Journal Entry 1A: First interaction with our buddies (23 Feb) - Joshua Tam

Thursday was the first visit to the Daqiao primary school for me, as well as the first time meeting the Primary 4 students for all of my group members. At first, I was very nervous on whether the plans were going to work smoothly and I was worried whether we could help them improve their academics or not. However as we started off with ice breaker games, both the Primary 4 students and us got much comfortable with each other and we were able to finish the first meeting with an understanding of where we are right now. There were many positive things happening during the meeting. We were able to break the ice, know each other (For the least, our buddies) and we were also able to start helping them with their studies. I was also happy that they were having fun and most of them were enthusiastic with the activities we've prepared. On the other hand, there were some areas where we could have improved on as well. Our ice breakers took a lot longer than what we were planning and we also released the kids a little bit over the time. In addition, we've found out that these students doesn't know the basic concepts that is needed, hence meaning that there is a need to explain to them more clearly. To solve these two problems, we should assign a time keeper who keeps the activity going on shedule. We should also discuss more about the time management for each parts. For the academic part, we should have some lessons on how to teach, so that we are able to communicate the key ideas to them.

Journal Entry 1B: First meeting with Da Qiao mentees (23 Feb) - Shikhar Gupta

Today my group and I visited our Da Qiao mentees for the first time. On one hand I was extremely enthusiastic about meeting our mentees and couldn't wait to get to know them further, but on the other hand I was quite worried over our logistics as we did not know whether we would get Primary 4 or 5 pupils, and we had only made the perception survey thinking of Primary 5 students learning Primary 4 content. However my worries were put to rest when I realized that it would not matter, as the perception survey could be done any time, and soon I was enjoying myself with the mentees. I was also worried of the students being a very uninterested batch, but when I saw how happy they were to see us, I was genuinely surprised. We soon got to know each other and within no time the mentees were trying to 'reserve' us to teach them.

Later, we did some work with them, specifically English worksheets that most of our mentees were struggling with. Since we had run aground of the time allocated for our Ice-breakers, we had to extend the session for 5 minutes to make the concepts of the students clearer. I also found that while my mentee did not know the concepts, when he understood, he could do everything with ease. To combat these problems, I recommended that the leader (I) closely monitor the time and try to do things faster if we are running out of time. I also believe that we should borrow some books from the library so that we can find out how to better teach the students, as they are quite weak.

Journal Entry 2A: Second meeting with Da Qiao mentees (1 March) - Sunaga Ryuto

As it was the second time we came for mentoring, we were much more relaxed compared to the first day. We started off with one hour of mentoring; finishing the Da Qiao kid’s homework and the worksheet they gave us. I personally felt that the kids are weak in mental sums of bigger numbers (e.g. 7x8, 6x7) so it was hard for them to solve question which requires multiplication of two 3-digit numbers or division of 4-digit numbers with a 1-digit number. I gave them some mental sum question but I felt that they have to constantly practice mental sums to be faster at solving it. After that, we played about 30 minutes of games and we played “were-wolf”. This game taught the kids about not jumping into conclusion and to think carefully before accusing anyone. I think the game was a success as not only did the child had fun, they also learned important life skills.

Journal Entry 2B: Second meeting with buddies (1 March) – Noel Low

The lesson plan was different from last week in the sense that we did not have to do any icebreakers with our buddies. I admit that I could not remember all their names but it felt very comfortable interacting with them this time. We started by giving them some simple math worksheets on basic multiplication and division. My buddy was very good with it and completed it quite fast without much help. However, the rest were struggling even with this basic theories and I realised how weak their foundation is. There is no miracle for this and what they need is focus as well as more practice. I also found that all of them do not know their times-tables well. I hope that we can make ourselves useful by giving them some tricks and tips to help them remember their times-tables in one of the future mentoring sessions. Something I learnt during this session is that patience is very important, especially when I went to check on the progress of the other mentees and realised how short their attention span is as well as how they are quite slow even with basic multiplication or adding.

For the last 30 minutes, we played the game ‘werewolf’ to teach the buddies not to make false accusations as it might hurt the feelings for others. I do not think that it was very effective and I doubt that all of them will remember this lesson. I hope that we can plan activities with more fun and clearer objectives for future sessions. Overall, I feel that this session was quite enjoyable for me and the buddies were all very adorable and mostly cooperative.

