Category Archives: TCI

Five Cool Ideas for your CI Classroom!

I have recently been re-reading two books I purchased a few years ago, when I was still teaching languages traditionally. The books are:

100+ Fun Ideas for Practising Modern Foreign Languages in the Primary Classroom and

More Fun Ideas for Advancing Modern Foreign Languages in the Primary Classroom, both by Sue Cave.

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Here are some ideas I think we could use successfully and that would be engaging for our TPRS students:

Pictionary – have some sentences available from your latest story for a student to choose from. Pick a student and they choose a sentence. They then have to illustrate the sentence on a large piece of paper in front of the class, while the rest of the class guesses what sentence it is. The first one to correctly say the sentence is the next one to choose a sentence and do the illustration.

Predict the sentence – (lots of reading and writing practise in a fun way!) Make a sentence scaffold with words students are familiar with eg.

Ibu Anne                     mau                       makan                     di                   KFC.

Harimau              tidak mau                    berlari                     ke                   rumah.

Perempuan                                                muntah                                          pohon.

Laki-laki                                                                                                              Melbourne.

Students then choose words from the above lists to make a sentence. They could do this on mini whiteboards. Teacher also chooses from the words above to make a sentence, and students have to predict what the teacher has written! When they have finished writing their sentence, they stand up. Once all are standing,  you begin to read your sentence word by word. Ask them to sit down as soon as one of their words is not the same as yours. The students left standing should have the same sentence as you and win a point!  This is a great, non-threatening activity to encourage reluctant writers!

Predict the Sentence 2 – Same as above but this time students aim to write a unique sentence. They volunteer to read their sentence aloud. Anyone who has exactly the same sentence as the reader sits down, along with the reader. This continues until the students left standing do indeed have sentences that are unique and win a point.

I Want – Hand out picture cards or real items that are cognates in your language. Only give them to about half the class. Have students sit in a big circle. Encourage those students with nothing to raise their hand and when chosen, ask (in L2) ‘Saya mau (cognate). This seems to be forcing output but I think  younger students would love it they would be highly motivated to say the phrase. (Of course you would play my Qwin Game first, so the language has been modelled many times first.) You could ask receiving students to say ‘Terima kasih (thank you) to encourage good manners.


Kim’s Game – I have no idea why this game is called Kim’s Game, but I know my Prep students love it! You can play it traditionally with about 12 items (I use cognates) on a table and then cover them all up with a cloth and students have to tell you what is there. Great for reps on ‘Ada’ (There is)! Then you can draw the items on the whiteboard as students recall what is under the cloth. Then of course you have to count each time a student adds another one, to see if they have remembered all 12 yet! (Lots of counting practice!) I call it ‘Magic’ because I am covering something with a cloth so kids love it! Then, you can remove something from the table (students close eyes and cover them with hands) and see if they can guess what is missing. “What is not there?” Apa tidak ada? (Kim’s Game) Try removing two items, or three! BUT the coolest thing ever is you can make these games in Powerpoint! Just find and insert lots of cognates or acquired pictures onto your first slide. Then duplicate the slide lots of times! (Hold down and right click) Now remove a different item from each slide. You simply click through your slides and students say what is not there!



Picture Talk

EAster Hungarian sprinkling

I watched a great online lesson over the Easter weekend with my mate and colleague Bu Cathy. It was presented by Amy Vander Deen. I took soooo many notes of this great presentation and I learned a lot, so I decided to share. Here goes:

How to Co-create Stories in Primary

Start with a character. Let’s call him George. George wants a cat.

Ask questions: Does George have a cat? Does George want a big cat or a small cat? What colour cat does George want? Is it a special cat, or a normal cat? Introduce the character. George’s problem is that he wants a cat. Follow the ABC formula. He goes to A. (Cats-R-Us) The problem is not solved. He goes to B (Cat-Mart). The problem is not solved. He goes to C. There are blue cats! George is happy.

