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Visiting Bu Cathy!

I am writing this blog in Adelaide after visiting Bu Cathy on the Fleurieu Peninsula, a beautiful part of South Australia. After following Cathy’s blog for about a year, it was wonderful to see her teaching Indonesian. I took copious notes and am eager to try some of her strategies!P1050186 I was inspired by seeing Bu Cathy teaching! It was my first time in South Australia and it is certainly a beautiful part of the world.

These are the notes I took while observing in her classroom at Port Elliot Primary School. Firstly, I was super impressed by Bu Cathy’s almost 100% usage of Indonesian. Certainly something to aspire too!

Junior Classes


The class began with singing a song: Selamat siang, Selamat siang,

Apa kabar? Apa kabar?

BUT instead of the usual baik-baik saja, the students sang: lumayan, kurang baik, senang sekali

The roll was taken by using Class Dojo. Each child was asked ‘Apa kabar?’ They answered with an amazing variety of answers: panas, lapar, baik-baik saga, capai, bingung, sedih, as well as the examples in the song.

Behaviour Management

There were 3 cute little monkeys displayed in the classroom, labelled ‘diam, duduk, dengar’.

I thought Bu Cathy’s behavioural management techniques were great and will be using them in my room! There were two A4 posters stuck on the board, labelled ‘nakal’ and ‘pandai’, with appropriate pictures. Each junior lesson, Cathy chose a paddle pop stick labelled with student names. Every time someone was ‘pandai’ throughout the lesson, a tally mark was recorded beneath the ‘pandai’ poster. If someone called out or blurted in English, a tally was added to the ‘nakal’ side. At the end of the lesson, these tally marks were counted out aloud, practised and the student written on the paddle pop stick received a prize (if the ‘pandai’ score exceeded the ‘nakal’ score. Older students were asked to move from ‘kelas satu’ or ‘kelas dua’ seating to ‘ekonomi’ (the floor). When students needed to be reminded about behaviour, a finger gesture with a spoken ‘nakal’ was usually sufficient. Class dojo was also used to record good responses (jawab), disrespectful, unfocused behaviour and calling out in English.

When students began to lose focus or needed to transition, Bu Cathy would say:

‘Angkat satu tangan, angkat dua tangan, tepuk tangan’ It was a very effective way to get the attention by using a movement.

There was also a school-based Step Program where students receive a warning for Step 1, Time Out for Step 2 and Buddy Class for Step 3. If they get to Step 3, there is a form for students to fill out while in the buddy class. A copy of this goes home and has to be signed by parents.

Bu Cathy chooses one child per lesson to sit in the ‘kursi luar biasa’. This child then gets to ‘antri’ (line up) first at the end of the lesson.

Brain Breaks

Bu Cathy used a great dance/exercise video for her junior classes. It was fun and very cute! The link is below:

Senam Pinguin

For upper classes, Bu Cathy asked the students to ‘Berdiri satu kaki’ (Stand on one leg) while she counted to twenty. To make it harder, students were invited to ‘Tutup mata’ the second time they tried. (not easy!) Berdiri satu kaki, lihat, menghitung sampai 20′.

I liked the way Bu Cathy invited her students to participate in the dance by asking: ‘Murid-murid mau berdansa?’. If they did not want to, they sat in front of the screen and watched the video of the dance.

At the start of the lesson, words to the current story were revised by saying them with the teacher and doing the gestures. Pakai topi, pakai jaket, pakai sepatu, terlalu besar, terlalu kecil, pas (OK gesture). Bu Cathy would say ‘Bu Cathy Bahasa Indonesia, murid-murid Bahasa Inggris’, then the students would translate each word at a time.

At the end ‘Sampai jumpa’ was sung to the tune of If You’re Happy and You know It’

Sampai jumpa, sampai jumpa, sampai jumpa

Sampai jumpa, sampai jumpa, sampai jumpa

Sampai jumpa murid-murid

Sampai jumpa Bu Cathy

Sampai jumpa, sampai jumpa, sampai jumpa

The pace was constant and kids were engaged. Bu Cathy would repeat words with gestures and change the patterns to keep kids thinking and moving. They would flip between ‘nakal, nakal, pandai, pandai, nakal’, say words in a variety of voices and in a variety of speeds and intonation. Sometimes she would say ‘pakai sepatu’ but do a different action to see if kids were listening. I loved the way Cathy combined a variety of movements to keep kids on their toes:

Berdiri, putar, duduk.

Hitunglah satu sampai lima.

Bediri, lompat, duduk.

