Tag Archives: teaching

For a moment, time stood still.

Magic shows itself in so many ways.

On this particular day, it came so unexpectedly. I picked up my two Kindergartners and even before we were out the gate, the one who tends to make a wild child seem calm, was living up to his reputation.

“You cannot be the leader because you’re not behaving. Samuel is now the leader.”

He then hung back and pouted as Samuel and I continued on, counting all the way to 100, with prompts from me whenever we got to a new set of ten (i.e. THIRTY, thirty-one, thirty-two, he’d continue, FORTY, forty-one, forty-two he’d then say, each time we made a shift in tens, a beat was dropped by him and then picked right back up, like he was simply making a stop so he could dosey-do his partner).

And as we approached our classroom (I pick up these boys from their regular classroom and walk what feels like about five football fields to my corner in a regular sized room shared by four part-time teachers) with the pouter still lagging far behind, I gave thanks that the idea had come to me to set up cardboard dividers so that each boy worked in his own space AND that I’d set out the number cards (1 to 10) and dot cards (also, 1 to 10) by each boy’s work area, so I could simply tell this first boy who was being a pleasure to work with to go to his chair and match the cards.

“No,” the other boy said as I asked him to also match his cards. He pushed the cards under the cardboard holding pen and gave his all to the topic of pouting.

“You can do it,” I said. “Which one has more dots? This one or that one?” And somehow his arm didn’t get the memo that he was on pouting and not cooperating duty, and the cards gradually started to be arranged in the correct order from smaller to larger.

“Very good! Now match them with the number cards.”

And by golly if that boy didn’t do.

But that’s not the miracle. The miracle was of such epic proportions that I didn’t see it coming.

In this little dance we performed together, I played the part of observer going from one boy to the other.

“Good job, I’m so proud of you. You got all the numbers right. Now, write out 1 to 10.”

The cooperative boy was maintaining his lead in terms of getting his work done, so he played this game a few times. Cards in order. Write.

“Great job!”

But . . . the pouter did manage to match them all correctly. Yeah! 🎉

“Great!,” I said thinking it was so amazing that he’d managed to stay in his seat long enough to pair the number cards to the dot cards. “Now, let’s do it one more time.”

And this time he struggled. Hmm, I thought to myself, maybe it was a fluke the first time.

He pondered, he rumpled his brow, he even rubbed his forehead, BUT he continued thinking, pondering, and that other hand that also hadn’t gotten the memo, shot out and put them all together in the correct order.

“Great! Now write the numbers 1 to 10.”

I gave him his clipboard and marker, stepping away to check on his classmate. When I returned, I found that this little boy who rarely sits longer than 3 seconds, was fully engaged in his activity. And not only was he writing the numbers, but he was writing the box that represented the card AND the card with the various number of dots on it.

A part of me wanted to say, “You only need to write the number;” but then the smart part of me, the part of me that takes a breath before speaking, the part of me that can just observe what’s going on without getting involved, pulled me back and said, “Whoa, down girl! He’s doing it how he needs to in order to learn it. Really learn it.”

Kay, I get it. So I watched. Took a step to the right and looked at the other boy who was also deep in concentration as he wrote his 1, 2, 3, 4 . . . with matching dots beside each other.

And now with a step to the left, I see that pouty boy is no longer pouting. Instead, he’s lost. Lost in the magic of numbers, writing, solving, figuring out.

Step to the right.

Still working.

To the left.

Licking his lips in concentration.

And I sat down and marveled at the silence that had reigned for at least three minutes, maybe four. And by the time they’d each finished, at least six minutes had gone by, maybe even seven.

The hush was so pronounced that the world shifted a bit on its axis. And then, the world literally stood still. Completely and unequivocally still. So still that Trump’s mouth couldn’t move nary an inch.

When they’d finished, I called out, “Great job boys! I’m really proud of you both.” And turning to the left to pouty boy who was no longer pouting but rather standing looking a bit disoriented by the concentration and focus he’d just experienced, I asked, “Do you think you can be the leader now?”

“Yes,” he nodded not making a sound, in a fog of such deep thinking that I think his world too had shifted off its axis.

And with a quiet I never would have thought possible, each boy lined up, placed his arms behind himself and walked away to re-join their class and have lunch.

“That’s great you only had one boy today,” my co-worker called out when I returned.

“Oh, I had both.”

“Really? It was so quiet that I figured little-lad-difficult wasn’t here today.”

“Oh, he was here. Come take a look at what they did today.”

And my co-worker walked over and stared in disbelief. She could feel the momentous moment that it was. Perhaps her world had shifted too, so startled did she look.

“I’d take a picture of that, if I were you.”

