Before the Covid restrictions, I had the opportunity to visit a Secondary School and observe two secondary English classes. One was a Secondary Three Normal Academic class, while the other was a Secondary One Normal Technical class. The visit comprised of two classroom observations and a post-discussion with the respective classroom teachers, as well as a short discussion with the AED (LBS).
The observations and the chat sessions with the teachers helped me draw some distinction and some parallels between DAS and MOE classroom teaching.
In the lesson that I observed, students were first asked to do silent reading. After this the students were tasked to work in groups where they were divided according to their ability – a weaker student was paired with an abler student. They were instructed to brainstorm and discuss with their classmates on the article that they had just read. Graphic organizers were given for them to jot down points necessary to answer the essay topic on the pros and cons of social media. During this time, the teacher would walk around the class, facilitating the group discussions. The grouping that the teacher had done in school helps to provide targeted collaborative learning. Similarly, at the DAS, our learners are also grouped according to their abilities to facilitate targeted literacy teaching and learning.
In terms or silent reading – not all students are fluent readers. Readers who read fluently and independently benefit from silent reading. Our programme structure is such that it builds our students’ skills and knowledge from the ground up. To elaborate further, a portion of our lesson focuses on helping our students decode through phonemic awareness and phonics. These skills will aid in improving reading fluency which is a pertinent skill for reading comprehension. Besides fluency in reading, vocabulary is necessary for comprehension. Explicit teaching of vocabulary is necessary for students to understand what is read meaningfully. These fundamental skills may not be addressed in school.
Students, especially those in Normal Technical need a lot of scaffolding and motivation. The school teachers shared that educational technology is used to support these learners. Use of Educational technology also helps to ensure that the lesson is not mundane. Similarly, our Main Literacy Programme embeds educational technology such as iPads and Mimio Teach Smart Bars to engage and empower our students in the classroom. Additionally, in with the Orton Gillingham approach, multisensory methods of teaching are employed to ensure that learning is not static and addresses the needs of all kinds of learners. Games are also used to review concepts and to engage learners. Thus, our MLP programme certainly complements and adds value to what is being taught in schools by teachers.
Secondary school students using iPads in the DAS MLP classroom for essay planning, guided by Senior Educational Therapist Melcher Tan