|SUWAT-SUWAT LANG GOD:
TURNING TEACHERS INTO WRITERS
On July 4, 2009, Secretary Jesli A. Lapus announced that the use of the mother tongue as primary medium of instruction from pre-school up to at least grade three is now the policy of Department of Education, following the issuance of DepEd Order No. 74, series of 2009. The order nullifies the 35-year old bilingual directive laid down in the 1970s on English and Filipino as the only languages of instruction. Neither English nor Filipino is the first language (L1) of most Filipinos. Advocates of mother tongue-based multilingual education (MLE) argued that the policy will improve learning outcomes of the learners.
While this writer believes learners acquire reading skills more easily in their first language (L1) than in a second language (L2), the implementation of this policy poses great challenges and problems, especially to the teachers. It cannot be denied that there is a dearth of MLE materials that could be readily used for classroom instructions. This is because, in the Visayas region in general and in Cagayan de Oro in particular, creative writers in Binisayang Sinugboanon seldom write short stories for children. While classic Philippine tales can easily be translated into the language of the learners by the teachers themselves, still some Philippine tales sound foreign to specific learners.
This paper will present simple steps in writing short stories for children and in producing quality book of short stories for children using affordable materials, thereby enabling the teachers to become creative writer-author themselves.
The advocacy of Filipino educators for the government to adopt a system of learning that uses the mother tongue of the learners finally gained its reward last year. This came with the issuance by Education secretary Jesli A. Lapus of DepEd Order No. 74 on July 4, 2009. The order mandates that it is now the policy of the Department of Education to use the mother tongue as the primary medium of instruction from pre-school up to at least Grade Three.
The order nullifies the 35-year old bilingual directive laid down in the 1970s on English and Filipino as the only languages of instruction. This policy has been met with several debates as educators from the regions pushed for the use of their regional tongue as the medium of instruction. It is very clear and nobody can refute that neither English nor Filipino is the first language (L1) of most Filipinos.
Through the years, advocates of mother tongue-based multilingual education (MLE) argued that the policy will improve learning outcomes of the learners. And I believe is it true.
Dr. Leoncio P. Deriada, of UP in the Visayas, said: “The greatest evil in the Philippine educational system is the use of English as the language of instruction in the classroom. The greatness of the Filipino is preserved in the various languages of the country.”
“We must teach in the language of the learner,” he said in his keynote speech during the 2005 National Conference of the Philippine Center for International PEN held in Iloilo City on December 3, even as he challenged them to master their own languages before they master another’s.
Learning, studying, speaking and writing in the English language is not bad. It helps. It’s a good decoration of our own being! But, first thing first: We have to master our own language. Now! It is an assurance that we will not get lost in the abyss of cultural diversity. Otherwise, we will exist without identity, like a gypsy in the ocean of uncertainties, floating aimlessly.
DEARTH OF MLE MATERIALS
While this writer believes learners acquire reading skills more easily in their first language (L1) than in a second language (L2), the implementation of this new policy poses great challenges and problems, especially to the teachers.
It cannot be denied that there is a dearth of MLE materials that could be readily used for classroom instructions. Most of the books produced or published by the Department of Education are either in English or in Tagalog, leaving the teachers in the non-Tagalog regions greater tasks of securing materials for their classroom instructions. Worse, in our bookstores, popular or otherwise, there is no book for preschoolers written in Cebuano. If ever there is, it is designed for Sunday Schools in churches.
The lack of MLE materials in Cebuano for young learners is due to the fact that local writers do not write stories for young children. In the Visayas region in general and in Cagayan de Oro in particular, creative writers in Binisayang Sinugboanon seldom write short stories addressed to young learners. While classic Philippine tales or English fairy tales can easily be translated into the language of the learners by the teachers themselves, still some Philippine tales sound foreign to specific learners.
There is a need to produce MLE materials that use local places, heroes and culture. Young Kagay-anon learners should be taught about El Padre Kapitan, Datu Salangsang and other local heroes. Same with young Bol-anon learners who must be taught about Francisco Dagohoy or Anoy Datahan.
Teachers who want to write a short story for children using these heroes should conduct intensive research about the subjects. But since conducting research would entail enough time searching for materials in the library, this paper will provide or present some simple topics that can be used or developed as a plot for short stories for children.
WHAT IS CREATIVE WRITING?
Before going deeper in these simple topics, allow me to lay the dynamics of the creative writing process.
It has been known that Creative Writing is anything where the purpose is to express thoughts, feelings and emotions rather than to simply convey information.
It is considered to be any writing, fiction, poetry, or non-fiction, that goes outside the bounds of normal professional, journalistic, academic, and technical forms of literature.
