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Scaffolding ESL Leaners for Content: Series 1

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As ESL teachers know, some of our candidates have issues with content either for the writing or speaking paper. Their content is unsatisfactory and this happens either due to their limited knowledge about the topic or failure to provide or include the best ideas / convincing ideas in accomplishing their writing or speaking tasks. Sometimes, there are candidates with good language proficiency of English but the quality of their ideas/content is disappointing. This issue should not be taken for granted by ESL teachers so what kind of scaffolding can teachers offer to their learners?

As far as I am concerned, the least an English Language teacher can do is to expose their learners to diverse topics or issues which are closely linked to the units in Form 4 and Form 5 textbooks. As we know, the SPM writing and speaking questions are always linked to the topics or themes in textbooks. For the exposure or perhaps revision, depending on a number of factors such as learners’ readiness, availability of time as well as learners’ needs, teachers may:

  • carry out a discussion in one big group; the whole class is involved.

  • divide candidates into a few groups, let them discuss the topic/issue given and then present the ideas to their classmates.

  • assign candidates either in pairs or individually to do online research about the topic/issue. The material (e.g. PowerPoint) can be shared with the whole class.

  • organise a mini debate such as on the pros and cons of online shopping or the strengths and drawbacks of allowing teenagers to bring smartphones to school.

The following are some of the possible topics/issues which candidates should explore or re-visit based on the Form 4 English textbook Unit 1 (Let’s Chat):

  1. What are the three major differences between communication in the past and at present?

  2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of social networking sites?

  3. What are the three most common activities among teenagers at night? Why?

  4. What are the benefits of having a personal webpage?

  5. Between a laptop and desktop computer, which one would you buy? Give three convincing reasons to support your answer.

The following are some of the possible topics/issues which candidates should explore or revise based on the Form 4 English textbook Unit 2 (Ready for Anything):

  1. What are the pros and cons of taking part in extreme activities?

  2. What are three recommended ways to raise money for charity?

  3. How important do you think it is to involve teens to raise funds for charities?

  4. What are three significant values that can be taught through charity projects?

  5. What are the three most important characteristics required in order to be a doctor / bank manager / stewardess / waiter / receptionist?

  6. Science fiction movies should be watched by teens. Do you agree? Why?

Activities based on the topics/issues above are strongly encouraged especially among Form 5 candidates. Some of them may have forgotten what they studied in form 4. Even if the discussed topics / issues are not tested in examination, there are still benefits to be reaped by the learners especially in terms of developing their writing, speaking as well as critical thinking skills. Go for it, teachers!

Note: To be continued with topics/issues based on Unit 3 and Unit 4 of Full Blast Plus 4


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