Students act out the story while it is being created. This way you can question characters as well as telling the story in 3rd person. eg “Do you have blue cats?” “No, I don’t have blue cats. I have yellow cats, red cats, green cats etc”. To involve more students, some can hold up signs for the shops and others can act out the cats in the shops. Acting out the stories whilst creating helps in these ways:

  • helps to reinforce meaning
  • helps to make it memorable
  • T (Teacher) can speak directly to character
  • T can turn to class and use 3rd person to tell class what character just said (use ‘dia’ and ‘nya’)
  • T asks circling questions
  • T asks personalizing questions

Adapting TPRS for Primary

  • use short, simple stories
  • T is more of a narrator
  • characters can be re-cast to give more students a turn (actors can be changed mid-story)
  • meaningful repetition (can sing or chant)
  • use what turns kids on eg Star Wars


Show a picture of Darth Vader. Ask ‘Who is this? Is DV big, medium or small? Big. Turn to actor and ask “DV – are you big, medium or small?” Character answers “I am big”. T says “DV is big. Very big.” Darth Vader has a plate. Is the plate big, medium or small. Small. The plate is small. Ask actor “Does DV want to have a small plate?” No. Class, does DV have a medium/big/small plate? Does he want to have a medium/big/small plate? DV is angry. DV says, “I do not like the small plate!”


  • Make sure your stories are FUR.   F = funny  U = unexpected  R = relevant
  • Read picture books aloud! Whilst reading, TPR some of the actions and ask questions about the book.
  • Read 2 or 3 stories per lesson.
  • Older students can read during FVR. (Free Voluntary Reading)
  • Talk about a picture, then build a story!


  • reinforce meaning
  • add layers
  • hold attention

Picture: a family with pets

Questions: Is there a dad? Is there a mum? Is there a brother? Is there a sister? Is there a baby? Is the baby big or small? Who is small, dad or the baby? Ask baby actor, “Are you big or small?” Ask the dad, “Are you big or small?” What colour is the cat?

Where to find suitable images? You need images you can use without copyright problems. Go to Google Images. Click on Tools, and check the ‘Usage Rights – Reuse with modification’. You can find fantastic background pictures to make a cool setting for your story.

Creating a Story.

eg Red Riding Hood. (images from TpT – Teachers Pay Teachers) Start with a photo of a forest with Little Red Riding Hood and GRandma in the foreground. Tell class “This is LRRH”. Is this LRRH? Is this LRRH or Grandma? etc   Use two actors up the front of the room.  Ask them, “Who are you?” Continue with “Grandma lived in a house”. Freeze your Smartboard and do an image search. Show the class. Ask a student to come out and pick Grandma’s house.  Ask questions about the photo. “Does Grandma’s house have a blue door? etc


  1. Statement
  2. Yes answer
  3. Either/Or
  4. No answer

Have a picture of Grandma in front of her house. Tell class, 1.”This is Grandma’s house”. 2. Is this Grandmas’s house?  Yes, this is Grandma’s house. 3. Is this Grandma’s house or LRRH’s house? (Use a 3-fer) Yes, this is Grandma’s house. This is not LRRH’s house. This is Grandma’s house.

Only circle NEW vocabulary or grammar.

Ask the actors, “Is this your house?’ LRRH now chooses 3 foods (in the target language). Students choose the images for the food.


LRRH makes tea for her Grandma. Ask class “Do you like to drink tea when you are sick? eg Will says no. Class, Will does not like to drink tea when he is sick. Will does not like tea. Who drinks tea when they are sick? Ask S actor, “Does Grandma drink tea when she is sick?’


  • compare/contrast 2 students in the class who do/do not like tea plus Grandma
  • create a chart with all the answers about tea. How many people drink tea? How many people don’t?
  • use info as a brain break. Stand by the door if you like tea. Stand by the window if you don’t like tea
  • compare class stories (1A and 1B)

eg Gingerbread Cookie Family on TpT

Are they big, medium or small? Turn students into characters. After the holidays, take photos of students, crop them, and insert them into slideshow. Where did you go? How did you go to ___? eg Sam went to his Grandma’s house. He went by car.

