Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Weekend in Paradise - Perth Paradise Resort in Sipalay

This post is originally posted on my other blog. 

Six hours away from Bacolod City lays a beautiful gem of Negros Occidental. The travel from the city of smiles to Perth Paradise Resort will be lengthy with towns and towns of sugarcane plantations in between. A far-flung town, Sipalay has its own unique beauty to offer. I am not really a beach bum, so for our term break, my friend and I decided to travel for the long weekend and stay at Perth. (There are many other attractions in Sipalay like the sugar beach, the caves, islets but of course, we opted for the mountain resort.)
Coming from Iloilo City, of course, Bacolod City will be our entry point.
From Iloilo City, head to the Fastcraft terminal at Lapuz, Iloilo City. Here’s what you have to prepare:
  1. Tricycle/taxi fare + terminal entrance fee (P 12.00)
  2. Weesam Express fare (roundtrip) P 380.00
When you arrive at Bacolod port, find a jeepney with the route Alijis. There are a couple of jeepneys and tricycles that wait for ferry passengers there, so you do not need to commute again from SM City to the terminal. (Be sure to confirm with the driver). They charge P20.00 per person.Tell the driver to drop you off Ceres South Terminal at Lopez- Jaena Street. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes, but if you are in doubt, ask the locals. In our case, screen shots from google maps had been handy (we thankfully weren’t lost in the city).
Be mindful that there are no direct buses going to Sipalay, so take the one with the route Hinoba-an. The six-hour trip (due to the unlimited stops of the non-aircon bus) will let you see the sugarcane plantations of Bago City, Hinigiran, Binalbagan, Himamaylan, Ilog and Cuayan.
Here’s what you have to prepare:
  1. Bus fare (aircon) P 238.00 (non-aircon) P 210.00
  2.  food, camera or mp3 player to accompany you during the long ride (or you cansleep – this doesn’t work for me when I am commuting, though).
Along the way.. here are some sights to expect: 
And just when you are nearing exhaustion…. tadaaaaaaa! You will be in Sipalay. That doesn’t end there, though.🙂
Get off at the Ceres terminal in Sipalay. There is a tricycle parking area next to the bus stop, so you can ask one of those guys to bring you to Perth. They chargeP100.00 for each passenger, one way. Since Perth is in a secluded area, be sure to get the contact number of the driver so he can pick you up from the resort whenever you are ready to go.
Good news: The drivers do not charge an extra fee for this.
The resort usually contacts the guests so they can arrange for the pick-up by their own tricycle for the same amount. However, you will have to get off before the terminal.
Expect a ride on the 3-kilometer paved and 1-kilometer rough road.
Arriving at Perth Mountain Resort, here is what you can see:
The entrance (reception/ dining area) 
Dining area
The view from the dining area of Perth Paradise Resort is great. It was raining when we arrived, so this can be more beautiful on a sunny day.
Since we are staying overnight, the resort did not charge us with the entrance and swimming pool fee. But for your reference, here are the rates:
Departing from Bacolod Ceres South Terminal at 10:00 AM, we arrived in Perth Paradise just before 5 PM. It was a rainy day and my friend and I were really hungry. They have their own restaurant that serves delicious meal at such a fair price.
It takes a while for the food to be ready. The servings of the dishes is good for 2 to 3 people, so, it is quite affordable though we would have loved it better if they have the more practical combo meals. We ended up bringing our excess food to our room upstairs..
Cabana Rooms 
Located just behind the reception/dining area, the cabana rooms are placed strategically for the guests to have a good view of the lagoon. Designed  to fulfill the bahay kubo feel, it is made of nipa and bamboo. It also has a small balcony.
What’s inside… 
  • 2 single mattress on the floor
  • Good for 2 persons (max: 3 persons – 200 for additional person)
  • Electric fan  
  • Common toilet and bathroom
  • P1000.00 (off season) or P1200.00 (peak season)
View from the Cabanas
There are three cabanas at Perth Paradise Resort. Perhaps, this is because the land area is small. The other rooms are found up the hill and the only way up and down is the plight of stairs. (My friend and I had a hard time going up to our room after dinner.)
These stairs lead you to the infinity pool with Perth Paradise Resort’s trademark view. It is in the same area where the bar and the standard rooms are located.
These day huts by the stairs can be rented at P500.00
Standard Rooms
Located right in front of the infinity pool, staying here offers the unobstructed view of the islets.
A peak inside the room (sorry for bags, we were really tired but excited)
  • 2 Single beds / matrimonial bed and a single bed
  • Good for 2, but can accommodate up to 4 persons (they charge additional P200 for extra guest and P200 for the mattress)
  • With TV and air-conditioner
  • Free breakfast for 2 persons
  • P2,000.00 (low season) or P 2, 500.00 (peak season)
View from the Standard Rooms
Early the next day, we opened our window and saw this…
Perth Paradise Resort also has a family room (check with the resort for the specific rate)
  • 2 matrimonial beds+ 2 extra beds
  • Can accommodate up to 6 persons
  • With TV, air conditioner, and kitchen
  • Free breakfast for 2 persons
  • P 4,500.00 (peak season) or P 4,000.00 (low season)

