How Creative Are You in Teaching Your Class was a contest organised by Marshall Cavendish Education. Four winners from the contest were given an opportunity to attend the bi-annual conference, Redesigning Pedagogy International Conference 2017, organised by National Institute of Education Singapore (NIE). In this third instalment of the 4-part series, Risa Gutierrez shares how she transformed biography reading into an interactive and enjoyable lesson for her students in Philippines. My Pals are Here! English 5A was used in her lesson.
Mother Theresa? Leonardo da Vinci? Steve Jobs? – What made all of them gather at a Primary 5 English class at Tzu Chi Primary School? How is that even possible?
Nothing is impossible. At least not in Ms Risa Pangilinan-Gutierrez’s class, where she puts a little twist to her English lessons.
Instead of carrying out passive biography reading and writing exercises, Pangilinan-Gutierrez explored new methods to teach her students the factual recount in focus - biographies. On the topic of Great Explorers (Unit 4 of My Pals are Here! English 5A), she asked her students to dress up as famous characters as they performed a biography through a mock interview.
In preparation for her class, she identified four key learning objectives for her students:
- Read about the lives of some famous people and their adventures
- Understand the sequence of events in factual recounts
- Understand how and why a biography is written
- Perform a biography in a mock interview (instead of writing one)
Interested to learn how you can carry out the class as well? Let’s follow Ms Risa Pangilinan-Gutierrez
Pre-reading: Motivation and Unlocking Difficulty
Ms Pangilinan-Gutierrez started her class by playing the song, “How Far I’ll Go” from Disney animated movie, Moana. The theme of “Exploration” in this movie and song echoed her lesson on Great Explorers. Using the movie and song as a basis, she drew links to Marco Polo who was an explorer and voyager.
She showed a world map to the class and asked her students to locate Italy and China, while posing the question: “Without the convenience of modern transportation like planes andbullet trains, how long do you think will it take you to get from one point?”.
As she introduced Marco Polo to her class through a YouTube video, she proceeded to unlock difficult words in the textbook such as "companion", "route", "soothe", "petroleum" and "coal". Her students were asked to define these words and were revisited after reading the text.
Reading: Completing a Timeline
As the class went through the reading, Ms Pangilinan-Gutierrez used the map to plot the travels of Marco Polo by year.
Post-reading Activity 1: Identifying the Writer's Purpose
After reading the text together, Ms Pangilinan-Gutierrez proceeded to discuss he comprehension questions in My Pals Are Here! 5A textbook with her class. Using Marco Polo as the focus, she further extended her class discussion with the following questions:
- Why is Marco Polo considered to be one of the greatest explorers of all time?
- Why do you think the writer wrote a recount of Marco Polo’s life? Was it to inform? to entertain? or to persuade?
Post-reading Activity 2: Highlighting the Feature of Text – Parts of a Biography
The features of biography were explained thoroughly to give her students a clear understanding. However, instead of ending the chapter with a straightforward writing exercise (i.e. write a biography of the person they admire), Ms Pangilinan-Gutierrez took a different approach and instead teased her students the possibility of reliving the lives of these Great Explorers.
This led to the final creative output of her class – Performance Bio!
Pair Task: Performance Bio – What, Why and How?
Ms Pangilinan-Gutierrez split her class into pairs and her pupils were tasked to stage an interview of the personality of their choice. The following personalities were chosen:
Great Explorers of Humanity
Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi
Great Explorers of Technology
Bill Gates, Steve Jobs
Great Explorers in History
Joan of Arc, Ibu Kartini
Great Explorers in Literature and Arts
Leonardo da Vinci, J.K. Rowling
Great Explorer of Science
Marie Curie, Galileo Galilei
Following the features of a written biography, her pupils crafted a title for their interview segment. The introduction would be covered by the interviewer detailing why they invited the personality to the program and why that personality is worth watching or listening to.
The interview questions were arranged based on the chronological events that happened to the person’s life, which would account for the series of episodes in a written biography.
Thereafter, the interviewee and the interviewer summarised the points they had discussed and answered questions from the audience. They answered the questions correctly and accurately as it was a test to know how much they know about the personality they are presenting.
The performance bio ended with the conclusion of why the personality of their choice inspired other people and why they are worthy to be considered as a great explorer in their respective fields.
Feedback, Evaluation, and Reflection
As an educator, listening to students’ feedback after an activity is crucial.Ms Pangilinan-Gutierrez noted the areas that needs to be improved, segments that can be modified as well as methods to improve the execution and time management of this project. For example, the class could have explored a different method to select the personalities or recyclable materials should have been used for props and costumes.
The project concluded when her student’s performance bio was evaluated with a marking rubric (mastery, biographical elements, content organization, depth of research, props, voice projection, gestures, etc.). Her students evaluated the performance of their peers, discussing their strengths and weaknesses.
To sum it up ...
Understanding that this ‘smart’ generation of students can easily access biographical texts by at their fingertips by means of the internet, Ms Pangilinan-Gutierrez chose to provide an authentic learning experience for her students. In this project, she transformed her students from passive readers to active participants. The preparation of the interview meant that her students were required to do their own research, watch actual interviews of these figures and read different versions of biography to complete the task given to them.
Ms Pangilinan-Gutierrez’s project clearly showed how learning can be made meaningful for her students.