Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Lessons from Facebook for New Teachers

Not too long ago, Facebook was just a coding project for Mark Zuckerberg.  Today, it is a global business worth billions.  I remembered when Facebook started, there were many other social networks such as Friendsters and MySpace who were going after the same opportunity.  A few years later, FB has wiped them out.

Image result for facebook

Here are some lessons we can learn from Facebook and how we can apply them in our classroom:

1  One of the successful selling points of FB is it is very user-friendly. Even an uneducated adult knows how to use FB. The features are easy to use.  Keep your lessons user-friendly.  Simplify, simplify and simplify.  Remember that many in your class might not understand what you are saying and are too shy to ask.  Use the traffic lights to get feedback.  Do not fall into the 'syok sendiri' syndrome.

2  Allow students time for sharing their status/opinions.  Each child has a voice and it is often drowned out by the noise and the teacher.  FB gives airtime opportunities for  people to air their grouses and share whatever they like, no matter what they look like or sound like.

3  Keep changing things around by bringing a new game, a new idea to your classroom to keep things fresh.  Look at what others are doing, network and learn new things so that you will continue to have something new to offer to your students.  Do not be afraid to try new ideas.  FB does not take its success for granted.  It keeps learning, keeps asking for user's opinion and keeps bringing something new every now and then.  You are only as good as your last result.  You cannot keep basking in your past glory and refuse to change. Look at Nokia.

4  FB also listens to its customers and clients.  Each time it rolls out something that customers didn't like, it takes it out.  It is important to listen to students.  Although they may not be brave enough to tell you that your class sucks, the parking lot is a place for them to put up their grievances too.  Roll out an evaluation now and then about your classroom practices.  You will learn a lot and be gracious enough to learn from your mistakes.
5 Learn to take criticisms and do not let them get to you.  Zuckerberg had to face a lot of attacks and criticisms but he survived every one of them.  When you are successful, people will get jealous and they like to pass unkind comments sometimes.  You just have to develop a thick skin and move on.
6  Build relationships by celebrating birthdays and events together.  Get a monitor to be the reminder for everyone's birthday.  Everyone loves to receive greetings and presents.  FB recognises this and it has helped many remember their friends' birthday and it has made possible for a person to receive so many greetings in a day.
7  Create a group of friends and mentors to help you learn. Mark Zuckerberg was not as good at management as he was in coding.  He surrounded himself with a group of advisors, including Steve Job.  He learned as much as he could from each of these men, as well as from many of the executives he recruited to Facebook. Look at the company you keep.  If you surround yourself with negative people who are always complaining, then you are going to be like one of them.   
8  Focus on a long term vision and do not let the assessment data pull you down.  Yes, the data tells you a story and think smart about helping students achieve their learning goals.  However, you need to pace yourself to avoid burnout.  You are not here to run a sprint but a marathon.  So, while helping students prepare for the exam, think about the vision you have for the class and the subject you are teaching.  The projects and classroom tasks should point towards achieving this vision. FB's mission is to make the world more open and connected and everything they do points towards this vision.
What is your mission?

Ideas for Classroom Management

Here is a great link to ideas on managing the classroom.
Great classroom management ideas from Scholastic

No. 1 - Hand up - is like parking lot.  Students put up their names if they need help on the hand.  Such a cute idea.   I love the Bingo for good classroom behaviour.  Good behaviour gets a reward of a number, and the first to fill up a line gets another prize.
No.2  looks like another version of the traffic lights that we are using.  No.4 helps us to keep track of students' whereabouts.  Some students like to ask for toilet breaks but never come back.  A look at the Cheat Sheet will tell you whether they are back.  Which is your favourite?

Monday, August 29, 2016

Feedback Signals: To use or not to use?