They also sang a cute song for learning numbers to the tune of Are you Sleeping?

Satu, dua, tiga, satu, dua, tiga, one, two, three, one, two, three

Empat, lima, enam, empat, lima, enam, four, five, six, four, five, six.

Tujuh, delapan, tujuh, delapan, seven, eight, seven, eight

Sembilan, sepuluh, sembilan, sepuluh, nine, ten, nine, ten.

Middle/Upper Classes

Students were asked ‘Murid-murid siap?’ ‘Siap!’ they responded.

Jobs had been previously chosen, there were about 8 positions, tukang foto, polisi, menggambar, sekretaris, menghitung waktu dan ketua kelas. The ‘ketua kelas’ first marked the roll, asking each student ‘Apa kabar?’ They responded with a variety of answers as the junior students did. The ‘Menghitung Waktu’ counted the time taken to mark the roll and this was written on the white board so other classes could compare.

The ketua kelas was asked to stand and said: ‘Murid-murid, berdiri dan kasi hormat kepada Bu Anne’. I discovered later that students ‘audisi’ for the position of ketua kelas.

Class rules were revised, as well as gestures to be used if Bu Cathy was going too quickly or if students did not understand.

Words and gestures to the latest story ‘Bercakap-cakap terus’ were revised by doing gestures and saying words with the teacher. The words were keluar, datang, membaca, jangan, bercakap-cakap, pergi, terus, selalu, diam.

They then did some fun TPR with jangan tepuk tangan, berdiri, jangan berdiri, duduk, jangan duduk. etc.

Students were led through the story twice with different actors each time.

The last 15 minutes of class were reserved for ‘kursi luar biasa’.

Some of the questions used were:

(Nama) tinggal di mana?

Berapa umur?

(Nama) bermain futbol/bola basket/kriket/tenis/sepak bola?

Di klub yang mana?

Siapa bermain di tim (Nama?)

Siapa bermain di klub (Nama?)

(Nama) berdansa/menyanyi/berenang?

(Nama) punya anjing/kucing/burung/ular/kadal/tikus/ikan/kuda?

Siapa juga punya anjing etc?

Siapa nama teman (Nama)?

(Nama) punya adik/kakak?

Then they do a quiz based on that person. They stand if the statement is ‘benar’ for them. Salah – duduk.

eg Ashleigh punya satu adik. (Kids stand if this is true for them)

I will be posting next about my visits to Yankalilla Area School and Victor Harbor Primary School. Stay tuned!









Buat Menara (Build a Tower)

Last week I had a very successful Prep lesson, so thought I would share. I had a big tub of colourful unifix ‘balok’ so I packed these into 26 little snap lock snap bags with 6 blocks in the colours I wanted to focus on, white, blue, red, yellow, green and brown.  The kids sat in a circle while I placed one of each block in the centre. We did a little practise with ‘ambil merah’ etc to revise the colours, then I explained in L1 that we were going to ‘buat menara’ (build a tower) with the blocks, starting at the bottom and placing colours ‘di atas’. They each had their own little bag and began making the towers following my instructions in L 2. I made the tower too, but stayed a little behind so I could observe who was getting it. That way they had instant feedback.

Then we ‘rusak, rusak’ and began again. We built a few towers. They were totally engaged and on task. We packed them up, helped each other do up the snap lock bags, and I gave out a tower worksheet, with six towers of 6 levels. (Perfect, discovered it with Google!) S

They coloured in the ‘menara satu’, again following my instructions. We only got through one tower as time was up, but will continue with this next lesson. What a fun way to learn colours!

Shake your Tail Feathers!

After watching the Carol Gaab DVDs, I was eager to try some of her methods in the classroom. I tried chanting a phrase we were learning, along with movements similar to what Carol had modelled. We said ‘Harimau makan kancil’ (Tiger eats kancil), two claps in the air up high, then repeated the phrase with claps to the left, the right, on our tummies, chests, knees and then I spun around, chanted and then did two claps on my bottom. Oh, wow! Instant engagement. Had forgotten the young child’s fascination with any slightly ‘rudey’ bits. ALL students loved it, giggled, chanted, wanted to do it again! Worked from Preps right up to Year 3. Will be including this one in my repertoire for sure. So shake your tail feathers!

Wisdom from Carol Gaab

Over the Easter holidays, I spent some time viewing a 3 DVD set purchased from the US. It was recorded at the National TPRS Conference in Burlington, Vermont in 2006. The presenter was Carol Gaab and she was demonstrating and talking about  teaching TPRS to primary level children.

