We believe that teaching is a craft. What this means is that every student is unique that we must give attention to the various needs of our classroom settings. To achieve this, we strive to improve our teaching methods and resources so that our students benefit from our lessons.
Having said that, an important aspect that we tend to overlook is the student’s affective domain. Student’s affective domain concerns with student’s moods, feelings and attitudes. We believe that if we can invoke student’s affective domain positively, we can unlock their true potential and energy to achieve amazing feat!
As teacher, we can testify to students we have had before where despite insurmable odds, they were able to overcome their challenges and do well in life. This happened when they put their mind and soul into what they hoped to achieve after being affected and moved greatly from within. This is what we are working towards; invoking students deeply so that they can unlock their true potential and energy from within to rise above all difficulties that come in their way to do well in their studies.
The question is how can we unlock this true potential and energy so that our graduating students would give their all in their final year to attain distinctions during the June O Level Examinations for Malay Language.
And so we turn to collectibles.
What are Collectibles
Collectibles are items that we collect as a form of hobby usually when we were young (and some adults do continue with this). We would spend considerable amount of time and resources to build our collections as we develop and made it our personal pursuit and achievements.
I remember when I was young I used to collect stamps and old coins of the Rajah Brooke (I used to live in Brunei before and thus the exposure to items related to the Rajah Brooke of Sarawak). I would allow kids a few rounds of ride on my BMX bicycle around our neighbourhood in exchange for every Rajah Brooke coins that they could offer me. I recall fondly how I was the most envied kid in my neighbourhood as I was the first to own a BMX bicycle when it came out in the market. My dad bought the bicycle in Singapore and brought it over to Brunei. BMX had not entered the market in Brunei then and so I was the only kid with a BMX bicycle in the whole of Brunei at that time!
For the past many Professional Learning Team (PLT) projects, we had worked on building innovatie, creative and effective teaching strategies and resources. These we have shared with many Malay Language teachers from other schools. However, invoking students affective domain is an area that is new for us. We would like to investigate whether we can push our graduating students further to work hard beyond what our teaching strategies and resources could archive by enticing them with the collectibles that we produced and called Kami Pelajar A1.
Our Journey to Produce the Right Collectibles for Our Students
We wonder whether our graduating students would be interested in collectibles. If they do, what kind of collectibles would they be keen. We knew then that the decision to choose the right collectibles has to be co-decided and if needed be, co-designed together with our students. This is because what we find interesting may be just ancient stuff for our students. Their interests are different and there is a generation gap between us and them. We represent the past and they represent now. This realisation made us to seek advice and feedback from our students.
We document our journey below.
We started by sharing our intent with our Secondary 3 Express students who will be sitting for their O level examinations next year (2020). We engaged them to share with us collectibles they had when they were in primary schools and inquired what kind of collectibles would they be interested if they were to collect them now.
We explained to them how the collectibles will play an important role in spurring them on to work hard to attain distinctions for Malay Language in the June O Level Examinations next year. We detailed them our plan of having 12 collectibles; each for every one of the 12 examinable components in Malay Langauge examinations. They need to demonstrate mastery of the strategies that we have taught them to do well in each of these examinable components. They can achieve this by sustaining good grades or marks over a number of related assignments from the start of next year. In doing so, they will be awarded each of the respective collectibles. We encourgaed them to collect all 12 collectibles before they sit for their O level Examination for Malay Language in June. We theorized that they have a strong chance to score distinctions for Malay Language if they are able to collect all 12 collectibles prior to their examinations.
From the survey we ran with our students via small group discussion, we gathered several good ideas we can consider as collectibles. However, one idea stood out and was popular among our students – Funko Pop figurines. We had no idea what they were and had to ask a young colleague who are familiar with the landscape our students are in. She was amazed at our ignorance and just reply as a matter of fact that Funko Pop are figurines with big heads but small bodies. We realised then how far out of touch we were from the world our students are accustomed to.
We learnt that Funko Pops are figurines based on popular characters from pop culture like movies, television shows, comics, cartoons among others. These characters are copyrighted and as such the figurines are expensive if we were to purchase them from the shelf. Price is an important consideration because the collectibles will be given away free. We have no intention to break into a bank to get them collectibles for our students. This led us to explore companies in China. We wonder whether we could get the collectibles much cheaper if we were to order them in bulk from China. To our horror, ordering in bulk in China means ordering in the thousands when we only need 50 sets of each design! We would not have finished giving these collectibles away by the time we retire from the teaching service if we have thousands of them. What would we do with so many collectibles!
As we had expected, many companies brushed us aside when they learnt of our small orders. Those who were willing to work with us insisted on a price that we considered still expensive. We soon learnt that the high price was also contributed by the copyright fees for image rights these companies had to factor in apart from the overhead costs having to spread over small order quantities. We see no way forward until we change our plan. We are still excited about having the Funko Pops as collectibles. But what can we do?
We discovered that Funko Pops come as key chains too. We figured that it would be cheaper to have them in key chain sizes. However, we would like to customise them to better reflect the occasions why we are giving them away to our students.
We added a small base to each figurine with the chain removed. Unfortunately, our plan was simply impractical. The Chinese companies warned us that the small surface area (only the two feet) of the figurine was not enough to make the figurines secured on the base. They were concerned that the figurines may be broken off from the base during delivery. Furthermore, the prices for each design was still on the high side despite the sizes of the figurines were downsized to key chain sizes. We had to put on our thinking hats again for solutions.
