TEFL TIPS #4 – Verb of the Day

Verbs are the skeleton of any language. Most ESL learners know the basics:. ‘eat,’ ‘go’, ‘play‘ etc., but expanding this list is vital to those working towards achieving a higher level of both spoken and written English.

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In my classroom, I introduced a method I call ‘verb of the day’. It’s pretty simple but effective.

Every day I spend a few minutes introducing a new verb and ask my students to use that verb in a sentence. In a few weeks, my students progress from using standard verbs: ‘I eat‘ ‘I go’ & ‘I like‘ to the more advanced: ‘I climbed’, ‘I jump’, ‘I travelled‘.

The more creative you are at introducing the verb (you could use a song, dance and games), naturally the more the class will learn. For the smaller kids, acting out the words can be very effective.

A list of verbs I use to teach in kindergartens – elementary school are as followings:

– stretch
– push
– pull
– visit
– bend
– think
– cry
– rush
– throw
– move
-chase
– bite

The older or more advanced the students the further you can go:

– quit
– shake
– whisper
– scare

I find these Verb Flashcards from Amazon super helpful in my online and brick and mortar classroom:

TEFL TIPS #3 – Storybots

If you are lucky enough to have internet access in your classroom, you’d be stupid not to take advantage of it.

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Youtube is full of useful ESL videos that you can play to your class to assist with teaching. While relying heavily on videos may be a cop out, using them selectively can help create a more dynamic classroom environment.

A channel I cannot recommend enough is Storybots, found here:
https://www.youtube.com/user/storybots

(recently changed to Netflix Jr)

I primarily use it to show clips when I teach the alphabet as a little break in between activities—the kids love the animations. Each video utilizes a large variety of words that can help expand children’s vocabulary. The music in the Storybot videos is catchy and after listening to a certain one a few times, the class will try to sing along!

Storybots also has an assortment of other songs that can be used for many different things such as ‘clean up’, ‘teeth’ and numbers.

Why not try to spruce up your lessons? Check it out.

Don’t teach in Thailand if…

Don’t teach in Thailand if…

Every year hundreds of people fly to the “Land of Smiles” to teach English. The list of benefits this choice offers is so large that instead of focusing on them, I have compiled a list of reasons it may not be the best option for everyone. You may want to reconsider if…

You Want to Make A Lot of Money

If you’re reading this, then you probably already know the teaching salary in Thailand isn’t the best. In comparison to the cost of living, you can live very well—but when it comes to making those international bank transfers every month, it can be a bit painful. That said, jobs at international schools tend to offer more money and there is no shortage of private tutoring opportunities throughout the country. Many teachers, myself included, survive from their tutoring money and transfer their salaries home each month. You can save, but it definitely takes commitment.

You Want to Party 24/7

The Full Moon Party, Khaosan Road – YES, Thailand is a fun place to party. Alcohol is cheap and there is never a shortage of events to attend. However, if this is your primary reason for visiting Thailand, I think backpacking or a holiday would be a better option. Don’t get me wrong, over the course of my 18 months there I had an endless amount of raging weekends all over the country, but the focus during the week should be the job.

You Aren’t Willing to Embrace a New Culture

This is similar to the previous. Many people assume life in Thailand is like the travel brochures and the backpacking blogs. Of course, it can be, but the reality is that the majority of schools are positioned away from the ‘tourist hot spots’ of the country and in my opinion allow for a more authentic cultural experience. I think it’s important to note that in many locations you could be the only English speaker for miles and find it impossible to buy those branded goods you love so much back home. Personally, I see this one as a positive, a chance to challenge myself and grow—but many are not prepared for the cultural shift and start to feel isolated.

You Don’t Like Kids/Want to Teach

The heading of this may make you think ‘OBVIOUSLY DUR’ but unfortunately there are a few too many teachers in Thailand who not only hate teaching but dislike children. I understand a lot of people choose to teach in Thailand to see the country or for a gap year etc., but I think a little interest in teaching and not a dislike of the age group you’re going to teach should be a minimal requirement. You’re going to be in the classroom the majority of the week—taking a job you don’t care about just so you can party and see the sites will only make the kids miserable and the workweek seem like a chore. Care about what you do.