I took copious notes as I watched, so I now hope to pass on the gems of wisdom to you.  I hope you find these strategies/explanations as useful as I did! I have used orange text for the strategies that helped me the most. 

Younger L2 learners differ from older learners in many ways, such as:

  • need to move more
  • less self-conscious
  • shorter attention span
  • low literacy
  • better pronunciation
  • limited vocabulary in L1
  • cognitive ability – concrete, not abstract
  • need visual stimulation
  • need manipulatives
  • lower cognitive capacity (one concept at a time!)
  • likes and dislikes (poo and wee!)
  • attitude towards ambiguity of the L2 (don’t ask questions – why is it so?)

First step in TPRS is establishing meaning of new words/phrases. Translate, then gesture. You may have to say what new words mean over and over!! Could take 10 times or more. 

For Years Prep to 2, just show visuals of what words mean, you do not introduce the new words in written form until Year 3. Use props or photos to show younger students what the new words/concepts mean.

A wonderful strategy that Carol uses is to chant new phrases repeatedly, but in an engaging way. e.g. if you are teaching ‘harimau lari ke rumah’, students would chant this phrase rhythmically, then clap at the end. BUT to repeat it and make it fun, the clap can be to the right, to the left, up high, down low, on your sides, on your tummy, on your ‘pantat’ etc. 

Use some cool expressions, such as ‘aduh’, ‘hore!’ and ‘astaga’. Make these into mini posters and get wriggly members of the class to hold them up at appropriate times. I will add the ones I made to this page. Feel free to print out and use!

For Prep to Year 2, steps in TPRS are show, tell and sing/play.

For Year 3 and upwards, steps in TPRS are show, tell and read. These steps will be explained in more detail below. 

With young students, don’t use open-ended questions! e.g. Harimau makan apa? Better to give a choice of two things, ‘Harimau makan pizza atau harimau makan kancil?’

Things that Carol used that helped her learners recall the vocal included: using a picture, gesture, repetition (lots!), using lollies as rewards, realia, changing activities (game, moving, TPR, 2 or 3 students doing things while others watched and responded, using students’ names, chanting, participation, acting out things, word association).

She suggested that the Show and Tell parts of the lesson take about 10 – 15 minutes, then have students doing something, such as colouring, organising using manipulatives, partner work or make something. e.g. Today in my Prep lesson I taught them two new structures ‘Harimau lari’ and ‘Harimau makan’. After introducing these structures (one at a time!) and circling the structures (more about circling later), I showed the kids how to make a origami tiger face, step by step (in English!) It was a nice way to finish all our work about ‘harimau’.

I love that Carol stressed that we as teachers need to have that ‘break’ locked into each lesson to prevent exhaustion! As children colour, fold and help each other, it gives you time to breathe again!

To reinforce vocabulary learning at each level, these activities are highly recommended:

  • Prep: use props/gestures/games
  • Year 1/2: pictures/story participation
  • Year 2/3: singing – music is great at any level, such a powerful learning tool!
  • Year 3/4: reading words!

Sometimes we are very aware of how much work we want to get through for the week, and we forget to ‘love the kids’. At least I know I am guilty of this. Carol spent some time discussing how students need to be relaxed and comfortable to learn. If they have a negative response to some stimulus, such as Johnny pushing someone over at recess, then the ‘mini blinds’ come down and less learning takes place. Our students need to feel smart, pretty, good about themselves. The best way to change the mood of a class (esp after recess or lunch) is to tell a joke, show a funny photo, sing! SO IMPORTANT to take the time to do this. Carol said the most important thing to do in your classroom is to LOVE your kids.

For younger students with lower L1 literacy skills, the goal of 90% comprehension for 90% students may be unrealistic. Better to aim for 70-80% comprehension for 70-80% of students.

At the Year 5/6 level, they can cope with up to 3 new structures and big paragraphs of text to read.

With pre-literate students, the steps are:

  • show
  • tell
  • sing/play

and with literate students, the steps are:

  • show
  • tell
  • read

To make up songs for younger students, take simple nursery rhymes/songs you (and they!) already know and change the words to suit you. e.g. Here is one I made up to go with ‘harimau makan’. (to the tune of ‘Makan Apa?)

Makan apa? Makan apa? Makan apa harimau?

Makan kancil, makan kancil, makan kancil, harimau.

Another great one for ‘Siapa namamu?’ is to the tune of Farmer in the Dell.

Siapa namamu, siapa namamu? (The farmer in the dell, the farmer in the dell)

Siapa namamu, teman (Hi ho the whatever)

Siapa namamu. (the farmer in the dell)

Now for an detailed explanation of SHOW and TELL.


