Great End of Semester Event!

As we put the bows on yet another semester at Thida, our teammates from Thida, Noonoy, and the International School had a wonderful dinner provided by Peter!  A big shout out to him (and I’ll assume Jeab as well, 5555) for creating a very different but delicious menu.  We scarfed down on ribs, salad, coleslaw, and bread.  While Mother Nature did her part by bringing the rain, our group wouldn’t be stopped to eat, drink, and discuss upcoming holiday plans (for Thida and STIS).

Although we all maintain very different social and professional schedules, our events are always a fun way to reconnect with others who may only see a little of during the school year.  It’s pretty cool to see the camaraderie and genuine friendships among the group.  I can tell a lot of our new teachers have grown by leaps and bounds over the course of the year and it’s great for them to have an opportunity to celebrate their successes and pass along information to others.  That’s what it’s really all about, frankly.  I’ve been proud of our team this year and how smoothly things have gone on the Thida side.  That’s a testament to their hard work and understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish and why we do things the way we do.

To top off a great meal, many of us ventured out into the rain-filled night to a local spot to enjoy some drinks.  A lot of full bellies, a lot of laughs, and surely quite the hangovers for some!  It was an awesome evening–again, a very thoughtful and nice gesture to put on such a spread!  I think we were at 100% attendance, which was great to see!

Currently, Thida just broke for the October holiday.  We’re back to school on the 29th, so a lot of time to explore and wander.  I’m slated to go to Cambodia and check out a few places there.  It’s pretty cheap to fly around, so I only booked my ticket there, but not back yet!  It should be a good time!

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P6 English Camp

Recently I had the chance to work at the P6 English camp.  Our theme was based around Sahathai shopping mall, so each of our themes modeled an element found there.  Stations such as the cinema, food court, stationary store, department store, and grocery store were represented.  In the morning, the kids rotated stations.  Each station consisted of 30 minutes each.  My station was ‘at the food court,’ which was an idea that needed some explaining.  Unlike a lot of food courts I’ve seen, I needed to explain to the kids about how they prepay their card before selecting their food (and are reimbursed if they have extra).  Pre-teaching words like prepay, cashier, beverage, and certainly was necessary, but I was impressed with how quickly the kids picked up the material.

After walking them through the dialogue, the kids practiced in pairs–luckily I had some volunteers present at the front of the group.  After our lunch break, we headed over to Sahathai and the students practiced their sentences.  I thought it was going to be a very long afternoon (about 360 kids!), but it was a very smooth running show.  I was lucky enough to have a Thai teacher assistant to help mark the students’ performance.  Each student was marked on a 1-10 scale.  I was impressed with how many kids were able to repeat the dialogue without looking at their sheets!  That definitely received 10 points.

I did see some of my old MEP students–Jan, Hugo, Ice, and Pok.  It was cool to see how much they’ve grown and how they’re developing not only as students but as kids in general.  In my mind they’re still P3 or P4, but hard to believe this group is advancing to the next part of their life.

I thought the afternoon idea was a good one and I’d like to see it implemented at other camps.  It added some practical use to what the kids learned in the morning and hopefully reinforced their knowledge or helped them understand the process of ordering at the food court in English.

That was the last camp for the semester before we break for the October holiday.  The next camp on the books is the Thai Teacher camp in mid January.  Also, there will be a P1, P2, and P5 camp at some point!

Recently in P6

I’ll say teaching P6 has definitely sharpened my overall knowledge, especially in science and math.  I’m sure I did things like finding the area of a quadrant, but that information was long lost from my memory.  August has come and gone and we’re now in the home stretch until our October holiday, so here’s a recap of what’s happening in P6.

In math, we worked with percentages and applying them to word problems.  This was definitely a challenging unit for the kids based upon the technical language.  We had a lot of time to work with these items and I found drawing a model for the kids helped them the most.  We just finished a unit on finding area/perimeter of circles, semicircles, and quadrants.  A lot of formulas, which I found I needed to have the kids practice in their notebooks and write on the board for their quiz.  They definitely improved in this area, so that was great to see!