And I did. I took shots of both of the boys’ work. As a celebration of their success, of the quiet that had reigned for around perhaps 8 minutes, 10 or even 2. A silence that can’t really be measured in time but rather by gravity, for the earth’s pull lessened for those full moments as each of us, in our own way, took flight, loosed our footing but somehow stayed grounded all at the same time.


Success! Yeah!!! 🎉

FLO Graduation 2013

Jumping for Joy

FLO Graduation 2013

We were literally jumping with joy to see each other again. : )

FLO, Future Light Orphanage is located outside of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. In the early 1990s, after having lived in a refugee camp in Thailand for over ten years, Madame Phaly founded FLO. When telling her story, she wrote, “By the time I left Site 11, I was responsible for 91 children. Some were orphans, but others were children of parents who could not take care of them. They were the nucleus of what would become the Future Light Orphanage, and some are still with me today.”

Unfortunately, Madame Phaly died in November 2012. She is greatly missed, but her legacy lives on.

Two years ago I happily stumbled upon this wonderful organization and taught English language classes during the children’s summer break. The following year I felt the pull to return. And now, on my third visit to FLO, I realize that our lives are forever connected.

You can visit past posts from when I was teaching at FLO to learn more about that experience.

You can visit eGlobal Family and sign-up to be a e-foster parent.

You can form a connection with a place like none other.

FLO is a global family. A community born from one woman’s generous and courageous spirit. There’s room in her and everyone’s heart for YOU too.

The Day Rob, Founder of eGlobal, Arrived at FLO . . .

August 2011

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

The power goes out almost every day at FLO . . .

Hi Everyone,
We just had class outside because the power was off . . . it goes off a lot. Normally, we just ignore it (the staff usually goes outside and takes a break), but today in the 5:45 p.m. class, we couldn’t see! It was getting dark, and the lesson I’d planned relied heavily on using the whiteboard. (They were going to rewrite their stories using the correction guide; it went really well with the 3 p.m. Intermediate level class. While the Ss were writing, I was writing many of their errors, which I’d “collected” while marking their stories, on the WB. We then went through them one-by-one and made the corrections. It was a really good class because they were all very attentive; I think using their errors really helped. I could tell that they wanted to know WHY it was wrong? And how do we correct it? The question was written, almost literally, all over their faces. : ) Yes, that’s what we’ll do tomorrow in the 5:45 p.m. class. Or ?
“Hmm, what to do?” I thought to myself as I dropped my many *accoutrement on my desk.
“Grab your chair and let’s go outside,” I said within seconds. What were we going to do? Honestly, at that moment, I had no idea, but I knew it would come to me. And come to me it did.
It ended up that I had booklets for each of the Ss with exercises on homonyms. I’d given the original to the director last week asking if I could pretty-please-with-ice-cream-on-top have copies of the first three exercises. But . . . I also told him that I’d really love it if he could copy the entire book. So when he delivered a box to me yesterday, and I opened it to find enough copies of the ENTIRE book for ALL my Ss in the afternoon classes, he had the biggest grin on his face.
Uh huh, simple pleasures really do bring the most satisfaction. : )
And, this 5:45 p.m. class really gets beat up with all the “changes” that happen now and then. Changes as in people coming and going, some of whom need to be sent off in style (Kai and Sean yesterday, imagine 200+ Ss forming two lines, hugging K & S, waving goodbye . . . yes, crying . . .and of course, we needed to be there too ! ), students who need to rehearse for a dance concert for a very important someone, the power going off and it’s just too dark to have class, etcetera, etcetera. So I’ve already been adjusting my lessons for this particular class quite frequently. I do my best to cover what I really want to cover with them.
Today’s lesson was really fun because the kids were into doing something “different.” And by golly if those homonym booklets didn’t come in handy!
I used the backside of a piece of scrap paper for my impromptu “whiteboard.” One-by-one I wrote word pairs like week/weak, ate/eight, read/red, reed/read.
Ahhhh, I can hear the collective gasp from many of you (around the world) as you remember what a homonym is. : )
Yes, homonyms are words that sound the same but have different meanings.
We went through the pairs. Yes, CELTA followers, I used CCQs. It was quite fun to jump up and growl like a big animal that can walk on its hind legs, take a sock off to show my naked foot, etcetera, etcetera. (*)
And as class ended and they left, I received too many “Thank you teacher!”s to count. : ) And the hugs? Also, too many to count.
Sigh. I’ve fallen in love with these kids.
And I leave FLO in 2-weeks and 4-days . . . the wheel of time seems to be gathering speed. I can literally see it bumping and rolling down the calendar hill.
Yes, I’m savoring every moment that remains.
And with that, it’s time to say goodbye. I’m quite late for din-din.
Love and light to you all,

p.s. and yes, as soon as the Ss left, the lights came back on : )
and that’s how I was able to do the post . . .