Considering that Creative Writing is an art, it is but normal that it must conform to certain rules of the craft. Among these are: 1) Show, Don’t Tell; 2) The Use of Dialogue; 3) The use of sensory language; 4) The Use of Description; 5) The use of specific, concrete words.
A. Show, Don’t Tell
Anyone who’s ever written a short story or taken a freshman composition course has heard the words “show, don’t tell.” Those words can be frustrating. You might not know exactly what “show, don’t tell” means. Or you might believe that you are showing when you’re really telling.
While “telling” can be useful, even necessary, most people don’t realize how vital “showing” is to an effective story, essay, or even a blog post. Showing allows the reader to follow the author into the moment, to see and feel and experience what the author has experienced. Using the proper balance of showing and telling will make your writing more interesting and effective.
B. Use dialogue
One of the first things I talk to my students about when I have them write personal essays is to use dialogue. Dialogue allows the reader to experience a scene as if they were there. Instead of telling the reader your mom was angry, they can hear it for themselves through the dialogue of the character. Dialogue gives the readers a great deal about character, emotion and mood.
C. Use sensory language
In order for readers to fully experience what you’re writing about, they need to be able to see, hear, taste, smell and touch the world around them. Try to use language that incorporates several senses, not just sight.
D. Be descriptive
When we’re told to be more descriptive, it’s easy to go back to those things that we were taught. But being descriptive is more than just inserting a string of descriptive words. It’s carefully choosing the right words and using them sparingly to convey your meaning. When using description, it’s important not to overdo it. Otherwise, you can end up with what I call “police blotter” description.
E. Be specific, not vague
This is another one I’m constantly reminding my students about. Frequently, they will turn in essays with vague, fuzzy language. I’m not sure if they think this type of writing sounds more academic, but all it really does is frustrate the reader.
ELEMENTS OF A SHORT STORY
Any work of fiction, particularly short story, contains certain elements. These elements are very important as they give the story the capacity to mimic life. Among the vital elements of a short story are the following:
A. SETTING. It is the time and place where the story takes place. A story may be set in Tumpagon or in contemporary Cagayan de Oro City
B. SCENE. It refers to a specific place where the action happens. Characters move and act in specific places and each place is a scene. The character could be walking on the street to the market, then a scene in the market itself, and so on.
C. CHARACTER. Rust Hills defines story as “something that happens to someone.” That someone is called character, the most important element in a short story. Writers should make characters come to life; ‘human’ as possible, just like you and me.
D. CONFLICT. Conflict is what makes stories possible. A character that is perfectly happy will not need to act; a character in conflict will have to make choices and will have to act. That is what makes your story happen: character in action.
Conflict or tension may be external—outside the character like war, tsunami, earthquake. Conflict may also be internal—inside the character, that is his struggles as to choices s/he has to make, etc.
A story must deal, however, with internal conflict. Tsunami and war, notwithstanding, it is the reaction of the character to such events that counts.
Syd Fields said: “All drama is conflict. Without conflict you have no character; without character, you have no action; without action, you have no story…”
E. DIALOGUE. Dialogue is the ‘speaking part’ of the written work. We know that ff one person is talking, it is called monologue. And that if two or more people are talking, it is called dialogue.
Characters do not necessarily divulge everything; sometimes they are not straight forward and will insinuate or even lie in their dialogue.
There are numerous verbs you can use instead of s/he said. A character can retort, declare, whisper, exclaim, repeat, shout, etc
F. PLOT. Plot is defined as character in conflict in action. Plot is the sequence of events in the story. It is the shape of the story—beginning, middle, end.
G. POINT-OF-VIEW. POV is the technique in which the story is told, how the story is told; the way it is narrated.
FIRST PERSON POV—The writer uses “I” as the narrator of the story. Using this kind of POV gives a feeling of intimacy and direct involvement. In its strictest form, it is only what the narrator knows, hears, feels, remembers, observe, etc. that should be included in the story.
SECOND PERSON POV—The writer uses “You” as the narrator of the story. This is rarely used but you may come across it in experimental stories.
THIRD PERSON POV—The writer uses “S/he” as the narrator of the story. Using this kind of POV gives a more removed, second-hand account, unlike the FIRST PERSON POV that gives a feeling of a secret shared.
OMNISCIENT POV—In the Omniscient POV, the narrator is all-knowing and can get into the consciousness of any or all characters.
As you write stories for children, make sure that your sentences follow the KISS rule: Keep it short and simple. Also, stories for children should not be tragic.
-Weekend activities of the children
-Visit to local tourist destination/s or Museum
-Simple Science (caterpillar-cocoon-butterfly)
-Value of Friendship
MATERIALS FOR SIMPLE BOOK PRODUCTION