  1. Select 1 – 3 structures, then introduce them one at a time. No more than 3.
  2. Convey the meaning of the structure. This can be done by direct translation, use of prop, photo/drawing, gesture or video.

Remember that you may have to do the translation 3, 4 or 5 times! Don’t expect to say it once and students will remember! Don’t ever feel like you have said something too many times!

3.  Use skits, reenactments and demos. These are better than translation for long-term memory, good for obscure concepts or when translation is not an option.

Remember that use of visuals and demos is very important for your EAL kids who may not understand the translation in English.

Once students know the meaning, attach a gesture. Brain-body connection works!

For pre-literate, visual learners, work on your new structures for about 5 – 10 minutes.


  • it’s all about input
  • repetition, repetition, repetition
  • we need to hear something 50-75 times before it is internalised
  • the best input is contextualised, comprehensible input
  • practise 1 -3 structures at a time

The best way to get repetitions is by using questions.

PQA = personalised questions and answers

PMS = personalised mini-situation/class story

eg: Siapa mau makan coklat?/ Josh mau makan coklat?

Siapa mau makan pisang?/ Susi mau makan pisang?

Siapa mau lari? / Jeff mau lari?


Use circling to get lots of repetitions. Carol’s presentation really helped me improve my circling. I was doing just what she said NOT to do, getting stuck on one type of question, such as harimau makan apel?, harimau makan pisang?, etc until kids were getting restless and bored.

Here is the no-fail way of circling!

Learn this sequence off by heart:

  1. YES
  2. NO
  4. YES
  6. INTERROGATIVE (leave this one out for Preps!)

If this is your new structure (as mine was today), here’s how you do it.

Structure: Harimau lari ke pohon. (I had already introduced and demonstrated the words below)

  1. Harimau lari ke pohon?
  2. Harimau lari ke rumah?
  3. Harimau lari ke pohon atau harimau lari ke rumah? (My preps found this one tricky) Really important to say the whole structure here, not just atau rumah.
  4. Harimau lari ke pohon?
  5. Harimau lari ke mana? (They found this tricky too – I  gave a translation to help)

Each time they say ya or tidak, REPEAT the structure. Ya, bagus kelas, harimau lari ke pohon.

Then do the whole thing again, this time focussing on harimau.

  1. Harimau lari ke pohon?
  2. Kancil lari ke pohon?
  3. Harimau lari ke pohon atau kancil lari ke pohon?
  4. Harimau lari ke pohon?
  5. Harimau lari ke mana?

Then we do it again, focussing on the verb. Amazingly, the kids did not get sick of this method because the question was different every time.

  1. Harimau lari ke pohon?
  2. Harimau berdansa ke pohon?
  3. Harimau lari ke pohon atau harimau berdansa ke pohon?
  4. Harimau lari ke pohon?
  5. Harimau lari ke mana?

Now we have about 30-40 reps, probably more because we tend to repeat ourselves a bit. so hopefully ‘harimau lari’ is locked in! With some chanting and dancing, we can easily get to 50-75!

With older students, you can ‘fish’ for more details by asking more advanced questions. e.g. When did harimau run to the tree? Why? Ask simple questions, even if you know the answers! Fish for student ideas, interest, laughter. ‘Hook’ them with something that engages them. But remember, all questions must include target vocabulary.


The class story is a short story that is cooperatively created by teacher and students based on 3 vocabulary structures. It should include high frequency vocabulary and fun words or structures that engage kids.

Tell the story through QUESTIONS.

Class story: where do I start?

  1. with answers to PQA
  2. with hooks and/or conflicts
  3. with a statement or fact

Hook: a twist, quirky character, weird event, an exaggerated quality, anything humorous. Basically anything that hooks students and gets them interested in the story. Good to have humour in your story – laughter causes release of endorphins, which make your brain feel confident. Positive emotions enhance retention. Brains remember the bizarre – make stories weird or unexpected.

Conflict: a problem that has to be solved, or situation that has to be resolved, or anything that gives your story direction. A conflict creates suspense. Use simple problems with simple answers.

Building a PMS/class story

  1. start with 1 – 3 vocab structures
  2. ask PQA in terms of student interest
  • the answers design your PMS
  • Be selective! Take only the most fun, creative or bizarre answers.
  • Tides give you more reps

3. give students options for hooks/conflicts

4. accept answers in English, but translate them

5. let students drive the story with answers and input. T keeps foot on the brake by guiding.

