Leapfrog, Crisscross, and the Line Game

by Brittany DeNovellis

We made it! Midterms just finished at Thida, so that means we’re halfway through the semester.  Unfortunately, it also means that some of my go-to games in class were getting a little stale.

I did a healthy dose of internet searching and stumbled on www.genkienglish.net.  The games section was a goldmine for my tired little teacher brain.

I wish I had looked at it earlier in the semester, because it gives a really good idea of how to teach English through gestures, songs, and games – all of which I’m a big fan of.

By the way, I teach Mattayom 1s and Mattayom 2s at Thida: classes of 55 angst-y, teenage girls who are full of hormones and worried about looking cool, so definitely give these games a shot if you get any of these classes next year.  Each of my classes are divided into two teams that compete for points that roll over from class to class.

3 awesome activities I used from Genki this week:

1. The Line Game:

A great warm-up activity; also great for reviewing! I used it in conjunction with this TPR (total physical response) warm-up (first we did TPR, then we played the line game with a few review questions mixed in).

There was a lot of laughter as the students tried to be the first one to answer or do an action really quickly.  This game is great for emphasizing automatic responses to the things you want to be automatic (e.g. Hi! Good morning! Goodbye!), and forcing students to distinguish between questions like “How are you?” and “How OLD are you?”

2. Criss Cross

The basic idea of Criss Cross is that everyone stands up, and then when someone raises their hand to answer correctly, their row or column gets to sit down.  Once they figure out what’s happening, they all want to answer!

Like it says on the site, this game is closely related to another game (Last Man Standing), which is sort of a reverse Criss Cross.

3. Leap Frog

This game was a total win.  The videos from Genki show it better than I could ever explain it:

I didn’t have a fancy computer screen or flashcards; all I did was write 7 vocabulary words on the board and let them have at it.  Students were all screaming the vocabulary! So much more fun then pointing at the board and making them repeat it after me.

Other things I like about Genki English:

  • Genki has clearly written out instructions, pictures, and videos, which my other go-to site (the Idea Cookbook at Dave’s ESL Cafe) is sadly lacking.  Sometimes I feel like Dave’s ESL Cafe is a little overwhelming and not as well organized as I’d like it to be.  A tag cloud, condensing similar games, and some editing would be nice.
  • Genki has a “Random Game” button!  Hooray for random discovery of games when you’re feeling uninspired.

Have you used any of these games? How did they go? Leave your thoughts on Genki, the games, and/or Dave’s ESL Cafe in the comments!

Using A Ball In The Classroom

by Mitch Burbick

When I first started teaching in Thailand a fellow teacher tossed me a few lifelines to use when I eventually ran out of material and was left in front of a class drowning. “Hangman, dance competitions, and tossing a ball around will always take care of a few extra minutes,” I was told. Words to live by friends, words to live by. A ball has been the most useful object in my teaching arsenal this year for the simple reason of it being so easy to turn any lesson into a game with a ball. That, and it’s just fun to watch them hit each other in the head with it.

I personally use a sock-ball. Finding myself in a classroom one day with time on the clock and no ball to be found, I was given one of those perfect and quintessential moments of pure genius thought. It was enlightenment ladies and gentlemen. I removed myself from the classroom, took off my shoe, removed my sock, rolled it into a ball and returned triumphant. Far from disgusting, the kids thought it was hilarious and even refused to use a plastic ball I had bought for a replacement later in the semester.

For uses, the limits really are your imagination. The simplest way to use a ball is for question and answer. Ask a question and toss the ball to the kid who you want to answer it. It keeps them alert and they can either toss it back to you for another round, or you can have them toss it to another student and ask that student the question, kind of making them the teacher. It also helps keep students who don’t usually pay attention alert, because if they’re face down in a book or drawing something while you’re teaching, there’s always the danger they’ll be pegged with a ball.

Drawing a target on the board with different point sections is a great way to reward them with the correct answer to a question as well. Either divide the class into teams and let them play against each other, or simply give them a point goal to work towards. You can put different sized targets for smaller and larger amounts of points all across the board or just a dartboard style bulls eye works well too. If you’ve played this one a lot and they’re getting bored, no need to worry, simply give them points to start out with and subtract the points they make by throwing the ball until they get to zero. Kind of like cricket.