* backpack, bag of the Ss notebooks, box of gift homonym booklets . . .
Mahalo Glenn for the real definition. : )
(*) Twenty points to whoever guesses first what those two words are. ; )

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.

Week 4 teaching shots at FLO shots . . .

At full attention!
One of the two classes of younger Ss learning from “Gogo Loves English 1”
Wednesday the lesson plan focus was speaking : ) The Ss really got into being someone else and meeting “new” people. The young lady taking a photo was participating in a photography class that day. A former videographer/editor/photographer is traveling the globe with a NGO (non-government organization) teaching photography classes to children like those at FLO.
An eGlobal volunteer’s wife bought 3 puppets for FLO. They came in handy during this particular lesson with the younger Ss. And, the kids l o v e d them! Please tell her thanks, George!
Watching Sesame Street’s “Elmo’s World.”

More pix to follow . . .

Friday’s “Game” day at FLO, Future Light Orphanage

Hi Everyone!
Greetings from the Future Light Orphanage, FLO. We had a rocking party last night! The kids competed in several fun events: singing, drawing, dancing, and “individual” talents (such as doing a backbend so that the kid’s mouth landed perfectly next to a dragon fruit; he proceeded to take bite after bite until all the fruit was gone; then he bit it and stood up with the peel in his mouth. Yep, it was awesome! And my friend from the beach won a prize for dancing in the style of a Korean pop star; he nailed it! Boy, can that kid move.).
After the competition there was popcorn for every one and lots and lots of dancing. And oh, I got to be a judge in the contest. So much fun! When they introduced Sean, he started dancing. Then when my name was announced, I jumped up and started shaking to the music with Sean. The kids went wild! “There’s teacher rocking her socks off!” they said (or something like that in Khmer).
Today 100+ kids and some adults are heading to the water park. I’ve been told that it’s an injury attorney’s dream, as in lots of accidents could happen and they could make lots of dough. But since this is Cambodia, I expect the kids will be a little more in the “take care of yourself” mode. They also watch out for and help each other; it’s lovely to watch.
But last night and today’s activities are not the main points of today’s post (hmm, but they do have a play theme also . . . :~). I wanted to write about last Friday’s lessons.
Before I came to FLO, I had ideas about how I’d plan each week’s lessons. The first day of the week I would introduce the topic and grammar points. Perhaps one day would be a “story” day. One day a “game” day.
Friday could be a review day (a tip from Gerald, a teacher in Bangkok).
I also initially thought that I was going to sketch out my curriculum for the 8-weeks I’d be at FLO, as in what I wanted to cover. But as I thought about it more, I realized that the students had probably been taught “colors” a zillion times, “How are you?” a ka-gillion times, etc. (Last night at the party which Boo Rob–Rob Hail, founder of eGlobal—dreamed up for the FLO kids, I met an American man who’s been volunteering for the past 4-years at another orphanage in Cambodia. He says the kids are good at “volunteer-speak,” i.e. “How are you”,? “How many sisters and brothers do you have?”, etc. But not things like, “What did you do last Saturday?” So my gut feeling was on track. ; ~).
For these different reasons, I decided to wait and design my classes based on the Ss’ needs and weaknesses (keeping in mind the director’s request that I focus on speaking and writing). What I learned is that the Ss can write pretty well, but they almost never have an opportunity to speak (they’re not encouraged to speak in their state school). Bearing that in mind, my weekly outline for the older kids is as follows:
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays lessons are speaking focused. (after introducing a grammar point, or new vocabulary, etc.) Tuesdays and Thursday are writing focused.
It also became apparent that in the FLO culture, Fridays’ lessons were more game-based. Or, in one class they simply watch movies (whether they really are appropriate for kids or not). I decided to incorporate that philosophy into my weekly plan. Hence, Friday became “game” day.
This past Friday, I decided to show a Sesame Street DVD (Elmo’s World: jackets, hats, and shoes : ) in the two classes with younger children; they loved it! I wrote on the board the key words and also drew pictures of these items. Some of the more motivated students wrote all this down as they watched. I didn’t instruct them in any way really. I wanted to watch and see how they reacted. (Remember, I’m learning too.)
But for the older Ss, I wanted to do some activities that involved speaking more specifically focused on the past week’s theme (goals and dreams). “How to do that?” I thought. So I dreamed up a “game” for them, and it worked great!!!! I was so jazzed when they got into it and actually used the target language for specific points.
So . . . what follows is my lesson plan outline. I realize that my last entry might have made it seem like I haven’t been making lesson plans; I have been. I’m just not typing them into the CELTA-approved-form®; it’s just too time consuming for the moment. I’m using Word and organizing them by folders, i.e. week 1, week 2, etc.
And with that, SJ’s lesson plan for the two classes with older Ss this past Friday, August 19, 2011:
“Game” day
Focus: Speaking
Aim: to review the marker sentences: I’d like to (work with computers). I want to (be a pilot). I don’t want to . . . I hope to . . . I’ll . . ., and the new vocabular from Thursday’s lesson.
Materials: marker pens, list of words to listen for, red card, flash cards of people (a simpler batch for Elem. level Ss)
I’d like to . . .
I want to . . .
I don’t want to . . .
I hope to . . .
I’ll learn . . .
In fact,
There were/there are . . . ,
often (is this once? no),
sometimes (every day? no),
practically disappear (almost and mimed hiding)
one day
traveling salesman,
each month
when no one was looking
When she (awoke)
one day, lives on the mountatin top still,
I’d like to . . .
I’ll . . .
for now
every day
save money
guide (tour guide)
I hope to . . .
My dream is to . . .
Game One: 3 Ss sit in the front of the class. They are given one of the *flashcards from Wednesday’s speaking lesson. There is a moderator (teacher for this lesson until they were familiar with the game) who asks them questions about themselves (based on the flashcard they received). They get a point for each time they use one of the phrases or word chunks used this week in a lesson. There will be two students assigned to “judge” the participants; their job is to listen for the phrase/word chunks. Each judge will have a list of the words to listen for. The score keepers will have a red card to hold up each time the student uses one of the phrases/word chunks. Note: I made to myself right after class. This game went really well! Especially with the Int. level Ss. At the end they loved asking me questions. But the Elem. level took a little longer to get it; it was good practice and all got a chance to speak. Rob stopped by during the second class and gave me two hats to give as prizes; they went to the boy and girl who really outshone the rest. It was cool that it naturally happened that the “judges” selected them.
Played this one game the entire time; it was a really good way to review “I’d like to, I hope to,” etc.
Game Two: Do what I say, not what I do.  
Game Three: Knot Game 
(These were back up games which we didn’t play. The previous weeks the Ss really loved game #2; it’s a variation of Simon Says and works well with older and more advanced Ss.)
And with that, I’ll sign off. Hope you’re all well and enjoying the end of August. Happy early Birthday to my friend, Deb.
p.s. lots of new photos to follow . . .
*Flash cards. One set came for a Pre-Intermediate Review book I have; the second set I created. They had a drawing of a male or female and gave basic information such as: occupation, whery they came from, where they lived, how many brothers and sisters (ut oh, that ubiquitous theme!). I went further and asked them to tell me what they liked to do. Some of my friends were in class this past week (in the second set of card I made). Who? Katie Beer, Bobby Downs (sorry for the misspelling Bobbee, but I didn’t want to confuse matters more than necessary : ), Jocelyne Champagne. : ) It was kind of fun to hear them say, “I’m so and so . . .”