Good Places to find images

  • TpT (check terms of use)
  • etsy
  • flickr
  • openclipart

Ask your students what it is like to learn through stories. Great for student quotes to use for presentations and job applications!

Classroom Management

  • At commencement of year, ensure students enter the room and sit down quietly. Model this, ask students what they noticed (calm body, silent voice). Three or four students model, then WC.
  • Use different coloured circles for students to sit on.
  • Older students – have an assortment of seating options and they choose one. Call one at a time to choose a chair. Do it calmly and safely. Line up calmly and silently. Practise this!
  • Use a bell or Tibetan bowl or something authentic for “freezing”. Model this. Ask “Was my voice on or off?” Practise freezing at the bell. Do some TPR stuff, then freeze. T models, S models, small group models, then whole class. Incorporate with TPR. Also teach then to freeze when you say ‘STOP!’
  • Tell your students that participating in class is a privilege. If they are silly whilst acting, tell them “You have lost the privilege of being a lion”.
  • Make the consequences logical. eg If can’t sit properly on the rug, love the privilege of being on the rug. Have a ‘take a break’ spot. Leave them there no longer than 2-3 minutes. You break it, you fix it.
  • Can use stories about a child who is angry etc Matias esta Enojado. Teach some strategies in the story eg count to 10, take deep breaths, think calm thoughts
  • Or ask child to practise with teacher (while class does something else). Practise with me. Let’s try again. Do it twice. Give a reminder. Put on a story or video and ask child to practise with you one-on-one. After the consequence, reconnect with the child.


  • activities should correspond (in minutes) to students’ age
  • be attentive
  • use lots of brain breaks (then right back to the story)
  • use stories with actions eg going on a bear hunt


Find an engaging picture

Circle – The mouse is eating. Is the mouse eating? Yes, the mouse is eating. Is the cat eating or is the mouse eating? The mouse is eating. The cat is not eating. The mouse is eating. Is the cat eating? etc


eg Picture of hungry dog in front of a bowl with knife and fork.

Structures to teach: is hungry, wants to eat

Point to the dog. This is a dog. He is hungry. Who is hungry? The dog wants to eat. Scott, do you want to eat? Class, Scott is hungry. He wants to eat. Cathy is not hungry. She does not want to eat. Look at the clock. What time is it? How many minutes until lunch?

Pets. How many students have a dog? Does your dog ____? Matthew’s dog ____. Does Cathy’s dog ____?


Pause the story and ask for more details. Who? What? When? Why? How? How many? Who feeds the dog? What does he get fed? When does he get fed?

Don’t do this if class is wiggly! Keep this short for primary kids.


  • choose one that fits in with stories you are already doing. Use movietalk database. eg Google spreadsheet or profepeplinski
  • play video with sound off
  • after 10-20 seonds, pause video
  • ask Qs about what just happened. Circling Q, personalizing Q, parking Q
  • repeat
  • at end, show entire clip with sound

Tips and Tricks

  • shorter is better < 2 mins
  • clearly explain how Movietalk works – tell them it is an activity for big kids and that they have to see it without sound first
  • combine picture talk and movie talk by taking screen shots of movie
  • if movie has English, replay it with no sound but play some background music
  • don’t use movies with complex language

Special Person (KLB – Kursi Luar Biasa)

Class can ask the questions:

  • What is your name?
  • What is your favourite ____?

Have a proforma ready and type in answers from each person in L2. Take a photo and add it to the KLB poster. Add favourite animal. Hang in classroom or hallway. Include ‘When is your birthday?’ in KLB powerpoint.