You Don’t Like Spicy Food

Ok, this one is a bit of a joke. Of course, you don’t need to like spicy food to teach in Thailand, but be warned – it’s everywhere. The words ‘mai pet’ (Thai for not spicy) can save your life!

This list is basically a compilation of the various complaints I would hear from fellow teachers around the country. Maybe if people knew what they were getting themselves in for before going, there would be a lot less critical and negative stuff written about teaching in Thailand online. Do your research, and try to find a place that is not only suited to your interests and strengths, but also consider your weaknesses.

TEFL TIPS #5 – Asking the right questions.

An important goal of TEFL teaching is to keep students talking, getting them to practice new words and reinforce those they’ve learned. A simple tactic for doing this is asking questions about what they have, whether it be a drawing, a book, or a toy. However many teachers, myself included, often fall into a rut of asking the same questions over and over long after their kids have outgrown them merely because it often seems there are only so many ways for a kid to describe something. Chief among such questions are “What color is it?” “How many are there?” “Is it big or little?”

As teachers, we have to move away from this routine. It’s boring, it’s repetitive, and it doesn’t challenge the kids to think creatively or use their English in new ways. It is important to remember that asking questions isn’t only intended to test their vocabulary, but also to help them think outside the box. Here are some more challenging description methods you can try with your students:

Give it personality: What is its name?
This can easily be asked of toys and drawings, and of everyday objects as well. Oftentimes when I start using this question they’ll simply tell me what something is (“Me draw bunny!”). But simply telling me that a drawing of a bunny is a bunny isn’t enough—by getting them to name that bunny, it often sparks a whole new conversation (“Bunny name is Zombie. Zombie is silly monster; Zombie eats shoes”). Names are associated with personalities and individuality—a concept not lost on children.

Break it down: What shapes is it made of?
Asking what shape something is can be very simple, but asking what shapes something is made of can become very complex and can also be a great way to discover new words. For example, try asking a kid what shapes a teddy bear is made of. They’ll definitely start with the most simple (“Nose is triangle; foot is circle.”) but will soon rise to the challenge of breaking down more complicated portions (“Ear is BIG circle and little circle; tummy is loooooong circle.”). Here the teacher also learns what shapes the kids don’t know and can introduce words like oval or oblong.

Opposites & Abstract: What is it not?
A great way to encourage abstract thinking is to ask the students for the exact opposite of the information they have. Basically, instead of asking “What is it?” try asking “What is it not?”. This challenges them to rack their brain for relevant words and phrases rather than simply identifying what they see in front of them, and then decide whether those words apply to the situation. Further, it helps them practice more varied sentence structure other than “It is _____.” For example, if you’ve asked your students what the weather is, try asking them what the weather isn’t today. Rather than the repetitive “It is sunny,” you’ll be able to elicit a greater range of responses (It’s not rainy! It isn’t stormy. No tornado today!”).

Give these a try.  See how they work in your classroom!

-Ashley

TEFL TIPS #1 – The Almighty Flashcard (1)

A with chalk and number

A flashcard is to an ESL teacher is like the Batmobile to Batmanno ESL teacher I know would be without them!

I think the core of their popularity is largely due to the teacher/student language barriers inherent in ESL education, especially when working with beginners or younger students. A flashcard of an apple portrays an apple in any language: the word may be different but the meaning is understood. An apple in England isn’t a robot in China. That being said, a girl in Thailand sometimes isn’t what a girl would be elsewhere, but that’s not for now…

Flashcards can also be used for a variety of purposes: to introduce new vocabulary, for kinesthetic activities, speaking cues, auditory activities, and much more. What one can do with flashcards is potentially limitless, so what a great prop to start my mini-series, “TEFL Tips”, with…

#1

Activity – Where is the _____? – (Listening/ speaking)

Age – Pre-K, K, primary

Level – Beginner

This is an easy one. It’s great for teaching new vocabulary and children have loads of fun playing it. It’s basically like that game you see novice magicians do at kids’ parties using 3 cups and a pea.