A good review game is Jeopardy. Draw a grid on the board, put topics up at the top, and then write point values in all the squares. You can do it like the TV show and make them ascending in order or just mix them up for fun. Again, you can divide the students into teams, or have them play as one big team working towards a goal. A child can stand up, go to wherever you want them to throw the ball from, and toss it against the board. Mark the square wherever the ball lands and then ask a question relating to the designated topic. Harder questions can be asked for more points, easier for less, etc…

If there is no dice and you’re playing a game where the teams or the class has to move squares, kind of like a board game, you can use a ball too. Just draw a circle or a square on the board, divide it up into sections and give each section a number of spaces the kid can move if they hit that with the ball. Snakes and ladders is a fun one to do this with.

The last one I play a bit is “Hide the Sockball.” I bet you can guess what it is. A student that answers a question right comes up and closes their eyes. Another student hides the ball somewhere in the classroom. The entire class shouts hot, warm, or cold at the student when he opens his eyes and has to find the hidden ball. When he finds it, the student that hid it asks a question and he must answer.

I’m convinced there are at least a thousand ways to use a ball as a teaching tool in the classroom. I’ve only scraped the surface. Any way that you can involve them throwing a ball through a hoop made of arms, a trash can, a kid running back and forth… Anything at all that lets them get up and have some fun will make teaching the material for you, and learning the material for them, that much easier.

A Fun Review Lesson: Connect Four

by Dez Dyson

Ok, imagine the game connect four (4 in 1) you know it? If not google images will help you out at this point. The basics of the game is two people battle it out against each other taking turns to drop markers into a grid (7×6) with the final goal to be first to successfully create a line (can be horizontal vertical or diagonal, note: not a square) of four markers. CONNECT 4.

Step One:

You will need to split the class into two teams. I often find it’s easy to either split the class down the centre of the room or into boys and girls. These teams will need to have an identifying picture displayed in a circle (like an X or a heart) but this can be chosen by the first student to answer a question for their team.

Step Two:

You will need to prepare forty two questions (7×6). The questions will obviously depend on which age you are teaching and the previously taught subjects. This game is best played as a review at the end of a months teaching, to assess the students understanding of the topics taught. It is a serious review practice but make sure you also have fun questions in here like; sing the national anthem, do star jumps for one minute, tell three people you love them and on and on, and don’t be afraid to use very simple early learning questions either… what is your name /favourite colour.

Step Three:

Print your questions out on paper, but at the top of the page, in large print, write something along the lines of; Hello ladies and gentleman my name is ______ and I will be your quizmaster for today. The other side of the paper should have a picture of a circle grid 7×6. Can you see where this is going yet?

Step Four:

On the board write the multiplication 7×6=, a student will always shout out the answer but make sure it’s said in English. OK, you’ve just found your grid drawer! Call him/her up to the whiteboard and show the diagram of the grid you are after then explain that you would like the numbers 1 to 42 randomly drawn, in order, into each circle.

Step Five:

Whilst the student is doing this part onto the board copy the words bottom and top next to the grid and above the grid Connect 4 / 4in1 (I always draw four circles connected to help with the part of explaining the game).

Step Six:

Along the side of this grid you need to copy two sentences. First, I would like number ____, please., and the second something like, ‘Let me introduce you to my friend _____ .’, or ‘My friend’s name is _____.’ (alter this one on classes ability.)

Step Seven:

Now you’ve got your grid ready <> got your questions ready <> Got the writing on the board <> Now you must explain how the numbers chosen must start at the bottom. This is easily done if you have a diagram of the board and a coin or token to imitate it dropping down from the top to the bottom.

All done? Very good, ok now choose a student, thrust the paper into their hand and off you go!! Sit back and enjoy your lesson in which the students do all the talking and you merely have to repeat some of the questions or give other options of how the question can be posed.


This is a lesson plan for a review class at a high school level. The idea can be modified for younger ages but the teacher must be the quizmaster. The same can be said for classes with lower level English.