Authentic Resources

  • songs – traditional and modern
  • rhymes/poems
  • children’s books
  • cultural games eg congklak, kasti
  • school appropriate comics, jokes and memes
  • picture talk authentic cultural images
  • movie talk cultural clips

Comprehensible Culture Lessons

(La Maestra Loca gives each of her classes a Spanish-speaking country for their class name – this could be done in Indonesian – Bali, Java, Sumatra, Flores etc. Then they are encouraged to find out info about these places at home)

Each year level in Amy’s classes studies a country/region. For Indonesian, could be Prep – Bali, Year 1 – Java, Year 2 – Sumatra etc

Images and Learning

Using images with new vocabulary means we are gathering new knowledge using dual coding. Picture + non-verbal processing = knowledge and spoken words + verbal processing = knowledge. Spoken word + image is dual coding – entering the brain through 2 systems rather than just one.

For young children, this is much more effective than trying to read and look at pictures as well. Children recognise and remember vocab better when they learn it through images.

Images combined with spoken text is most effective for learning new vocabulary with ALL ages, but younger students benefit the most.  Use spoken words with images, not written text. (or limit text)

Don’t use too many images! Space them out. Far more effective to talk about one image. Plan a lesson around a single, meaningful image. KISS!! (Keep it simple stupid!)

Always establish meaning – write on board with English meaning.

Ways to use a Picture Talk

  • as a launchpad for a story
  • to expand a story – plot twist, humour (good for beginning students)
  • as a ‘hook’ into a lesson
  • as a culture pop-up if kids ask about something. Freeze Smartboard and GTS (Google that Stuff)
  • as a basis for a culture discussion (1 pic, or series of pics)
  • as a memory jog

robot and pet

Story  – Ask who, what, where, when, why, how, how many? What is the robot’s name? (Always use letters and numbers to name robots, to practice letters and numbers). Have students name the pet, too. What is he made of? What is the problem? The robot is sad. Why? Use the ABC method. (3 solutions – last one is effective).



dog waiting

Dog waiting outside doors. Where does he live? What is his name? Who is he waiting for? Where is he? Who does he live with? What is the problem? How is it solved? (Hint: have a story in  your mind already)

Dinosaur in Mirror

  • Who is in the car?
  • Where are they going?
  • Where is the dinosaur from?

dinosaur in mirror


Use gifs also, and images from  Picture book illustrations

and also Children’s Illustrators (contact illustrators for usage rights)

Images in Stories

  1. Set the tone of a story (change the mood, use like a backdrop)
  2. Expand the world of a story. Find picture of an Indonesian market or google street view
  3. Add humour to a story (good for beginners)
  4. Move the plot forward (good for beginners)

Plot Twist

  • Good for beginners with little vocab
  • Use Instagram, Bored Panda, flickr pixabay and TpT etc for images

Hook into your lesson

  • project an image on the board or place it somewhere a week before you will use it. Build some excitement! Preview at end of class
  • optical illusions are good for hooks – discuss for 3-5 minutes at start of class
  • can be static image or animated gif
  • gifs – use animals or sports (for older kids)

Culture Pop-Up

  • image of soda in a plastic bag or some cultural aspect (shoes outside door, squat toilet)
  • Show photo of a place – ask, where is it? Gets rid of stereotypes
  • use when students ask about something

Culture Discussion

  • culture discussions are planned
  • major focus of lesson
  • culture discussion is longer than pop-up
  • Put pictures side-by-side to show there is no one stereotype (eg type of houses)
  • Ask “What can you see? Where is this photo?”
  • Compare village and city – use as parallel stories
  • use Windows and Mirrors – Windows are for comparing my life with someone else’s (different) Mirrors are for looking into and seeing similarities eg a boy that has a pet dog like me.
  • virtual field trip
  • show an image – are we on coast, jungle or mountains
  • What island of Indonesia are we on?

Memory Jog

Bring students back to a previously written story. Review stories. Write a new chapter for an old story! Or pop an old character into a new story!

Keep stories simple. eg Grandma walked in the jungle. It was very hot. Grandma saw a tiger. Grandma said “Aduh!” Grandma ran!

