Tag Archives: teach

Today at FLO . . .

Friday, 9 September 2011

Hi Everyone,

In addition to the other dogs at FLO, there are now two puppies!!!!
Mo-mo, the larger, and Me-me, the smaller.
And, student teacher number one did a great job with the phonetics class!
 Yes, I feel so proud of her! She was nervous to do this on her own. “How do I draw this, auntie?” she asked holding up one of her self-made flash cards.
And, as you can see from the whiteboard, she managed perfectly well!
“Remember ‘word chunks.’ Students remember word chunks more easily than single words,” this auntie/teacher added.
And word chunks she created off the *top of her head. Yes, I like it too. Can you spot one?
“smiling face”
: )
And on that note, aloha
*Uh huh, I literally saw them bubbling over out of her head.

Some of My Thoughts about Teaching at FLO . . .

I’m finding that part of living in Cambodia is getting used to constant surprises. Yesterday (Wednesday), when I arrived at the 8 a.m. Gogo Loves English 1 class (after having filled-in for the director in lieu of a fulltime teacher and having taught *4-different classes a day on Monday and Tuesday), I expected to see **ST1 teaching the class.

First, I set my materials in the back on a desk and pulled out a storybook that I had with me. While I was waiting for ST1 to arrive, I read to the handful of Ss: reading it several times and asking all kinds of questions.
After several minutes, the best student in the class said, “Gogo Loves English One.” “Yes, Sokleap will be  coming to teach.” “No, no Sokleap.” “No?” “No, she’s school.” “She’s at school?” “Yes, she’s school.” “Okay,” I thought, “It looks like I’m teaching today.”
I pointed to the textbook and elicited the responses I wanted to discover where they were in the book. It was time for the 4th section, I gathered, the review. I conducted the review speaking as little as possible so that the students were the ones to talk and tell me, “What’s this?” “It’s an eraser.” “Can you fly?” “No, I can’t.” “I’m Susan Jane. What’s your name?” “I’m . . .”
Later in the day, when it was time for ST2’s class, I half expected that he wouldn’t show up either, but he did. (As he taught, I wrote quite a long list of suggestions and praises to him regarding his teaching. I’ll include them in a future glob entry. All in all, I think he’s doing quite well.) When I asked him about ST1, I said that I needed to know their schedule. “Oh, we have a schedule,” he said. “Yes, but no one told me the schedule.” “Oh,” he said as his face showed his understanding.
Only a few minutes later, ST1 showed up. “Sorry auntie!!!!! I had to go to school.” “Okay, will you be here to teach tomorrow?” I asked. “No,” she replied. “And on Friday?” I asked. “Yes,” she replied.
After some more back and forths, I surmised that she had to go to school (to register for next year’s classes) on Wednesday and Thursday. She assured me that she’d be present next week.
Okay, so this morning I was thinking to myself, “Should I go to the next section: Who’s she? Who’s he? (as in she’s my sister, she’s my mother, he’s my father, he’s my brother, etc.) or should I review the first 3 sections more?” I felt that I should review more. The 8 a.m. class is technically comprised of the “slower” learners. For the past few weeks, I’ve been working with a few of the Ss after ST1 teaches the official class. I started first with one darling girl who I wasn’t sure could read. She definitely knew the alphabet, but how to say the word that was formed using the alphabet? Hmm, I didn’t think so.
So one-by-one I went through the words on her “alphabet” page. First, I would simply point at the letters in the alphabet that comprised the word (which she knew only because she recognized the picture representing it, not because she could read it). She would say the letter. I would ask again. I did simple progressions until I hoped she was starting to see how the letters, when combined, formed the word. After several sessions of this, I could see that she was really starting to get it.
The word got out and my little “mini-class” grew.
: ) So it goes.
And now, to bring us back to today, “Hmm,” I thought, “How much have they really learned, and how much are they simply parroting, hoping that the word they yell out is in fact the word on the page?”
“Hi. I’m Susan Jane. What’s your name?” I said as I went around the room in a random pattern eliciting the appropriate responses. I continued going through the different “marker sentences” they’d learned: What’s this? It’s an eraser. What’s this? It’s an apple. What’s this? It’s a pencil.
I had a feeling that when the student teachers were teaching this section (and showing how nouns that start with a vowel use an rather than a), the students hadn’t really learned the vowels.
“What are vowels” I asked. Lots and lots of rumpled brows filled the room.
I wrote “vowels” on the whiteboard. “Oh . . .” I could see some of the Ss thinking.
“A!” one called out. “Yes, a,” I replied as I wrote an a on the WB. “And . . . ?”
And not too long later, the list was filled in: a, e, i, o, u.
I went around the room randomly asking the Ss to say the vowels (and deliberately leaving them written on the WB). After everyone confidently answered my question, I erased them from the WB.
Shocked expressions filled the room.
Again, I asked, “What are the vowels?”
And by golly, if they all didn’t manage to say them. By now, they’d heard “a, e, i, o, u” umpteen times. Yes, the real test will be when I ask them tomorrow. I’ll keep you posted.
I continued the review and decided to give them a little “test.” So often, the stronger Ss yell out the answers and don’t give the other Ss a chance to respond on their own.
“Sounds like you’re not controlling your class well, Susan Jane,” I can hear you say. Yes, at times it’s that, but most often it’s the culture of how the classes are run here. The Ss seem to really get excited when I mime, “Shhhh,” and show how I want them to be quiet so that the other student answers alone. They get quiet and look at me expectantly. “Will she/he be able to answer correctly?” I can see them thinking.
But to create that setting takes a conscious effort on my part.