We bumped into enamel pins in our search for solutions using Google. I remembered enamel products during my trip with students to Beijing, China many years ago. We were on our way to a tourist section of the Great Wall of China when the tour guide detoured to take us first to a two-storey supermarket-sized gift shop. I saw there paintings in enamel and we were also shown how enamel products were made. I recalled how fascinated I was with those paintings. We wondered if enamel pins with backing cards was the way to go!
We had no other solution on hand that we decided to design two backing cards with enamel pins and asked our students for feedback. Deep inside we like enamel pins with backing cards as collectibles but we weren’t sure it they strike a chord with our students. We were always worred that the generation gap between us warrants what we considered as amazing are archaic with our students. To our surprise, they adore what we had shown them. Out of the two designs, overwhelmingly they favoured the one on the right.
We were lifted by our students’ overwhelming response that we went to work on the design straight away. We did not have many themes to consider and took up what came up immediately in our mind. We figured the theme conquering nature and the forces of nature would be symbolic and most appropriate to show the task at hand as well as the hard work needed to master the strategies to answer well all the 12 examinable components. We decided then that we would work on designing the backing cards with enamel pins based on this theme.
We likened the task of answering imbuhan questions well similar to conquering the highest mountain. Why? Many of our students spoke English at home since young that they have lost the ability to appreciate the nuances in how Malay Language is used in different written context. Without this ability, knowing the right imbuhan to use in any given sentence context is a challenge.
We imagine mastering all the peribahasa in the syllabus is like crossing the vast ocean because of the many peribahasa to learn. We feel students striving to do well for kosa kata is akin to them overcoming the desert with little hep to come by because with them shying away from reading books in Malay Language they are dearth of vocabulary to use.
There are so many things to learn to answer an e-mel tidak rasmi question well just like learning what is inside a think jungle in order to navigate through it well. Equally, there are so many things to cover in an e-mel rasmi as the topics are wide ranging; just like travelling across vastness of space. And answering kefahaman objektif questions well requires students to know what to look out for or else everything will look as white and confusing as in the artic pole.
Kefahaman subjektif can take students on a whirlwind if they do not master the strategy to answer it. Likewise, they will be knocked off their feet like in an earthquake if they do not work hard to understand and apply the descriptive writing strategy that we will teach them. Students can also expect to be shaken and trembled akin to when a volcano erupts should they keep away from learning our expository writing strategy.
Our narrative writing strategy is quite a handful. Students need to pay close attention during lessons to master it or else they will be swamped away in a flood of information. And who can forget the jittery during oral examination. Failing to master our bacaan and lisan strategies will give students blistering shivers and sweltering heatwave throughout the oral examination.
Our hope was high when we saw how cheap it was to produce an enamel pin with a backing card. However, we missed reading the fine prints; the cost quoted did not include the cost for making the mould for the enamel pin. And we need at least 12 different moulds for our collectibles which would send the cost skyrocketed. We were quite devastated after spending so much time and resources on the designs.
Soon, we picked ourselves up and decided that whatever course we would take moving forward, we wanted to make good use of our designs. With this consideration, we turned our focus to the backing cards without the enamel pins. In short, we considered having achievement cards as our collectibles.
Without the moulds, the cost of producing the achievement cards as we now call them is so much lower. We turned to The Game Crafter as they allows us to produce a sample first before producing them in the quantity that we required.
We also realised that an achievement card is only completed with both sides designed. And so, we went on to design the back sides of the cards. We included in our celebratory design a space to write the names of the recipients and indicated what they have achieved. In this way, each of the 12 collectibles become more personal to the recipients.
Apart from our Secondary 3 Express students, we had also shown our design to our current graduating students who gave us a thumbs up! How they wished that we have had the collectibles this year for them to work hard to collect them.
We do not intend for our students to collect the collectibles and hide them away in the drawers of their desks; we want them to display their collectibles proudly for their friends and family to see. We believe that by putting the collectibles up on dispaly, our students will be motivated to complete collecting the full set as quickly as possible. Thus, this means that they have to double their effort to do well for their assignments. For this purpose, we suggest a number of ways our students can display their collectibles. They are not exhaustive. We are sure that with a little bit more of ingenuity, our students can come up with clever and creative ways.
The display aids we suggest here cannot be expensive and have to be within our students’ means. We consider anything that they can afford with a day pocket money saved. We found a nice photo frame for less than $5 from IKEA that can house all the 12 collectibles which students can display on the walls of their homes.
These simple but ‘just do the job’ photo stands come in a set of six for just a few dollars and are useful for displaying the collectibles on a display cabinet or a study desk.
There are solutions too for students who just want to keep their money. This is an example where a simpe line and a few of clothes pegs can do the trick.
Students who are willing to spend a bit more have plenty of options, and acrylic display is one of them.
They can have an upgraded set of photo stands too.
These photo stands come in a variety of designs and heights. They will be spoilt for choices.
A decorated coloured paper may cost slightly more but you’ll end up with a beautiful origami photo stand if you would like to make use of your creative juice.
Buoyed up with a strong affirmation from our students that they will work hard to own the collectibles, we ordered from The Game Crafter a sample set of the collectibles.
We didn’t realise that our collectibles would look this good when we unboxed the package we received from The Game Crafter. We look forward to start our PLT project immediately when school starts.
What We Hope to Achieve
What we intend to do is novel as no one as far as we know have done so in Singapore schools. What we hope to achieve are good distinction passes for our School’s Malay Language O Level Examinations next year. In addition, we are confident that our findings will draw interest from many educators that we look forward to share what we have done on national sharing platform moving forward.
Wish us luck!
Lastly, we welcome any schools who would like to join us and carry out the same PLT project with their graduating students so that we could learn from each other. Feel free to drop us an email if you are keen and would like to know more about the collaboration. Cheers! ; )