Kindergarten. Surfing Safari, Level 1: Monkeying around

5th December for 7th December 2019 Super Safari 1 U 6, L 3 & 4 (pp. 50 – 51)

Today’s objective is to impose stronger classroom management and to introduce some new activities. The class has some new students, and it’s their first time in a classroom. Last week one of the new students was hard to control, running around the room, then drawing over the walls. Naturally, bad behaviour becomes contagious so it needs to be stopped … immediately.

From experience, I have seen that rewards work better than punishments; I shall make a chart and each week assign colour stars to each student based on their behaviour. Each week, the students will be able to see how they have performed.

Furthermore, I’d like to introduce a story section. At this age (mostly around 4), a very short story using basic vocabulary is sufficient. After I tell the story, I will repeat and the students can help me retell it.

Another change will be the games. I’ve tried ‘musical statues’ or ‘freeze’ but that hasn’t worked out so well. While some students stay still, others, mostly the boys, start doing an Irish jig or windmill impressions or forming fists and moving closer and closer to me. Hitting the teacher will be an instant BLACK MARK.

It can be frustrating getting a lesson started as students (or rather their parents) arrive up to fifteen minutes late and each new arrival diverts the attention of the class. Therefore, it’s good to start with a song, and YouTube has a vast selection of suitable material. Naturally, a song featuring ‘Hello’ is appropriate.

Image result for hello children

For example:

This can be played twice and the students can act out the emotions (I’m good, great, wonderful).

Next – a physical activity. Here we can use Teacher Says or Mike (the monkey) says:

Stand up // sit down // jump // hop // put your hands on your head // wave hello

Next – a review of last lesson’s new vocabulary (bird, rabbit, fish, cat). I’ll put the flashcards around the room. After, I’ll ask for two students to find a certain card (while making sure no other students jumps up and joins in). The student that finds it will hold it up and ask the class, “What is it ?”. I drill for “It’s a …” form of answer.

The students that haven’t participated yet can take part in the next activity. I will show them a card and they have to act or mime that animal, while the other students must shout out the name.

Next – story time. Our class puppet is Mike the monkey. Student can sit of front of the whiteboard.

They must ask, “Hello, Mike, how are you ?”

(the TAs’ help is invaluable here, as it is for the entire lesson. In fact, the TAs make the lesson work much more than I could ever do).

Mike says, “Today I am sad.”

Students ask, “Why are you sad, Mike ?”

Mike, “I don’t want to be a monkey.”

Students, “Why not, Mike ?”

Mike, “I want to fly like Polly.”

Yes, Polly can fly (mime flying).

Mike, “I want to be big and strong like Leo.”

Yes, Leo is big and strong.

Mike, “I am small. I want to be big like Gina.”

Yes, Gina is big. VERY big.

But Mike … you are very funny. Class … where is the ball ?

Mike is funny

Repeat story but give out masks to four of the students, so they can act Polly, Leo, Gina & Mike. Possibly most students will want to take part, so it can be re-enacted as required. Make sure students copy the actions and repeat key words.

Mike is now teacher …

Thay Mike. “Is the ball big or small ? What colour is it ? It’s a small red ball.

Excellent ! Now, what letter is this ?”

Excellent ! Letter ‘d’ … ‘d’ is for dog.

Image result for d o g with monkey

Hand out as many markers as possible and see how many students can write ‘dog’. Some students still write ‘d’ as a ‘b’. By the end of the block, I would like the students to be able to write some basic words.

Next – Thay Student: Choose a student and they will tell the class what to do, for example ‘sit down’, ‘stand up’, ‘jump’, ‘be Polly’, ‘be Leo.’

Next – letter writing practice. I have some great handouts from this website:

Each week, a different letter proceeded by a video. Today, letter ‘K’.

Image result for bounce patrol alphabet k

This should easily take us into, if not over break time (always good to have more planned) after which is book work and activity books.

Today’s new verbs are: fly, swim, jump and walk. Once the students have learnt the pronunciation, they can practice. Which of these animals can fly … swim .. ?

Image result for various animals

Finally, at the end of the two-hour lesson (which is challenging for both students and staff), we can unwind with some colouring, but even here, the teaching continues. The TAs and I go around the class and ask them informal questions about their drawing and the colours they use. Meanwhile, we play a song that features some key vocabulary and show an image that could inspire our budding artists and allows them to develop their innocent imagination.

Image result for chagall
Marc Chagall

Kindergarten, Level 1: ‘t’ time.

