Games Galore – Part 1

This semester, I’ve been able to experiment with a lot of different games. I teach all regular classes, so I only see the students once a week, and have plenty of chances to try out new games. These classes are mostly focused on having fun, getting the students to enjoy speaking English, and hopefully getting them to remember some English. The students love to play games, and if done in the right way, I think they can really learn a lot while playing a game. Over the next few weeks, I am going to share a few of my favorite games in hopes that maybe you will find a new game to use in class or these games will spark an idea for something else. Be sure to note that none of these games are supposed to take up a whole lesson. They are used along with teaching the main target, practicing together as a class, writing, textbook, etc.

Game #1 – Vampire Attack

This is a spelling game I created by combining a few games that already exist. It is a mix of the game criss-cross, sparkle (a spelling game I used with my students in the U.S.), and acting like a vampire, something the students seem to love. Have a row of students stand up. Ask them to spell a word (any word you have been learning about in class). For example, “doctor”. The first student says “d” and remains standing, the next student says “o” and remains standing, etc. When the whole word is spelled, the next person gets to go crazy and act like a vampire, “attacking” the next student in line who has to sit down. The next student in line (after the students that sat down) has to start spelling a new word that the teacher announces. If a student says a wrong letter, they are “attacked” by the teacher and have to sit down. The last person standing wins and their team gets a few points! That student stays standing and that column of students stands up for a new round.

For Anuban students, you could do a version of this game with the alphabet or counting, and maybe do tickling instead of acting like a vampire. For Anuban 1 (3 year olds), when we practice counting to 5, I go around the room giving out high fives for 1-4 and then tickle a kid on 5. If you are teaching math in the MEP program next year, you could have the students practice their multiples/skip counting in English. There are lots of possibilities!

That’s it for now, but be sure to look for my next posts – “Throw the Pig SWAT” and “Rock-Paper-Scissors Relay”!

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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.

Peter’s Practical Guide to Teaching

by Peter C. Meltzer

People often ask me if they need a TEFL certificate or which TEFL certificate I think is a good one. The simple answer is you don’t need one to work with Super English. While some teachers have said better things about some programs than others (once), in my opinion they are all relatively ineffective. This also happens to be the opinion of nearly everyone who has done one. Some are even counterproductive, not necessarily to all types of teaching, just perhaps only to the particular style of teaching which we do at Super English.

This isn’t necessarily the fault of the TEFL programs. They simply can’t simulate a real classroom environment on a day to day basis, which is the only way to learn how to teach. As a result, the TEFL programs, as well as other approaches to teaching education, resort to theoretical approaches and practices. These are not useful in the type of classroom you will most likely be facing. In fact, they may confuse you. You won’t have time to discover whether this child is an auditory learner or that child is a visual learner. Most likely you’ll end up covering both anyway without thinking too much about it.  There are a lot of kids, a lot of things going on, and you’ve got a lot of material to cover.

Sure, there are probably schools where your TEFL certification would be crucially helpful. Maybe very quiet, very serene international schools with 7-10 kids per classroom whom you stay with all day. Let me know when you come across one. Based on my experience, the only way teachers learn is from practice, support, class specific advice and continued training. Trust me, once you get in front of your first classroom pretty much everything in your mind goes blank. When that happens (and later), theoretical approaches to teaching won’t be much help. I’ve seen it happen over and over again. Only practical methods and advice will be of any help to you. With that in mind, here is:

Peter’s Practical Guide to Teaching

  1. Lego Language
  2. Excellence of Execution
  3. Everything is Actionable
  4. Make ‘Em Laugh
  5. Three F’s
  6. Starting Strong
  7. Finishing Strong

I have been teaching for nearly a decade in Thailand and these are the things I have found work well. I don’t claim to be an expert but I have been reasonably successful in the field of teaching. These articles are maybe (hopefully) helpful to some. They are not authoritative statements or general treatises on Teaching. They are merely offered as possible help in learning more about teaching ESL. If you have any questions or comments after reading, please feel free to contact me via the email address above.

Teaching in Korea

by Brittney Johnson

I taught at a private language school (hagwan) in South Korea from November 08-November 09. It was an “interesting” experience. I did a lot of research and filtering through to try to find the most fitting position. It was my first teaching job so I wasn’t sure what to expect. When I was job searching, I had an instant connection with my future co-worker. She answered all of my questions via email. It seemed like a pretty good deal, so I decided to take it.