Feedback Signals
Feedback signals and hand signals are non-verbal signals used to help run group management.  It was originally introduced in Kagan's cooperative structures to check for comprehension.  It helps facilitators and in our case, the teacher, to see emerging results and immediate feedback.  Some teachers told me isn't that against the idea of cultivating the communicative skills. The TL is used when teachers have given a task and wants to know whether all students understand the task- immediate feedback from all. Or after explaining a concept, the teacher may use TL. TL gives a voice to each child, especially those who might be too shy. Every time a teacher asks whether students understand, there will be a few who might be too afraid to say anything.When all students are required to use the TL, everyone has a chance for their learning to be more effective.  No where should it be used to replace communicative activities.

For a class with only two students, I guess you might not need quiet signal or TL but in my observations in the classroom, students enjoy using it.


Image result for kagan's feedback signals

According to Kagan's research, we lose 18 days requesting our students to keep quiet.  I sometimes see teachers stuggling, shouting "Listen, listen, listen!"  The goal should be to obtain silence and attention within 5 seconds.  Hence, the need for the quiet signal.  It is not about not giving the chance for students to speak.  There is a time for everything in a classroom.  If teachers cannot command the attention of the students when they are in groups, it would be tiring for the teacher to explain to every group. Some teachers use a chant to gain attention, some use "High Five" or 'Give me five".


Friday, June 17, 2016

Transforming the Classroom, School by School

Sharing some ideas from my visits to schools everyday.  These pictures are taken at SK KUALA SLIM, Slim River.  They have just got started in transforming the classrooms.

As you can see, the tables have been arranged in fours and are slanted so that students can also see the whiteboard clearly.

These are reward stars for the students.  Each student has a container to house the stars that he has earned.

                Teacher has added a parking lot for all subjects.

                     Traffic lights are ready to roll.

                             Reward charts and birthdays are shown on the board.


I love this chart to show those who are present and absent.

This is a reward chart, using the ships to chart their progress.

The role tags for group work are done.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Tips for Organising Group Work

There are a few things to remember when you are implementing group work.  Many teachers ask students to work in groups to complete an activity but often, collaboration is not seen.  How do we ensure that group work is implemented correctly?

1   Determine the learning objective that you want students to achieve.  Ensure that the group activity you are organising plays a role towards the learning objective and not just a mere activity.

2  Share the purpose of the activity and model the target language or product if the class is weaker.
This means telling the students exactly what they have to do or showing what their final product might be like, allowing some room for creativity.  Use the quiet signal to get the attention of the students before giving instructions.  After the instructions, ask for feedback through the traffic lights.

3  Determine a time limit for each activity to provide some competition and suspense.  Stop the activity by using the quiet signal.  You can provide more time if you want at the end of the time limit.  Often, I see teachers allowing too much time for one activity and students become bored and start their own mini party.

4  While students are doing their work, monitor each group by moving around.  Do not start to interfere the minute you sense something is wrong.  Prompt the group to solve the problem.  Ask Three Before Me would be a good principle for students.

5  After the group activity has been completed, it is important to decide on how you want the reporting to be done.  The usual senario is the teacher asks each group to come up to present their work.  After the second or third group, the whole class will lose interest as they feel that they are going through the motion.  I would recommend doing a carousel feedback or gallery walk.  Groups put up their work then  circulate around the room and read each other’s answers, They can add their own comments in response. I would normally move around with my post-it notes and give comments.

6  Give a closure by summarizing the main points that have been presented.  You can also ask students to do a reflection of their work and what they have learnt for the day.

7  Always reflect on the group activity afterward.  Reflect on what worked and what could be improved.  

1  Students have nothing to say in a listening and speaking activity
    Provide more help in the target language.  Students who are weak might be unable to
    produce anything.  Give more notes or help with pictures.

2   Students are unhappy with their group members.
     Spend some time doing team-building activities and ice-breakers before introducing serious

Sunday, April 24, 2016


I want to share two cooperative learning structures that would surely encourage some communication.