Magnificent View of  the Islets from Perth Paradise Resort

There is also a bar at the resort (by the poolside) managed by a nice and hospitable couple.
We wanted to go boating and island hopping but the weather was not so pleasant.  The water wasn’t as nice, too. So, we opted to swim and get soaked in the pool the whole morning.
On our way back to Bacolod City, we opted for the air-conditioned bus and was back in the city after about 5 hours (shorter than the way to Sipalay).
Perth Paradise Resort rates indicated here aren’t official. They are subject to change and for a more enjoyable trip, you are advised to call the resort for information. Call or text 09460590076.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

How to Correct Student Essays

*** This article I have written some years ago was originally published here. 

Essays are known to be the most widely used assessment of learning before multiple-choice tests were invented. Students are expected to exhibit learning by detailing answers to questions in prose.
How to Correct Student Essays
Even today, in the presence of exam types that are easier to check and grade, teachers still consider essay as one of the most reliable assessments of student learning.

Essay as a Significant Academic Measurement 
Essays have long been utilized to test students’ knowledge of a subject. This is because essays require students to exert effort and dig for deeper understanding to produce a sound answer to a prompt. In contrast with multiple-choice exams, students must make use of adequate set information to answer questions rather than just recalling or associating them with given choices. As support and proof are needed to justify answers, it also makes use of students’ schema. In addition, essays help teachers assess students’ ability to think critically.

Student Suffering from Writer's Block
Student Suffering from Writer's Block Essay as a Significant Academic Measurement
As essays leave room for expression of views, it is a good method to recognize the complexity of thought processes. Lastly, with writing a skill expected from almost all educated persons, essays challenge students to express their views in a grammatically and beautifully intertwined use of language.

Correcting Essays: Tips for Teachers 
Evaluating students' writing is one of the most challenging tasks a language teacher may face. Essays are helpful in challenging students to express views on a given subject and should not be graded based on any general system. Other than just purely assigning numbers or letters for grades, essays are supposedly assessed with greater understanding that students differ in their efforts and accomplishments.
Correcting Essays: Tips for Teachers
The following are the tips on how to correct student essays effectively.
  1. Read essays at least twice. When correcting essays, do not start grading the first time you read. It is best to scan first to understand the ideas the student wanted to convey. Upon getting the gist of the student’s work, it is easier to assess which parts of your performance expectations were met. The second time you read is the stage when you can start identifying communication failure in the composition. Often, what we feel was expressed by the student isn’t exactly what they mean to tell us. As a result, correcting students’ writing after the first time you read may result in mistakes in understanding what was meant, leading to improperly grading them afterward.
  2. Cover student’s name. Often times, we tend to be quite considerate when correcting or grading essays based on a student’s attitude in our classes. We can’t deny the fact that some students create good impressions and some don’t. When grading tests that do not require us to follow a specific list of right or wrong answers, we may be bias in correcting. To avoid this, it is best to fold the upper part of the essays to conceal the identity of the writers. Sometimes, teachers can even assign a number to a specific student in place of a name on the paper. With this, we can correct essays objectively and thus grade them fairly.
  3. Make use of rubrics. Recent development in education has paved way to grading designs for more subjective tests. In correcting student essays, it is best to grade and correct according to a specific standard. Because it separates and defines different performance levels expected from student output, rubrics aid teachers in giving precise ratings.

