An English teacher shares how the language can be used in different situations to boost students’ proficiency.
LEARNING does not only take place within the four walls of the classroom and within the confines of the traditional school day.
As a matter of fact, learning can also occur outside school hours. Students can learn by trying out a new sport or joining a club, and this can result in the discovery of a new skill or talent that will lead to further personal development and greater self-esteem. Such activities fall under co-curricular or extra-curricular programmes. They are not a part of the regular academic curriculum but they support the academic missions of schools.
Co-curricular activities facilitate in the development of various domains of mind and personality such as intellectual development, emotional development, social development, moral development and aesthetic development. The outcomes of extra-curricular activities include creativity, enthusiasm and positive thinking among school-going children. They provide the learning labs, if you like, for valuable life lessons, character development and positive behaviour. So students should take the opportunity to sign up and take part in clubs and societies after school.
But just how do co-curricular activities help students improve language learning, particularly English?
In Malaysia, it is compulsory for all students to become members of a society or a club and a uniformed unit, as well as taking part in sport events or games. With regards to activities that promote English, the Education Ministry endorses the importance of English-related co-curricular activities as stipulated in a circular dated in 1999.
The guidelines given by the ministry included activities such as Bulletin Board, Jazz Chants, Choral Reading, Poetry Recital, Story-telling, Daily News Recap, Assembly Presentations, Air Waves, English Day or Week, Spelling Bee, Debate, English Quiz and others. Indeed there are many activities that teachers and the English Society can organise to encourage and enhance the use of English within the school community. The idea is to increase contact hour with English outside the classroom, particularly in the teaching of English as a second language (ESL) situation. All that is needed on the part of the teacher is a little creativity and organisation so that the different activities can be carried out systematically throughout the year.
With the numerous benefits students stand to gain, the English Panel and the English Language Society in school should work hand-in-hand to organise interesting activities for the students. The habit of training for competitions only when there are district and state level competitions taking place should be avoided. This is because organising activities at school level should take precedence to serve the needs of our students and to keep the society active and alive. To help run the activities, the English Panel has plenty of resources, and these include English panel members (English teachers), English Language Society, per capita grant allocation for English Panels, support from administration, resources from the Internet or printed media, parent-teacher association or students’ creativity waiting to be tapped!
There is a long list of activities that can promote students’ use of English in school. One programme carried out by my English Language Society (ELS) committee members in SMK Canossian Convent, Kluang, was called englishSMART.
This was a major programme that involved seven schools in the district. As a society, we were pretty ambitious then but we set the sky as our limit! It was a big success and until today I am very proud of Abigail (president) and her team.
The main aim of the programme was listening, speaking and vocabulary. Preparations were under way two months before the scheduled activity. Meetings were held with ELS committee members after school and suitable activities were lined up. The best part about the programme was it was held outdoors at Dataran Tasik in Kluang. Some of the activities can be seen in the photos.
At the school level, the old Treasure Hunt was so popular. One fine Saturday, the ELS conducted a Treasure Hunt that attracted 110 students! They came from all forms. Teamwork was of utmost importance so that they could break all the clues in order to proceed from one checkpoint to another. Clues came in the form of language puzzles or general knowledge which, if answered correctly, would lead the participants to the next checkpoint. One word of advice though - a large group may be involved so it is important that the checkpoint officers are properly briefed prior to the activity.
The checkpoint I loved most was “The Treasure Hunt Story” where teams had to continue a story on a manila board in about 20 words and to the satisfaction of the checkpoint officer. At the end of the activity, the story was usually hilarious!
The love for English must be nurtured in schools and what better way to complement classroom teaching than through co-curricular activities? We need to create an English environment in school by organising activities that help students like the subject and use the language.
These are points to keep in mind when planning and organising activities. These are:
l Activities are educationally relevant
l Fun and enjoyable activities – engage students
l Regularity of activities
l Focus on the process rather than the product
l Give students a sense of accomplishment – reward students
l Encourage students to plan and participate
l Increase collegiality among teachers or panel members
l Activities should be selected based on students’ interests
l Go for maximum involvement of students
l Documentation and reports
To conclude, there are numerous co-curricular activities that can be carried out in schools to promote the use of English among students. What is important is to add vigour to the current activities conducted. One has to agree that classroom teaching is of utmost importance yet for aesthetic development, character enrichment, spiritual and physical growth, co-curricular activities are equally relevant.* The writer is an English teacher and has taught English for 27 years. She cares deeply about how English is taught and keeps abreast with developments in the teaching of English. She shares best practices and continuous professional development efforts through her blog http://engoasis.blogspot.com.