HHCKLA Buddhist Ching Kok Secondary School is a Buddhist School in Tiu Keng Leng. Teachers reflected that there is not only a great diversity among different classes, but also within a single class of students. Stronger students were able to express themselves in great fluency while the less able students have problem understanding basic instructions or composing a sentence in the simple ‘S-V-O’ structure. Through this collaboration, the school hopes to enhance teachers’ ability in catering for learners’ diversity.
Level: Secondary 2
Topic: Reading Comprehension (Summary Cloze)
- Contingent scaffolding
- Tiered learning materials
1. Contingent scaffolding
School Development Officer (SDO) of QSIP and teachers found that more sophisticated scaffolding, in addition to the materials provided by the publishers, was necessary to cater for learners with different abilities.
Summary Cloze can be challenging to students since they test students not only on the comprehension of multiple ideas and the connections among them in one or even multiple paragraphs, but also their grammatical knowledge and inference skills. To approach a summary cloze question, students have to go through the following steps:
As teachers reflected that most students might not be able to handle all the above mentioned four steps at the same time, the summary cloze questions designed in this collaboration followed the idea flow and choice of diction in the text instead of paraphrasing them heavily. The focus was on helping students identify the suitable word forms for the blanks by analysing the words around them. Teachers used 1 to 2 lessons to revise the rules of using different parts of speech, namely ‘nouns’ and ‘adjectives’ with students before moving onto the introduction of summary cloze questions.
When designing the materials, we deliberately repeated the target words that have been pre-taught as rules in the summary cloze questions so that students can apply the knowledge and skills learned in different questions (see Fig. 1 and 2 below). While the lesson on rules and the recurrence of these words might be sufficient as aids and clues for stronger learners, less able learners do need to refer to their notes on rules to help themselves analyse the words around the blank and the word form needed. With such diversity in a single group, teachers prepared note cards with parts of speech rules and examples (See Appendix 1) as well as planned to grant students the autonomy to decide whether and when they need to retrieve the note cards. The autonomy would allow students to get the guidance needed without forcing the advanced learners to wait dryly while teachers are explaining the rules repeatedly to the less able students.
Fig. 1 Summary Cloze Questions designed by teachers with target words that have been pre-taught as rules for identifying nouns (in green circles) and adjectives (in red circles)
Fig. 2 Summary Cloze Questions designed by teachers with target words that have been pre-taught as rules for identifying nouns (in green circles) and adjectives (in red circles)
2. Tiered learning materials
While less able students are checking the rules and finishing the exercises, stronger students may consider the rules and the summary cloze exercises rather simple. To cater to the needs of these stronger students, teacher also designed a bonus exercise (See Fig.3 below) them to attempt when they have finished warming up with the easier questions. The bonus exercise requires more advanced knowledge with prepositions (E.g. shopping for + items), pronouns (E.g. Q5 possessive adjectives) as well as inference skills (E.g. Q.6 feelings of characters have to be inferred from a sequence of events). While less able students help themselves with the note cards, teachers can free themselves to guide the stronger students in advancing further.
Fig. 3 Bonus exercise for stronger students
After conducting the lessons, teachers reflected that students were benefitted from the revision of the rules of using different parts of speech as well as the note cards available for reference when they were in doubt. Even the less able students could identify the parts of speech of the word needed to complete the summary cloze.
To further increase students’ interest and boost their motivation, it is suggested that the revision can be conducted in an activity-based mode. For those students who need more assistance, teachers pointed out that they often benefit from activities which allow them to move objects around (e.g. shuffling word cards and arranging them into sentences). Excitement may be enhanced by conducting the activity in a competition mode or within a time limit. Teachers may also make use of e-learning platforms to design interactive games for students. While less able students are engaged in activities with the goal of matching a word form (e.g. an adjective) with target clues (e.g. ‘very’), teachers may challenge stronger students by taking sentences with the wrong parts of speech from students’ compositions and asking them to discuss and correct the mistakes. While it is true that teachers may use sentences taken from different sources like from proofreading exercises or the Internet, using sentences that students have produced by themselves will save class time on explaining any unfamiliar words. Another benefit is that the task can be conducted as a self and/or peer evaluation activity as it helps students develop the habit of proofreading their own writing as well as their peer’s writing.
Fig. 4 An example of interactive games that may be designed using e-learning platforms to enhance students’ interest