In science, we’ve moved on from our body systems to talking about growing and how medicine and drugs can affect our bodies.  We were able to watch some cool videos and learn how cigarettes and alcohol can be harmful for our bodies.  I wanted to do a poster making activity, but due to time constraints, we moved on to ecosystems.  This has been a quick study, as we did a lot of these things in P5.  I think it was most effective taking the kids outside so they could see first hand what producers, consumers, and decomposers are around school.

Finally, in English we’ve done a few group projects.  The language in the book is a bit simple for them and it’s boring for everybody to have me lecture, so a group directions project was our latest venture.  The kids picked a place, told directions, and discussed what they do at different places around Surat.  They really love these projects and it’s a good way for me to gauge their learning and teamwork skills.  I’ve taken their previously learned language about shopping and directions to introduce synonyms and antonyms.  Their vocabulary book is a bit simple for them, so we typically make these spelling lists via online resources.  It’s been a nice way to add something new this year.

Overall, it’s been a good year and hard to believe it’s almost at the semester break time.  I’ve seen a lot of growth and personality develop from my kids during this time as well!  Here are some recent pics from class:

May in P6

We’ve hit the ground running pretty well in P6 so far.  Our math study has consisted of a lot of fractions–a concept that’s been covered at length in P5.  Luckily, the students were sharp with these ideas and we’ve been able to move through things rapidly.  So far, we’ve worked with multiplying and dividing fractions, fractions and whole numbers, and finding ‘how many’ fraction pieces are in a particular number.  Of course, word problems are a bit challenging, but it gives some much needed English to the class math session.  Our next chapter covers decimals, which the students should have sufficient background to build upon.  My goal is to get through these early chapters so we have enough time for the more complicated ones and can spent the necessary (or more) time.

In science we reviewed the scientific method.  My goal is to do more projects and experiments with them, so I thought it was important to take a few days and examine some basic steps.  They enjoyed watching some YouTube videos about classroom safety and how experiments can go wrong, which definitely helped to reinforce the safety aspect!  We got our first grade of the term with a spelling quiz grade and it got the kids out of the gate nicely.  Currently, we’re working on different body systems–we’re wrapping up the skeletal system in the next few days and moving to the muscular system in June.  Having an easy, built in example of human joints and things makes the learning a lot easier for the kids.  We’ve been able to have a lot of quick, easy games to further their understanding.

Finally, in English, we’ve been working a lot on possessive forms and progressive tenses.  The start to the chapter was pretty simple for the kids, but as we progressive and mix in past and present tenses, it can challenge the children.  We’re coming close to the end of the first chapter, but I like to make sure I get at least one score for listening, reading, writing, speaking, and spelling.  The more grades the better in my opinion.  Chapter two deals with ‘Weekend Fun,’ so I’m assuming they’ll be well versed in different fun weekend activities!

The first few weeks have flown by with not too many breaks, but as we get into June and July, there is Sports Day, various holidays, and other events, so best to keep the foot on the gas now and get as much accomplished while we can!

Back to School!

Well, it’s finally here–the new school year!  It was a long, fun break that saw many beloved teachers leave their Thida posts and a great group of new teachers come in.  They’ve all hit the ground running and are doing a great job so far!  Teaching our MEP 1 section is Matt, P2 is Shea, while Scott and Hannah take the P4 classrooms.  Finally, Ben and Megan round out the P5 and P6 classrooms, respectively.

Of course, getting the new school year going involves a lot–simply getting to school and the classroom, of course!  The new teachers have done a great job absorbing all the material, working to make their classes fun and engaging, and being friendly to the students.

For myself, I’m on my last turn with my current class.  I’ve seen them grow from little ones in P3 all the way to P6!  It’s been fun to see their development, personality, and unique style grow over the past few years.  The P6 material is definitely material that needs review before entering the classroom, but it’s sharpened my knowledge and anticipation of questions, problems, and areas of trouble.

