Storytelling for Systems Thinkers

I had the pleasure and privilege of conducting a storytelling workshop for Residential College 4 last Friday (Feb 5, 2021) in NUS.

RC4 is one of four residential colleges in the university which offer a two-year residential programme, with the college’s focus being on systems thinking.

In the workshop, we looked at both the purpose and power of narrative in creating understanding of systems, as well as communicating that understanding clearly and effectively to stakeholders.

We also touched on interviewing and writing techniques as part of asking good questions in order to get good answers that clarify understanding.

It was a meaningful experience and, as always, a happy return to the alma mater.

Adventures in teaching Boom by Jean Tay (Part II)

Yikes! Very overdue but I’m going to post this regardless because I’ve been meaning to put it up.

How does Tay create an atmosphere of melancholy in this passage? Explain your answer with close reference to the passage.

So when we last left off, I was busy making the horses thirsty.

One of the ways in which I did so was to allow them to devise their own exam questions – in a structured manner, of course.

Without going into detail, I crafted the lesson with the objectives of making the students:

  1. Revise the question requirements for the O-Level exams; and
  2. Think about the issues in the particular passage, and thereafter the text.

While carrying out the lesson activity, this happened:

Student A: (reading out what he had written) “How does Tay create an atmosphere of me-lan-cho-lee –”

Student B: (from the other end of the classroom) “Eh, what melancholee – you think what, this one Indian food ah?”

Student C: “Ya lah, later you go to Lew Lian there the Indian stall you tell them, ‘Uncle, I want two kosong and the curry you gimme melancholee one’ and then you see what happen after that.”

Temporarily could not take it because was laughing so hard, so had to tell the students to give me a moment to finish laughing before we carried on with the lesson.

Adventures in teaching Boom by Jean Tay (Part I)

Why does Tay title her play BOOM? Support your answer with close reference to the text.
Why does Tay title her play Boom? Support your answer with close reference to the text.

So as part of making the “horses” thirsty, I had to teach Boom by Jean Tay for Literature lessons.

It’s a pretty good text in that it’s accessible to the students and rich with literary features that make it good for teaching.

For example, one of the essay questions we worked on in class was “Why does Tay title her play Boom? Support your answer with close reference to the text”.

I doubt this question would ever come out at the O-Level exams, but I thought it was a pretty good way of getting the students to think about motifs, symbolism and themes – and their relationships – in the text.

Regardless, the students – being students – have no qualms about asking teachers questions/interrupting the lesson in the hope that we’ll digress/tell them stories instead.

So while I was writing the question and instructions on the board, this exchange took place:

“Jean Tay your friend ah, sir.”
“You’re also a writer, right, sir.”
“So? All writers must be friends is it?”

And midway during the discussion…

“You got watch the play or not?”
“NO. (Beat.) Why?”
“You look like one of the actors lah.”
“Brendon Fernandez, is it?”
“No lah, the actor in the play.”
“Yar, he was one of the actors in the play, right? That’s his name!”
“Y’all are friends ah, sir?”

Guess it was payback for all the times I annoyed my teachers in class…