3rd May for 5th May 2019 Safari 1

I want to do a general review of vocabulary and basic sentences that the students have been exposed to and practised over the course. They include:

Nouns – animals, clothes, food, classroom accessories

Verbs – walk, run, fly, swim, stomp, hiss, roar, jump

Prepositions – on, in, under


Numbers – 1 to 5

My name is …. // I’m …..

Do you like … (rice, cake ?)

I have / you have

Today’s letter is ‘t’, and to end the class, the students have a project; colouring and cutting out rockets.

I don’t want to introduce any new games or activities, but to encourage as much inter-student talking as possible. It’s great to see some of the quieter students opening up and joining in more of the lesson, and starting to gain confidence in speaking English. And so, without further ado, the lesson plan:

Warm Up: I say a verb and the students must pretend to be that creature.

Hiss / stomp / walk / jump / swim / fly / roar

Put the ….. This tests knowledge of nouns, colours and prepositions.

I arrange two chairs, one green, the other yellow, at the front of the room, with a red bag in between. Around the room I will have real items that the students know (pen, book, ball, monkey) and, one by one, tell the students to put an item on/in/under a certain chair or bag. For example, put the red pen on the yellow chair.

The more advanced students can then act as ‘thay’ and instruct other students.

What’s your name ? Here, the students make a circle and one starts by saying, “My name is …. What’s your name ?” The person to the left answers … and so on. To make it fun, we can try to speak as quickly as possible, or to shout (this sometimes helps the shier students).

Focus on ‘t’

I start with this great video:

After, we drill the ‘t’ sound both at the beginning and end of the word.

Board Slap: I’ve made a basic slide with five ‘t’ words. Class can be put into two teams. One team shouts out a word, and one member of the other side has to slap the appropriate picture.

This is following by a drilling of the ‘t’ sound again and a test; can the students identify it in a word ? I shall say a simple word and ask the student if it has a ‘t’. They can run to one wall (with a ‘t’ flashcard) or to another, blank wall). The words:

cat / cap / hat / ham / pet / pen / one / two

Do you like … ? To review food nouns and to get the students forming basic questions, they can ask each other if they like … cake, rice, salad and pasta.

It’s always best to model speaking exercises. First I will ask one of my TAs, then two top students can demonstrate. The students sit at small tables, four or five at each, so one student could ask the others. The answer must be in a sentence: “Yes, I do,” or, “No, I don’t.”

Next up, time for some fun and movement: Musical Chairs. Today, a fun song, ‘Yummy, Yummy, Yummy’:

When the music stops, the students who haven’t found a seat have to answer a question, then we continue. If we need an extra, food-related song, we can use ‘Sugar, Sugar’:

Lastly, I would like to review some basic grammar we touched upon last week; first and second-person use of the verb ‘to have’.

I model with a TA (we both hold an item or flash card). I say, “I have a pen, you have a book.” The TA then replies, “I have a book, you have a pen.” Some of the top students can model, then we can line the students up in two rows, giving each student an item. They face each other and say, “I have a …. , you have a …..”. This can be done all together, so the class become confident speaking, then we can listen to pairs speaking one at a time.

This is probably too much for one class, but it is always a good idea to have a lot of activities planned. Anything that isn’t used can be in subsequent lessons, thus cutting down on lesson planning.

Next week is our final class, so more of a party atmosphere, culminating in the presentation of certificates, and the taking of class photos. Maybe I will continue with the class at Level 2, maybe an entirely new class … we shall see.

Kindergarten Surfin’ Safari level 1: What is it ?

9th March for 10th March 2019 Safari 1

This is the lesson plan for the Sunday morning class, 10th March.

Lesson seek to teach new vocabulary and pronunciation, while also revising and practising various words from previous classes. Today’s focus is on basic sentence construction, asking and answering: ‘What is it ?’ It’s a ….’

What is it?
Cái gì đó? It’s a đó là ….

Last week, the students learnt some new animals, and that lesson can be found here:

We want to get the students speaking as much as possible, and to each other, not just the teacher – student dynamic. So, to kick off, the students will greet each other, saying, “Hello, I’m …. ” I shall first model this with my TAs, so the students can hear and then copy.

Then, to reinforce last week’s drill, we have an ABC song:

This is a different version to last week, and can be used to drill both the alphabet and different colours.