Talking chips

How do I start?
 Each student receives one or two “talking chip.” The chips can be any kind of game token, or a coin.  As shown above, I recommended these little smiley magnets from Mr DIY or any departmental store.   In order to speak, a student must place his or her chip in the center of the talking mat.  The teacher must model the language structure expected.  For example, in the first picture, the teacher wanted the students to talk about a character in the short story.  The rest of the students must listen quietly till the student finishes.  Another student places his chip on any of the picture or phrases and start speaking.  Everyone takes turn till all the chips are on the table.

Talking Chips ensures that everyone participates or contributes to the discussion.  It is especially useful for shy students, low achievers, and less-fluent students.  However, teachers must provide lots of help with pictures and helpful words for the weaker students.  Do not give up if students are initially shy or did not participate.  Keep experimenting.  I love using game boards for this talking chip activity.

Another game that is easily done is Spin and Talk.  It has been called many names depending on the purpose of the game.  This spinner can easily be done on MSWord, inserta a circle and divide the circle into sections.  All you need is a pencil and a paper clip.  Students take turns spinning the paper clip around the pencil and speak on the topic that the paper clip lands.

You can find the teambuilding spinner here:

These two structures are great as starters or plenary.  You could start off a lesson on hobbies by asking students to do a talking chip activity with a mat that is filled with pictures of hobbies.
You could also end the lesson by asking students to summarize what they have learnt by spinning and talking about it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Quiz Quiz Trade

In a normal classroom, a teacher asks a question, a few students might mumble an answer if you are lucky, and the teacher calls up a student to answer.  How do you get 50% of the classroom to answer at any one time?  You can do this through Quiz Quiz Trade, another of my favourite Kagan structures.

How do I organise it?

Step I:
Give students each a question with an answer or a certain point that you want them to engage in.
For example:  Topic:  Opposites 
I would give students a card each.  Each card would be printed with a word and the student has to say the opposite of the word.

Step 2:
Students hand up to pair with another student.  They ask each other the question on their card.  If the answer is correct, they exchange their cards. They put up their hands to find a new partner. If the answer is wrong, the partner will coach till he gets it right.quiz each other and if they can answer the question, they exchange their cards.

Step 3:
Students keep moving and finding new partners till the teacher stops the activity.  Students come back to their original group to share the new points that they have learnt.

Cards can be prepared with math problems, spelling words, vocabulary words and factual points or anything else you can think of.  The possibilities are ENDLESS!
You can use this structure as a starter activity to generate ideas in a weak class.

Monday, April 18, 2016


Two stay two stray is another good cooperative learning structure.  It creates an opportunity for students to present their ideas to another group or to explain a certain concept to another group.  Students could work in pairs or the teacher could adapt and make it, two stay, one stray.  It usually follows a brainstorming session or a response to a situation or problem.
For weaker students, the teacher could provide the structure or even model one 'straying'.

'Good morning, my group would like to present on ways to save the environment.  Firstly, we should......Then, we must ...............   Thank you.'

The aim of this activity is to create opportunities to talk about a subject, to teach a certain concept to someone else, to present an opinion or to solve a problem.  This also increases the speaking confidence of the students.  As this activity takes place simultaneously, maximum participation is ensured.

Sunday, April 17, 2016


The gallery walk is one of the most popular communicative activities among the teachers.  I love it because it offers the students a chance to present simultaneously and students get a chance to respond in small groups.

What is Gallery Walk? It actively involves students in synthesizing important concepts, in consensus building, in writing, and in public speaking.  Groups rotate around the classroom, listening to presentations, reflecting and responding.  

Why use Gallery Walk?  It promotes higher order thinking, oral/written presentation skills, and team building.  It is flexible and has many benefits.  It encourages students to speak and write the language rather than just listening to the teacher or one speaker at a time.  It also invoves cognitive skills involving analysis, evaluation, and synthesis, Gallery Walk has the additional advantage of promoting cooperation, listening skills, and team building.

