Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Foolproof Academic Writing Template

Hi Wani & Pok Chah... n all the rest out there if you are reading this, hope you're having a brilliant day! well upon special request, today i will be blogging about how to teach writing especially for the muet 350 word academic essay component of the writing paper (800/4). however, this template can be adopted or adapted to suit any academic writing class... i thin it's the perfect answer to teaching writing in the weak to average classes and it will also be good for the better students as a starting point efore you allow them to break free from the template and do their own thing.

to begin with, they need to learn to brainstorm in an organised manner. therefore, i always make them write notes using the template below:

1. current situation -
2. agree/disagree because -

1st Point:
1. key point -
2. reason 1 -
3. reason 2 -
4. examples -

2nd Point:
1. key point -
2. reason 1 -
3. reason 2 -
4. examples -

3rd Point:
1. key point -
2. reason 1 -
3. reason 2 -
4. examples -

1. agree/disagree again because -
2. what can the govt do? -

You need to train them to think in various styles when coming up with the 3 crucial points:
1. Short term, Mid term and Long term (smoking: S=bad breath, M=wasting money, L=health problems like lung cancer)
2. Individual, Society and Govt (recycling: I=3Rs, S= community collection/fund raising, G=recycling campaigns)
3. Social, Economic & Political/Spiritual

anyway, here comes the best part: the writing template that is foolproof! only completely illiterate morons cant do this!

(Get students to brainstorm first then use the points to complete these phrases)

Title: _________________________________

Nowadays,/In this era of ...
In my opinion, I strongly agree/disagree that...
In this essay, I will discuss three solid strategies for _____ which include
____________________, _____________________ and _________________.

Firstly,/First and foremost,...
This is because...
For example,... and so on.

This means that...
For instance,... and many more.

Finally,/Last but not least,...
This is due to the fact that...
In addition,...
Take for example,... and others.

In a nutshell, the three strategies I have suggested are _______________, ______________ and _______________.
In my opinion, I still agree/disagree that...
The government can...

Basically, it wont take just one lesson to teach writing as this is a skill that is tedious but not impossible to learn. i'm sure you'll agree with me that if you break it down into manageable proportions, the students will be less intimidated, feel a sense of achievement and the lessons will not be too insurmountable/heavy/boring for them. Like i mentioned in a previous blog, the hardest part is to oil their critical thinking skills, that is if they even have any to begin with! hahahahahhah! ;-0

Anyway, here is a sample essay:

Question 2:
Since achieving independence in 1957, Malaysia has been known for its peaceful and multiracial society. What can be done to further enhance national unity and solidarity among the various races? Elaborate and give relevant examples in more than 350 words.

Nowadays, Malaysia is considered a leading tourist destination because we are famour for our multiracial society living together in peace and harmony. In my opinion, I strongly agree that national unity can be enhanced to strengthen solidarity among all the various race in this country. In this essay, I will discuss three solid strategies for enhancing national unity which include every individual's role in being more patriotic, be respectful of each different culture and mould a racially tolerant future generation.

First and foremost, every individual can play a part in enhancing national by being more patriotic. This is because when we are patrotic we will appreciate being a Malaysian citizen who has the right to live a peaceful and war-free life. Moreover, having high patriotism will ensure that we really love our country and we will not do anything to harm the peach and harmony. For example, every one of us can respect the 'Negaraku' song and 'Rukunegara', fly our national flag during idependence Day and so on. Therefore, if everyone plays their part and becomes more patriotic, this will easily enhance the spirit of national unity.

Secondly, as a loyal Malaysian, we should always be respectful of each and every culture found in this country. This means that respecting the main races like Malays, Chinese and Indians as well as the indigenous races will ensure that we will continue to live side by side in harmony. Furthermore, every race tat makes up the Malaysian society is unique and should be cherished for its special traditions. For instance, we should visit one another during the 'Open House' or wedding celebrations, religious festivals and many more. Thus by respecting the uniqueness of every culture, this helps us promote racial solidarity and enhance national unity.

Last but not least, it is every individual's responsibility to mould the future generation to be more patriotic. This is due to the fact that by educating our own children to be good and toelrant citizens, this will help us maintain our peaceful situation long into the future. In addition, children who are taught to be respectful of other cultures will learn to be more grateful for the peace and harmony our country enjoys compared to places like Gaza where they are now suffering the effects of war. Take for example, we can send our children to 'Sekolah Wawasan' or 'Vision Schools' where they can mix with all races, join multiracial community activities and others. Hence, by educating the young on patriotism, we are ensuring that national unity will continue to exist in the future.

In a nutshell, the three strategies I have suggested are to be more patriotic and respectful of each unique culture as well as to teach our children about patriotism. In my opinion, I still strongly agree that national unity can be enhanced if we all play an active role. I hope that our government can highlight this issue in the media by organising more patriotic campaigns so that we can produce a united society that can contribute productively to the achievement of Vision 2020.

Ok... so what do you think? Workable? Pls give me some feedback on this... ;-) happy writing or more specifically, happy teaching writing! Cheers for now! ;-)

Guest Lectured Today...;-)

Had a good session today at UiTM, KK lecturing about MUET reading comprehension to abt 150 students.. this is actually my second time there as i'd given a similar lecture last year to a different group. anyway, how DOES one teach reading comprehension? yikes.. the first problem is that they dont read enough, therefore their vocabulary sucks and on top of that the level of english in muet is astronomically high when our students these days cant even string a single sentence flawlessly!

anyway, to help them along i've divised two approaches... Content analysis and Vocabulary analysis.. here's the general breakdown..

