how he carries out his business. Only in this way he can succeed.

Likewise, this is the spirit that we expect from our graduating students. We are hopeful that by looking at the Solar System Crystal Balls we gave them will help activate this Overview Effect every time they are faced with challenges as they move along the different stations of life. And in doing so, they remember our advice in this regards so that they remain excited about living and take what life throws at them as an opportunity to learn to better at what they do.

More Students Earning Collectibles

We are glad to report that more students are now earning their Kami Pelajar A1 collectibles. This is a good sign as these collectibles are visual evidences to indicate that these students have attained good momentum and are on an upward trajectory leading up to their coming O Level Malay Language Examinations in June. Students appreciate it when their efforts are affirmed through these visual evidences and draw much psychological comfort to learn that they on the right track. These earned collectibles will spur them to continue working hard to earn the remaining collectibles and in the process prepare well for all the 12 examinable items in their O Level Malay Language Examinations.

Among them most notebly is Rabia who has earned 5 of the possible 12 collectibles. Rabia telah tawan Lautan Peribahasa, Taufan Kefahaman Subjektif, Belantara E-mel Tidak Rasmi, Cakerawala E-mel Rasmi dan Kehangatan Lisan. We humbly and sincerely pray that God blesses our effort and translate these collectibles into more students scoring distinctions in the coming O Level Malay Language Examinations, Allahumma ameen

Our Recipe to Keeping Students’ Motivation High During Full HBL

At the start of the year, we did not anticipate there would a worldwide virus outbreak and we never heard the term circuit breaker being used before to name the strategy to stop the virus from spreading in Singapore.

In short, full home-based learning was remotely far from our mind. But now that we are in the midst of it, we are grateful that our collectibles have helped us keep our graduating students’ motivation high during the full home-based learning.

We document our journey employing our collectibles in teaching nd learning in the section and subsections of Kami Pelajar A1. Do check it out. Who knows you may like and consider our approach for your graduating class next year.

Our Collectibles Are Here!

We had ordered 50 sets of Kami Pelajar A1 collectibles from The Game Crafter and they had arrived last month. These collectibles are achievement cards meant to invoke in our graduating students superhuman effort so that they work hard to get distinctions for their coming Malay O Level Examinations this June.

Why we do this and how did we get here? We record our journey in our blog here. Do check it out. We will be updating our blog from time to time. We hope that our journey inspires many Malay teachers to try out our approach with their graduating students in the coming years.

We have not published our collectibles in The Game Crafter for public purchase, but we will do that soon. Now we are just excited experimenting them with our graduating students.

We started the year with several teaching clinics where we nurse our graduating students back to competency in the various learning strategies that we taught them last year. We have learnt sadly that the long November and December holidays last year have taken the bite out from what they used to know.

We ran the clinics throughout the whole of Term 1 and our graduating students were required to submit various assignments as part of their rehabilitation. We are pleased to share that many of them did well for these assignments and we are confident that they will continue to do well as we gear them up for more assignments in the coming Term 2.

We look forward to having many among them earning their first collectibles in Term 2. Who would that be and what collectibles will be first up for grab? We’ll see and we will be reporting that to you. Stay tune!

CROSS THE LINE ~ The Target Setting Activity Visually!

Our PLT project this year is the Saya Pelajar A1 Collectibles which we introduce to our graduating class who will be sitting for the Malay Language O Level Examinations in June. We use these collectibles as a teaching resource to invoke our students’ affective domain in order to motivate them to work harder to achieve distinctions in their O Level Examinations for Malay Language.

Details of our journey in coming up with these collectibles can be found here. We documented our journey in the longest ever post we had written. Happy reading! We hope that you gleam useful lessons from our experiences. : )

The above is the first lesson of our PLT project. The lesson is called ‘Cross The Line’. ‘Cross The Line’ focuses on helping students to set targets for their Malay Language O Level Examinations in June, identify possible challenges and solutions to overcome those challenges, and finally learn from alumni who scored distinctions in the previous Malay Language O Level Examinations.