Co-creating Images (a la Tina and Ben)


  • taps into student creativity
  • builds community
  • gives ownership of story
  • kids have an emotional connection with story

How to do

  • use 2 students, one draws and one colours
  • class does not see picture until the end

Picture Stories

Colour print and laminate the story to read to the class.  Add details. Act out the first time, then use as a read-aloud book. Stop and ask questions, get kids to point to something, TPR some actions in the story. Can also fit L2 stories with what Preps are doing in homeroom. eg Gingerbread Man.

If you are still reading, you have made it to the end!!!! I intend to try out some of these great ideas – I hope you do too!

TCI Conference Melbourne 2018

What is the difference between the two photos? Nothing! They are both photos of yours truly with superheroes!!!!

I was so excited to have the opportunity to attend a conference with three superheroes of mine – Terry Waltz, Laurie Clarcq and Anny Ewing. I was not disappointed!

Below you will find gems I discovered at the conference. I hope some of these gems will be useful for you too!

Gaining Students’ Attention 

  • Start singing ‘If you’re Happy and You know it’, kids will start joining in with the actions.
  • Sing! Hold a note!
  • 3-2-1 Waterfall. Kids all go SHHHHHH

Four Key Principles of Teaching with Comprehensible Input:

  • make it comprehensible
  • provide repeated exposure
  • keep it interesting
  • teach for success

Rules for the TCI Classroom: (These are for teacher as well as student)

0. Naked desks – nothing on desks! Better yet, go deskless!

  1. Listen to understand
  2. Answer all together (unless I am asking a specific person/I stop you)
  3. STOP
  4. 2 words
  5. Ooh!  Aah!


Rules explained:

Why would you ask a question of a specific person? You could be asking the ‘barometer’ (one who gets it eventually but takes a bit longer to process; tries hard) to gauge comprehension OR you could be asking a fast-processing student for extension.

If you do ask the fast processor, add “Look at me and smile if you could have answered that question.” 

Use a wait signal so kids can have extra processing time: honour the thinking.

When would you let kids use 2 words? When you are fishing. Kids can answer in L2 or us 2 words. When fishing, use the “fairy dust” hand gesture to indicate you are wanting an answer/idea from students.

Say “Please answer in L2 unless I need an idea”. Limit your own English!!!

Best to have classroom signs with picture, L2 and English.

Remember that repetition is repeated MEANING, not sound! ie Ensure students understand the word!!

Ooh! Aah! You can use these sounds as well as rejoinders such as Astaga! Kasihan! Aduh! Keren! Hore! If kids get carried away, you can use a conductor gesture to stop them, or tell them “Kontrol” or “Sudah” to develop self-control. Point to the sign, then gesture to ‘cut off’ the sound.

THINK          FEEL          SAY          DO

Feelings are so important to kids. If they can attach a feeling to a word, can learn it so much better. There is a difference between ‘requested’ and ‘forced’ output. We do not want to force output. Give kids the opportunity to opt out of answering in L2 if they are not confident. You only use L1 to see what the level of comprehension is. “How would you say…?” “What did I just say?”

Rules need to be MODELLED, EXPLAINED and PRACTISED. You don’t get buy-in if kids don’t understand why they are learning with TCI.

To communicate is to put our picture in someone else’s mind or heart.

Kids can ask teacher to STOP if they don’t understand (with a gesture). Teacher will also STOP if it is clear someone doesn’t understand. Practise the gesture for “I don’t understand”. If students see someone else doing that gesture, they do it too. (Saves individual feeling stupid or embarrassed)

Another rule could be:

6.   Grandma     Grandma means G-rated. Kids can only give ideas that grandma would approve of. Have a cool poster of Grandma. My grandma loves interesting stories. She falls asleep with the boring stuff. Swear words make Grandma angry.

The Lesson

Grab their interest in a novel way.

Give them a reason for learning – show them the gold (what will they be able to achieve at the end) eg Terry told us “At the end of this lesson you will be able to read this Hawaiian script”.

Have your new structures written on the board so you know where you are heading, as well as posters for Who? What? Where? How? How many?