TIPS for great PMS

  • choose wigglers to be actors, but be very specific about what they are to do
  • coach melodramatic acting
  • encourage audience participation – keep them busy with props
  • designate space – keep story elements in the same place so kids can remember words more easily
  • teach to the eyes
  • believe the story is true
  • assess constantly
  • make it more than comprehensible, make it comfortable
  • laugh! Have fun!

To get kids involved:

  • stop and ask Siapa lari ke pohon? (Whisper answer to your partner) Did your partner get it right?
  • use some TPR about the story
  • draw for me – harimau lari ke pohon
  • show partner your picture; describe it in L2 to your partner
  • fill in the blanks















This year I am making an effort to include songs in my TPRS teaching, especially if they contain vocab clumps that I have used, am using or going to use! Music sticks! I still remember songs from my French lessons 40 years (gulp) ago.

From year one to three, we have been learning ‘Naik, Naik’. Pretty song and easy to learn. I sing it and play the ukulele, then show students the actions for each line. As I gesture, I explain what it means in English. Then I show students a series of pictures that match with phrases in the song. They volunteer to stand out the front and hold up each line as we sing it. By the time everyone has had a turn at holding a ‘Kartu’ and we sing a final time with actions, students have heard the song about 7 times and (most) are not bored yet!

eg.     Naik, naik                                                    ke puncak gunung

When ‘naik’ comes up in a story, they already know it!

The song below is the next one I will learn on the ukulele, the kids love my ‘little guitar’! I have a book called ‘Koleksi 100 Lagu Anak Indonesia Terpopular’ that I bought in Indonesia. It came with a CD but the book has music and guitar/ukulele chords, so it is great!

Heli is an easy catchy little ‘lagu’ that also happens to contain one of the super 7 verbs ‘punya’ so it will be great for my students. We can also substitute the ‘aku’ for student names and change the ‘anjing’ to pets my students have. See link below for youtube version of the song.

Heli – song with ‘punya’



The ‘Saya Mau’ (I Want) Game

Yesterday while teaching preps, I came up with a way to get lots of painless, fun repetitions. I called it Raja dan Kwin (King and Queen). I already had a bag full of objects, all cognates except for one: bola, truk, pensil, pena, stiker, apel, stroberi and tikus (mouse). I sat the children in a circle and told them I was the bossy queen, and if I asked for something they had to bring it to me ‘cepat’! I gave out the objects, sat on my throne, put on a queenly face and manner and demanded ‘Saya mau truk!’ It was so much fun to see the preppies get up as quickly as they could to give it to me! We played this a couple more times (I was gesturing as well) then picked children to be the king and queen. Great fun, engaged students, 100% Indonesian and lots of repetitions! I even went to the $2 shop after school to buy a couple of crowns!

How Do I Do PictureTalk?

Just had to reblog this, to remind myself what a great method this is to revise/introduce vocab!

t.p.r.s. q&a

Other than MovieTalk, PictureTalk is the single-best “add-on” to T.P.R.S., and an amazing strategy for non-c.i. teachers.  It reinforces already-taught vocabulary and grammar, and is also a superb way to introduce new vocab pre-story.

Picturetalk– what Ben Slavic calls “Look and Discuss”– is simple, easy, low-prep and effective.   Here are three ways to do Picturetalk.

a)  Find a picture online which contains the “things”– people and actions– in your most recent story.  So, if your story is about a poor Guatemalan kid who wants something to eat, you find a picture of that, or (say) a picture of a homeless person.

b)  If you have never taught the vocab you want to use, write on board (or project it) along with translation.  Make sure the kids know what the words mean.

c)  Project the picture, make statements, and ask questions about the picture and about the things you’ve…

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Cats Speak Indonesian!

I like to tell my young students that cats speak Indonesian. That is because they always say ‘mau, mau’ when they want something, and ‘mau’ means want! So cats are very clever. This little connection seems to help my students remember ‘mau’, and if that means some strange cat-like sounding ‘mau’s at times, so be it!

To help us lock in ‘Saya mau’ this week, I brought in some packets of Skittles and m&m’s. We didn’t eat them, just used them to engage the students! We sang ‘Saya mau Skittles, saya mau m&m’s, saya mau Kit Kat and saya mau Chupa-Chup to the rock song ‘I want Candy’ (from the movie Hop). Year Ones loved it! We got to play our air ‘gitar’ to make it sound cool, but ONLY if we did the gestures and sang ‘Saya mau ___’ first. There is a kareoke version of this song available on iTunes – make sure you choose the third option with no English background singing.