    Make use of rubrics
  4. When dealing with linguistically advanced students, a standardized rubric like those of SAT or TOEFL can be utilized. It is best, however, that a teacher designs rubrics for specific class or tasks. Remember that if the purpose of the essay is to describe, the focus of corrections will be on descriptions. Modify your rubrics to fit every kind of composition requirement with different expectations.
  5. Use editing marks. When assessing essays, do not attempt to write all your corrections and color your student paper with red marks. Studies say that students do not generally learn when they are bombarded with what they have done wrong. Additionally, marking every part of the essay takes too much of a teacher’s time. Avoid the temptation of proofreading your students’ essays for all types of errors.

    Use editing marks

    At the beginning of a term in your composition classes, it is advised that editing marks be introduced to students. This will make students discover for themselves the kind of mistakes committed and how to possibly correct them. Consequently, this can foster peer editing.
  6. Take note of students’ mistakes. Grading the papers after you have corrected them isn’t the last thing to do. A more conscientious teacher takes note of students’ most common mistakes. This list of things that challenges students can be taken up in class the next day. By starting with the errors, students will understand further why such mistake is committed. Alternately, the teacher must provide explanations on why some constructions are considered errors and what can students do to remedy them.

    Take note of students’ mistakes

    When a particular student commits the most mistakes at all times, the teacher should make the student consult, or have an assistant to help developing acceptable compositions. Keeping track of student’s mistakes can help teachers identify who among the class members needed extra attention and assistance.
  7. Include an end note. For a more traditional teacher, this might mean comments on the over-all writing performance of the student. For a more responsive one, this means formative comments. When correcting students’ essays, give honest and constructive comments by focusing on what was successfully applied or how much effort was visible in the composition. When end notes are non-offensive to students, they will serve as guides for achieving expectations. This gives them clear ideas on why a certain part is considered less acceptable and how they can do better. Be sure that end notes should serve as instruction not as a grading justification. To motivate your students, emphasize on what was accomplished rather than what was missed, and offer suggestions on how to improve their work.

    Include an end note

    Focus on what the students did right.
  8. Return assignments promptly. Marking and commenting on essays is crucial, but teachers have to return students’ essays promptly. When students still have the enthusiasm on the result of tasks, they are eager to know how they performed. Return students’ work and be sure to review the points most of them failed to follow. Provide examples that contrast both acceptable and less acceptable alternatives. When students have their essays on hand, it is easier for them to clarify the markings and the possible remedies.

    Return assignments promptly

    As you go along, students can identify their own mistakes and will find it easier to relate to the review of points. Consequently, they can take notes next to your markings and thus have lesser chances of committing the same mistake when doing the next task.
It is perhaps challenging to correct and grade essays on any course or discipline. Assignments have different goals and expectations. Generally, no matter how divergent a student’s response is to the prompt, it is still worth some points, unless it is proven to have been plagiarized. Remember that students’ efforts deserve merits.
Quite different from other types of tests, essays demand the teacher’s full attention to make sure that they are graded based on a standard set. It also requires teachers extra time to read, re-read, assess, and correct. Because this type of evaluation has long been considered subjective, many would think that grading might be based on how good a student’s image is to the teacher.

teachers are to practice being unbiased by concealing identities until after grading the papers. It is expected that compositions are to be graded based on a rubric which include style, ideas, organization and so on

Since it is quite tempting to look at the names of the writers while reading a very interesting or frustrating composition, teachers are to practice being unbiased by concealing identities until after grading the papers. It is expected that compositions are to be graded based on a rubric which include style, ideas, organization and so on.

Writing grades do not end the teacher’s role in developing students’ ability to write essays as they are expected to provide end notes, review points or monitor students’ progress individually. As a complex skill, writing an essay requires schema from many other subjects learned, and a responsive teacher can direct students on how to make use of these knowledge by expressing them in a logically accepted form.

How to Use Storytelling in Language Teaching

*** This article I have written some years ago was originally published here. 

Offering natural and ideal listening materials, storytelling in language classes is an effective tool which provides learners with necessary useful contexts. Considered one of the oldest techniques language teachers use, it continues to garnish language learning with colorful and interesting materials students enjoy the most. Naturally, language teachers and even parents have their own distinct styles which educators continually improve.
language teachers and even parents have their own distinct styles which educators continually improve
Ways of making the audience more captive to lessons is one thing teachers work on throughout their careers.