Working with Student Teachers at FLO

Friday’s “game” day ! They l o v e Hangman. Yep, Hangman is still around.

This is a very, very long entry about working with student teachers at FLO. I realize that it’s very, very long (even that’s long : ), but there are some of you who I know are really interested in the teaching aspect of this journey. This is for you . . .

And for everyone else, the next posting will simply be shots taken this past week while teaching (Thanks Rick for taking them!) or hanging-out in the library.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Working with the two FLO students who are teaching classes has been a challenging proposition. Why? Well, first of all, it was unclear to me what they were doing, what their objectives were. Communication at FLO is often a muddled affair.
The first day (of my first week) I went to class at 8 a.m., and  ST1 (student teacher number 1) was simply writing words in Khmer and English on the board. The Ss were copying these words in both languages in their books. What I was able to gather from her was that they were reviewing these words (sports and foods) for a test that she was going to give the Ss on that Saturday. I then gathered that I was to write a test that she was going to administer. We met one morning after class in the library and came up with test for the Ss that was mostly oral. “How many Ss are there ST1?” 20 “How many minutes do we have to give the test?” 60 “So how much time can we take with each student?” Three minutes per student was the agreed upon response. I anticipated that we needed to keep the other Ss occupied while we gave the test. Fortunately, I had a few games, which did the job partially; I really could have used more and better games for their skill level. It ended up taking longer than 3-minutes per student, so I became more efficient. “Call up the next student please,” I asked when the previous student was at the board writing his or her answer to the few written questions. I would go ahead and start asking the next student the list of questions we had prepared, “How are you?” “I’m fine and you.” etc. ST1 and I then had a nice rhythm working together and were able to test all the Ss in our allotted time.
Working with ST1 was more pleasant initially than working with ST2. Why? Well, ST1was more open to me conducting the class differently. She seemed genuinely curious to see how I could review words without simply writing them on the board. I would draw the mango to elicit the word after asking “*What is this?”
What I found, however, was that the Ss were simply memorizing the words or few word chunks without really understanding the meaning. For example, in the oral test I asked the Ss one-by-one, “What is this?” while holding up my pencil. “That is my pencil” was a frequent reply. “Your pencil?” I asked. They had no idea what I meant. A few of the Ss did respond, however, with “That is a pencil” or simply “pencil.”
In ST2’s class, it was clear that he was in charge. He was not curious as to how I could conduct a review. Since I was stepping into an existing class, I didn’t feel comfortable taking over. However, I did ask him if I could conduct the review differently. “Okay,” he replied in the manner of a polite 20-year old boy, shrugging and generally looking disinterested. I then proceeded to draw the different activities or foods on the board to elicit the meaning. I also put the Ss in pairs and/or in the chain-line to ask the basic questions, “What do you like to play?” “I like to play football/volleyball/baseball.” None of them seemed to really ever get “baseball.” I’m not sure why it was included in their list because it is not (as far as I know) in their world.
From what I could gather by asking these two student teachers and the director, the test we administered on the Thursday of my first week was to determine if the Ss were able to move up in to Gogo Loves 2 or the first Gogo Loves Basic.
When my third week began (August 8, 2011), I was not sure if there were going to be classes or not. When I asked the director about them, he said that he wasn’t sure yet because he hadn’t been able to discuss it with the student teachers. From my conversations with him, it appeared as if I was to simply assist them. As things have developed, I am actually to teach the classes and help teach the student teachers how to teach.
Monday morning on the 8th, I went to ST1’s 8 a.m. class to see if it was going to take place. No one was there. Okay, I guess it’s not meeting.
At 1 p.m. I went to the room to confirm that ST2 was not teaching only to find that he was there with the Ss. Okay, it looks like there is going to be class, I thought to myself. I had brought along a DVD of songs that the director had given to me previously (to have on hand so that I could do something interesting with the Ss if they were there). I showed it to ST2; he looked at me with confusion. “Do you have a plan for the day” I asked. “Review the words from last week,” he replied. Okay, I said and sat down and waited for him to begin. For the next 10 minutes he simply spoke randomly in Khmer and the Ss were just at their desks talking amongst themselves.