Then we have a ‘Teacher says’ game, which helps the students with listening skills, and being able to respond to instructions. The commands are based on previously-learnt directions such as ‘sit down’, ‘stand up’, ‘clap’, then I will introduce ‘click your fingers.’ I can demonstrate how, and introduce the word ‘thumb.’ Then we can imitate various animals. After this active game, we move into the target language.

I’ll put some picture cards on the board, basic objects that the children already know (book, ball, car, doll, chair) and ask ‘What is it ?’ Here, I will just get a single word answer (the noun), but I want the answer in the form of a question. Therefore, I will drill ‘It’s a ..’ This takes time, weeks, not minutes, but eventually it becomes natural. Parents can really help the students at home by copying this exercise and insisting on the answer being framed ‘It’s a …’ (of course, some nouns require ‘an’ not ‘a’ but Rome wasn’t built in a day !)

Then, to make it a game, two students have to run to the board and hit the appropriate card. After, they take the card and become ‘thay’ (teacher). They hold the card in front of them and ask the class, ‘What is it ?’ Now, many students at this age are very shy speaking English, so they get a lot of encouragement and praise.

Apart from the new vocabulary learnt from the books, students absorb so much from what the teachers say. Using this I, along with my magnificent TAs, repeat words and expressions designed to increase their vocabulary; excellent, well done, good job, the basic adverb ‘very.’ To get the students used to taking turns, I will point to a pair and say, ‘First John and Anna, then Bella and Tommy.’

Moving on, I want to get the class comfortable with the alphabet, letter order, pronunciation and an introduction to writing. Today I’ll highlight the letter ‘B’. They already know bag, ball, book and the colour blue. The students can share a mini writing board and practice writing the words. Next up, we need a more kinetic activity.

I teach basic prepositions (on, in, under) by a chant with actions and an easy clap pattern. We shall chant and then practice. I’ll put two chairs and a basket in front and ask the students, in pairs, to put a ball either on, in or under one of the aforementioned objects. The chairs will be of different colours, so it’s great to see how they are able to differentiate between them. All the time, I make the students says what is happening. When they are comfortable with the game, the students themselves can take turns giving instructions.

Today’s new vocabulary is related to the main topic of animals and pets. The four new verbs will be jump, walk, fly, swim. To change the pace of the lesson, I’ll show a quick video:

This video is aimed at older children as the vocabulary is quite sophisticated, but I will be able to use the word ‘high’ and start to use superlatives (highest).

We can mime this actions, and match them to animals, until the students are comfortable with them. Later in the lesson, we shall revisit them to help the students retain the verbs.

And so, to the books, a mixture of listening, following instructions, colouring and pointing to the correct noun.

We will be near the end of the lesson so we want to finish with some fun activities. In a circle, the students will be grouped into rabbits, cats, birds or fish. When I say rabbits, the students in that group must stand up and jump; with birds fly, and so on.

To really drill ‘What is it ?’ the final game will be a student holding a picture card or flash card and asking the name. The answer must be in the form of ‘It’s a ….’

Finally, we say goodbye, see you next week. High fives and goodbyes.

Kindergarten:Surfin’ Safari Level 1

2nd March 2019

Last week was my first meeting with this class, so I had to familiarise myself with what they studied so far, what they could and couldn’t do.

The TAs at my centre are amazing, and I am assigned two for each of these KG (Kindergarten) classes. They informed me that the children could speak but not write. In a nutshell, they knew basic colours, numbers and instructions (‘hands up’, ‘sit down’ and the like). Also, the ABC was still being learnt, so last week I began with a great video using characters created by Richard Scary. The ABC starts at 3:20, ending at 4:00:

I was given a book by Richard Scary back when I was four (I’m NOT saying what year that was !) and still have it. I made the class sing along, then do a ‘Run ‘n’ Write’ game, each student running to the board to write an assigned letter. It is a kinetic activity and involves all the students.

Some characters from Richard Scary.

The pattern for young learners is to do many different games and types of games, to maintain attention and interest. It’s the ‘montage of attraction’ I’ve referred to in previous blogs; basically how the separate parts all fit together as in engineering or film editing.

The advantages are that the students like routine and repetition, so the same games can be played most weeks, allowing for some variation. The objectives are to get the students producing English: speaking, writing, listening and eventually reading. Listening cannot be under-estimated. At this age, the students are like sponges – they absorb everything, so learning occurs at at much faster rate. This dwindles with age, hence I’ve been in Vietnam over three years and can barely form a sentence.