Journal Entry 3A: Third meeting with Daqiao school kids (22 March) - Joshua Tam

This week's visit to Daqiao had some progress in terms of both seeing the problems and being able to get information/pictures. We started off with working on the worksheets that the teacher have provided us. During this time, I found out that the kids are very easily distracted, and they want to finish it as fast as they can. The problem is that they do not care of why some of the answer is being answered in the way it should be answered. My buddy was one of them and he kept asking me for the answers, but not how to solve it. He have also asked me "When this is going to end?", "When can we play games or eat sweets?" and so on. I now know that it is very hard to get them to concentrate and work on the questions. However, there were also some positive actions as well. They were quite focused at the beginning and they try to work on the questions even though they lack in concentration. After that, we did a game where one has to guess what kind of characteristic word is being written on a sticker on their heads. Some of the students were honest and tried to work hard to guess it, while most of them just cheat and find answers. From this, I can also say that they are not seeing the importance of understanding, but more of the result/answer is what they want. If possible, I want to change that mind state, so that they can find the meaning to work hard and try to understand the process before getting the answer.

Journal Entry 3B: Third Meeting (22 March) - Fabian See

After the session today, I found out that many of the students were reward-oriented and attention seeking. They also have a very short attention span before they will snap out and start daydreaming. These put us in a very difficult situation as we have to be able to discipline them in order to make our session meaningful.

In today's session, my buddy, Fariz, asked me four times about the game that we were going to play later in the session. In fact, in the whole session, he only looks forward to the game at the end. Most of the time, he would be daydreaming and this makes it very difficult for me to teach him. In order to make him do his work, I had to use a reward, in this case, a sweet to lure him into working. Although this method is unfeasible, I hope that one day, he will think positively about studying.

The students are also very attention seeking. They would try to grab their classmates' attention by making loud noises and sprouting nonsense, and by doing so, disturb them from their studies. This hampers their learning progress and makes it difficult for us to teach them.

The students have a very short attention span and it is hard for them to listen for one minute straight. They would suddenly snap out and start looking around, not wanting to continue studying. They would talk to each other, play with their fingers and daydream, therefore hindering our teaching abilities.

In conclusion, the students are very difficult group to work with and we have to think of other methods to work around this.

Journal Entry 5A: Fifth Meeting (6 April 2012) – Noel Low

In my opinion, today’s session was quite a fruitful one as I was able to clearly identify the problems and I feel that our research is finally gaining focus.

My buddy, Wilson did not attend today’s session. It was not exactly a bad thing as I thus able to find out more about the other Da Qiao buddies. We first conducted the English diagnostic test for grammar. The median score was quite low and I found out that Zariman, who scored the lowest, randomly did all the questions and guessed all the answers although he knew how to do them, as I later found out while watching him to corrections. I think this reflects a bad attitude and also shows us how seriously he views these sessions or perhaps his academic work in general.

I was also able to personally experience some of the flaws that my other group members have pointed out in earlier journal entries, such as short attention span and too much distraction. As my buddy is usually the best-behaved and smartest in terms of math work, this was the first time I really understood what it was like to teach the other buddies. It is indeed frustrating when they shout the answers to each other while we are trying so hard to make them go through the learning process which involves making intelligent guesses and mistakes to learn from. Also, Zariman frequently gets up from his chair without our permission and walks around. This was quite hard to control but I managed to coax him to stop being distracted by offering sweets as an incentive. He was also quite demoralised by the thick worksheet and was not really willing to finish it.

Another problem within the whole group is that there is a slight language barrier between the mentors and the mentees. This is the result of the Da Qiao pupils speaking in Malay within themselves. I think this is not good as it creates a separation between them and us which is an obstacle that prevents us from forming a bond. It is also quite rude or selfish as it shows that they do not want to include us and it could be that they are making fun of us right under our noses. Also, they use Malay words in their English sentences when talking to us. This leads to a lack of comprehension for what they are saying and also has a negative impact on their English results, especially for the oral communication and grammar sections. I brought this up during today’s session and although they still continue speaking Malay sometimes, I think we are already a step forward and we can solve this issue in future sessions.

I view all the flaws we experience, as pointed out in the previous two paragraphs, as a part of our research process and I feel that it is our responsibility to correct the flaws by trying out various methods and finding out which one works best. For example, using sweets as an incentive to concentrate has proven quite effective. I hope that my group and I will continue working on this. Rather than giving up or just bearing with them, I hope that we can turn these deltas into pluses by either correcting them or changing our teaching methods to work based on their deltas.

For the last half hour, we played the ‘relay the message game’ which was planned by Ryuto. I honestly did not expect it to be very effective as the objectives of the game were not very clear. However, it turned out very well and I believe everyone who played(including me) enjoyed it. I think it was also quite an effective game in teaching the values as I could recognise some core values that they lack or have such as team spirit and interpersonal communication. I do not know if all of them will take home the values that we have tried to inculcate but I think that playing such games is still the most effective method of developing character and leadership. Plus, it was really fun J

To conclude for today, I think we are beginning to gain focus on our research objectives and it was a truly fruitful and fun session.