‘The Earth Healers’By Chelo Banal-Formoso
Philippine Daily Inquirer
It is no great mystery how kids learn. Give them a good story and they will learn how to read, write, talk and listen. A good story is key in teaching the young about family, friendship and community, about what is right and what is wrong, about the rules of grammar and, well, life.
The story we recently serialized in this section, Cyan Abad-Jugo’s “Earth Healers,” was one such story. The author let her imagination take flight in a young boy’s adventure beneath the earth where the giants sleep with the gold.
The illustrations by Steph Bravo and the student activities we wrote for each chapter heightened the learning experience for the students of our 37 partner teachers whose energy and dedication assured us that our program was in good hands.
Free copies of the Inquirer, courtesy of Bench, were delivered to their schools for use by their students on the six Mondays that the series ran under the Bench-Inquirer in Education (IIE) Serial Reading Program.
This year, we welcomed first-time partner teachers from Cembo Elementary School (CES) and Hen. Pio del Pilar Elementary School in Makati City; Highway Hills Integrated School (HHIS) in Mandaluyong City; J. Zamora Elementary School (JZES) in Pandacan, Manila; Salapan Elementary School in San Juan; Old Balara Elementary School (OBES) in Quezon City; the nonprofit Erda Foundation in Tondo, Manila; and private schools Sienna College of Taytay and De La Salle-Canlubang (DLSU-Canlubang) in Laguna.
Some of the schools have been longtime partners, such as Cataning Elementary School in Balanga, Bataan; Isaac Lopez Integrated School (ILIS) in Mandaluyong City; Tuloy Sa Don Bosco in Alabang; Gabaldon Elementary School in Laoag, Ilocos Norte; Legarda Elementary School in Manila; as well as New Cabalan Elementary School and Nellie E. Brown Elementary School in Olongapo City.
A few schools were returnees for the second time, such as Kabayanan Elementary School and Pinaglabanan Elementary School in San Juan, E. Rodriguez Integrated School in Mandaluyong City, and Bubukal Elementary School in Sta. Cruz, Laguna.
According to the teachers, the students liked the genre, which was magic-realism. They were curious about how sleeping giants could cause an earthquake once awakened. But the teachers were careful to caution the kids that earthquakes, in reality, were caused by, for one, tectonic plate movements. Fortunately, Viva Carreon is also a Science teacher at HHIS.
The students connected with the main character, the young boy Jopi, whose courage saved the town from a deadly earthquake.
They enjoyed the engagement activities—from Reader’s Theater to role-playing to character interviews à la talk shows. The Dress-a-Character group activity was a riot in Marlyn Gerio’s class at Cataning Elementary School. The Character Report Card challenged the students in Analyn Mendoza’s class at Sienna College of Taytay. This time, the young learners had to grade the characters in the story.
The activity guides kept the kids engrossed. They even imagined possible endings for the mining town (sorry, kids, we need more time to read all the submissions).
The teachers themselves were delighted that the students were lively and more participative during the “Earth Healers” lessons. They noted how the story sparked the imagination of the students and the resulting creativity in performing assigned tasks.
In the five years since Bench first agreed to support this literacy project, the most creative outputs have come from Legarda Elementary School under teacher Amcy Esteban, Jose Magsaysay Elementary School (JMES) under the leadership of principal Imelda Ferrer and Nellie E. Brown Elementary School under the guidance of Metrobank outstanding teacher Eva Imingan.
This year, JMES did not participate, Ferrer having moved to Hen. Pio del Pilar Elementary School I (HPPES). As expected, HPPES submitted outstanding students’ work. But what took us by surprise this year were the wonderful dioramas created by teacher Leah Soriano-Bitangcol’s students over at DLSU-Canlubang and the various art produced by the students of Marnelli Bautista at Kabayanan Elementary School.
The children’s resourcefulness came out. “We could see the excitement of the students for the next chapter,” said the teachers.
The enthusiasm was contagious. Teachers Lea Arroyo (Tuloy), Eddilyn Geronimo (ILIS) and Mendoza (Sienna) used games as ice breakers. Dindin San Juan sang a song to her fourth graders at DLSU-Canlubang when we came to observe her class. Master teacher Angilina Bernardo used a colorful assortment of teacher-made material to make sure her students understood the story.
The teachers enjoyed the reading-writing-art connection. “I enjoyed reading the written outputs of my students about the link between the story and their social responsibility,” said one teacher. HPPES teacher Jessica Angeles focused on values in teaching cause and effect, citing examples of bad causes having bad effects and good causes having good effects. At Salapan Elementary School, Marrilour Bulfango suggested praying as a way of helping the community in times of danger.
There were challenges in teaching the series, of course, such as unlocking unfamiliar words, particularly for the students in the lower sections. In reading the story with the slow learners, the teacher needed to translate the story into Filipino.
The teachers also had to search for visuals—photos and videos—to give their students an idea of what was going in the mines. Teacher Marie Frances Masirag of OBES relied on photos, while Maria Noemi Bagayaua of CES showed a video of the destruction caused by an earthquake in Baguio. Rhea Sinigayan also played a video at ILIS.
Disruptions in the school calendar, caused by typhoons and holidays, also affected the timeline for the teaching of the story. Disruptions in the classroom were not tolerated, however. The teachers had specific rules relating to using the newspaper in the classroom.
Some teachers required the students to clip the story and make a big book out of it. “We might use the story again next year for a different batch of students,” said Marilyn Macalma, principal at CES in Makati. Some teachers asked the students to protect each copy of the newspaper with
a plastic envelope.
To make the program more effective, the teachers suggested the story be targeted to one grade level so the lesson plan could address exact grade level skills. They asked for more illustrations and shorter chapters. They also requested that the program run weeks ahead of the periodical exams. The questions in the activity guide should be more simplified. They recommended creating a blog or a group page exclusive for partner teachers for immediate feedback
The teachers talked about the possibility of syncing the program with the budget of work in the public schools. They also requested an earlier run of the series next year so it doesn’t conflict with the periodical examination schedule. Also, might the Department of Education consider awarding service credits to participating teachers, they asked.
And now, drum roll, please, for our other partner teachers who were not mentioned above but were equally, if not more, committed to our literacy program: Helen C. Alma, Caroline S. Andres, Marisol M. Cabales, John Antonio Daganta, Mae Heide S. Fabian, Abigail Marie T. Ferrer, Erma D. Guerrero, Nilda V. Legario, Niño Manaoag, Fe Aura Morales, Eufemia O. Murillo, Oliver N. Quiba, Marcela T. Rivera, Magdalena S. Rosopa, Marcelina G. Saculo, Delia V. Sahagun, Ryan Lorenzo Singson and Lorena I. Tolentino.