Also, very often the Ss are mumbling the words that they’re learning; some mumble more loudly than others. This is a behavior I want to encourage; they’re practicing saying the words; they want to say the words correctly. They really do want to learn; it’s written all over their faces and even manifests itself in their bodies when they leave the class and bow to me as they return a pencil and say, “Thank you, teacher.”
I realized that I wanted to really know if they were learning this or not.
To ensure that they didn’t speak to one another and look at their books, I mimed putting their books in the desk. Next, I moved them around the room so that they were far apart from one another.
I then asked them to write 12 different somethings on the blank piece of paper that I’d given them. (I say somethings because it was partly single words and partly full sentences.) Of the 12 Ss, only one was able to write the sentence, “Can you sing” Yes, he left off the question mark. Seven were able to write, “I’m Gogo” yes, no period (or point, dot, stop, etc. as it is also called here). Seven did reasonably well. Five did not.
Okay, to be fair, I have to ask, “How would they have done if I had been able to mime the word (rather than simply say it and ask them to write it)? Would they have known the words then?” I’m not sure of the answer. That will take another session when I can be with them one-one-one.
And, maybe it’s not very important for them to be able to write the sentences: What’s your name?, Can you sing?, and Nice to meet you? Maybe it’s more important to simply be able to say them and use them with others. But now I know more clearly what they can and can’t do.
As I think about it now, I also wonder, “Why go through the book so quickly if most of the Ss aren’t really getting it? And, do they really need to ‘get’ it 100%, or do they simply need to get the ‘idea’ of it?” I’m not sure of the answers; I’m thinking out loud (and in print : ).
The questions (for the staff at FLO to ask themselves) are: “Do we want to simply go through the books for the sake of going through them? Or do we actually want to teach the Ss? Do we actually want the Ss to learn? And if we do want the Ss to learn, what’s the best way to assist them in their learning?”
Personally, I think the students at FLO could really benefit from taking classes taught by 2 to 3 ESL trained teachers who would work at FLO full-time.
Also, I think it would be much better for the teachers to go through the different sections more slowly. What to do about the few Ss who are faster learners and get it more quickly? Have supplemental material for them to do; they can continue to learn on their own at their own pace.
Or, if that isn’t an option, and FLO feels that it needs to keep to some kind of a schedule, enlist the help of older and more proficient FLO Ss to tutor the “slower” learners. I really think that the “slower” learners can learn if they’re given the special attention that they need. Just today, when I got the rest of the class to be quiet and listen, the first little girl that I began to work with one-on-one was able to answer and write the correct answer. She just needed a little more time.
Aloha for now,
*in addition to the two I teach in the afternoon
** student teacher one