How to use Gallery Walk? –
This is one way to use Gallery Walk.  Teacher asks each team to stand beside their station or poster sheet.  When the teacher gives a signal, each team moves to the next group except the presenter.   After three to five minutes at a chart or "station" the team rotates to the next group. Those who are listening would be given post-it-notes to write their comments or to do a 'two medals one wish' - what two things are good, and one thing that could be improved.

Another way to use Gallery Walk is where teacher sets up each station with a particular question.  Team rotates from station to station to answer the questions.

I love this activity because it involves maximum participation and students are actively engaged.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Jot Thoughts - another collaborative idea


This is another favourite Kagan structure that is easy to carry out without much preparation.
Things you need:
A paper mat/ an A4 paper
lots of coloured papers cut into smaller squares/ post-it-notes

Teacher gives a topic and students work in groups to list down their ideas.  One idea per slip of coloured paper. A specified time limit is given for this activity, either as a starter or a plenary.  I add an element of excitement into this activity by making it as a competition.  The team that covers up the whole mat or paper with the ideas wins the game.


1. Brainstorming (30-60 seconds)
    Example:  In 60 seconds, write down as many ideas as you can about saving the environment. 
2. Review previous lesson (5 min)
    Do you remember what we did last week?  In 5 min, write down as many ideas as you can about saving the environment that we had discussed.  Use one idea on one slip of paper.
3. Review content taught (plenary)
    We have discussed ways to save the environment.  In groups, think about what you can do to help save the environment at home?  Jot down each idea on the coloured papers.  One idea on one piece of paper.
4. Synthesis 5-10 min(suggest solutions to a problem)
    The landfill of your city is 90% used.  There is a scarcity of land for throwing rubbish.  What can be done to solve this problem?   Jot down your thoughts on each slip of paper.

After the activity, the teacher could ask a few groups to share some responses.  Then, proceed to the next activity.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Creating a Conducive Environment for 21st Century Learning

Mention the word '21st century' and teachers envision computers, smartboards and all the other gadgets which we cannot afford (but dare to dream and some of our schools have already achieved).  However, till we get those ICT gadgets, there are a few things that we can do to ensure learning takes place.

Apart from the Parking Lot and feedback signals that I have discussed in my previous post, we can also set up the noticeboards to support learning.  Forget about the old way of dividing the noticeboards according to subjects and putting up articles which nobody reads.


1  Put up classroom rules for working in groups

2  Celebrate each student on the bulletin board or wall

I found some great ideas on Pinterest

3.  Use the wall to motivate the students and change it from time to time

4.  Grafitti wall
Students need a space where they can draw or write something.  You can put it at the 'cave', a quiet corner for thinking or relaxing.

5.  Bring the social media into the classroom.  Create a status wall/wonder wall where students can write their present status.

6.  Put up students' work

7. Create a rewards corner

classroom data chart

8.  Put up anchor charts

Monday, April 11, 2016

Incorporating the 4C's

Many teachers expressed their concern about the activity-based learning that the MOE is asking for. How are they going to be ready for the exam?  How are we going to finish the syllabus?  These are valid concerns.

Firstly, the activity-based learning and the 4C's are nothing new.  This is an excerpt from the HSP Bahasa Inggeris, Tingkatan 5:

......... Learners are taught the English language to enable them to use the language to further their studies and for work purposes. 
 The English syllabus aims to extend learners’ English language proficiency in order to meet their needs for English in everyday life, for knowledge acquisition, and for future workplace needs. 

EDUCATIONAL EMPHASES learners prepare for the world of work and social life. 
 Thinking skills 
Critical and creative thinking skills are incorporated in the learning outcomes to enable learners to analyse information, make decisions, solve problems, and express themselves accurately and creatively in the language.
 Learning How to Learn Skills are also integrated in the learning outcomes and aim to enable learners to take responsibility for their own learning. ..... help them become independent lifelong learners.
 Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Skills
 In line with globalisation and the ICT age, skills related to ICT are incorporated in the learning outcomes.....