ST2’s mannerisms and demeanor in all the classes made it clear that I was the guest, and he was the teacher. He really wasn’t open to conducting the class differently than what he was used to. So on this particular day, I decided to get up and leave since there was nothing for me to do. I felt incredibly frustrated that these Ss’ time was being wasted. I had a fun DVD in my backpack that would at least have given them something engaging to listen to and something for me to work with in terms of teaching new vocabulary, reviewing vocabulary, etc. I got up to leave and then I saw Rob Hail in the adjacent computer room. I expressed my frustration with him and he approached ST2 and asked what he was doing. ST2 really didn’t have an answer, but Rob kept pressing. Eventually the student teacher pulled out of his bag the test that ST1 and I had designed to give the Ss during my first week at FLO (ST2 and I also gave this same test to his Ss).
“Is this what you’re working on?” Rob asked. “Yes,” ST2 replied.
Rob left and I decided to stay and try again. “Okay, you want to review these words?”
“Yes,” he replied. I went to the whiteboard to draw these words and elicit them like I did the first week, but then I stopped myself. It just felt too boring to do exactly the same thing. I wanted to engage the Ss more, to come up with something where they would be involved.
“Everyone stand up. Let’s make a circle.” I said. It took a bit of miming, gesturing, etc. to get them to understand that we were going to do something different. Eventually we (ST2 assisted) manage to get them in a circle. I then began to ask the Ss some of the different questions, which had been on the test. But rather than simply ask the question, I adapted it so that they they asked another student the same question. I kept the pace up so that more and more Ss had the chance to participate. I did this with the questions: “What do you like to eat?” and “What do you like to play?” I then took it a step further and wrote on the board: 1. “What do you like to play?”, 2. “I like to play . . .”, 3. “She/he likes to play.” I wanted them to respond to how the other students answered. It took several tries, but they did begin to understand. Some of the Ss knew the difference between he and she; some did not. But most of them were able to answer in that way.
After the class ST2 said, “They do not know . .” He meant that they did not know the words “he” and “she.” “But they were learning them,” I replied, “This is how they learn them, by using them.” I had pointed to a boy for “he” and a girl for “she.”
Leaving my Elementary level class (different from these classes, these are the classes that I’m completely responsible for) Monday evening, I noticed ST1 in the computer room. I went and spoke with her to find out when she was going to start the class again. “Tomorrow,” she replied. “Do you have a plan?” I asked. She looked at me fairly blankly. “What do you plan to do?” I asked again. “Review.” “Review the words from the week before?” “Yes,” she replied. “I have DVDs of music and songs that we can use for reviewing. Would you like to do that?” “Yes,” she eagerly replied. Ah, I thought to myself, she’s open to doing things differently. Good.
So today I showed up at the 8 a.m. class with the DVD Kidsongs: A Day with the Animals. The class is small (4 boys and 4 girls), so it was easy for them to gather around my computer. I started at the beginning and went through about four songs stopping periodically. For example, the first song was BINGO (as in BINGO was his name o). “Is this about a cat?” I asked. “No!” they replied. “Is this about an elephant?” “No!!! A dog” one student replied.
And I continued, stopping the DVD periodically to ask, “What’s this?” while touching my ear, leg, etc. I wrote the word on the board as feedback. I also used the poster on the wall of animals to ask, “Does its ears hang low?” etc.
One of the songs was “Little Bo-Peep.” I drew a girl on the WB with sheep all around her. I then mimed how she went to sleep and then lost her sheep. Then when the Ss watched this particular music video again, I stopped it to elicit their response and see if they understood. The overall vocabulary was beyond their skill level, but I focused on just a few elements. I think they were able to understand some, and mostly, I think it was a start in terms of introducing them to new concepts and not just the standard practice of listing words on the WB and writing them in their book.
To wrap up the class, I went to the WB (whiteboard) and went through all the different words we had encountered asking, miming, drawing, etc. in order to see if they remembered the words. All in all, it felt like an effective class for the Ss.
Later in the day I was in the office and had the opportunity to speak with the director and Rob. They told me that I am in fact “in charge” of these classes and am to teach (or at least provide an example) the student teachers a different way of teaching. I mentioned that ST2 seemed hesitant to hand over the reins, but they assured me that yes, I am to take charge. When I then went to the 1 p.m. class, I went with more clarity about what my role is. I brought the same Kidsongs: A Day with the Animal DVD to use for reviewing the vocabulary of animals, etc.