Looking for CELTA or TOEFL trained volunteers for FLO

Future Light Orphanage

Hi Everyone,

Friday, September 16th will be my last day volunteer teaching at FLO (Future Light Orphanage). It would be so great if there was someone lined up to step into my shoes on the following Monday.

Do you know of anyone qualified and interested? In my dream scenario, the person would arrive sometime during my last week, so that I could show him/her the ropes.

How does it work when you volunteer here? You pay for your lodging and meals; currently, that rate is *$38 per day. They were willing to give me a 10% discount because of my qualification and length of stay (2-months). Rob Hail has told me that they can make further cuts if you’re willing to stay at least several months and sleep in a room with a fan and shared bath (rather than the a/c and private bath I have).

Why would it be nice to have a volunteer continue what I’ve started? Because the students are responding! They want to learn!

So, if you would spread this email around with friends who you think might be interested, I and all the people who love the children at FLO would be deeply appreciative. Visit: http://flo-cambodia.blogspot.com/ and  http://emailfosterparents.org/FLO.htm to learn more about FLO.



*Perhaps $38 per day seems like a lot to you, but they have a great number of expenses. Inflation is increasing in Cambodia everyday. The orphanage is located about 45-minutes outside the downtown Phnom Penh area, which adds to their cost in terms of transportation, fuel, supplies, etc.

Maybe you can find a sponsor who wants to contribute to a most valuable cause? I’ve been getting to know these students, and believe me, they are v e r y valuable human beings.

Excerpts from Week One’s Notes . . . okay, maybe a bit long for being just “excerpts.” This entry is for people interested in reading about teaching . . . for those others, perhaps it’s time to take a coffee break : )

My office/desk !
Monday, July 25, 2011 – First lesson of week one:           

Focus: Speaking (I’m not including that portion of the lesson in my glob entry) & Writing

Aim: for the Ss to write a letter to the teacher about themselves

The lesson was essentially the same for each class (Elementary and Intermediate) with adjustments made to make it appropriate to their skill level.

At the very beginning of the very first class, I gave them each a half-piece of white paper and showed them how I had folded it and written my name on the side. Earlier, I’d asked the manager of the school for colored markers (and he fortunately gave me a kit of colored pens). This worked out really well! Each student made a name card; I collected them with their writing book at the end of the class. (He also gave me new writing books for the students, which is also great; I can collect them at the end of class. This way, I know that they won’t lose them, and it will give a record of what they’ve done. Also, I keep the name card with them, which hopefully, will help me learn their names. Their names are very difficult!) . . . I also took a photo of each student holding their name card. This way I can look at the photo and hopefully learn their names with time! (It has been helpful. I made a word doc with 8 photos per page; I’ve printed them and made flashcards for myself with the “correct” pronunciation indicated on the back. No, I haven’t learned them ALL yet; there are 62 names to learn! But I’m “plugging away” as my Mom would  say.)

I started with drawing a mailbox on the WB (whiteboard). I then entered the classroom and mimed taking a letter out of the mailbox. I went on to tell them that this letter was to them and read the letter to them . . . they seemed to get excited about it. They got mail! This was a letter that I wrote to the students, a letter explaining how long I’ll be at FLO (eight weeks) and what we’ll be doing (focusing on speaking and writing).