 On one hand, we are preparing students for exams but let us not forget that we are also preparing students for real life.  They need to learn to work with other people, communicate their ideas, think and solve problems, create and innovate.  The content is still pretty much the same. What has changed is the delivery.  Teachers need to provide opportunities for the 4C's or should I add, 5C's (Computer literacy) to happen during the lesson.  Here, I would like to share with you how I incorporate the 21st century skills and at the same time, prepare them for exams. 


Carousel Feedback

So, what would a typical lesson look like if I would like to incorporate at least 2C's?  Here is a simple lesson plan.  The time limits allocated are my own suggestions and it is up to the teacher to adapt.


OBJECTIVE:      At the end of the lesson, you will be able to write an article with the help of notes
CRITERIA  :       You will be successful if you can:
                          i.  talk about ways to save the environment using modals (should/must)
                         ii.   use a graphic organiser to organise points and elaborate
                         iii.  write three paragraphs
Starter:        1. Teacher puts up a big poster on the environment.  Teacher elicit response on the topic and shares the LO and SC.  Students work in groups and fill up a big bubble map on ways to save the environment. (Time: 3 min) (Place the bubble map at the center of the group to encourage participation by all.  Teacher elicit response from a few groups and reminds students to use modals to give advice.
Activities:    1. Two Stay Two Stray - The Presenter and the Reporter go to another group to present their bubble map using modals. The ones who stay will give more points to presenter. (5 min)                                                                                                                  (Communicative/Collaborative)
                   2. Students return to their group after two rounds of straying (optional) and proceed to choose four points and discuss the elaborations for each point on a graphic organiser. 10 min. (Collaboration)
                   3. Carousel feedback -  Students move clockwise to another group, give feedback to the group's points and elaborations. (Teacher explains that students could give positive comments, add points, correct errors or give suggestions) Students move from group to group following teacher's cue.(one minute at each group).(Critical thinking/Comm)
                   4. Students return to their group and read the feedback from the teacher and other group members. Students add points or correct their errors.
                   5. Students write three paragraphs on their own.
 Plenary       Students use checklist for peer evaluation and give further suggestions to their
                   shoulder partner.


More collaborative activities and lesson plans will be discussed.  Do drop me a line to give me some feedback.  See ya...

Teaching Aids to Promote the 4C's


Apart from the group management toolkit, one of the most versatile teaching aid to have is the mini whiteboard. It is the 21st century version of the mini blackboard or green board when we were in the primary school.   It is suitable as a starter, main or plenary.  Students love using the mini whiteboard.  I notice the class comes alive wheneveer the teacher brings in the mini whiteboard. You can buy these from bookshops.  One A4 size costs about RM1.20 or you can buy a whole box for less than RM100.

Another school actually bought a piece of formica sheet/plywood from a hardware shop which costs about RM36 and some shops do cut them for you.

Of course, we can always laminate a piece of A4 paper and we are good to go.  However, it is rather hard to wipe off and after several times of usage, it becomes very dirty.  I discovered that you could use a pencil eraser but you would need your students' help.

Another great alternative is to use the plastic document holder which you can buy from DIY for RM1.30(thanks to a coachee of mine).   The A3 size is about RM2.70.  You can insert an empty mind map or graphic organiser and get the students to write on it.  It is easily wiped off with a piece of cloth or duster.

My advice is to give the small whiteboards for each student and to give the bigger board for group work.  If the board is too small, group discussion would not be successful as some students might not be able to see.

What activities can we organise with the mini whiteboard?

1.  Pop quiz

     Run a surprise quiz at any part of the lesson to gauge understanding or learning.