What is storytelling?
Storytelling is an art of using colorful words with some actions to reveal the elements of a story. Often done to bring joy and enjoyment, it subliminally gives wisdom to the audience. Stories often contain morals and a lesson for readers to learn. Since the use of images and actions are limited, storytelling compels the listeners to create their own mental image and expand on their interpretation of the topic. With the enjoyment it brings, retention of the message is enhanced.
What is storytelling?
Storytelling is an interactive art as it involves both the listeners and the storyteller. The way stories are told and the actions and facial expressions used by the storyteller enhance the story. Often involvement from the audience in encouraged, and it serves as a great opportunity for working on new vocabulary. It also takes many forms and inspired by daily activities that can teach lessons through the use of an easily understood sentence structures. Culturally speaking, it has been utilized to educate the young on the values of a social group they are in with the expectations that those shall be carried on to younger generations.

Why use storytelling
The use of storytelling in language teaching is an effective way of exposing students to the target language. It is an essential tool in conveying messages to students of diverse interests. Considered the oldest education practice, it has made passing of beliefs, traditions and appreciation of history to generations possible.
Why use storytelling
Here are some points supporting the use of storytelling in language classes:

1)  Can be integrated in the curriculum
With many subjects taught best by elaborating on examples, storytelling is an effective way to teach variety topics. Though mainly considered an essential part of language curriculum, storytelling can actually be used in teaching history, society, and the arts. Listening to stories helps inculcate values in the students’ minds, helping them become even more motivated, driven and inspired to achieve things by learning from the mistakes and victories of the characters.
Students Listening Attentivelty During a Language Class Listening Activity
Students Listening Attentivelty During a Language Class Listening Activity
Simple listing of information lessens the processing time for understanding of the general ideas, but storytelling makes information easily remembered. Storytelling in language teaching simulates real use of words and phrases.
2)  Caters to students of diverse backgrounds
Since storytelling is present in almost all cultures at any given time, it can help bridge cultural gaps in a diverse classroom. It also teaches cultural sensitivity by developing the students’ knowledge of their social roles and expectations. Telling stories from countries where your student came from creates awareness, deeper understanding, and appreciation of their differences. When students have deeper understanding of their individual backgrounds, creating a cooperative classroom with diverse cultures can be made easy.
Caters to students of diverse backgrounds
With cultural knowledge, it is easier to foster understanding on what was actually meant by a student during discussions as some cultures are direct but some indirect.
3)  Fosters understanding of the humankind
In the age of technology, economic race, and self-sufficiency, storytelling can help students understand the true essence of the human experience. Characters in the story are excellent sources of lessons for learning and building desirable behaviors and character a person needed in order to live fuller life. With the listeners’ emotional involvement, it can be utilized to teach not just language but the practices of a culture where that language is used.
Fosters understanding of the humankind
It exposes students to the kind of language use in a certain territory.
4)  Helps enhance listening skills
An interesting story keeps the students hooked. As they are eager to know the next part of the story, they do not only develop concentration but also sharpens listening skill. It helps students associate listening with getting information and understanding of the over-all contexts of stories.
Helps enhance listening skills
Since listening is considered an essential language skill that facilitates learning, storytelling opens the students’ perspective on the act and widens their opportunity to maximize learning.
5)  Improves imagination
Listening to stories stimulates thought processes. When teachers make use of storytelling, students are challenged to draw conclusions by creating images for characters as they are presented in the story. Judgment and inferences can often be based on the learners’ experiences, so they are likely to interpret stories by making use of their realities.
Improves imagination
Telling a story enables the listener to immerse himself into the plot and start seeing things from the perspective of the character. This helps them develop imagination on both life and linguistic experiences.
Make Storytelling Engaging: Creative Ways to Follow
Storytelling in classroomIt can never be denied that despite being in a language classroom, some students, especially younger ones, lack motivation to learn. Most find no meaning in acquiring a new language and eventually become non-achieving. The teacher then is tasked to critically choose stories that will not only encourage listening but language learning. When interest in a topic is aroused, attitudes towards learning the language are changed, making it enjoyable, meaningful and comprehensible to students.
Follow these steps to make storytelling more engaging for students:
1)  Choose the right material