(Later) I gave the E level students a copy of my letter with gaps to fill-in. I dictated the entire letter to the I level *Ss. It was appropriate for them. (I included this exercise for several reasons. 1. It gave them an example of a letter and what I wanted them to do. 2. It also gave me an opportunity to learn about their skill level.)

At the end of the class when I **played the “Busy everyday song” (track 86, Topic 22, Longman) for the I level Ss, it seemed kind of silly:            “Monday evening,

Ballet class

Tuesday evening,

Piano class

Wednesday evening,

Karate class

Thursday evening,

Swimming class

Friday evening,

Soccer practice

Saturday morning,

English class

Sunday morning,

No classes

I sleep late on Sunday!”

But then I got the idea for them to write: Monday evening _______ , Tuesday evening _____, plugging in whatever they do. It ended up being a very useful exercise. It helped me discover what they do in their “free-time.” They are always doing something!

Both classes were also able to write their own version of the chant/song though it was a little more difficult for the E **Ss, but still doable.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 – Second lesson of week one:

Aim: to learn to use the expression “I am going to” in conjunction with words of transportation and travel.

I was successful with both levels, however, the text I wrote was too difficult for the E level (I’ve since made the adjustment of writing separate stories/letters/whatever for the two different classes). When I realized it, I made adjustments on-the-spot, and I think it worked out fine. I broke the text down into sections and mimed, drew pictures, etc. to elicit the meaning. I think I was successful in conveying the meaning. I also did CCQs which seemed to really work. I had planned already on not doing the detailed reading section and true/false questions for the E level.

The Clarification/MFP section worked really well with the Elementary level students. It did was it was supposed to. It worked also for the Intermediate, though I didn’t need to elicit the meaning like I did for the Elementary Ss.

With both groups I used the CCQs, “Is this now?” No. I made a time-line which seemed to clearly show them that this is for a future action.

I printed pages 21 and 22 from Longman about Going Places. I taked this up on the wall; I didn’t really use it in the lesson since I only had one copy, but I did write out the phonemic spelling for the words included in their list. I made this into a game with 3 teams with the I Ss. Some of them seemed very familiar with phonemic spelling whereas others didn’t. I think it was a success in terms of giving them a fun opportunity to figure out what they meant.

Essentially the difference between the two classes was that the I lesson was a Receptive skills lesson plan with the students hearing and then reading the text first for gist, then scanning for specific information, and then a reading for detail for the true/false questions.

Whereas for the E Ss, it was more of a Text-based lesson plan where I created on the spot a controlled practice (I wrote sentences on the board with gaps that they were to fill-in) and a freer practice (the 2 chains of students asking each other what they were going to do).

For the lead-in (at the start of the class), I walked out of the room and came back in wearing a backpack. “I am going to take a trip. I want to travel. How can I travel?” I said. Then I elicited different forms of travel and wrote them on the board around the brainstorm sunshine circle. It was interesting how both levels knew a lot of words (the I, however, did know more, such as donkey.) But even though both groups knew this basic vocabulary, the E level did not know how to use it. This was part of why I hadn’t realized the great disparity in their comprehension. The E group simply needs to keep learning how to build sentences and use different tenses, etc. The I level seems to have the basics which they need to practice and refine. The pre-intermediate students have difficulty keeping up with the Intermediates, but they are closer in skill level to the I, however, than the E level students.

Thoughts on Thursday, July 28th, 2011

I had planned on doing a lesson using beach words and “What are you going to do?” “What can people do at the beach?” “What do you wear at the beach?” “Who do you see at the beach?” And then after asking them to list the answers to these (revealing one at a time) in pairs, then on the board, then “teaching” anything they don’t understand . . . I would give divide them into 5 groups of 5 or 6. Each student would pick a card would be either: I am a tourist, I am a lifeguard, I am  . . . Then they would speak with each other using these expressions.