My Favorite Class

by John Phelps

Momentum is the most important element to a good hour of learning at Super English. From the moment I walk into the classroom, I strive to keep the students focusing by sparking them with questions, entertaining them with educational games, and otherwise overloading their senses with a buckshot of English. If the kids are having fun, they will listen and learn. When I see that interest is diminishing, I usually have a good-hearted kid or myself do something ridiculous. Compared to my classes at Thidamaepra School, the Super kids are able to take in much more material in a shorter period of time. At Super, if I see that about half the kids have command of a target, I move on to something a little more difficult. If they are not challenged, they get bored and tune out.

Almost always, the most fun comes from spontaneous twists to the plan. But for me, a pretty solid plan still has to be there. What follows is a lesson that went well. However, as we all know, sometimes the best laid plans don’t …. hmm… hatch, I suppose. I have often had the same lesson plan go off like firecrackers with one class and fall flat with another. Sometimes I am trying to get the energy level of the students up, other times I just have to channel it in the right direction.

The primary conversation targets are: “Are you (verb)ing?” “Yes, I am./ No, I’m not.” That is the meat of the lesson, to which I will slowly build up. The kids have to primed and focus to grasp something new, so I build them up with some review targets. We start off by transforming two students at a time into a theatre company. I bring them behind the whiteboard and tell them what locations they will illustrate with their acting finesse. As they come out from behind the board, I announce the actors names with “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Tin and Bank!” The review target is “Where are they?” I wait for the class to get the answer, occasionally guiding the actors. After a few moments, a student responds with “They are in the police station!” After uncuffing one of the students, we move on to another set of actors and play a few more minutes.

I take a quick moment to get the students to fill out a worksheet. These are a necessary evil, as the parents see the worksheets as a measure of the students’ progress. I try to get them out of the way as quickly as possible. I walk around the room and help with the worksheets. I give a bit of extra writing to the faster kids so that they finish around the same time as the slower ones.

Now I begin to move towards the target by asking “What can you do?” and writing the verbs on the board. This is an easy question for this level, and they easily come up with and act out ten to twelve verbs in a couple minutes. I grab one student and start spinning him in the middle of the room. While he is spinning, I write “What are you doing?” on the board. He is still spinning. I tack the “ing” onto the verb on the board. He is dizzy by now. I prompt him to say “I am spinning” by pointing to the words on the board. I demonstrate that “ing” on a verb means that the action is in progress by having kids do actions for a moment then stop. >> Then comes the “verb-a-thon.” I erase the verbs from the board and ask five volunteers to come forward. As I ask each one “What are you doing?” they must reply “I am (verb)ing” (no repeat answers). After a few minutes, students are eliminated until we have a champion. Now that the kids have bought into the lesson, I have them all focused as I write the target on the whiteboard. I hop around the room and demonstrate, impersonating a few of the students to make them laugh. Then it’s time for another game.

This one is like musical chairs meets Family Feud. I put a ball on a table at the front of the classroom and write ten verbs on the board. Five students walk around the table, acting out the verbs as I say “Are you jumping/eating/sleeping/moonwalking?” They chant “Yes, I am!” Unless, of course, I am pointing to “No, I’m not!” on the board. They are out if they act out a verb that I say while pointing at “No, I’m not!” When I say “Are you stealing?”, the first student to grab the ball on the table gets to pick a student to eliminate. Pretty soon, another champion is born.

By now, we have about fifteen minutes or less left in the hour, so I have them sit to have their tongues twisted. This evening is brought to them by the letter “G.” “Good guys get great gorilla girlfriends.” Students move from “Gud guys ged gleat go-le-la gill-flens” to an astoundingly crisp pronunciation of the benevolent letter “G.” I give them the phonics handout to complete and a few sentences to write. At last confident in the knowledge that they will all one day take primates to the malt shoppe, I send them home.

Adventures in Baby Teaching

You might not think so considering the simplicity of the material, but teaching young students can be every bit as challenging as teaching teenagers, even more so. After spending one year teaching grade three and this semester teaching grade one, I am not without my tricks in the classroom. Here’s how I do it:

1.The Method

Remember when you were young and your parents tried everything to get you to eat your vegetables, going so far as to ‘disguise’ them with gravy or the like? You have to do a similar thing when teaching 6 year olds English. Think of it this way – you are a foreigner speaking a weird language they can’t understand, and the average 6 year old has the attention span of a mosquito. To make things even more complicated, you have to keep these kids attentive for 1 hour a day (if you are teaching our English Programme classes). The easiest way to keep a young child entertained is to dance around and act up, but you can’t focus too much on the entertainment because your job is to teach and you are expected to keep up with the syllabus. What do you do?