2.  True or False

I asked a few questions of the chapters in the novel and students have to show me True or False with 
the mini whiteboard.  I have them write the words first before I begin the activity.  This activity
immediately tells me who knows the novel very well and who is still struggling.
 Race to 12
This is a cooperative activity where students race to complete 12 things in groups.
E.g.  12 adjectives
         12 ways to save the environment

• Showdown
Students complete a task individually and shows it to the whole group.  Group members help 
others who were not able to complete.  This could be a competition or it could be just to ensure 
all members understand or have mastered the skill.
• Pictionary
One student draws a picture while the other partner guesses what he is drawing.
• Spelling

Another good tool to have is the placemat consensus.  This could be photocopied in advance
and inserted into the document holder.  Students write on it.  This could be used as a starter.

          This is a cooperative learning strategy to encourage maximum participation.  Teacher gives a topic  and each student will write in the section in front of them for 1-3 minutes.  The teacher then may asks the group members to discuss each point and to come to a consensus on one or a few main points.  The reporter will write the points in the centre of the placemat.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Sharing of the Learning Objective and Success Criteria

There are many benefits in sharing the learning objectives:
i.  it creates a sense of mutual responsibility
ii. it helps students be clear about what success looks like in the lesson
iii. students know where they are heading
iv. keeps the teacher on track

If students are going to write an email, then they need to know what is the criteria that would tell them they are successful in writing an email.  I would break up the objectives into the various skills in writing that email.  For example:

Learning Objective:  To write an e-mail to a friend, giving advice.
Success Criteria:  You will know you are successful if you can:
i.  use an appropriate format
ii.  begin and end the letter appropriately
ii. write an elaboration for each point given
ii.  use sequence connectors to join your paragraphs

I encourage my teachers to put up labels of the Lo and Sc  in class so that it is clear for all to see.  Some prefer to write on rolled whiteboards and hang it in the class.

When do I share the LO and SC?  Obviously, this needs to happen in the beginning of the class, whether it is after Set Induction or before.  

According to Robert Gagne, we should share the learning objective right after the set induction.

Image result for gagne's nine events of instruction

21st Century Teaching and Learning: Group Management and Facilitation

21st Century Teaching and Learning

Before we talk about integrating the 4C's into our lessons, we need to know about group management.


Since students are seated in groups, it makes sense that teachers should equip themselves with group management and facilitation.


Introduce the table group and its members to students.  The person sitting next to him is the shoulder partner and the person opposite is the face partner.  This is important for group work when the teacher wants the students to share with their shoulder partner or the face partner or the table group.

These role tags help students to play a role in the team and to ensure that no students are bullied into presenting or doing a certain work all the time.  Rotate the roles every now and then.
 I prefer to use Material Manager, Presenter, Reporter,  and Timekeeper.


The teacher raises a hand and say a word to attract students' attention.  I like to say 'Hi Five' and students know it means; eyes looking at teacher, hands stop working, ears listening, mouth stop talking and body turned towards teacher.  The student will also respond by saying 'Hi Five'.  Do not put down your hands till everyone is ready and listening.  Give your instructions.


These signals are important as students are seated in groups and it gives feedback to teacher or as a form of formative assessment.  How do I use the traffic lights?  After giving instructions for a certain task, ask students to show whether they understand by using the traffic lights.


Some creative traffic lights.



 This is a place where students post their questions. One is a poster with "Post your questions here....."  
 You can place a container or box below the sign and students can write on scraps of recycled paper and place their questions into the box.

Here are some creative parking lots by my coachees at Batang Padang.

This is what I put into my toolkit for each group:

Seating arrangement

According to the experts, 21st century classroom design should have 3 elements; the campfire (where students learn from an expert), the watering hole (where students work with others) and the cave (where students take time out to be alone, sudut santai).  With our large number of students in a class, it is almost impossible to find a place for every element.  Thus, I prefer to put students in groups of four for maximum participation.  Slanting the table groups help in creating more space for students to walk around.

Thanks to all my coachees and their friends who are so creative and able to adapt very quickly.