A little bit of 'magic' to liven up English class

Inspiring Teacher of English Award winners (clockwise from centre) Edwin Wan, Mumtaj-Menon Ibrahim, Shalini Thanakodi, Sophia Yap, Sheela Devi Tet Baahadur, Cara Chew, Michelle Tan, Sharon Chan and Kogilavani Veerappan. The winners, who were chosen f
Inspiring Teacher of English Award winners (clockwise from centre) Edwin Wan, Mumtaj-Menon Ibrahim, Shalini Thanakodi, Sophia Yap, Sheela Devi Tet Baahadur, Cara Chew, Michelle Tan, Sharon Chan and Kogilavani Veerappan. The winners, who were chosen from a pool of 80 nominees, received their awards at a ceremony held at the National Library in Victoria Street yesterday.PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Educator who enlivened storytelling among Inspiring Teacher of English Award recipients

To get his pupils at Yio Chu Kang Primary School interested in the Roald Dahl book Matilda, Mr Edwin Wan used "magical powers" to bend a fork, just like the titular character could with her telekinesis.

The head of department of English was trying to create a lively reading culture in school - and tapped his personal interest in magic to enliven the storytelling.

He said: "I still have kids (who come back to visit on Teachers' Day) saying that they remember how I bent the fork... But the focus is not the magic but the process of getting students to find out more."

Mr Wan was among nine teachers who received the Inspiring Teacher of English Award at a ceremony held at the National Library in Victoria Street yesterday.

The winners were chosen from a pool of 80 nominees.

Mr Wan, 37, as well as Madam Kogilavani Veerappan, 43, from Bartley Secondary School, were given the Leadership Award, which recognises heads of department, subject or level heads, or coordinators who have led their schools in developing and putting in place effective English language programmes.

The other seven teachers received the Teaching Award, which honours outstanding teachers of English language, English literature and General Paper.

REAL ISSUES

I want to get students connected with real issues out there, beyond just the narrative text, beyond just reading feature articles on certain themes and topics.

MS MICHELLE TAN, from North Vista Secondary School, on using news articles in class.

They are Mrs Mumtaj-Menon Ibrahim, 40, from Huamin Primary; Ms Sheela Devi Tet Baahadur, 44, from Temasek Primary; Ms Sophia Yap, 43, from Bedok South Secondary; Ms Shalini Thanakodi, 31, from Boon Lay Secondary; Ms Michelle Tan, 34, from North Vista Secondary; Ms Cara Chew, 41, from Catholic Junior College; and Ms Sharon Chan, 43, from Raffles Institution.

North Vista's Ms Tan said she was inspired by the popular photo blog Humans of New York, and got her students to read an article about the blog, watch a video on blog founder Brandon Stanton, and come up with a way of representing their self-identity through visuals and text.

Through this ungraded activity, they learnt reading and analysis skills, as well as became more confident in expressing their ideas.

The activity was such a success that Ms Tan's students are asking her to continue her methods of bringing English to life through discussions on newspaper articles and thinking out loud while reading.

On using news articles in class, Ms Tan said: "I want to get students connected with real issues out there, beyond just the narrative text, beyond just reading feature articles on certain themes and topics.

"I think there's nothing like being plugged in to whatever is happening around you at that point in time."

Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State for Education, and Communications and Information, was the guest of honour at the awards ceremony.

The awards are jointly presented by The Straits Times and the Speak Good English Movement, and supported by the Ministry of Education.

Each winner received a trophy, a certificate and $2,000 cash. Their school principals were presented with plaques in recognition of the schools' support of the teachers.

As part of the awards' 10th-year celebrations, The Straits Times also presented each teacher with one year's complimentary subscription to NewsEd, its new digital learning portal for schools, worth $4,800.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2017, with the headline 'A little bit of 'magic' to liven up English class'. Print Edition | Subscribe