Friday, December 18, 2009

Reading and Writing in English Then and Now ...

The DepEd guy we've re-nicknamed Tanaka in jest because he looks like a Pinoy-Hapon has delivered to us thirteen science research reports of high school students for our review.  These are first-placers in the applied/physical sciences of the regional science fairs, and our job in the national scientific review committee (SRC) is to check if they are qualified to compete in the national Intel-DepEd Philippine Science Fair (IPSF) in February next year.  From the national winners, we will select the country's delegates who will compete with more than a thousand others in the Intel Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in San Jose, CA in May 2010.

Through these past several years, we in the life and physical sciences SRCs have been lamenting the apparent weakness of most high school students: they do not know how to read and write, and this we glean after going through the review of literature part of their reports. 

In several instances, lately at workshops in Cebu City and CLSU in Munoz and at a lecture before a science research class in Quezon City Science High School, we've been emphasizing two very important things that students must remember when they do their information search and write-up: ethics and the simple how-to's in reading and writing. 

Today when the internet abounds with sources of information, these young researchers do not bother to read anymore.  They simply cut and paste materials into their report--a clear case of plagiarism--and we do not like to think that this is because they are overwhelmed by so many print and digital publications.  Many of them do not even bother to check if their materials come from expert sources.  They seem to think that thick reports are impressive.  We wonder if their teachers read what their students write and submit, or if they teach their students the basic documentation do's:  summarize, paraphrase and quote. 

The last we strongly discourage because it is most abused; lazy readers love the open-close quotation marks more dearly than the gist of whatever they enclose within them.  We tell them that writing in one's own words what the authors said, and organizing them into a clear and understanble flowing narrative are the best measures of a researcher's diligence and intellectual honesty.

Before the above-mentioned workshops started, we showed the science advisers and regional science superintendents the instructional materials that were used to teach reading, speaking and writing in English to elementary pupils of more than a century ago. We also wondered aloud if schools today can use these composition leaflets on Philippine Activities of 1905 as templates to create aids in teaching modern English to the young generation now despite the deluge of TV and Hollywood movies, and www downloadables.  All 1905 leaftets can be retrieved from the digital library collection The United and its Territories 1870-1825: The Age of Imperialism (click the hyperlink) of the University of Michigan Ann Arbor.

These were four-page leaflets written by Orlando S. Reimold under the Philippine Education Series of that time. They were all about subjects that pupils were most familiar with in their homes and communities.  The teacher and pupil interactive exercises--reading and conversation, and conversation and writing--were about  bamboo; baskets, hats and mats; blacksmith; carpenter; cocoanut; hemp; hunting; market; school; sewing; shoemaker; sugarcane; transportation; washing; and weaving.   The front pages of bamboo and market are shown here. 

After more than a century, city people would still be familiar with the subjects.  Even if cocoanut has become coconut, they are still one and the same. Loom weaving sometimes is demonstrated in regional trade shows that feature Ilokanos and cultural minorities in the south.

The fourth page comprises suggestions to teachers. To illustrate, here's the one for bamboo:

"Material:  stalk, branch with leaves, piece of wood.

"Draw:  stalk, leaves, bamboo cup.

"Make:  cup, kite-frame, lantern-frame, sticks in lengths of 3, 4, 6, 8 inches.  See Directions for Object and Constructive Work on envelope.

"General Suggestions.  Before distributing the leaflets, the teacher should study carefully the whole lesson to see what to teach, and how to teach.  [We like this line!]

"Page One. Distribute the leaflets at the beginning of the class period. Tell the pupils something about the subject. Give them a few minutes to study the picture. Let the pupils read and answer the questions below the picture. Ask other questions. The picture-study should prepare the pupils for the following reading and writing exercises. Ask them to get information on the subject so as to be able to talk about it during the following periods.

"Page Two. Give the pupils time to prepare the reading lesson. In class be sure that each one understands what he reads. Ask questions about the lesson and the pictures. Encourage the children to ask questions and tell what they know.

"Page Three. The pupils should study the questions. Let each pupil read a question and give an oral answer. Do not let pupils write without previous oral drill. All answers, oral and written, should be complete statements. Before assigning written work, put all new and difficult words on the blackboard. Keep them on the board during the study of the leaflet. The pupils should thoroughly understand the meaning of these words and become familiar with their forms.

"Spelling. Have a list of the pupils in this class. When their first written exercise is handed in, put opposite each name the words which that pupil has misspelled. Ask each pupil to make a little book by folding two sheets of composition paper. When you return the corrected papers, ask each pupil to put in his booklet the correct forms of the words which he has misspelled. He should study these words. Take a few minutes of a recitation for a spelling exercise. Consult your list and ask the pupil to spell such words as he has misspelled.

"Written /Work. Correct carefully all written work so that the pupils can understand the corrections. Make a list of the errors, including errors as to form.  See Rules for Fornm on the envelope. Return the papers to the pupils. Give them a few minutes to study their papers.  Let them ask questions about their mistakes. Call attention to the errors on your list. Make clear what is wrong and how to correct it. Now let them write again their exercise as corrected. This new copy, together with the original, should he handed to the teacher. See that all corrections have been made. If necessary, have a pupil re-write his exercise two or three times."

Would the elementary or high school teacher (of language or communication arts in today's parlance) be patient to do these procedures or some kind of innovation?  We remember we had theme writing in our time (post-WW2), the final copy written in ink.  Uncle Maximo Ramos recalled that his English teacher in high school, young lawyer Alejo Labrador who would later become Supreme Court justice, gave him a failing grade for his composition. His piece was very well written that the teacher thought is was a plagiarized theme.  No wonder then that our parents and grandparents could speak English very fluently even if they finished only grade 4.  In fact, they could even teach if they reached that level.

No comments:

Post a Comment