The classroom, however, was being occupied by Ben and Molly (Ben founded EGBOK Mission, Everything’s Gonna Be Ok—check it out on the web; it’s a very worthwhile mission . . . they assist FLO kids who go to school in Siem Reap to study hotel management and similar things), so we needed to meet somewhere else. I suggested the dancing pavilion. “Yeah!” the kids yelled as they ran across the courtyard.

Under the open-air pavilion, I tried to have the Ss gather around my computer, but it just didn’t work. There were too many of them to be able to see the screen (and the noise from the **funeral was overriding the audio). Okay, I thought to myself, think of something else. I proceeded to start the game “I spy.” (I first made sure they knew what the word “spy” meant using the word to see rather than spy and asking CCQs . . . ). One of the things I learned from CELTA is that the activities need to be changed frequently for very young students (I don’t the ages of these Ss, but they are young, maybe between 5 and 7), so I switched to “Hokey Pokey.” I had played this with them earlier (in my first week), so they were slightly familiar with it. I found that they needed to be really close to me so that I could drill the sentence and confirm that they said it correctly (remember, the funeral was going on : ). This is really a good activity for teaching body parts and the difference between left and right. Though they don’t feel confident enough yet to initiate a verse, they did start staying the “left elbow” etc. and “in” and “out.”

To make it really clear that they got left and right, I lined them up and made sure each student raised their left arm. I formed the letter ***“L” with my left hand. I was able to show them the letter “L” on the wall because of the sign on the wall about the Worldwide Delegation. “How do you spell left?” I asked. Conveniently all the letters were on the wall and I could point them out for feedback. (They knew how to spell left already. This is part of the pattern I’m seeing; they’ve been drilled to learn all this vocabulary; they just don’t know how or when to use it.)

When I could tell they were getting restless I asked them to crawl back up on the platform and to pull out their notebooks and pens (some of the Ss did not have pens so I shared some). Earlier when I had been asking “Where is . . . ?” I had written it on a piece of paper (in lieu of the WB since we were outside).  I had noticed that they didn’t seem to know question words like “Where?” and “What?” So I made it easy and asked, “Where is ST2?” They giggled at my ineptitude as they pointed at him (he was only 2-feet away from me). But I could tell that they didn’t really “get” what the word “where” was all about, so I continued it with “Where do you sleep?” I also drew a bed; they knew the word bed. “Where is your bed?” and they all pointed towards their living quarters. I continued this with “Where are two elephants/a flower,” etc. until I could see that most of them were getting it. One little girl was just bubbling over with her new-found knowledge. She literally wrote a list of about 10 “Where is . . . ?” sentences complete with all the correct words. (She first left out “the” but happily understood that it needed to be included too. : )

I expanded on the “Where is?” to “Where are?” I’ve noticed that when they’re taught phrases, it’s very one-dimensional. I want to do my best to expand it so that they’re actually learning some useful things. Not just “I like to eat mango,” but also “She likes to eat mango” etc.

