Teaching skills for life at Pasir Ris Secondary

Miss Mavis Ho facilitating a group discussion with her students, using the NewsEd app.
Miss Mavis Ho facilitating a group discussion with her students, using the NewsEd app. PHOTO: PASIR RIS SECONDARY SCHOOL

While textbook content may change over time, life skills such as critical thinking traverse multiple disciplines and benefit learners for the long haul.

And to Miss Mavis Ho, 27, who teaches history and English at Pasir Ris Secondary School (PRSS), there is no better way to teach critical reading skills than using the news.

When Miss Ho was put in charge of PRSS' reading programme in 2014, she expanded the programme from merely reading books from the school library to include articles from the latest news, coining the name CARP (current affairs reading programme).

She did this by curating and clipping articles from The Straits Times and uploading them onto Google Sites and Padlet, online collaboration platforms that formed a one-stop location for teachers and students to access the clipped news content.

Fellow teachers then crafted discussion questions that were differentiated for every academic level of students, so that the questions match each level's ability.

By coupling reflection and discussion questions with the reading resources, Miss Ho and her colleagues hoped to hone students' critical reading skills by making them more mindful of what they read.

Last year, she introduced a "visible thinking framework", which incorporates students' reflection to document their thinking process while responding to news-based discussion questions, so that teachers can identify any gaps in their students' logic and meaning-making ability and help them improve their reasoning skills.

Seeking to continually improve her programme, she expanded it to use the mobile edition of The Straits Times' IN - a publication of ST Schools for secondary schools - so her students could now read the publication any time, anywhere on their smartphones, a platform they were more comfortable with.

This change saw more students reading news articles on their own, even after school hours.

In May, PRSS joined five other pilot schools to trial the use of NewsEd. The portal allowed Miss Ho to broaden her use of the visible thinking pedagogy to more news articles by using NewsEd's in-built commenting and marking function, which made it easier for her to initiate, track and document her discussion threads with students.

"I used NewsEd's quick-marking feature to assess my students' responses and use their responses in classroom discussions. In this way, answers are used for teaching and learning, instead of just for determining who scored better," she said.

David Tay

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2017, with the headline Teaching skills for life at Pasir Ris Secondary. Subscribe