Even a veteran storyteller needs to upgrade to new techniques, and eventually new materials that fit the interest of this generation. There is no generic formula of what is the perfect material for storytelling as it should be chosen based on the needs and interests of the audience. In most cases, we choose materials that we personally treasured and loved to listen to as kids. This would generally include fairy tales and folklore.
Choose the right material
With the availability of fresh story books in the market, teachers are provided with many choices. When these materials don’t seem to fit the kind of audience in class, giving old stories a fresh approach can do the job. Try modifying some elements of the story you love without dropping its original message. Better yet, ask students what they wanted to listen to for the storytelling sessions by making storybooks available in the classroom.
2)  Characterize the content
Bringing the characters in the story to life makes storytelling fun as it enables the audience to see, feel, and hear exactly what the character wanted them to. Remember that without emotion, stories become basically dead. It is then important that the teacher knows the stories by heart. When the teacher knows the content of the story and the message embedded in it, it is easier to characterize. Read and internalize the characters and practice them even just in front the mirror. Convey how the characters feel by making use of body language, gestures, facial expressions and tone of voice.
Characterize the content
When the character is angry, make the audience see and hear it. Know when to shift actions and voice to help the audience distinguish between characters. Making your content interesting help foster your students’ interest in the language.
3)  Maximize opportunities for literacy
Even the most reluctant reader or learner can be motivated to listen to an interesting story. Considered as one of the ways to address literacy, storytelling helps develop students’ competencies in all areas of the language by modeling oral skills, writing, and comprehension. Storytelling exposes the students to reading and listening, and post-storytelling activities help develop speaking and writing. Teachers who utilize storytelling should choose materials that fit the needs of the students and of the curriculum.
Maximize opportunities for literacy and use flashcards to drive vocabulary home to your students
These stories should provide variety of messages, often with pictures or flash cards, to help get the message across to solicit students’ attention. Storytelling is one effective method in transporting students back in time and history. This helps shape the way they see the world.
4)  Use props
As most children learn through visual representations, using props in storytelling sessions foster deeper understanding and appreciation of materials. Props help liven up the lines and hook the students making them concentrate more. Handy props are the most popular to use in classrooms. This can range from flowers, ball, doll, or a piece of cloth. The use of props in storytelling extends a child's attention span and increases their learning experiences.
Use props
Additionally, it makes lessons less boring and easy to remember. It is best to know, though, that props should be minimized to a level not distracting to students. When there is too much of them, students may be tempted to focus on them rather than to the story the teacher reads. The most widely used props are those that generate sounds for effect at a certain part of the story.
5)  Involve the students
As storytelling relies on the collaboration of both the teller and the audience, it is best practiced with student participation. Tell story the way that excites students to talk and interact. Involving students can be as simple as making them repeat some lines you wanted to emphasize. Alternately, you can check students’ comprehension by asking them to act out some parts of the story. For younger learners, this can even be done by animal sound reproductions. After telling the story, the teacher can ask students for the possible ending or solicit questions for other class members to answer.
Involve the students
Some students can even be assigned to alternately serve as co-tellers in the beginning of the storytelling sessions. For more advanced students, retelling the story in front of the class the next day can be practiced. Involving students in lessons do not only develop their cognitive skills but enhances confidence in speaking and motivation to learn.

Students’ experiences are best molded with descriptive and language skills development. When students enjoy learning, they are not only creating a collection of knowledge but are constantly looking for ways to know things that interest them. With their curiosity for learning comes their perspective of the world. Studies reveal that storytelling is an effective way for increasing the literacy level. This is because it enhances all the language skills- reading, listening, speaking and writing- all in one. Because storytelling is participatory in nature, students have greater exposure to language use.
Storytelling provides an environment of rich linguistic and cultural learning. For children, it serves as a meaningful way of modeling language use. In fact, most of early education curriculum focuses more on story-based lessons. When materials are properly chosen and with teachers equipped with skills to convey stories in a more engaging and interesting ways, meeting the objectives of literacy programs are easily achieved. Being able to facilitate development in comprehension, storytelling is a great way to start teaching language students to construct meanings.