You start by teaching three new flashcards (preferably of related objects). You then turn all 3 over and move them around. When you have stopped, ask the students, “Where is the ____?” The student whose turn it is, then has to say the name of the flashcard he/she has turned over. If he/she has picked the wrong card, then they continue until they select the correct one.

As the game progresses you can start by asking the students if they want you to move the flashcards faster or slower. This normally encourages them to speak, and you are bombarded by screams of, “Teacher, me really really fast!”

So, in addition to learning the vocabularies on the flashcards, the students are using English in a more natural setting and communicating with you.

Just like the Daleks keep popping up throughout series’ of Doctor Who, I’m sure I’ll write many more tips for flashcard use in the future.

Thank you for checking this out!

-Liam

Teaching in Thailand: Part 5 – All Good Things Come to an End

23/11/2014- I left South East Asia after almost 18 months of teaching in Thailand, and travelling around its neighboring countries.

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I did a lot; I saw a lot.

If you get the chance, just do it!

My main tip to people who are thinking about moving to Thailand and teaching is not to believe a lot of the negative experiences written online about it. Sure it isn’t perfect, but life isn’t, is it? The majority of people you meet have an avalanche of pros that outweigh their cons. And just remember, a lot depends on the type of person you are.

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My experience inspired me to teach and travel my way around the world (hence this site and its title), which is what I have been doing since I left. It’s hard to believe that as I write this I have been in Korea for almost 6 months already.

-Liam

Teaching in Thailand: Part 4 – Six Months in Monkey City

Moving is stressful.
However, when everything you own fits into a backpack, that stress significantly decreases.
In truth, my move from Nakon Nayok to Lopburi wasn’t stressful at all.
It was exciting.
Soon enough I’d get a new apartment, meet new people and start a new job.
 I was ready.
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Lopburi is not an unheard of place to many people that travel to Thailand. It’s on the backpacker’s route and was made famous to people in the UK by the popular TV show Idiot Abroad.
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Basically it’s a city overrun with monkeys, making it an intriguing place to visit. Or if you’re a TEFL teacher, to live in.
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At my new school, Anuban Lopburi, I worked with 6 other foreign teachers and taught Maths and Computer, as well as English. My experience there included some of the best months of my life. Lopburi has a good expat community and many things to do.

The department of the school we worked in was an MEP (Mini English Program), which meant the students had a decent level of English. Well, better than anything I had experienced before. This made teaching a lot more fun.
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Lopburi itself is a cool city.  My colleagues and I had mopeds for the duration of our stay, so we had the freedom to explore the surrounding areas and see some of rural Thailand.

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To any TEFL teachers looking to work in Thailand, I seriously don’t think you can go wrong with Lopburi.  Especially if you are worried about the culture shock, Lopburi has a few western restaurants and bars so you can have a good balance of Asia/ home.

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So, if you see a job vacancy for this city, GO FOR IT!

-Liam

Teaching In Thailand: Part 2 – Teacher Liam

Teaching a bunch of kids English, how hard can it be?

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That was the dominant thought in my mind, every time I discussed the idea of a TEFL career when I was back in Wales. However, that pre-imagined vision soon vanished when I was stood in front of a class of 30 children, all staring at me as if I was some foreign alien (which I was)………

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As I nervously led my class through my first lesson, I couldn’t help but think how the term ‘thrown in at the deep end’ couldn’t be better suited than right now. None of the online teaching theory you learn prior helps very much. But, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It doesn’t take you long to get in a routine, judge what works and what doesn’t, and of course work out which students are the best behaved and which are truly menaceful. And you’re supposed to teach them English? A near impossible task.