I then wrapped it up with a “test” of the difference between left and right. And I asked how to spell them. It will be interesting to see if they remember these two words the next time we play “Hokey Pokey.”

A few other observations: 1) They’ve learned “How do you spell?” so when I asked, “How do you write?” they looked at me with blank faces. 2) They’ve learned big and small, but did not know the word little.

There are a few more little tidbits relating to working with the student teachers. On Monday after the 1 p.m. class I was surprised to see Ss entering for a different class. “Don’t you have the 2 p.m. English class also ST2?” It took a while, but eventually I managed to pull out of him that the class he had before is now not taking place. Further inquiries with both student teachers revealed that as of next week, there will be new class arrangements. Some will be studying Gogo Loves English 1 and some will be studying #2. Or, maybe that’s the basic class instead? They don’t know yet, and neither do I. So the rest of the week with the two classes I will continue to use the DVD resources if possible (with the smaller class) and play games that help introduce new word chunks, as well as review what they’ve already studied.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Today with ST1’s class we watched the animal DVD again stopping after the song for an explanation with mime, drawing pictures, etc.

The first song was about birds (Rockin’ Robin).

I asked, “What is this song about?” First, I needed to elicit the meaning of song. Then came “about.” CCQs: Are there elephants? No. Are there dogs? No. What are there? “Birds,” one student replied.

This class had not been introduced to “Where is?” and “Where are?” so this song was a good segue into these questions. I elicited the meaning of those questions, modeled and drilled them and then extended them to other things in the room and at FLO. I also added, “How many?” as in “How many boys are here?” and “How many girls are here?” This brought: “There are 3 boys here.”

By the end of the class, I had this on the board for them to write in their notebooks:

How many?

How many boys?

There are 3 boys. There are 4 girls.

There are 7 students here. (I mimed for them to count, first the number of boys and then the number of girls. Then when I came back to it I extended it to all the students; they counted the 7 students).

Where is?

Where is the chair? (one)

The chair is here.

Where are the fish? (1+)

The fish are in the water. The fish are in the ocean.

To elicit water and ocean I drew on the WB.

There were many more examples than these on the WB that I asked and they replied. This short list was simply a recap for them to put in their notebooks.

Since this week is a technically a week of review for them and their “official” class begins next week (when the director decides what that will be and how it will be grouped according to students, as in how many, who, etc., then I will have a better idea of what their long-term aims are), I am using these few days as an opportunity to experiment with CELTA methodology and principles. While I was attending the CELTA course in Bangkok this past June, our focus was on adult ESL education. It is different with children for so many reasons. Their attention spans are much shorter; the activities need to be switched around frequently, etc. This is a completely new experience for me, and I want to do my best for these Ss. I feel that this is such a wonderful opportunity for all of us. I am learning, and I am also providing them with a different type of learning, a more student-centered learning experience. I’m doing my best to keep my teacher talking time (ttt) to a minimum and their student talking time (stt) to a maximum.

The timing of being here is absolutely perfect. Rob Hail arrived at the end of my first week, and he is focusing on improving FLO’s English and Computer programs. Since he’s been here, I’ve had more clarity on my role due to his vision and connection with the school. As a volunteer and guest, I didn’t feel comfortable “asking” for certain things. Rob is one of the main financial contributors and visionaries of the school and has a completely different role than me. One of his main objectives at this time is to hire a consultant to advise them on how to create an appropriate and rigid curriculum. The Cambodian gentleman who runs the vocational program wanted to add more to his function. “No,” Rob said, “We need to improve the existing English and Computer programs to make them top-notch. If the FLO kids have a really high skill level in English and with Computers, they can do any vocation.” I agree with Rob. From what I’ve seen in my short time in Cambodia, being able to speak English well opens so many doors for Cambodians. I imagine that it’s the same for computer skills in today’s world.

