Where everyone contributes
||FROM TOP:Acharn Kumaree Chinawat and her team of newsletter editors check out the format of the Bangkok Post Chitralada students clarify their assignment with Acharn Chiraporn Wacharasindhu.
A student-produced newsletter
at Chitralada School provides an excellent example of what goes into the design
and execution of a successful project
Story and pictures by TERRY FREDRICKSON
Project work is an important
element in the government’s reform curriculum, but it is not always implemented
as the reformers may have intended. Too often, students are left almost totally
on their own with only the vaguest instructions – easy for the teacher perhaps,
but not an especially productive activity for the students.
When projects are implemented
intelligently, however, they can provide students with a remarkably stimulating
and fulfilling experience. Students learn teamwork, planning, execution and
they take away the pride of developing a tangible, quality product.
Recently, the learning post stumbled across an
especially impressive example. It began with a visit to the Bangkok Post from H.S.H. Princess
Siriwanwaree Mahidol and her Mattayom 5 classmates at Chitralada School. This
was no ordinary company tour. The class wanted a first-hand look at the
newspaper production process before taking on their own ambitious project of
producing a full-colour, tabloid-sized English-language newsletter with a print
run of 1,000 copies.
Subsequently invited to the
school for a session on news and feature writing, the learning post was able to gain some
useful insights into what it takes to carry off such a complex project
involving more than 50 students with diverse interests and varying English
Product of experience
If you are fortunate enough to
be admitted beyond the gates of the Chitralada Palace compound, you’ll find it
to be a bustling place indeed. A steady stream of people come and go throughout
the day, many of them associated with the dozens of Royally-initiated projects
Deep inside the compound beyond
the Occupations Training Center sponsored by Her Majesty the Queen, lies
Chitralada School. It was established in 1955 as a kindergarten by Thanpuying
Tasniya Punyagupta at the request of Their Majesties, King Bhumibhol and Queen
prominent of the eight children in that first class was H.R.H. Princess
Ubolratana, their three-year-old daughter. H.R.H. Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn
followed a year later and subsequently H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakkri Sirindhorn
and H.R.H. Princess Chulabhorn enrolled as well.
The school grew with the
children, eventually encompassing the full Thai government primary and
secondary programmes. Today, Chitralada enrolls close to 1500 students with a
teaching staff of approximately 200 permanent and part-time teachers.
The M.5 newsletter is the final
segment of a course entitled English rop
ruu. “Each term we do two or three themes,” explains Acharn Kumaree
Chinawat who team-teaches the course with Acharn Chiraporn Wacharasindhu.
“We start them on shorter
projects to get them used to the fact that they are working and producing
something. Then we get them into groups and get them work together as a team,
determining among themselves who is the leader and what kind of responsibility
each person has in contributing to the whole project,” Acharn Kumaree relates.
The approach comes from
experience, Archarn Chiraporn adds. “This is our third year. Actually, we
started about four years ago in another course in creative writing. That was
M6. The teacher who was responsible for that course left the course. She only
meant it for a one-off. But as a department we've always wanted to have
something like this.
Actually, in our English rop
ruu course, we had the theme “news as a media”. We used to do TV news and
print news, but we taught it as text and there was never a project to follow
up. Then we started to do a newsletter instead of just reading about it. I
think it's more fun and I think the students learn more – a lot more.”
Acharn Kumaree agrees
wholeheartedly. “They’re very actively involved. It’s much more active learning
than passive learning,” she says. “I think that at the very least they have
this sense of accomplishment that they’ve been able to produce a newsletter
which shows an ability with written language. For some it’s easy and for some
it’s not. But everybody gets to make a contribution. It’s a group effort. The
pride that they gain adds a lot to what they’ve learned.”
The key to almost any successful
project is having a clear purpose. Clearly, the production of a school
newsletter fills that requirement but at Chitralada they go a step further,
adding a specific target date and target audience.
“If you’re producing a
newsletter and you don’t have any readers, where’s the satisfaction?” Acharn
Kumaree asks rhetorically. “On graduation day, there’s probably about 500
parents who come to the ceremony. That’s a captive audience, one which will
definitely want to know what’s going on in school. So that’s why we choose that
day for distribution.”
that date was set, planning began in earnest. “We started off with meetings
among the three teachers involved,” Acharn Kumaree relates. “We’re lucky to
have Acharn Karina Suvpataya to help students with the computer layout. She
actually graduated in computer graphics, so she has the skills in that
department which we don’t have.”
work back from graduation day. That’s when the final product has to be out in
the market. We work out how long we need for publishing, when the students'
exam times are, what we have to do, how many students we have, how many groups
we should break them into and so on.”