New vocabulary, expressions and pronunciation can be acquired just by listening to the teachers, so I ask my TAs to use key words repeatedly (e.g. ‘excellent’, ‘good work’, ‘well done’) thus expanding their lexical resources (sorry, I just didn’t want to repeat the word, ‘vocabulary’). Music too has a tremendous impact. An inane Europop song can be a wonderful learning opportunity as the lyrics are repeated AND are learnt in a fun way. As such, last week I used this song, which, I have no shame in admitting, I actually LOVE: Eiffel 65 with ‘Move Your Body’

Clip from the original video. Repetition of basic sentences is a great learning device.

And so … to tomorrow’s lesson:

It’s a basic class; the students know some vocabulary, colours and numbers, and we’re developing their sentence-forming skills by making them say their names (either ‘My name is …..’ or ‘I’m …… ‘ featuring the contraction of I am).

First, it’s good to do a quick and energetic warm up. We did Musical Statues (Freeze) last week, so today we’ll try Musical chairs. This class is not so large (about 11 or 12) so we’ll have the class in two groups walking around their table. The TA will make sure they understand the rules, but we are also drilling common classroom features such as chairs and tables. This seems a great video, as today we’re introducing the word ‘train’ :

When the music stops, the students race for the chairs. Thos who are unlucky have to answer a question, then we continue. While the children are standing, we can do a ‘Teacher Says’ game, basically a ‘Simon Says’, but here used to drill simple expressions such as ‘clap your hands’, ‘sit down’, ‘stand up’ etc and then acting out animals (which is always fun).

Leading on from this, another game and a chance to learn new vocabulary. I’ll prepare a slide of new animals. The children form two teams and have to throw a sticky ball at the board, aiming for the names animal. The aim (ah-hem) is to get one team to tell the other at which animal to throw. Ideally they’ll be able to say, “Throw at the chicken,” but it may just be, “Chicken !” It’s a start. My new animals will be:

Water buffalo, common in Viet Nam
Panda to practise the plosive ‘p’ sound.
Shark to practise the ‘sh’ sound.
Chicken for the useful ‘ch’ sound.
A tiger, so they can learn different types of big cat (they already know lions).

Moving on, we come to the lesson and focus on numbers. Around the room, I’ll stick various flash cars depicting numbers. I’ll ask for two students to find me a number from one to four. They will run like little nutcases and grab the card. They then have to bring it to me and say, “Here you are,” and then write the number (just figure) on the board.

I like to make the students speak to each other in English as much as possible, and it’s fun to make one student ‘thay’ or teacher. That student will hold the flash card and ask the class to show him or her 1 or 2 etc and the class will hold up the right number of fingers.

The book work reinforces new vocabulary and numbers. To break the book work, they will colour a train picture I have prepared for them:

I also like to play a short video to show life outside of Vietnam. Here’s the London Tube at rush hour:

There is no underground system in Viet Nam, so this should be an eye-opener. We can also see if the students are able to understand any of the instructions the guard say.

If time allows, we can watch the ABC video again, or just focus on some of the letters, giving the letter, the sound and an example:

B – bbb (sound) – ball.

At this age, we can’t overload them with work, so there could be some colouring, but still looking for any opportunity for the class to speak English.

And then, my weekend is over and I can go home … to prepare lessons for tomorrow, my last IELTS class before their oral test but that, as they say, is for another blog.

Kindergarten: Surfin’ Safari 1

24th January 2019

This type of class is very divisive among teachers who either love them or hate them. I am firmly in the former camp, so please allow me to set the scene.

The class size is relatively small (a dozen – twelve – or so students), the room has three brightly coloured tables and a variety of coloured chairs. There are vibrant murals on the walls, somewhat reminiscent of the Beach Boys’ ‘Smiley Smile’ LP cover

My teaching props include Polly – a puppet parrot of a psychedelic green hue, and Mike the mischievous yet well-meaning Monkey. Yes – I get to play with puppets AND get paid for it. Sometimes life ain’t so bad.

The students are around four or five in age, and love Mike and Polly – they tolerate my presence as a necessary evil.

I am admirable assisted by two very sweet young ladies, TAs, whom I ‘love to bits,’ (expression indicating a strong liking – in English we use ‘love’ quite liberally – we love coffee, love TV shows, love a shirt etc. This is not the same in other languages – in Swedish, for example, love is ONLY used for personal relationships.)