The thing with taking a job overseas before you actually get there is that there is a possibility for you to find that it isn’t quite what you thought it would be.

I taught daily kindergarten and elementary students from 9-2pm, in which I would see them everyday. Then in the afternoon I would teach from 3-6pm kindergarten and elementary students. The afternoon students would either come twice a week or 3 times a week. The class sizes were small, 10 kids max. We shared our classes with a Korean teacher, but they weren’t physically in the class with us. We rotated between the 2 of us. So the kids would spend 40 minutes with a foreign teacher and then 40 minutes with the Korean teacher.

I worked from 9-6pm Monday-Friday. However, even if our classes finished at 4pm, we had to stay until 6pm. The most classes taught per day were 9. On average I taught 6-8 classes a day. Our base salary was 2.3 million won (currently converts to about $2,000 USD). My base salary was based on 25 hours per week, any classes over that was considered overtime. So, some months my paycheck was quite high, close to $3,000.

The school paid for my round-trip airfare upon completion of my 1-year contract. My contract also included a pension fund, 1-month severance, multi-entry working visa, health insurance and private accommodation.

We had quite a bit of paper work. We had to make detailed lesson plans for each class, everyday. We wrote in student’s green books everyday (communication with the parents). In addition, we had to write monthly report cards for each student. This involved marking and writing about each student’s progress for that month. The foreign teachers also had to perform monthly evaluations on our daily morning students. This involved asking the student a set of standard questions to see how much they had improved from the previous month. And we also had a longer 6-month evaluation for our daily morning students as well. Depending on how many classes I had, I would say on average I spent between 1-2 hours a day on paperwork. However, if it was the end of the month we would stay after for about 4 hours to do our evaluation and report cards. Everything was handwritten until the end of my contract. We finally started getting in to typed paper work, which made things faster. None of our paperwork was ever checked. It was all up to the teachers to make sure everything got done. Luckily, we were all teachers that had integrity and we cared about our students.

We taught a variety of subjects to our daily morning students: grammar, science, physical education, math, art, reading, etc. The mother company of our school wrote and produced the core curriculum we followed. We followed a strict schedule for each class’s curriculum. There was a set of 10 books for the main classes. In addition, we had math books, art books, reading books, etc. Our curriculum was based on having fun and being able to experience the actual learning of English. We had to order a lot of materials and crafts (paid for by the school). So, for example, we would teach the word “dirty.” I would order fake mud 1 week prior to teaching the class, and then the students would put their hands in the mud and wipe their hands on paper to make a picture with their “dirty” hands. The kids had so much fun and they learned the word by “experiencing” it. But, with that being said, we didn’t have to “create” our own lessons. Everything we taught was explained in our teacher’s manual. The teacher’s guide actually gave us instructions on how to teach the lesson. So, even though some of our lessons were “fun,” it involved no creativity from the teachers.

We also took monthly field trips, which included going to the movies, sledding, picnic, library, park, etc. We had free printing at our school, so we would print worksheets and make photocopies in the teacher’s office.

A Korean family owned my hagwan. The daughter was the director but she was not very accessible. Basically, the teachers had to figure out and coordinate everything ourselves. Toward the end of my contract we got a Korean supervisor. She helped to organize things, but communication was still lacking. I was head foreign teacher and we had a head Korean teacher. There were lots of inefficient and unproductive things that the teachers had to do. There were high expectations but with little or no feedback, support or follow up from the management. There was usually only communication if something was wrong (which could have been avoided entirely if there had been open communication in the first place).

One thing that was good and bad was that there was no one hovering over the teachers. I never once had anyone observe me. It was nice because we had freedom to teach how we wanted to. But for new teachers, it would be beneficial to have some sort of positive criticism, but there was nothing.

I learned a lot my first year teaching in Asia. Prior to teaching in Korea, I had little or no contact or interaction with kids. I had always felt awkward around them. Korea made me realize that I actually love being around kids. They are so resilient and loving. That’s why I came to Thailand! Teaching in Thailand is quite different than teaching in Korea. Korean kids are very disciplined. Some kids go to school from 9am-10pm. There is a lot of pressure put on them. I hope I was able to be a bit of fresh air to my students. I tried to mix in a bit of fun into their daily stressful lives.

It’s definitely an adjustment being in Thailand, but I’m enjoying the challenge.