But . . . as I was thinking about it last night in bed, I was realizing how disjointed their learning seems to be. They’ve memorized so many words, some expressions (I think). But they haven’t learned any variations. Also, when they learn an expression, statement, question, etc., it’s just with one pronoun (usually “I”), such as “What do you like to eat?” “I like to eat . . .” So if you were to ask them, “What does she like to eat?” they’re thrown for a loop.

I’ve decided that I’m going to do a different lesson today. I’m going to teach a lesson that makes sure they’re clear about the difference between the present simple and the present continuous. I want to be sure that they know how to use these two tenses before they start their “storybook” tomorrow. (The format for this lesson came from the last lesson I did at CELTA btw.)

Thursday, July 28th’s lesson with the Intermediate and pre-Intermediate students went very well. I realize now as I just glanced at what I wrote earlier, that I did kindof do what I intended (got them to talk about what goes on at the beach). I just prefaced it with an explanation of the use of present continuous (action in progress) with present simple (a habit, an ongoing behavior) in the CELTA style.

I opened by sitting on a chair flipping through a newspaper miming sipping coffee. I then read what I’d written about the teacher not being there . . . using present simple and present continuous.

Narrator: (E, I wrote a different version for I)

Where’s the teacher? The teacher always comes to class by foot at 5:45 p.m. every day. But today, the teacher’s not here? Where’s the teacher?

Teacher at the Café: 

I’m the teacher. Usually, I go to class at 5:45 p.m. every day. But today, I’m not at school. Where am I? I’m in a café. What am I doing? I’m drinking coffee. I’m sitting at a table drinking coffee. I’m also reading a newspaper.

I then did the CELTA thing of having a marker sentence for each tense. CCQs to make sure they understood. Drilled, (MFP), etc. It went well.

I then proceeded to do the controlled and freer practices. What the heck does that mean? The controlled practice were exercises I prepared where the Ss filled in the gaps. They did them individually at first, then checked their answers with their partner, and then there was wholeclass feedback with them writing the answers on the board.

For the freer practice, I divided them into 6-groups and handed out the little slips of paper I’d made saying: 1. a lifeguard, 2. a boat captain, 3. an ice cream seller 4. a tourist, 5. a fisherman (I realize that this is sexist, but I  went for simplicity here), 6. a kid playing.

I then proceeded to elicit the meaning for each one of these by asking CCQs and by drawing on the board. Then I asked how the different people would answer, “What do you do?” and “What are you doing?” going through them one-by-one. This was all very playful, yet I think they were understanding and learning.

Next came speaking in their group taking on one of these identities: asking each other questions, and using present continuous and present simple. There was lively discussion though I heard too much Cambodia. Then it just seemed right to ask them to please try and speak only English; that’s what I’m here for, I explained, to help you learn how to speak better English; you can speak Cambodia already. They really seemed to pay attention to this and promised very seriously (for 12-20 year olds : ) to try and speak only English.

The class ended with three different students coming up and writing a dialogue that they’d said within their group. It was a good example of being more “real” and playful with their language. Since they’d written a short dialogue, I asked the corresponding students to come up and read it; they did. It was good because one of the students is a shy girl who rarely wants to speak, but she did in this setting! That made me very happy to see (and hear).

Thursday, July 28th’s lesson with the Elementary students went very well! I anticipated the differences between the two classes much better, and the adjustments I’d planned worked. The only real difference was that when they were speaking in groups, I wrote some suggestions of what to ask on the board rather than simply, “What do you do?”, “What are you doing?”. For example, I suggested, “What color is your boat?”, “How big is your boat?”, “Is your ice cream good?”, etc. I think I got the point across that they can ask all kinds of questions. It was fun to see the understanding appear on their face after they had been scrunching up their faces with “Huh???”

Also, some of the students in the elementary level class had more difficulty understanding the difference between when to use present simple (a habit, such as I am a boat captain; I drive a boat every day) and present continuous (an action in progress, I am driving a boat now). I did much more repetition and asked more CCQs with the the elementary level class to ensure their understanding.