This first lesson is the first of five installments where we will repeat segments of the first lesson again throught the first semester before our students sit for their O Level Examinations for Malay Language in June. We do this so that our students are often reminded of their targets and can track their progress visually. Puzzled? Just check out the video and you can find more details here.

And finally, if you would like to carry out this PLT project with your graduating students this year, do get in touch with us. We would love to learn from you!

Pelajar Cemerlang Series 2

This is the second series of videos where some of the students who scored distinctions in the June ML O level exams volunteered to share their success recipe. The videos serve as good motivation resources for future graduating students working towards ML distinctions. You can view all the videos here; https://karangkutu.com/pelajar-cemerlang-series/

What a Box of Surprise!

Wow! We didn’t expect the prototype for our Professional Learning Team (PLT) project next year to look this good. What is our PLT project all about? We will make the announcement when the time is right. You’ll be excited to know what we are working on. For now, let’s keep it under wrap. We will proceed to order 40 sets of this prototype from the Game Crafter for our graduating students next year.

Note-taking Versus Note-making

We get our students to write their own notes.

We do this because primarily we want our students to make sense of what they learn in our lessons. In the past we provided our students with notes that we wrote on the whiteboard, present them on powerpoint slides or print them on handouts. However, we soon learn that this approach only makes learning passive and transfer of knowledge difficult.

Secondly, we insist our students to write their own notes so that they have ownership. Their notes are unique as what they take away as key points from our lessons differ because of their prior understanding and knowledge vary.

However, Rick Smith has taught us that self note-taking even if ended up with good notes is not necessarily enough for effective learning. We learn that self note-taking can be a passive learning endeavour too. Rick offered us the idea of note-making and showed us that note-making is more active and focused activity where students assimilate all information they have written and take understanding to a (meta) higher level. He shared with us a number of note-making activities and we use them after we have taught a body of knowledge to help our students consolidate what they have learn from their notes.

Below are several note-making activities that we have used in our lessons apart from the one shown in the video above:

Summary

We carried out this note-making activity as a whole-class approach. We started the summary by writing the first two sentences on the whiteboard. Students were invited to contribute two sentence to the summary but writing their second sentence only after their peers had added their first sentences. Students had to ensure that their sentences provided a good flow to the structure of the summary for easy understanding. At the end of this activity, students were invited to review the summary to critique and query each other contributions.

Slogan

Student has to derive the essence of a body of knowledge taught and turn it into one short phrase or a slogan. A good slogan is memorable and durable. When a good slogan occupies prime real estate in a student’s subconscious, it aids the student to recall the body of knowledge he or she had learnt.

Questions!

We used this note-making activity as an exit pass for students to leave the class at the end of our lesson. We started by asking students to select only three facts out of the many things that they had learnt from our lesson and come up with a corresponding question for each fact. Students were then invited to stand up and approach other students (one at a time) to trade a question that they had come up with earlier. At the end of the activity, we asked if there was any question that the students were not able to answer correctly at their first attempt. This allows us to surface student’s misconceptions and address them immediately.

Translation

This note-making activity is useful as a starter activity when we have a body of knowledge to teach. We used this activity when we had to teach students a list of peribahasa or proverbs. We divided the class into groups and assigned each group to translate the meanings of selected set of peribahasa into English. To our amazement, the students were deeply engaged that we saw them taking turn to teach the peribahasa and correcting each other translation. This activity allows students to develop their baseline understanding of the peribahasa before we start teaching them to students

Acronym

We employ this note-making activity when we require students to bring into memory procedural knowledge. Students has to first derive key ideas of a body of knowledge taught before they could encapsulate them into an acronym. As with slogan, a good acronym is memorable and durable, and it is a effective tool to help students recall key ideas of what they had learnt.

We encourage you to try these note-making activities with your students. Good luck!