Sunday, January 30, 2011 0 comments

How to improve English (1)

A student asked me for an advice on how to improve his/her English:

doit@mryfund said...
teacher, macam saya yg langsung tk pandai speaking english ni camana nk mula dulu yek. ada tips ker. menyebut tak pandai, menulis tak pandai

My response:

Dear doit@mryfund,

There's no easy way to master a language. (Tiada jalan pintas utk menguasai sesuatu bhs.) However, we should never give up. Keep practicing English in our everyday life. Try to speak, listen, read & write in English everyday. For a start, here are some tips that can be done:

1. Speak English with your English teacher. This will help to increase your confidence in speaking English. In class, ask questions in English. Volunteer to read aloud in class so that your teacher can correct your pronunciation (sebutan). It's okay if you speak broken English. 

2. Listen to good songs in English. You can learn many new words. Make sure you have a good dictionary too. For a start, you may use english-malay dictionary (kamus dwi-bhs).

3. Read English books, magazines, newspapers, etc. Choose simple children story books as a start. Read something that you are interested in. Boys are normally into sports, cars, internet gamings, etc.

4. Write at least one English sentence a day in your diary/journal/blog. You can write just about anything - what do you learn at school on that particular day, your feelings, what do you eat/drink, opinions, etc. Increase the number of sentences on the next week and so on.

Hope you find these tips helpful. Remember, practise makes perfect. All the best!

What's the meaning of "Green Lung"?

Taman Tasik Titiwangsa is one of the green lungs in Kuala Lumpur. 

The following question came out in Paper 1 - Final Year Examination for English Form 1 last year:

"This park is the only green lung in the city." What is the meaning of green lung in this sentence? 

"Green lung" is a new phrase in English. Try searching its meaning in the Oxford dictionary or or even google; and you'll find none! 

Since I couldn't find its meaning neither in the dictionary nor on the internet, I consulted the experts in English. According to a senior English lecturer in UIAMgreen lung refers to a space in an urban area that has lots of plants, not about the colour of the foliage. As a result the area is healthier.

So, it is kind of inaccurate to say that "green lung" literally means the source of oxygen. If a park is the only green lung in a city, we can infer that the park is the source of oxygen due to fact that it has lots of plants no matter what the colour the plants have. As stated by Dr. Maskanah, green lung doesn't also mean green plants.

Some people might have a slightly different view on the meaning of "green lung" by quoting, "The green lung here is an expression that states the place that contains green plants which in turn  becomes a good source of oxygen."
Saturday, January 15, 2011 55 comments

I Wonder by Jeannie Kirby (Form 2)

I have started teaching the poem "I Wonder" by Jeannie Kirby, the Form 2 new literature component. The poem consists of 6 couplets. In my opinion, the poem is straight forward and easy to understand. Here's the poem:

By: Jeannie Kirby

I wonder why the grass is green,
And why the wind is never seen?

Who taught the birds to build a nest,
And told the trees to take a rest?

O, when the moon is not quite round,
Where can the missing bit be found?

Who lights the stars, when they blow out,
And makes the lightning flash about?

Who paints the rainbow in the sky,
And hangs the fluffy clouds so high?

Why is it now, do you suppose,
That Dad won’t tell me, if he knows?

Before starting the lesson, I asked a few questions to students:

  1. What does the phrase, 'I Wonder' mean to you?
  2. Have you ever wondered how plants eat?
  3. Have you ever wondered why you can feel the wind but cannot see it?
After discussing the questions to students, I showed the following video (Lemon Tree - Fool's Garden):

The following version is quite cool too and I like its tune better than the first video:

After showing the video (my students love the song and ask for a repeat), I asked students, "What is the person in the video wondering about?". 

Then, I told the students briefly that the person / the man in the video is waiting for his true love but she never came. Maybe, the girl has said and made a promise to him that love is as beautiful as a blue sky. So, he waits, and waits for her - she never came - and he only sees a lemon tree. So, the song basically tells us about a man who is wondering when his true love is going to come to him.

I didn't go really deep into the song.

Okay (I told my students), actually the song is related to the poem that we are going to learn today.  The poem is also about a person who is wondering or pondering about something that he/she doesn't understand.

I modeled how to recite the poem with the correct pronunciation and enunciation. Then, I asked students to choral read the poem. Normally, I would ask the boys to recite the first stanza followed by the girls until they recite all stanzas. I will always remember what my literature lecturer, the lovely Ms Hendon of IPBA, told us that poems are meant to be read aloud. 

Next, I told students the meaning of the poem:

Lines from the poem
I wonder why the grass is green,
The persona wonders why the grass has to be green.
And why the wind is never seen?
The persona wonders why she can feel the wind but cannot see it.
Who taught the birds to build a nest,
The persona wonders how the birds know how to build a nest.
And told the trees to take a rest?
The persona wonders why the trees are always standing straight and tall, never once sitting down to have a rest.
O, when the moon is not quite round,
Where can the missing bit be found?
At night, the persona sees the crescent moon and wonders why it is not always round.
Who lights the stars, when they blow out,
During the day, the persona cannot see the stars. So, the persona wonders who light the stars at night.
And makes the lightning flash about?
The persona wonders who causes the lightning to flash.
Who paints the rainbow in the sky,
The persona wonders how the colourful rainbow appears in the sky.
And hangs the fluffy clouds so high?
The persona wonders who hangs the fluffy clouds up so high in the sky.
Why is it now, do you suppose,
That Dad won’t tell me, if he knows?
Finally, the persona wonders why his father does not answer his questions. Maybe, his father does not know the answers.

After that, the discussions lead to the persona, themes and moral values of the poem. 

The persona of the poem:
  • The persona is the voice in the poem (the person who might say the lines in the poem)
  • The persona might be an inquisitive child who observes the world around him.
Themes: (What the poem is mainly about)
  • A child’s curiosity (Sifat ingin tahu kanak-kanak). Children loves to ask questions about anything that they do not understand.
  • The wonders of nature (Keajaiban alam semulajadi). People who take time to stop and appreciate nature will find that nature is amazing.

Moral values : (What can we learn from the poem)

  • There is an existence of God (Terdapat kewujudan Tuhan)
  • Care for our environment (Pelihara persekitaran)
  • We must have a strong desire to learn a lot of knowledge. (Mempunyai keinginan yang tinggi untuk menambah ilmu pengetahuan)
I prepared the following video for the use in the classroom. Enjoy watching & learning!