The best way is to structure your lesson in the most interactive way possible, and believe it or not, the best way to do this is with games. If you try the ‘old fashioned’ method of teaching, grade one students will switch off in an instant if you stand in front of them and lecture in English. You can’t do this, nor can you just open a book and start reading to them. When I say games, I don’t mean games such as monkey in the middle or heads down thumbs up – these games have no educational value. The educational games that we use focus on some facet of the English language, usually reading or speaking. My favourite is a game I call flashcard retrieval, which involves the students collecting flashcards from around the room, reading what’s on the cards and the placing the cards within sentences I have written on the board. The students must then read the complete sentences and tell me if they are correct. This game does have educational value because it contains reading, speaking, and sentence structure comprehension.

The kids love these sort of games because it gives them a break from how they’re normally taught (Thai teachers conduct their lessons the ‘old-fashioned’ way, as I described earlier). These games should not take up the entire lesson, maybe 10 or 15 minutes at most, but are invaluable when you need to get the kids to participate. This is how I structure a typical lesson:

1. First 2 minutes: Do something funny to get the kids laughing and relaxed.

2. 5 minutes: Review yesterday’s lesson (very important for young kids). I always ask many questions to keep everyone on their toes.

3. 10 minutes: New vocab target. Explain very slowly and as simply as possible. Ask Thai teacher for assistance to enforce target. Demonstrate physically if possible. Total time spent speaking at the kids: 15 minutes.

4. 10-15 minutes: Educational game

5. 10 minutes: Book target (from textbook)

6. 15 minutes: Writing task for the day.

Total lesson duration: 1 hour

One very important thing to remember is not to go too fast. I spend 2 weeks on any given target, I start out very simply then increase the difficulty when they are ready. For example, I would start with ‘Do you like _____?’, an easy question with a yes or no answer, and work my way up to ‘What/Who do you like?’, a more complex question with varying answers.

2. Interacting with the kids

It is important to find a balance between being a fun, caring person and an educator who is in charge of the classroom (it is your classroom – the Thai teachers are there to assist you, not the other way around). For new teachers, Peter will teach you the techniques we use to keep the students under control and focused when you are training. I try to be as fun as possible in my classes, because I have developed an excellent rapport with most of my students and I know what works and what doesn’t. Each class is as different as the person who teaches it, but your students need to know that you always have their best interests at heart, especially the young ones.

One crucial thing to remember is that under no circumstances should you ever lose your temper in class, for two main reasons. Firstly, if you show anger then you will lose face, which is a big deal in Thai culture – you may lose the respect of your Thai teacher. Secondly, your kids will get scared and they will not contribute anything to the class. If you students do act up it isn’t because they don’t like you, it’s because their other classes are so strict and rigid that they see their English class as their fun time away from the ‘iron fist’. Also, these students are too young to understand why English is so crucial to their future, and they don’t care that much about school results.

The bottom line…..

If you can teach young students without them realising they’re being taught, you are most definitely a Super Teacher!

A Day in the Life…

by David Modini (May, 2009 – March, 2010)

It’s about 7am and my alarm starts buzzing. Too bad I’m already awake thanks to the undetermined amount of roosters near my house. The only thing between me and a stringy, handmade, rooster stew (other than my aversion to killing with my bare hands) is the fact that when I really stop to consider it, I would much rather be woken up by these noisy birds than by my lifeless alarm clock.

Stumbling out of bed provokes the first instance of sweating I will experience today. Immediately I’m confronted with a crucial decision. Should I use the nearby upstairs bathroom or the downstairs one? The upstairs one has the luxury of a proper sit-down toilet, but the downstairs one will welcome me with a warm shower. Yes, the prospect of a warm shower easily outweighs the minor discomfort of using a squat toilet. With that dilemma resolved, I continue my waking-up process. After the warm shower and a not entirely un-western breakfast, I go upstairs to get dressed. What day is it today? Oh yes, it’s Monday, which means I’ll wear my yellow polo shirt to work. And this is the blessing of an unofficial national uniform.