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Any ESL teacher reading this blog will relate when I say that teaching English as a foreign language can be amazing. The comments and work some of the children produce is absolutely outstanding (for the comedy value, if not the correct English). Anyone who disagrees, approach a 7-year-old Thai kid and ask them to say ‘fox’.

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Every day in Thailand is different, every class you teach is different, every motor taxi ride to school is different, every weekend is different and every day something out of the normal and funny happens. This is how I like to live my life. Bamboo, Euro, Theatre, Nurse, Focus, PP, Troy, Book – These are not just random words, these are the names of a few of my students.

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Being a language teacher also gave me a sense of purpose that I never had with any other job. Helping and bettering people makes you feel like a better person.

t4

-Liam

Teaching In Thailand: Part 1 – The Arrival

In May 2013, I left my cold and monotonous lifestyle in the Welsh valleys and embarked on a career as an ESL teacher. Here is how it all began….

26/05/2013

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Uncomfortably positioned between an attractive young Indian woman, and a very fidgety old one, on a flight from Heathrow, it hit me like a ton of bricks…… I had just quit my job, uninhabited my home and geographically distanced myself from everyone I knew.

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Sawasdee Krung Thep (Hello Bangkok)

I will never forget that immense feeling of emotion when I first found myself alone in a new country. It was a combination of pure excitement and nerves. My imagination was out of control. I also felt very hot, which will not surprise anyone who has visited Thailand before; the weather is always sweltering.

Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport is huge and complex, but after a marathon distance of walking, at gate 6 I finally found the representative from my agency, LoveTEFL, waiting for me. His name was Lordy, anyone who has used LoveTEFL before will know him. He is a friendly, chilled guy and had no bother answering my millions of questions.

We headed into the concrete chaos of Bangkok City.

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It was dark when I arrived but the advertisement billboards and speeding cars of erratic motorists lit up the highway. The streets of Bangkok were filled were food stalls (this must have been the infamous street food you read about online, I thought to myself), clothes stalls and rushing pedestrians. As we entered the hotel I met the teacher that would be joining me at my school for the next year. His name was Joe, a Cornish Newcastle United enthusiast who had done quite a bit of travelling before. He was an interesting and funny guy.

The 3 of us headed on the cities MR2 subway (an experience in itself for a young boy from Wales) to a bar where the first beer of my Thai experience was consumed. The beer was served with ice. What type of strange world is this?

At the end of the night, we had a meal, soup and water for the equivalent of 1GBP. It was full of flavor and my first taste of Thai cuisine. I loved it.

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Any nerves I was feeling no longer existed.

I was an energy ball of eagerness and excitement.

The drive to the school the next morning was scorching and I felt like an idiot because I was wearing shorts (my definition of smart dress) and the other 2 were wearing shirts and black trousers. Luckily this didn’t matter as the school was vacant when we arrived (my first experience of the unorganized chaos of Thai planning). The school is based about 1 hour and 20 minutes east of Bangkok, in a small town called Ongkharak, in the Nakhon Nayok province (the waterfall province).

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The school is an architectural masterpiece. Its golden bricks shape the structure into resembling a spaceship, and there is an observatory tower at the front of the building overlooking two spectacular lakes and a giant flag

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The following day we returned to school and met the head of English, an attractive young Thai girl with a great sense of humor called Mod (Thai for ant). We also met the assistant director of the school, a middle-aged flamboyant homosexual who no sooner than meeting us was inviting us to his house to ‘play’. I was on edge because our agent had told us we had been hired because of this man’s opinion of our pictures rather than the suitability of our CVs.

A few days of finding our bearings followed. We quickly discovered that there was not much to do in our area of residence but everything was insanely cheap and the people were friendly.

We also made friends with some local Thai lads, an old lady who sells meat on the street (my Thai mother) and purchased some push bikes. The bike choice at the local market was limited, so I ended up with an Angry Birds Limited Edition child’s bike. I looked ridiculous riding it.

We were starting to feel comfortable in our surroundings and I personally was loving absorbing the new culture that was dominant in our everyday lives.

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Then school started…

-Liam