Good idea to ask a colleague to survey your lesson to find out:

  • how many times do students answer in L2?
  • how many questions do I ask?

Use English ONLY for two reasons:

  • to ensure the picture is clear (comprehension check)
  • to ‘fish’ (ask) for story details

Ask LOTS of questions. Don’t ask questions unless students have the TL (Target Language) to answer. Questioning is a super important skill.

When students are in their first 3 years of learning the language, don’t worry about correcting grammar.

Teach kids how to accept a compliment. “Amelia, I am going to tell the class something about your sentence. You can accept the compliment with a royal nod or wave like the Queen.”

Make it comprehensible!

  • establish meaning
  • support meaning – write on board, posters (pause and point!)
  • comprehension checks

Provide Repeated Exposure:

  • ask questions
  • confirm answers (Brad Pitt’s house)
  • extend answers (Brad Pitt’s big house in Melbourne)
  • parrot/repeat in ‘conversation’


Get a kid to be the parrot and repeat funny/important bits throughout the lesson.

Choose one new structure plus any/all of what they already know. A structure is a chunk of language with meaning, preferably high frequency.

You can plan using a full story, or have a story skeleton with minimum sentences and students will fill in the details. Keep it interesting!

Excellent Eight

  • mau
  • suka
  • di
  • (pergi) ke
  • punya
  • ada
  • beri
  • ambil

Sweet Sixteen

The above, plus:

  • lihat
  • bisa
  • berkata
  • pulang
  • pakai
  • dengar
  • datang
  • tahu

Ways of Assessing

IMG_1031 2

Putting it all Together – Laurie Clarcq

Learning is:                                                                 Acquisition is:

  • difficult                                                               easy
  • conscious                                                            unconscious
  • fast                                                                       slow
  • soon forgotten                                                   remembered
  • for the ‘smart kids’                                           for everyone!

all about how the L2 is used                               is all about what is being said

Ideas for Kursi Luar Biasa (Special Chair)

  • have other students ask questions of the special student
  • have 2 KLB and ‘fans’ of each person. Pump up the fans and ask them about their ‘special person’. Keep their attention by seeing which fan group is being more responsive.

Student has to listen to understand. Teacher must speak in order to be understood.

The Process of Language Learning

  1. Hear it (nothing happens if you don’t hear)
  2. Recognise it (Get kids to write/draw word, then translate)
  3. Understand it
  4. Connect it (input/output)

Ask S (student): Where are you in the process?

When teaching structures, put things that are hard to acquire (eg verb to be) with things that are easy to acquire. eg “is” a teacher

Krashen’s i + 1

input that grows language = stuff already acquired or accessible + 1 new structure (high frequency)

Game to practise output

Get kids into 2 circles, inner and outer, facing each other. One person stated a structure from the story eg “Ibu Anne punya ular” and the partner had to react with a rejoinder “Astaga!” “Keren!”


Go fishing where there are fish!

Only use circling for new information and for fishing – it is like swearing, use it appropriately!

Have a signal for ‘whole class answers”, such as hand up or arms spread wide.

Honour all the answers kids give. Ide bagus! Be positive. Practise and use a thinking face. Vote and count to choose the character/place, or pull from jar. Close eyes/cover eyes to vote.

3 fer – three reps in a row, such as Is Bob a teacher?

  • Yes, Bob is a teacher. Bob is not a dentist. Bob is a teacher.

Machine gun Nos – park on the No

  • Is Bob a dentist? Is Bob a doctor? Is Bob a hairdresser? Is Bob a fisherman?

Primary Teaching – Anny Ewing

Tell kids “Your job is to look, listen and understand.”

My job is to make it easy for you to understand.

Keep the rules simple (see photo above).

For comprehension checks:

Close your eyes and hold up from 1 – 5 fingers to show understanding. Five fingers is complete understanding. Have a written comprehension check – five questions Yes or No. Or have different actions for yes and no and students move to show understanding. Jump up for YES! Crouch down for NO!