My class this Saturday is at level 3, so they are able to count, are familiar with the alphabet, can sing basic songs, follow instructions, ask basic questions, know colours, and are continuing to expand their vocabulary.

I want to push them further because they are motivated and, at this age, can absorb a new language easily. I am rather older, and find it a Herculean task to learn even one or two new words (and as for pronunciation – forget it !). As such, I’ve banned the use of the word ‘fine’ as in, “How are you ?” “I’m fine.” (see my earlier blog ‘Don’t say, “I’m fine.”

Instead: I’m good, great, very well, thank you … I’ve also started to make the students use the terms ‘Activity Book’ or ‘Pupil Book’.

Also, we can impart language in a more natural way; we can use various words / expressions repeatedly so the students acquire language as opposed to being taught the vocabulary. For example, a student’s work can be described as ‘excellent’, or being told ‘well done.’ Apart from the new words, they are hearing longer, multi-syllable words, and basic collocations – words that go together to form one unit of meaning. Another ‘trick’ I have is to sing to myself the Kraftwerk song ‘We are the robots.’

I sing, under my breathe, the chorus and then mime the four notes played on synthesiser. Just four simple words, but so effective for English learners, especially Asian countries where plurals are formed in a different style.

For are start we have some basic grammar – subject + verb ‘to be’. Vietnamese verbs do not alter according to subject. Students may start to learn ‘I am’ but here are introduced to ‘We are.’ The noun is robots – can’t go wrong there – everyone loves robots ! From a pedagogic view, the plural sound in introduced and drilled, repeatedly. By copying the song, they automatically repeat the -s plural sound AND apply it here after a difficult ‘t’ sound – the ‘ts.’ Lastly, we employ the notorious English ‘the’ ðə sound. The students are having an English lesson without even knowing it !


Today I’ll start with a musical game, ‘Musical Statues.’ To tie-in with a previous lesson, I could use either ‘Sit Down’ by James or ‘Stand’ by REM (previous lessons taught stand up / sit down).   http://   

With younger classes I use a ‘montage of attractions’, a term I came across in a book on the Russian film director Sergei Eisenstein, and itself adapted from engineering. It means placing different elements together to form a unified whole, as in cutting a film, or attaching pipes. We need to keep interest and motivation / energy levels up, and this is achieved by varying the games and activities, changing after five or so minutes, before boredom and apathy set it. Thus, after musical statues (in which I am ably assisted by Mike the Monkey to see which of the students are really NOT MOVING), we’ll have ‘student as teacher’ session. One student will mime some action from last week and the class have to shout out the correct expression (sit down / open a book / put the bag on the table etc). They can then continue this at their tables, changing the ‘teacher’ so all students are active.

Next, I’ll repeat the ‘on/in/under’ song – quite simply, the three words sung with accompanying gestures and then a four-beat hand clap. It’s a fun way to introduce the students to prepositions. We could then put Mike around the room and ask where is he ? “Under the table,” “On the chair,” and then extend their speaking skills by asking for an adjective (usually a colour) + noun construction: “Mike’s on the yellow chair.”

After, I’ll distribute some writing boards and marker pens, and start saying the alphabet … when I stop, the students, as a team, have to write the next letter, both capital and lower-case, i.e. “A, B, C ….. ?”

Following, there will be a CD song, re-inforcing prepositions and adjective + noun sentences.

For a new activity, we turn to phonics – sound production / pronunciation. Today I’ll focus on the letters ‘R’ & ‘T’. I’ll prepare a slide of various words beginning with the two letters. The class will them form two lines and are given a sticky ball to throw. One side shouts out a word and one member from the opposing side must throw at said picture. Points awarded for direct hits, sound effects for total misses !

Then time for a fun song to practice the ‘R’ sound. What better than this famous British song:

‘Run, rabbit, run’ – sung quite slowly and clearly enunciated.

This should bring us to the book work and the introduction of continuous verbs. The subject is ‘What am I doing ?’ followed by five illustrations. The students will listen to a CD, then repeat.

Lessons usually end with a colouring session, allowing them to choose a picture and encouraging values such as sharing, being polite and being fair.

Then it’s High-Fives all around (to Mike; they don’t care a fig about me !) and good bye, see you next week … By this time, it’s lunch. I need a break, I need a coffee, I need a fresh shirt and I need to know how I can be as popular as Mike the Monkey. Somehow, I don’t think it’s ever going to happen. To quote Kurt Cobain, “Oh well, whatever, never mind.”