In West Sumbawa, one of six partner districts in West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), INOVASI is implementing an early grade literacy pilot with selected schools, students and educators. Pre-pilot planning began in 2017, with full pilot activities commencing in mid-2018. Using a short course modality, teachers are learning the basics of early grade literacy teaching and learning, including strategies for teaching reading and writing. INOVASI’s 2018 baseline data showed that 19% of West Sumbawa early grade students in grades one to three did not pass a basic literacy test – in grade one, 38% of students did not pass. Many more boys failed than girls, with 24% of boys failing compared to 12% of girls. For those students who did not pass, skills in syllable and word recognition were the weakest.
Yanti Sukmadewi, a grade two teacher at Fajar Karya primary school, shares her pilot experience so far.
On a sunny morning in Mujahiddin Village, West Sumbawa, school was just getting started for the day in Fajar Karya primary school. Yanti Sukmadewi, a grade two teacher, sat in front of her students, a small class of 10. She pulled out several sheets of blue paper that had been neatly cut into pieces.
Yanti, as she went by, showed the first sheet, which was a picture of the sun that she made herself. She asked her students to identify the image, then asked them to say what they know about the sun. The students answered in many different ways, sparking discussion.
This is how Yanti now introduces a new learning concept to her students in the classroom.
“We will learn about energy sources today, one of which is the sun. To introduce it, I use the image like this. We call it Big Book—or Mini Book if it’s smaller,” Yanti said.
Big Book is often used by Yanti in the classroom. It’s a favourite strategy for her students as well. Explains Yanti, the use of Big Book is very helpful in many ways. Children are more enthusiastic in following what she teaches. They look more interested in anything that is conveyed using pictures. In addition, the use of Big Book also hones the imagination of her students and encourages them to express their opinions.
“For example, when I show a picture of the sun, I ask them to tell me everything they know about the sun. They then scramble to answer. Their answers can vary. And everyone wants to answer,” she said.
Through the Big Book teaching strategy, Yanti can also identify students who are still having difficulties in reading.
Yanti said that she learned about Big Book for the first time when she participated in early grade literacy training conducted by INOVASI. The early grade literacy pilot (known locally as PELITA) aims to increase the capacity of early grade teachers in literacy through the use of creative teaching methods.
She has since participated in many pilot workshops, usually carried out in her local teacher working group (KKG). In West Sumbawa, besides Fajar Karya primary school where Yanti teaches, there are 17 other partner schools.
“I gained a lot of new knowledge during the training, especially about development of literacy. We were also taught how to make and organize literate classes,” she explained, indicating to her classroom now decorated with lively displays of learning media and student works.
In arranging the classroom, Yanti was not alone. Parents also participated. They arranged the class together, including painting the classroom walls.
After implementing some of the things she gained from the training, Yanti begun to see positive changes in her students’ learning. One of the most visible, according to her, is student interest in using new methods such as Big Book. In the future, Yanti also wants to involve children in making the Big Book.
“They will then draw something according to the theme of the lesson and then I will compile it into one whole story. I am sure that students will be more enthusiastic if they learn from the pictures they make themselves,” she said excitedly.
Thanks to her pilot experience, Yanti now realizes how important it is for a teacher to be creative, especially teachers working with early grade students like herself. The most important thing for her now is to engage students so that they pay attention during class and absorb new learning concepts more easily. Although this is a daily challenge, Yanti remains committed to using her new found skills, and is determined to keep innovating.