1. Anaphoric and Cataphoric referencing. Look before or after the target word/phrase to locate the answer. (I can send u my powerpoint if u like.. just drop me a note in your email)
2. Paraphrasing.
3. Inference.
4. Predicting.
5. Summarising.

VOCABULARY ANALYSIS (more interesting!!!)
1. Eliminate all illogical/impossible answers.
2. Is the word Positive, Negative or Neutral?
3. Identify the root word.
4. Identify prefixes and suffixes.
5. Use anaphoric or cataphoric referencing to extract clues from context.
6. Select the best answer.

Plastic surgery involves the reconstruction of physical aspects of the
human body to make it more aesthetic or symmetrical.
The word ‘reconstruction’ refers to
A. the study of chemistry
B. building or shaping something again
C. a place where structures are being built
1. Eliminate impossible answers. = A: Not possible, consider options B & C only
2. Positive, Negative or Neutral word? = Positive
3. Identify the root word. Sounds like? = ‘construct’ : build
4. Identify prefixes and/or suffixes. = ‘re-’: repeat something (ie replant – plant again)
‘-tion’: a noun (ie information – noun)
5. Use Anaphoric or Cataphoric referencing = Anaphoric : refers to ‘plastic surgery’
= Cataphoric : refers to ‘phy. aspects of body’
6. Select the most likely answer. = B : to build again or reshape body parts

Of course nothing in life is as simplistic as this but for weaker students
especially it is a good place to start. The trick is to get students thinking
and analysing for themselves on a completely conscious level..
hahahahahhaha with our spoonfed ones, not many will
rise above this tall order! lol.. ah well we can die tryin right!?!?!?

Anyway, like i mentioned above.. drop me an email at
and i'd be happy to share my stuff with anyone who's interested. better yet,
invite me to your school to give a talk! ;-) i train both students n teachers..
lol.. muet courses (all components) or perfect grammar in 3 hrs! haha..

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Referencing Skills

Heya.. to start every new MUET year when the new sixth formers arrive, a good thing to do is teach them referencing skills. This doesn't just mean opening up the dictionary and checking a word. There are 3 aspects of referencing you may want to have specific lessons for.

i.At the back of any good dictionary is a phonetic symbols list.. read out the various consonant, vowel and dipthong sounds to them and they repeat (can be really funny sometimes) and then get them to look up some words in the dictionary.
ii.Focus their attention on the fact that each word is separated by slashes / ... / and the syllable stress is noted using the symbol ' .
iii. Give each student a different symbol and he/she looks up 5 words from the dictionary and puts it on a coloured piece of paper.. then he/she gathers some friends around and they each teach the others the sound and how to read the words they have selected.
*Alternative task suggestions:
1. students write the sentences in phonetic symbols such as "My name is ........" and "I am ........ years old"
2. each student writes a secret sentence in phonetic symbols at the top of a piece of paper with the English alphabet sentence at the bottom of the page (fold this section twice so the answer can only be seen if they unfold it). stick on wall and get students to read the secret sentence n if they get it right, they can sign the page and draw a smiley face if it was easy to figure out, a sad face if it was too difficult to decipher! Get the students to mingle n read and sign as many as possible. I just did this in college last Saturday n it was a HIT! ;-)
"Peer Sharing Session"

In case you've never used this before, go get one NOW! It's a brilliant referencing tool as it groups words and phrases by categories. It covers all necessary vocabulary and common phrases that are related to each topic. In the example below, the girl looked up the term 'ENVIRONMENT' and from the info in the Activator, she made a mind-map. Then she shared her information with a group of friends (peer teaching is more motivating than teacher centred teaching, not always but usually).
For additional enrichment activities, you can get them to decorate the information notice board with the work they produced, or use the notes to write a composition based on the muet 350 words requirement, etc.

Well in the Malaysian classroom we can't run away from translation. It's quicker and more effective but sometimes it can be a cop out when the kids expect you to translate all the time. Anyway, I think teaching them to look up words they WANT TO KNOW as opposed to what you want them to know is more effective. So the steps are, give them a topic each or in pairs, make a list of vocabulary in their mother tongue they would like to research and then look up the translation. As the norm, write neatly on a piece of paper and ensure they have a peer-sharing session.
Get them to be more creative and graphic in their final product. Colours and pictures always help. ;-)
An extension of this activity is to get students to make their own thematic crossword or wordsearch puzzles for their classmates to have fun doin whilst subconsciously acquiring the new vocabulary.

Anyway, hope these tips are useful. Anyone has other ideas about this? If you do try them out, please let me know your strengths and weaknesses..

Hugs to all!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My personal spin on teaching MUET... ;-)

Hi guys.. if you've hit upon this new blog of mine, it's because u care abt our profession and our specialist skills in teaching the Malaysian University Entrance Test English Language requirement for public universities of Malaysia... ;-) good on you! *pats your back!

Anyway, this site is not supposed to be heavy n boring.. but meant to inspire.. if i can give u a few tips and pointers, maybe show u a new spin on doing something you already know, then i would consider this effort a success. I read somewhere that 'we only take to the grave that which we have given away" and this has always inspired me to be kinder to others and to share: be it my mortal possessions or more importantly, knowledge. So here is what i hope to be a treasure trove of new (and old!) teaching styles and strategies for you to adapt and adopt.. in fact, pls adopt it if you think it's suitable of other language classes, not necessarily MUET.

All comments are welcome... hope i get at least a few active readers over the years to come so that everything i do on a daily (and probably mundane basis) does not disappear into the transient nothingness!!! Happy teaching guys! Lots of huggies all round!


P/S: figured out the formula yet? It means Life Long Learning equates to Infinite Knowledge. Ha ha! I'll tell u abt my grammar formulas one day soon.