Forty-five minutes after my alarm buzzes (and about eighty after I woke up), I strap my helmet on and head down on the motorbike to the end of the soi with Sarah. One of the most exciting parts of the day is riding my motorbike against traffic for about 50 yards so I can take advantage of a shorter route to school. Not that it feels dangerous at all, it’s just that it’s the first time I get on my motorbike today. Also, even though it’s routine for the Thais to cut corners on road rules, it’s still a novelty to me.

It’s 7:55am and I’ve carefully navigated the traffic of parents in cars, SUVs, motorbikes, and feet to pull into New Thida early – just how I like it. I park the motorbike where it’s sunny now, but will be covered with shade when I leave later on in the day. Now Sarah and I will weave through more walking traffic to stand in front of our teachers’ office. Just enough time to drop off my bag and helmet and find my place outside the office when the national anthem begins playing. Everyone stands still, except for maybe the odd 4 year old running bewildered across the main indoor courtyard. The rather short national anthem ends and the Lord’s Prayer in Thai begins.

After that, the children sing along to the school anthem. I sit back down in the office while other teachers trickle in before 8:30. Actually, maybe I’ll say hi to Nom first. He’s the father of one of my students who studied at university in Kansas and Texas. Emily and I make sure to be in class right by 8:30am. Did I mention our three daily classes at New Thida are air-conditioned? It makes me the envy of every other English teacher in Surat.

The first class of the day is the Prathom 1/1 class, which means they’re six to seven years old. I see them everyday, but they still look at me like I am the most exciting thing in the world. Emily and I head into class and we hear a singular student cry out with carefully parroted inflection, “Stand up, please!” The other students stand up and yell out, “Good morning, teacher!” Emily and I respond simultaneously, and as always, “Good morning, class! How are you?” With all their stored up energy, they all shout together – “I am happy!,” building to a crescendo where they demonstrate “happy” by jumping and throwing their hands up in the air while screaming “Yay!” At this point, half of the class knows what’s coming and are sitting at the end of their seats when Emily calls for her group to line up at the front of the class. Once they’ve left for an empty classroom down the hall, I make sure my half of the class is consolidated and that the troublemakers are not sitting next to each other. I use the term “troublemaker” loosely because, come on, how bad can a six year old be? This is one of the many times during the course of the day I am glad that I made the minimal effort to learn every single name of the students in my three Prathom 1 classes, including those that go with Emily.

This class will be split into two teams, with the children choosing the team names. Team Doraemon and Team Butterfly are rather predictable team names for today. Warm up begins, with the students answering questions from anything we’ve gone over recently. “Who is he? He is a policeman!” “What is her name? Her name is Pearl!” “Can he fly? No, he can’t!” Now they have a visible amount of points which I can manipulate to my own whims. We begin on the target for today, which is “I like __.” I ask them to brainstorm some foods, and I break the ice with “ice cream.” “KFC! French fries! Pizza! Cookies!” After about a dozen foods are up on the board with the appropriate illustrations, I ask a student from each team to come to the front. On the board, I write, “What do you like? I like ___.,” even though today it’s probably unnecessary. I barely need to instruct Eng-eng and Krit on what to do and they are able to ask each other and answer the question perfectly. They give me the obligatory high-five and find their way back to their seats. Ben and Phai handle it well, as expected. So do Cream and Bell. Maybe I should ask some other students? O-Leang and Beam need a little coaxing but in the end, answer it satisfactorily. Well, they’re starting to act out a bit. “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, ZERO!” and they are all quiet with their hands folded in front of them. Very good, class, and a few more points go up for each team. It’s time for a game now, and the only democratic aspect of class. What do you want to play? I ask them. Hearing more suggestions for Snakes and Ladders than not, I draw a numbered grid on the board and fill it with ladders and some pretty ruthless snakes. Out come the smiley face magnets and whichever team has the most points gets first choice of color. A student from each team comes up and watches me hold the dice in front of them, while their teammates loudly whisper to them the number that will allow them to climb up that prime ladder. “Team Doraemon, 1, 2, 3!” I shout, with Team Doraemon confidently asking their representative, “What do you like?” Ya-moo quietly answers, “I like cake.” She rolls a 5, which is a plain square this time. Same process with Cindy, except she rolls a 4. Team Butterfly erupts in cheers as I move the magnet to square 23. This drama continues for 4 more rounds. I see Emily leading her class down the hall and I get prepared for the slightly chaotic reunion. “Everyone sit down! Get out your Gogo books! Page 23!” Calling students out by name and using the countdown, we manage to get everyone seated with their books out within 30 seconds. Emily leads the class in reading the dialogue from the book aloud while I carefully write the three questions and answers the children will write into their notebooks.