Rob agrees that the timing of my 8-week stay at FLO is absolutely perfect. He says that I’m teaching my classes differently than any other volunteers have (with the one exception of a lady named Donna, she apparently made noticeable contributions as well). For those of you who have been following “Susan Jane’s Journey,” you know how the flow or timing of everthing has been working out very naturally . . . : )

At the graduation program this past Sunday morning when 20 FLO students graduated from high school and 22 graduated from the advanced education program (2 from the University with a degree in Accounting and 20 from different vocational programs), it was so inspiring to see how FLO’s teachers, administrators and volunteers envision this orphanage (and its educational program) as the foundation for creating a better Cambodia. They teach the kids to always say thank you; they require the children to contribute to the school’s operation (as in the Ss are cleaning their rooms, helping to prepare meals for themselves and the guests, they are sweeping the grounds, watering the flowers, etc.) They are teaching the children to be good, responsible people who will make the world a better place, and specifically, will make Cambodia a better place. After the incredibly high percentage of educated Cambodians were killed by the Khmer Rouge (over the course of 4-years: 1975-1979), the country has been floundering without its intellectual and cultural base. ****Nuon Phaly who founded FLO has used her knowledge of Cambodian dance and silk making to educate the students and not lose these valuable cultural skills.

I highly recommend that you read Phaly’s Story. You can find it here: http://emailfosterparents.org/PhalyAutobio.htm. You may want to copy and paste it into a word document (like I did); it’s 26-pages long. Be forewarned that she writes about some horrific experiences with the Khmer Rouge. Her writing is very eloquent and touching; she’s an extraordinary person.

Back to my notes on teaching with the student teachers . . .

On Wednesday this past week, we had access again to our classroom for the second of these two classes with the student teachers and much younger Ss (whose English level is very, very basic). I decided to continue the theme of “Where is?” (or rather “Where’s?” as we were taught to teach it in the CELTA course since that is how native English speakers really talk) and “Where are?” I did the same thing today (Thursday, August 11th) in the morning class. I’ve also added “How many?” It was satisfying to see them starting to really understand the concepts and be able to use them.

For some of the Ss, the ravine they have to jump across in order to change from saying “Where is? to “Where’s?” is quite wide. One little boy kept trying and trying. First, he was able to say, “Where’s is the . . .?” And then lo and behold, he yelled out a, “Where’s?”

I questioned myself as to whether I should persevere or just let them say, “Where is?” But as I thought about it, I decided, “Yes, it’s appropriate.” These Ss are just beginning to learn English; they’re very young, and I think they can adapt to the English that we native speakers really speak. Also, I found out yesterday that they rarely ever speak English in their state school (when they’re first learning). Apparently, it’s quite common for Ss to make fun of other Ss’ pronunciation. As I understand it, they’re only expected to begin speaking English when their writing and reading skills have reached an appropriate level of proficiency. I found this out AFTER I told my two afternoon (and more advanced) classes that it’s okay to make mistakes. They looked at me with BIG eyes. Yes, it’s okay! That’s how you learn!

As far as teaching the younger children goes . . .


Well, this is completely new for me. When I graduated from The University of Tennessee with a B.S. in Education eons ago, it was for secondary education, not elementary education. I received a certificate for teaching 7th to 12th graders physical and foreign language education. (Yes, I agree, those two things just go together! : ) And some of you may remember that I did teach younger children at the local YWCA for a bit. It was a very basic level gymnastics/tumbling class. I managed to find a way to successfully muddle my way through each lesson; I made sure each student learned one skill that they could accomplish and show the adoring audience after class. And who was that adoring audience? Their parents, of course! I asked them to stay out of the class during the lesson; it was just too distracting for the small toddlers; I think they were about 4-years old. Hmm, that was in 1986, they would be about 29-years old now. If one of you is reading this, give me a shout!

Okay, I digress.

Point is, this is new for me. Next week I think I’ll have a book to work from (for these 2 classes of younger Ss, I have 4 classes total per day), but I want to enhance the lessons with activities that really engage the Ss. Fortunately, there are some resources here to draw from. One of my biggest challenges may be getting the student teachers to simply not speak so much Khmer to the young Ss. It’s distracting when they do that (unless it’s for a very specific reason when I’ve asked for their assistance). Why? Because it draws the Ss attention away the lesson, from what we’re doing.

In the one class, I could see that they were starting to get the concept of “Where’s the . . .?” when the student teacher began a blow-by-blow college dissertation on what  “Where’s the . . .?” means. Looks like I need to come up with some very helpful things for the student teachers to do during the class so that they too are actively participating . . . Any ideas from the vast peanut gallery spread literally around the world?”

And with that, I’ll sign-off.

For those of you who read this far, mahalo.


*Realizing now that I should have been asking, “What’s this?” rather than “What IS this?”

**funeral – for t h r e e days there was non-stop music, chanting, drumming from an adjacent property . . . it dominated the air waves for t h r e e days.

***I first learned about the “L” trick and holding up your left arm and making an “L” with your hand in highschool. The joke running around at the time was that the football coach had to do this exact same exercise with the players to make sure they knew the difference between left and right.

**** Nuon Phaly, family name first, her given name is pronounced Polly.