Most stories are told in the simple past tense, but I managed to find about 13-storybooks in the library that are told in the present tense. I’ll use those as models for the elementary level students. Now I need to write a sample story for each class. Today’s lesson will be task-based. I will be the native speaker talking when I read the example story, which is the model for their final activity.  (It ended up that I only did one lesson on Friday (E) due to all of the festivities. This was very fortuitous because it helped me realize that I needed to break that lesson down into even smaller bite-sized pieces. I’m going to repeat the lesson today with the E Ss and do it for the first time with the I Ss; I expect it to go much better.)

Administering the mostly oral test on Thursday, July 28th (with the younger E level Ss, this isn’t a class that I was technically teaching but rather one that I was assisting) it became incredibly apparent that the Ss have simply memorized sentences without really understanding the meaning. One example is when I asked the students (one-on-one) “What’s this?” while holding a pencil, many replied, “That’s my pencil.” “Yours?” I asked. They had no idea what I meant. (This supports my thoughts about creating situations for them where things are said in different ways . . . that’s one reason I’m on the search for fun games. This past Saturday in Phnom Penh I found a “Harry Potter” version of a Junior Monopoly game. That’s a start . . . !)



This entry is dedicated to precious Fido who left his bodily form 7-years ago on this very day, August 1, 2004.

So much has happened . . . !

But there’s just not time now to write about it all. I completed my third of eight practice teaching sessions this afternoon. Today’s was definitely the best. : ) I turned in my first written assignment this past Monday and am looking at a 13-page document that is the second written assignment; it’s due this Friday.

A rhythm to the school day has slowly emerged. Eighteen people are in the group. Morning sessions run from 9 a.m. to 12:40 p.m. with one of the three teachers presenting information regarding lesson plans, language systems, etc. They somehow manage to do it in an interesting way. Generally, they’re using the teaching methods that they want us to use.

Then, every afternoon around 1:45 p.m. the students begin to arrive. They come from all parts of the world: Thailand, Japan, Pakistan, Somalia, you name it! The 18 split up into three groups of 6. Two groups are currently teaching students at the intermediate level; one group is teaching more elementary level students. Next week we’ll switch so that we all have an opportunity to experience both levels. We’re each teaching two 40-minute classes per week (the first three weeks). The fourth and last week we’ll each teach two 60-minute classes. (I’m down to teach on the last day, Friday the 24th. Talk about coming down to the wire!)

So, that’s the deal pickle. I’m enjoying it, but I’ll admit that when we came across the sentence, “She’s looking forward to the end of the course” in one of our exercises the other day*, I had to chuckle to myself and say, “Well, yes, I too am enjoying it, but I’m also looking forward to the end of it.” What’s the saying? It’s not the destination; it’s the journey? Fortunately, this girl IS enjoying the journey.

Love to you all. Below are some shots of Bangkok life, which the school accurately calls “the charming chaos of your new environment.”



*We were making CCQs (concept checking questions) to see if they students understand the meaning of the underlined portion. This statement’s CCQs were: “Will she be happy when it is finished?” (Yes), “Is the course finished?” (No), “Does she often think about the end of the course?” (Yes is the “official” answer, but from where I’m sitting, there’s not time to think about anything but the course! : )

The dog days of Bangkok

Do you see what I see?

Found a park about 10-minutes away (by foot) from where I’m staying. : )

Soccer-like Volleyball (really fun to watch!)

A nice place to hang-out

Plenty to look at . . .

There are construction sites everywhere!

View from Sky train when enroute to school one day

Thank God for flowers !

First time to practice teach is today . . .


Vocabulary: phrasal verbs connect to family

grew up

look after

tell off (hah!)

carry on

get on with (we say get along in America . . .)

look up to

take after

Wish me luck!

Danke sehr, mahalo, merci bien, kapu kah (how it’s pronounced, don’t know how it’s spelled ; ~ )