When the dialogue is finished, I lead them in reading the questions I’ve written, and their ability to fill in the blanks on the fly gives me that warm fuzzy feeling. There is a soft murmur as the students write, look for their rulers and erasers. Some of them have a tense, unspoken competition to see who can finish the fastest without having the teachers erase any untidy handwriting. Immediately I make my way towards the back of the classroom, where I’ve noticed some students like Cream sometimes get distracted easily. Some simple coaching goes a long way with Cream and soon enough, Mind approaches me with her finished writing. Other than a missed full-stop which I point out to her, I give her a high-five and wait for the onslaught. At 9:30am precisely, we say goodbye to the class, with another scripted “Stand up please!” “See you tomorrow, class!” we say to them as we head out to P. 1/2.

That’s how the three classes go this Monday, with the brief interlude for a sweet pork donut after the second class. After the third class, it’s time for lunch. Oh good, they have those fried pork and vegetable balls with that orange, green bean curry we like! We love the free lunch at Thida. Seven of us Super English teachers usually eat lunch together, some of them coming from Old Thida. I wolf down the first meal and go for seconds as the students trickle down from eating lunch in their classrooms. After finishing my seconds, I wash my plate and utensils and make the arduous journey through hundreds of curious children towards Old Thida. About a dozen hangers-on and five dozen high-fives later, we break free of New Thida. It’s a rather warm day, which makes me really appreciative of the air-conditioning I had in my previous three classes. Unfortunately, my next class will not be as luxurious. Sarah and I discuss the Prathom 5 class I will be teaching and I brace myself for a rather different experience…

There is a big difference between Old Thida and New Thida . New Thida is more comfortable but a little more sterile. It’s a big, cool, circular building with a lot of natural light tempered by the off-white hues inside. Old Thida is big, square, concrete, and doesn’t care if you are hot or not. Even though the students here still seem to be amazed at the sight of a westerner, they are older and have a bit more attitude. I won’t sugarcoat it – this P5 class is not the same as my first three classes. I’ve only just begun teaching them, and I only see them once a week. I know about 4 or 5 names in the class, and all of the students are very rambunctious. All of my wily tricks I use with the six year olds don’t work on these ten to eleven year olds. Points? They don’t care so much. The countdown gets a very mellow response as well. Once inside the rather warm classroom, I position myself under one of the fans while the children welcome me much like my P1 classes did. For a warm up, I ask them, “What did you do this weekend?” The responses vary from the perfect, “I did homework.” to the not-so-perfect, “I go to swimming.” A little coaching always guarantees the correct response this time. I ask them, “What is the weather today?” “Hot! Cloudy! Warm!” I write their responses on the crinkly board. It’s warm, but there’s a nice breeze blowing through the room. They are noisy but as long as it is below a certain level, I let it slide. “Let’s play Hangman!” The one thing to truly capture their attention. Some of these students would actually do surprisingly well on Wheel of Fortune. They will need to work on their past tense. I write the question “What did you do this weekend?” on the board and I bring up two pairs of students to ask and respond to the questions. There are some troublemakers in this class, but it’s more important right now to keep the ones that are paying attention focused on me. On the board I write two copies of a column of present verbs. Each team (this class likes to split up as boys vs. girls) sends up a representative to see who can write the past equivalent of each verb. My voice is strained a bit more in this class, that’s for sure. There are a few mistakes, but overall, they do a good job. Next, we play some run and touch. I write some past tense verbs on the board and they have to touch the correct one when I say out a present version of the verb. With about 10 minutes left in the class, I think they’ve earned a bit of writing. They are more than capable of handling ten sentences. When they finish, they ask me not just to check it, but to sign off with a red pen. A little different than my P1’s, but that’s ok. A girl has finished her writing and is looking at a English/Thai conversation book. It has definitely been written in Thailand and is filled with errors. How can I in good conscience let her read it the way it is? For about sixty seconds I take my red pen to that book. I only hope that she appreciates what I tried to do and not leave her thinking that sentences like, “I don’ t like romance movie” are correct. I leave that class a little quicker than I leave my P1 classes. It’s hot and I have an hour before my hospital class, so I spend some of it in the air-conditioned internet café.