Some Basic Do’s and Don’ts

by Emily Nass

Teaching is as unique an experience as the students making up the class. Having experience in the classroom is an invaluable benefit. Something to keep in mind, however, is how distinctive each and every school can be. Several of you who read this may already have an abundance of teaching experience and knowledge behind you. That is wonderful. Others may be starting their teaching career with Super English. Regardless of which you are I hope you will find this article helpful on many levels.

Because teaching in Thailand is such a matchless experience in itself, one can only imagine the small nuances that set each school apart. The following are some helpful do’s and don’ts of teaching at Thida and Suratpittaya. Some of them may seem odd while others seem commonplace. The main objective of this piece is the hope that it will help you gain a well-rounded perspective on the teaching environments when you work for Suer English Language School. At both schools teachers are required to fill out lesson plans, monthly reports and hour sheets.

Thida:

Like many schools Thida has several expectations that are written and well known and several that are simply implied. At Thida you are required to sign in and out everyday in the Teacher Book located in the Teacher’s Office. Secondly if you are at the school for morning classes, standing outside of the office for the King’s Song and Flag Raising will show respect and good manners. For the English Program (EP), teachers are expected to assign some type of homework every day. The homework could range from a written assignment to reading a specific passage. As long as the homework is assigned the school and parents will be happy. Having a good working relationship with the Thai staff and Nuns at Thida is not a written rule but it is beyond a good idea. If you want to have a successful teaching experience at Thida it is very important to cultivate good friendships with your teaching assistants and show proper respect to the Nuns. As the Nuns run the school, and thus your job, it is a good habit to Wai them. A secondly important unwritten rule is attitude. Thailand is a very “face value” culture, and puts quite a bit of pressure on appearance and how you present your emotions. It may sound easy, but even if things are going awry keep a smile on your face and a calm voice.

On that note, when plans are changed do not show disappointment or frustration. The only thing you can plan on in Thailand is that plans will be constantly changed. This is expected and will happen often. The best thing to do is to not let it bother you and to simply go along with whatever the school has decided day to day. Do not complain to the Thai staff or others at the school. We are guests in Thailand even though we are teachers. It is extremely bad form to complain about Thai ways and culture. If you need to complain about something you think is unfair or irritating, save your thoughts for your head teacher after school hours. Do not sleep at school. Though at times you may feel that the only thing you need is a nap, the school is for working and home is for sleeping. If you see a Thai teacher sleeping keep in mind that it is their own choice and not a double standard set for the foreign teachers. On a separate note, do not touch your student’s heads. This is a tremendously rude and condescending act, even when done in good humor. Do not step over anyone at any time. Your feet are the lowest point of your body and should at no point be elevated above or pointing at another person. Lastly do not sit on a table or desk. Similar to your feet it is impolite and disrespectful to sit on anything besides a chair.

Suratpittaya:

Thida and Suratpittaya are very similar on several points. The only differences are as follows: Thida is a private catholic school and is run by Nuns. Suratpittaya is not. In place of the Nuns is a school board that should be respected in the same way as the Nuns at Thida. Secondly, because of the layout of Suratpittaya once the flag ceremony begins you cannot get into the school without driving through the ceremony. It hopefully goes without saying that this would be the worst idea any teacher could have. If you do not get into the school before the ceremony you can park your bike outside and walk in behind the ceremony. Never, I repeat never, try to drive into the ceremony.

Since Suratpittaya is not EP teachers do not have to assign homework. If you want to you can, though keep in mind that you will only see your students once a week and will have around twelve sections of each level. The English Improvement Program at Suratpittaya is a special program for the students who want to receive extra help with their English. You must stay in the office for your EIP hours and be ready with ideas for the students who do come in for extra practice. The paperwork at Suratpittaya includes the small amount of paper work for the EIP program. The extent of this is writing a short description of what you discussed, the student’s names and their class numbers.

Aside from the few differences, both schools require very much the same respectful and appropriate behavior from their teachers. If you are ever in doubt of an activity, lesson, action or method of handling the seemingly chaotic manner of scheduling, ask your head teacher. The head teachers know their stuff and are a wonderful tool for new teachers. So whether you are a new teacher all-together or simply a new teacher to Super English, keep these few reminders and warnings in mind. If you do, you will have a successful and low stress experience teaching for Super English. Which is something that any teacher will say is a good thing.

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.

DO NOT LET THE QUIZMASTER SPEAK ANY OTHER LANGUAGE AND I HAVE FOUND NOT TO DISPLAY THE ANSWERS ON THE QUESTION SHEET!

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.

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!