Purpose-written TPRS text is:

  • connected
  • written by a fluent speaker (gulp!)
  • written with a goal of 100% student comprehension

A parallel text can be used for assessment.

First Reading of Story 

  • Read as a group.
  • Circle during reading.
  • Recap in English at the end. eg (Is Kevin’s house big? Where is Kevin’s house?)

Reading Activities

  • Group reading on powerpoint.
  • Put sentences in order. (Gesture and read slowly first. Write your sentences so there is no one correct way to order them – encourage discussion eg How could you change the ending so it would make sense?)


  • Put students in pairs and then get them to put sentences in order.
  • With your partner, read the story in English
  • Ping-Pong reading in English (or give them a choice of L2 or English)

Embedded Reading

Embedded Reading (Laurie Clarcq)

IMG_0711 2


Base story is usually very short and simple.

This is Laurie. This is Jose. Laurie and Jose go to Las Vegas. Jose is happy. 

  • Show sentence by sentence with pictures.


  1. Introduce new vocabulary.
  2. Play with new structures.
  3. Show story with pictures.
  4. Show text only.


Wins a chicken

  1. Put something wacky or unexpected in the reading.
  2. Act it out.


Add one word eg fantastic. Add the word wherever it makes sense in the reading. Ask students, “Where else could we have ‘fantastic?’ Read the story out loud to a partner. Every time you say ‘fantastic’, they make a noise/action.

Laurie started an embedded reading by using a story written by a student, with bits added from other students to build up different (more difficult) versions.

Tip: when kids are reading, get them to fold over the paper and use edge of paper for ‘dropping and dragging’. It helps to avoid them getting distracted. They can also fold it to mark their spot in the reading. You can tell kids to “Park the Car” when they have found 3 tricky bits.

Translate to: clarify, check.


  1. We read together.
  2. We read and discuss.
  3. We read and wonder.

GOOD stories have: a strong character, a relevant (to students) setting, the situation (use focus language) must be interesting and visual.

Great tip for reading: One sentence of reading per year of language study.


Grandpa was at a party. He forgot to wear pants. He covered himself right away.

To extend the story, ask yourself questions such as WHEN, WHO WITH, WHAT KIND?

Yesterday/One day, grandpa was at a party with his friends.

Stop and use speed sketching. Encourage kids to “Share and enjoy” (not point and laugh). Then talk about pictures. Who is grandpa with? What are his friends doing at the party? What can you see at the party?

Made to Stick – book about stories that ‘stick’.

Wired for Story – writing great stories

Instructional Cycle









Backwards Planning

Ask yourself:

  • What do I need to do with my S in order for them to be able to …?
  • How can I get them to do that?

It is not about data, it is about students!

Backwards inspiration: how do I feed the students? (the baby doesn’t grow because you weigh it!!)

Think about your end goals: I want them to read novels, examine and report, summarise chapters (for example).

What do I want them to be able to do at the end of the year?

  • Listen and comprehend (mini and macro goal) ____.
  • Read and comprehend ____. (familiar sentence, short story, novel)
  • Speak and ______. (Retell a familiar story)
  • Write and _____.

If there are things  you need to teach (such as weekend activities), put them into stories!

Accessible language is language the teacher gives (points, posters, on board)

Make sure your lesson fits the “lens test” – look at it through eyes of the principal.

Plan with question words.


Opening activity of lesson should always be about building community.

Closing activity: leave them (and you) feeling good –  breathe, play music, turn and tell a joke, dance, heads down and relax, dead fish.


Great prose to read when you are too scared to try something new!


GTS – Google that Stuff

Voluntold -When you ‘volunteer’ but actually you are told to do something!

You are where you are supposed to be.

Round of Applause: clap around in a circle

Progress, not perfection!

Be an authentic teacher with passion.