I always get to the hospital about twenty minutes before class starts. I make my way up to the conference room on the second floor, hoping that it hasn’t been usurped for purposes other than learning English. I walk through the first room, quietly ducking my head as ten nurses turn to see who has interrupted their Powerpoint presented training session. Oh good, no one is in the conference room and my favorite dry erase board is there. I erase everything on it and make sure to have everything ready for my hospital English class. It’s inevitable that the students trickle into class up to 15 minutes after it’s scheduled to begin. After all, they are busy hospital employees. There are twelve students, and half of them are nurses that speak pretty good English. The rest are pharmacists, front desk assistants, customer service representatives, or cashiers. On a Monday especially I try to have a fun warm-up game. Today it’s an “odd one out” game. I write about ten groups of four words on the board. The fun part about this game is that there is not only one correct answer for each group of words. “Bird, helicopter, airplane, bus,” has at least two solutions right off the bat, and it is really nice to see some of the reasonings the students come up with. The nurses tend to dominate the discussion, if only for their superior English skills, but I always try to coax answers out of the more bashful students. It actually takes a few moments for me to change from teaching younger children to teaching adults. I find it more comfortable if I see myself more as a facilitator than a teacher. They are similar to the younger children in the sense that they enjoy games just as much, and they tend to help each other formulate correct answers. After the game, we dive right into the meat of the lesson – the exciting topic of insurance.

The hospital English class is as much a learning experience for me as it is for the students. After all, they have to explain to me their processes in the first place. Even though I worked at a hospital for five years prior to coming to Thailand, there is much that I don’t know about how a hospital works. But what it boils down to, is that the students want to be able to handle the problematic situation in English. So, when they want to discuss insurance, for example, they want to be able to explain to the foreign patient why they will need to pay up front.

We run through a few scenarios, the ones that concern them the most, and while I try to wrap my head around how they deal with foreign insurance companies, I come up with strategies for answering the issues the foreign patient might have. For example, if there is a problem obtaining a payment guarantee from the foreign patient’s insurance company, it comes down to one of two possible responses they can give. The best moments are when you’ve understood the process they explained to you and when you can provide them with a way to respond to a difficult situation. Some of them will parrot what I write on the board, but as long as they know to apply it in the correct situation, I will have considered it a success. That’s what makes the hospital English class such a different organism from the younger students’ classes. It usually feels like there’s not enough time for each hospital class, but I consider that a good thing, because the students there are always filled with questions.

At 4pm, my Monday is officially finished. More often than not, I will head to the night market for a delicious takeaway dinner of Soup Lady’s wonton soup and some spring rolls. Those delicious spring rolls are also a perfect vegan compliment to whatever kind of salad Sarah will make once we get home. The hot Thailand day demands another shower as soon as we step foot in the door, but not quite yet for me. I will relax for an hour or so before I head back out on my motorbike to meet up with Alex, the shop owner and friendly neighbor to the Super English house on Chalokrat Rd. To say Alex is the nicest Thai person I have ever met says more about Alex than it does about the always friendly Thai people. I could gush about Alex for hours, but suffice to say, I meet up with him to jog. Around 6pm we head to the stadium, which is a short walk from his shop and house. “How many laps you do today?” he asks me. “Two if I’m lucky,” I respond. Alex is a very healthy 52 year old man that does not look a day over 40. And he jogs 8km a day easily. We start off jogging together but after about 50 meters he’s already sped far ahead of me. I see him pass me a few times while I stumble my way to almost two jogging laps. By the time we finish, he’s jogged 6km and is sweating much less than I am. That’s alright, he’s always very supportive. He offers me a seat at the table outside his shop and gives me a bottle of water from his stock. Alex always jokingly threatens bodily harm when I offer to pay him money. He’ll sit with me as we recover from the jog, talking about everything from his favorite soccer team Liverpool, to teaching me a few new words in Thai, to telling me a little bit about his effectively bigamist neighbor, Bang. It is not legal to have more than one wife in Thailand but many, many husbands have mistresses they call ‘Giks’. Bang only has one ‘Gik’ and one wife. Another friend of Alex, Woon, has two ‘giks’ and one wife. After a sufficient cool down, I get back on the motorbike to enjoy the delicious soup that’s waiting for me at home. This time, the upstairs bathroom wins the shower sweepstakes. The cool (not cold) water is very welcome, as well as the western toilet. While I slurp down the soup, Sarah and I will watch a few episodes of whatever TV show is on my laptop at the moment. Some days I might be interested in going to Casa or another restaurant for a drink and a chat, but usually not Mondays. They’ re already as full as they can be for me. At this point, most people would say something like, “One down, four to go,” referencing both their aversion to their job and the anticipation of the weekend. As for me, that never really crosses my mind.

