– Ramita Deuja
I was really fascinated when I heard the phrase ‘my signature pedagogy’ from my professor for the first time in my M.Phil. third semester class. Enthusiastically, I made myself clear about what it meant. I understood it as a unique pedagogical invention that we have been practicing in our workplace. Other might have used the same technique but not the way I have been using it. Then I started reflecting on my own practices. I could not assure myself whether the practices that I used long back were my own. So, I started visiting my recent strategies. To be honest, I have been trying so many new strategies to motivate my students. Among all the strategies, I find the strategies of writing a daily diary as a tool for writing improvement is the one that I could claim I have been using differently. Besides, I could claim it to be giving positive results. Aren’t you curious to know, how I started, applied, and brought a positive change in students’ writing skills?
You may not believe me if I tell you that I started diary writing without any plan. It was truly unplanned! I vividly remember the day; it was raining gently during summer. I entered the class confidently. However, it was not well planned. I asked the fifth grader, ‘How many of you like to enjoy the rain?’ In no time, almost everyone raised their hands. I told them that we would go out and enjoy the rain just for 30 seconds. The class was filled with laughter and excitement. Shouting and running, my innocent 5th graders flew to the paved area close to our upper ground just beside grade five. They tilted their heads to the sky and drank raindrops with full enjoyment. You can’t even imagine how excited they were. Neighboring students stared at me with lots of questions. I took them inside. You are much aware of students’ traits and reluctance, aren’t you? Well the next day, I was a little scared that any parents would complain about the act I conducted.
You must be surprised why I am explaining the incidents. That day I taught nothing. No homework from the textbook. So, I asked them to write a diary of that particular day. The following day, they handed me the original, creative writing with detailed explanations about all the excitement they experienced. I read some of the writing. Stunned, loved, and felt sorry all at the same time. Stunned by their creativity mainly in titles such as ‘The best day’, ‘I drank rain water’, ‘wonderful day’ and so many new words. Loved the way they thanked me for giving them an opportunity to enjoy rain for the first time. Finally, sorry for being too late to realize their need and interest. I dropped the book instantly and decided to share their writing. I stimulated those who didn’t write at home. I helped a few struggling students. I made some of my students help their seat partners finish the task.
The next day, I told them to write what they did, learned, and felt. It was going well. However, I decided to write a sample. So, I wrote my own diary including all the excitement that I collected with them. I skipped all the everyday stuff like getting up early and drinking tea. Then, I asked them to follow the same pattern. Most of the students followed. I reminded a few of them the next day. Every day, I encouraged them with feedback on the same issue time and again. Most of them committed mistakes in the use of tenses. I wrote the words correctly on the board. Patiently, I continued the same activities for a week forgetting course completion and exam. They documented their experience of, ‘Shopping Day’, ‘Outing day’, ‘Swimming Day’, ‘Result Day’, ‘Sad day’, ‘Picnic Day’, ‘Children’s Day’ and so many days. Most importantly, their outstanding word selection to address the diary overwhelmed me; ‘My lovely diary, My cutie, My dear bestie, and Good Night with Emoji. Reading their diary, I realized they have now made the diary their best friend. They shared all kinds of emotions without any hesitation as in the sample. Most importantly, Emoji they made in each writing revealed a visual representation of their happiness. The boy on Children’s Day was so happy about getting chocolates and prizes, whereas others represented their feelings through Emojis.
Diary writing continuously for a long time, sharing their writing and positive feedback stimulated them to write whenever they felt something interesting. I realized the strategy really worked when one of the parents shared that her son doesn’t go to bed until he writes in his diary. Most interestingly, they did not allow their parents to read their writing. But they wanted me to read it in the class as I often read with voice modulation, which I feel they loved. Besides, the students’ happy faces and their excitement to share their writing, I sensed, were the evidence of my success in all the activities I did.
You might be astonished by the way they learned to write. They dramatically learned language skills and aspects in an integrative way. They develop creativity and critical thinking in their writing. They learned to use new words and phrases. They became attentive enough to grasp words and phrases from friends’ writing. They felt free to ask the term to express in English. Some of the students even mixed the languages. I accepted it, to encourage them to write. Similarly, I developed the concept of past tense words and sentences through their sentences. However, I paid less attention to the grammar aspect. I addressed the immediate grammar-related issues. Diary writing practice familiarized them with the V-2 form of most of the words we use in our everyday conversation.
Finally, I love to state that the pedagogy I developed is my signature pedagogy. Although some of the ELT teachers practiced the strategy earlier, none of them to my knowledge may have used it continuously for a long time with the same commitment to change learners’ writing traits and skills together.
[Ms. Deuja is pursuing her M Phil at School of Education]