Hands-on TCI with Unifix Cubes


This is a fantastic hands-on CI activity to teach the words ‘ambil’ (pick up), ‘taruh’ (put), ‘di atas’ (on top of), colours and numbers. Students are totally engaged because each has their own little snap-lock bag with all nine unifix cube colours – white, blue, red, pink, brown, green, yellow, black and orange. At the beginning of the year I only included 5 colours and slowly added more over the year. I do this activity with Preps, but it would work with other beginners.

I start with asking all students to ‘lingkaran, lingkaran’ and make a circle shape with my hands.  They get it, and sit in a circle. Then I say laki-laki, perempuan, laki-laki, perempuan (boy, girl, boy, girl – makes behaviour management so much easier!) – they sort themselves out (mostly). I sit in the circle too, usually next to the most challenging student 😉

Then I give out the ‘tas’ (bag) by sliding them across the carpet to each child. This seems to impress them no end! I show them what I do with mine – I tip them all out in front of me and then say ‘tas di belakang’, while placing bag behind my back.

After they have all done this, I count the ‘balok‘ one by one and get them to join in if they can. I tell them ‘Ambil merah. Taruh merah sini. Ambil putih. Taruh putih di atas merah. Ambil kuning. Taruh kuning di atas putih. (To be honest, with my Preps I don’t use ‘taruh‘ in case it is too much new vocab, I just leave it out, but you could use it) I say this slowly, and I do it as well,  so that if a child does not know the colours yet, they can just copy me and let the language soak in. I do this with all colours, then start at the bottom and repeat each colour while pointing to each block.

Then we sing, ‘rusak, rusak, rusak – rusak, rusak, rusak’ as we break them all apart. Then I ask ‘Siapa duduk baik?’ (Who is sitting nicely?) and I pick that person to pick/say the colour we will start the next tower with. Sometimes they say it in English, that’s OK. I just repeat the colour and pick that block up. I pick a different child to say each block. All up we build about 5 or 6 towers, following the same routine and choosing children to say the next colour. Amazingly they don’t get bored!

With one class, I had an Indonesian child who kept saying ‘Sudah!’ after he had broken up his tower, so I incorporated this into the lesson and I said it as well, over and over, every time I finished breaking up my tower. If the kids said ‘Done!’ I said, you have to say ‘Sudah!’ which they did. By the last tower they were all chanting ‘Sudah! Sudah!’

When I have had enough, I line all my blocks up and count them, to make sure they are all there. They do it with me. Then I ask them to ‘ambil tas’ (pick up your bag) and we put them in one by one, listening to the colours I say aloud. I tell them ‘Tutup tas’ and they zip up their little bag. I walk around the circle and collect all the bags, saying ‘Terima kasih‘ to each child.

Such a cool activity and they are as good as gold because their hands are busy!

Then I hand them out a ‘tower building  worksheet, which has six towers of six blocks each.  I will add the attachment so you can download it and use with your own classes. (just give me time to get to school tomorrow to find it!)

I tell them we are going to colour in towers just the same way we built them, from the bottom up, and then I say ‘Warnai balok satu merah’ (colour in block 1 red), ‘Di atas, merah, warnai biru’ (on top of red, colour blue) etc. They enjoy this and you can see straight away who has got it and who hasn’t.

Try this with your younger students! They will love it and so will you! It’s fun to sit on the floor and play.

PS I have lots of plastic dinosaurs, cats and dogs too. It would be fun to create a little story where dinosaur walks to red, runs to yellow, jumps to blue etc or goes to orange with dog etc! Please add any other ideas you think of!

PPS Thanks to Bu Cathy who found these photos of me with my students ‘playing’ with blocks.

Sneaky Extra Reps using youtube Videos


Watch and learn how to get in some sneaky extra reps with your students – it is painless and fun!

I used this as a pre-writing activity. After listening to the story over and over, it was fresh in the students’ minds and they were able to write great stories, even at Year 1 level!

I did this at the end of my “Cerita Ular” unit. Just click on the ‘settings’ icon in the middle at the bottom right hand corner of the youtube video to adjust speed, as shown in my video above. Let me know how it goes for you!