Saturday, March 16, 2013

Teacher for a day: TFM Collaboration, Getting kids to read!

Many thanks to Chew May, Connie and Jessica for making this possible!

On Friday the 15th of March, I got the opportunity to visit two schools, plus a good paksarela excuse to go out of office. SMK Bandar Baru Ampang and SMK Tanjung Sepat was on the list, each 2 hours away from each other.

For a CSR program at work, we came up with an initiative to get kids to read more English books.
We have prepared for a few months ahead, garnering support and donations in terms of books for a total of 6 rural and needy schools. Along with a last minute shopping spree for supplies, we were ready to go.

Somewhat nervous, me and my accomplice, Chew May, started our drive to the schools at 8.30am. At SMK Bandar Baru Ampang, we were greeted by Connie who helped us start the day. The audience was not as I hoped, but these form 1 students came for this extra activity so its already effort on their part.
A group of  15 plus students joined us for the session. I remember a very peculiar girl who was half Korean half Malay. Very happy very lively. This was a school at the fringe of the city not too far away from the city centre.

At the other school 50km away at Sepang Gold Coast, SMK Tanjung Sepat was at the edge of  the shores of the country. A different scene, more rural, some of these kids, come from families living in recycling centres.

We were there with one mission: Inspire these kids to read books! 

Now, these were kids live in the middle of the kampung, and the last thing they would want to do is to spend time reading. So here is the question, how would you get these kids to read? We played three games with them hopefully to get the message across:

1. Fun with paper airplanes!
We got the kids to write their names boldly on a piece of paper with magic pens, and on that, write what they thought of themselves, and what other thought of them. Fold those into planes and blast off in a frenzy of plane throwing! Wee!

Now all jumbled but, we got them to introduce each other and told them the moral of the story:
a. You name is what you carry and probably the most important thing you have
b. What you think about yourself is what you are probably going to be
c. What others think about you is your current self right now.

We got some nice answers like hardworking, annoying and cute.

2. How High can you go?

Well, I got them to build a tower with only paper, some glue, scissors and tape, and told them to build the highest which can hold a ball: Here we go. With not much guidance and 30 mins, here was what I got:

I asked them: Why not taller cause the other groups are doing much taller. Their reply, "We don't care about the other groups!"
 This is was the lively girl who had a Korean name. The ball almost fell down but she tried and finally managed to get it to stand! Never give up!
 Here were the winners! Their tower now stands as a trophy in their school. Next round, someone is going to break that record! Note the ball is actually a stress ball in the shape of a globe.

At the more rural school, I was surprised by their creativity as well. No guidance give and they managed to come up with quite neat stuff!
The first thing was to blow a whistle and see them go... Then after 5 mins of seeing them struggling, first hint - plan and draw your design for everyone to see. It was fascinating to see the potential in this kids, who obviously had never done this before and only just sat down to come up with all these.

I told the kids the moral of the story:
a. Team work makes things possible
b. Resources and your time are limited - use them wisely
c. How high you want to go depends on your planning, resources and time.
d. There are rewards in life for how high you go
e. You can do anything, including building the world (represented by the little globe)

3. Next was putting their little brains to the test and getting them to get out their books and learn some English. We set a challenge between 3 teams, each given an alphabet and tasked to draw out as many pictures of objects starting with that letter. The team with most drawings win! For the weaker schools, we had to do a few rounds to get the kids motivated. Children need chances and it was really a good way to get them going.

With their magic pens, they started drawing.
What happened next shocked our TFM fellow Jessica, and shocked too. The kids started opening their books from the library to get stuff to draw. Without this push, i doubt these kids would ever pick up a book.

 Not just any books, these kids started with the small ones and this lil fella went straight to the big guns and began flipping through books that weigh as much as what Chemical Engineers call Perry's engineering handbook.
Overall, was a great thing to see that we can contribute to kids' learning. For kids to learn, it has to stem from a desire from their part. Teachers can teach all they want, but if they are not willing to learn, then no force in the world will change that.

However, if we can change their thinking, to inspire them to action, then they will do so without much fuss.
Putting them in the situation and giving them encouragement are certainly some of the ways to start. 

Next round in 3 months and hope to see more people getting involved in these sessions.


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