Fun facts to help you with your future in a Prathom 1 (First Grade) classroom

by Katy Clarke (July, 2008 – March, 2009)

1. Have fun!! Teaching Prathom 1 was my favorite part about being in Thailand. The students truly enjoy English class; therefore it is pretty easy to win their hearts. Smile, make them laugh, they will make you laugh; don’t hold back when it comes to having loads of fun! They do require a lot of energy, so go into the classroom, run around, jump around, and chase them around, whatever it takes! Positive energy, and lots of it, will carry you through an exciting year with these students. Just have fun! Sanuk maak (“fun very” in thai)!

2. Speak slowly and clearly! The slower you speak the quicker they will grasp what you are saying. Patience will help you with this; I can’t believe how much patience I have now!

3. Use repetition with everything you do. Each day was very similar to the day before, and you might think they will get bored but they don’t! Repetition helps their progress a lot, especially with the youngsters. If you repeat your daily schedule they know what to expect and will be less timid as a result. This is especially effective when playing games. The more often you play games (the games they like) the more often the shy, quieter students will break out of their shell and join in.

4. Develop a point system. This is up to you, in my classes we had three teams everyday (the desks are divided into three sections already). At the beginning of each class one student from each team chooses a name- you write it on the board- then depending on how you want to administer points, you write them under the team name. (I used stars, diamonds, smiley faces, hearts, etc. “up to you”).

5. Develop a system for discipline. This will be a very helpful and necessary tool. The students you have are actually pretty well behaved…..of course they all have their moments. Their will be a Thai teacher in the classroom making the rounds and keeping the class somewhat in line and attentive. I used the point system to keep them in line….. they really don’t like to lose points so it helps control chaos to have the points up on the board. If a student(s) on one team is misbehaving, not listening, etc. deduct a point, and all of a sudden the team quiets down. Amazing!

6. Assign writing for approximately 15 minutes everyday! The number of sentences will vary depending on the English level and cooperation of the students, as well as the difficulty of the writing assigned. While they are writing continuously walk around and monitor them…..they are sneaky and some will try and get away without writing…BAD! One student will be on number four and two little chatty girls/boys will still be opening their books!

7. Along with the writing, try to grade their journals twice a week. All you have to do is initial each entry….they will make simple mistakes, and many of the students will make very similar mistakes, therefore grading is quite easy! They like if you sign your name like an autograph on occasion, or draw funny smiley faces, etc. They are easily pleased!

8. They like to play with balloons, chalk, flashcards, etc. Once again, easily pleased. I used a magic bag that I put objects (flashcards, figurines, etc) in according to the subject we were studying. They love reaching into the bag and pulling out an unknown object. Then you can have the talk about the object or whatever you want to do in order to teach them the current subject.

9. On Fridays you do verbal testing. Fridays are very nice; you sit at the desk while each student comes up individually to answer two to three verbal questions. I used flashcards a lot for this. Also, it is convenient to print out worksheets (sometimes two worksheets depending on the class level) for Fridays. Walk into class, pass out the papers, explain the worksheet, explain the subject and expectations of the verbal test, then sit down and start calling the students up to the desk. Easy.

10. Smile, laugh, and thoroughly enjoy the experience! These students are amazing, one of the most fun group of students at Thida (maybe this is biased but I don’t care)! Have a great time getting to know the Thai staff and the other Super English teachers. I honestly wish I was still there, pedaling my way to school everyday, standing for the national anthem and prayer, and heading off to class where the children cheer and yell for you because they love English class so much!

Good luck to you! (Chok dee ka)! Have fun!