The P6 students are off to a great start.  We had our first math quiz on multiplying fractions followed up with a scientific method spelling quiz.  While the school year is still brand new, the goal is always to get through as much material as possible during the first semester.  Sports Day, various holidays, and other events always pop up, so it’s important to grind it out now while there is still time!

I’m looking forward to a great year and think it’s going to be a fun and memorable one!

Eye Care in Surat Thani

Originally posted on Tar Heel Voyager

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It is an unfortunate truth that I am blind as a bat wearing a blindfold without my contacts or glasses so it was necessary I properly prepare when moving to Thailand.  I made sure to bring a year’s supply of contacts and my glasses just in case but eventually my stock ran out and my specs were scratched.  It was time I visited the an eye care center for the first time in Thailand.  Rest assured my fellow sightless travelers as eye care in this Southeast Asia hotspot is a breeze to find (barring the language barrier).

Contacts are amazingly simple to obtain, comparatively inexpensive, and well made.  Walk into any eye care center and you can pick up one or as many pair as you like.  I use monthly contacts which cost roughly ฿180 ($5) per pair.  I’ll be bringing another year’s supply home with me as the price is far to good of a deal to pass up.

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Glasses are also cheap and simple to obtain, although it can be a bit tough getting to appropriate lenses (such as automatic, scratch resistant, etc.) because of the language barrier.  If you already have the frame you can buy new lenses for as little as ฿450 ($13).  The frames are priced in a variety of ways.  The more local brands can go for less than ฿3,000 ($86) and more popular brands, such as Ray Ban or Playboy, can go for upwards of ฿8,000 ($230).

Eye care centers are extremely simple to find as well be located in any Central Plaza or peppered along the main roads.  One of Thailand’s most popular companies is Top Charoen, easily recognized by it’s light blue signage.  They are almost as abundant as 7/11s… well, that might be a stretch.  Top Charoen has also been offering a “Buy 1 Get 1 Free” promotion for a long time so you may be able to benefit from that.  Unfortunately the options available were not that numerous so I reluctantly wound up with the pair seen below.

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If for any reason you are not sure of your prescription the majority of eye care centers can perform screenings for free.  Just another tick in the affordable healthcare box.

Eye care is one of the more simplistic medical needs that can be taken care of while in Thailand.  Whether you are living here or just a backpacker passing through all it will take is a bit of your time.


Check out more posts about Thailand at Tar Heel Voyager.

Water Cycle Science Projects!

Over the course of my time with my students, I’ve found science class can get a bit bland.  The text is a bit advanced, which means a lot of big words that are hard to pronounce.  Luckily, this year’s material has lent itself to some outside the box ideas the students have really enjoyed.

I started making posters with my kids last year and they took it and ran!  I think we were both happy to not hear me talk!  The overall idea has been the same.  I randomly (making sure the groups are evenly spit with ability) select groups and they decide who is going to do what.  Each student must speak, each student must contribute, and each student must show myself they’re making an attempt to learn more independently.

For our Water Cycle projects, I had three groups–two groups of six and one group of seven.  In hindsight, I probably should’ve made the groups smaller to avoid the horseplay, but part of the idea is to have them enjoy with their friends while working at the same time.

I was really impressed with what the kids produced!  Students brought in pictures of cloud types, stages of the water cycle, ‘air’ pictures, wave pictures, etc.  They did an excellent job of labeling things and producing a clean, enjoyable poster.  Of course, there were the finishing touches with some glitter and flowers!

Our final stage was to present in front of the class.  Of course, the kids were a bit nervous, but they spoke very well.  Part of their responsibility when presenting was to make sure they had proper body language–pointing to what they were talking about and facing the class.  They’re a bit old to put their nose to the poster with their bottoms facing the class.

One of the best parts of these projects is it gives me a better understanding of the kids’ personalities.  I see who’s a bit more reserved, who needs pushing, who needs monitoring, etc.  They’re at the age where they’re developing and changing rapidly, so it’s not longer the same class I had in P3 or p4.  Of course, I’m sure they’ll be quite different in P6!

Here are a few pictures from our posters: