How Creative Are You in Teaching Your Class? (Part 2)

03 Oct 2017

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 second instalment of the 4-part series, Gloria Leng who teaches at the Singapore International School of Bangkok (Chiang Mai Branch) shares how she taught her students from school in Thailand to subtract and count money. My Pals are Here! Maths was used in her lesson.

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Teaching mathematics is close to Gloria's heart and she believes that teaching creatively to engage students is necessary especially teaching this subject because pupils need to be given different opportunities to train their brains and change their mentalities toward problem-solving to be effective in the workforce of the future. Mathematics is an unparalleled means to train problem solvers and is the by far the best training medium that she has come across in her many years as an educator.

Despite being an experienced educator, Gloria still faces a fair share of challenges. Read on to find out how she has incorporated creativity into her teaching to overcome the challenges. 

The Problem

Language is one of the limitations when teaching in Thailand is concerned as English is not the first language of most pupils. As the maths lessons are conducted in English, it is difficult to fully engage pupils who are weak in the language. 

The Solution

Illustrating a maths problem and giving pupils concrete examples have become the most effective way of overcoming language barrier. The physical limitation of being in Thailand is also something that has motivated Gloria to find alternatives to create or search for resources in non-conventionals ways. 

For Gloria, she stands by purposeful creativity – every activity or fun game must have a learning objective that is clearly defined. 

The Execution

In all attempts to increase pupil engagement, Gloria implemented the following:

  • Games
  • Kinaesthetic activities

Games: The Subtraction Game

In the Primary 1 class that Gloria teaches, mathematics games are played before the formal lesson begins to reinforce basic mathematical concepts.

Being fluent in number facts within 20 is vital to pupils' success in mental mathematics and this game aims to strengthen pupils' mastery of the concept of subtraction of numbers between 12 and 20. 

A dice is required for this game. Start the game by rolling the dice. Next, pupils will subtract the number on the dice using a set of numbers between 12 and 20. They need to decide and verbalise their subtraction strategy (take
away from tens or take away from ones) to derive the answer. The base 10 blocks should also be placed in front of them to the number they are subtracting from. The use of base 10 blocks helps weaker pupils in visualising the problem.

Kinesthetic Activities: Construct a Clock

Another engagement strategy that Gloria often implements is the integration of kinesthetic activities in her lessons. She would plan her activities in different areas of the classroom – on the floor, in the classroom tent, on smaller round tables, on lower stools, and even on foam mats. Gloria revealed, "I find that when pupils are moving, their brains are moving too!"

In one of her lessons on the concept of time, pupils sit (or sprawl) on the floor and get busy with their hands constructing a clock. To aid their understanding on the 5-minute intervals between each number on the clock, pupils were also tasked to visually represent the intervals using base 5 blocks on the clock that they had constructed. 

Finally, the pupils will verbalise new vocabulary learnt in the process by calling a time (e.g. half-past 6, 7 o’clock) and having their friends show the time. They then peer check and explain why an answer is correct or incorrect.

This kinesthetic lesson is intensified when Gloria transformed it into a competition to inject some positive peer pressure to get them motivated.

Conclusion

As educators, we strive to open the window of learning, to inculcate a sense of wonder in the process as well as the satisfaction in learning applied well. In this, even as educators strive to perfect this art of teaching, it is and always will be a work in progress – and rightly so, for educators should never stop learning and keeping up with the changes in our world today.

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