“We have about 50 students in the
class and we’d like everybody to have some type of participation. We wanted to
divide the class so there would be seven or eight people per group, but because of the class
dynamics we allowed them to stay in their closely-knit groups. There are two
students to one story and in each group there has to be a news desk editor and
also a layout editor who works with Acharn Karina with the Pagemaker program.
The class divided
the newsletter into five topic areas: entertainment, social news, home (school)
news, sports and academics. One group was responsible for each, selecting
stories, doing the reporting and the writing. They were also responsible for any
photos that might accompany the story.
“They really do most of the work,” Acharn
Chiraporn says. “It’s only a one-credit course whereas the other
English course is one and a half credits, three hours. So there is quite a lot
for the credit.”
Much of the editing falls to the
teachers, however. “When they submit their articles, we go ahead and edit them
and then we have a final eye from Geoffrey Hattersley, an English teacher who
has been here for 13 or 14 years,” Acharn Kumaree explains. “He helps with
proofreading and the final copy.”
The quality of the student copy
varies, Archarn Chiraporn observes. “Sometimes we have to really redo the very weak
ones. But, in general the work is reasonable to quite good, really.”
Not surprisingly, the writing
reflects the students’ young age, Acharn Kumaree says..
“I would say the writing is
quite good, but it’s not mature. I think what we do is to add a bit of maturity
to the language.”
from the newsletter
Princess Siriwanwaree Mahidol
tries her hand at page layout during her visit to the Bangkok Post.|
Here, the student editors
explain how the name of the newsletter came about and what they learned from
This is the first newsletter of
our class (Chitralada 35). It is our first attempt at publishing. We had to
learn the process of making the newsletter from the beginning just like when we
started studying English. We first began with the ABC’s and D. CD of course
stand for our school ‘Chitralada’. This is why our newsletter is called ABCD.
Through every step of the process, we gained a great deal of first hand knowledge and
experience. Producing the newsletter gave us a taste of real life work. We had
to face and solve problems together. We also learned to be responsible for our
own individual tasks. We knew we had to do the best and put all our effort into
In perhaps the most eagerly read story in the newsletter, Panita
Sorasongkram detailed the romance between two young and recently-engaged
American teachers at the school. Obviously a good interviewer, Panita really
got the young man to open up, including this rendition of his proposal speech:
It was Monday night, January 12th at a restaurant, after we had finished our dinner:
I took a deep breath, my hands were sweaty, my heart
She: “Are you OK?”
I went into the speech I had practiced…
Me: “Baby, we’ve been together for almost four years now…”
Waiter: “Excuse me, sir would you like some dessert?”
Me: “Oh! no, thank you. No, thank you.”
She was looking at me with a ‘what’s-going-on look’ in her
Me: “We’ve been together almost four years now and all this
time I’ve grown to love you and cherish you…”
Waiter: “Excuse me, sir, would you like some dessert?”
Me: “No, it’s not a good time.”
I was very nervous and shaking.
Me: “I know that I want to spend
the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?”
Not surprisingly, the
newsletter had several stories involving the Royal Family. Thitaporn Boonsong
and Pat Sukonthaman sought out a person who knows one member of that family
On the occasion of H.R.H.
Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s 50th
birthday anniversary, we have taken the opportunity to interview Mr Chaowalit
Garagate, the cameraman to Her Royal Highness.
Mr Garagate feels extremely
honoured and delighted to have been chosen as her cameraman. “Her kindness and
the way she treats her staff makes it a great pleasure to work for her. She
always seems to be at ease and often jokes with her entourage. That helps me
not to be so nervous while working for her,” said Mr Chaowalit.
Of course, all the Chitralada
35 members know one member of the Royal Family very well themselves, their
classmate H.S.H. Princess Siriwanwaree Mahidol. Here, Patcharinruja
Juntaronanont and Putthipong Damrongphao detail the sporting side of the young
Athletes come from different
backgrounds – the sports person we interviewed is certainly very special.
H.S.H. Princess Siriwanwaree Mahidol kindly gave us an interview and spoke to
us about how she became interested in badminton.
Princess Siriwanwaree started
playing badminton when she was nine years old. She was inspired by seeing her
cousin playing badminton and it looked fun…. She started to take it seriously
when she was 13 years old. She used to practise with a Chinese coach but now
she practises with a Thai coach.
She first took part in a competition when she was 15 years old. She has continued winning many tournaments since then…Last summer she had an opportunity to train in China
with a former world champion. There were times when she felt exhausted and
discouraged. However, with support and encouragement from her friends, the
Princess was able to continue and improve her skills.
Read our other cover stories here.
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Last modified: March 23, 2004