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  • timothyhampson 1:38 pm on February 26, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Fun   

    Thoughts while painting classrooms 

    Tuesday was the last day of the academic year at my school. Wednesday was a day off on which I achieved absolutely nothing (and enjoyed every minute). Today is Thursday and I was told we’d be preparing for a new school year. I was expecting to drink coffee, think about schemes of work and jot down some lesson plans. In actual fact today was a DIY day. It was surprisingly fun, definitely an adventure as I don’t think many jobs would have you come in to paint walls all day just because. Here are some things I was mulling over while I was painting.

    My beautiful blue wall

    My beautiful blue wall

    Taking ownership over your classroom feels good

    When I first started at my school I didn’t feel like I owned my classroom, it had lots of old posters and pictures that someone else picked, now I’ll be able to say I painted the walls myself. It’s also nice to know that I spent ages on all the little details like having a whiteboard in pristine condition. Even if the pupils don’t notice it’s going to make a difference to how I teach because I’ll know I did it. (The next step is to pick posters for the walls, so if anyone has any ideas, please drop a comment below.)

    Good management means getting your hands dirty (and buying pizza)

    Our boss was on the front lines painting walls and cleaning. She also bought us pizza at the end of the day to say thank you. It was really nice to see; I think I’d be a bit annoyed if she was just telling us what to do. If you want people to follow you you have to lead the way, pizza is also nice.

    The circle of school life

    I was really sad on Tuesday when our oldest class graduated. They were one of the easiest to teach and kindest classes I’ve ever had and so it’s a real shame to have them not there. My co-teacher is off on a really wonderful long vacation too, so I felt like I was losing a lot. Now that we’re getting ready for the new year I feel excited to meet the new pupils to the school, especially as they’re mostly going to be very cute 2-3 year olds. I also got to meet some of the new teachers who seem really nice and I’m looking forward to working with them and getting to know them.

    If I ever get bored of teaching I could get a job as a professional decorator

    We also had a few professional decorators who were in doing some of the more difficult jobs. One of them saw the wall I painted and started telling everyone that he was going to hire me as a painter. It’s nice to have options.

    Manual labour is good for thinking

    When I used to jog regularly I also found that busying my hands (or feet) helped free my mind for thought. I did lots of mulling today (If you must know, I’ve also resolved to try using puppets in class and that we’re going to make smoothies next cooking class) It’s my goal to find something like this I can do regularly to have more time to think things over. I’m considering cycling but we’ll see.

  • timothyhampson 1:20 am on February 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Fun,   

    The whys and hows of cooking in class 


    Cooking as a part of an EFL class might not be something you’ve thought of before. I certainly hadn’t before I got asked to do one last week. I did the class on Monday and Tuesday this week and immediately knew this was something I had to write a blog about to encourage others to get cooking in class.

    Why cook in class?

    1. Everyone loves food.
    2. You can use lots of Task Based Learning. I’m not really enough of an expert on ELT theory to say I have a really informed opinion on TBL, but lots of people who are experts do recommend it.
    3. All the language usage will be authentic. The students will really care about getting their recipe right, so when they’re asking you questions or listening to instructions they’ll be very engaged.
    4. It’s not as hard as you think. Even if your school has no ovens or anything you could probably do a lesson on different countries’ favourite sandwiches, right? People who teach adults might think ‘oh I couldn’t do that’, but I’m pretty sure that lots of adult students would also enjoy something like this. There are probably lots of ‘write up your favourite recipe in English’ follow ups that adults could do that children would find hard.
    5. You can teach other life skills. Learning to cook is an important thing to know. If you can teach it at the same time as English, that’s great!
    6. It’s a lesson that you get to eat food at the end of, obviously it’s a good idea.

    What we did

    I decided to make pizzas for the first class. We’re going to do nachos next time around. I followed this recipe to make the pizzas. We cheated and used tomato ketchup for the sauce (not my idea!) which I was worried about but turned out fine. The class took an hour and a half but it would have taken about 50 minutes with a bigger oven.

    There are a huge range of options that it would be possible to make. If you decide to do a cooking class make sure you think about what equipment, time, and space you have. I’d recommend pre-teaching some of the vocabulary, especially weird cooking verbs (no one knew ‘sprinkle’ or ‘spread’).

    Happy cooking, here are some pizza photos from class.


    What it looked like before we cooked it.


    Pizzas in the oven, we really needed to be able to fit more pizzas in there. 

    • Adi Rajan 1:47 am on February 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Did you do a language analysis towards the end? I’m curious about what sort of language items you may have discussed with your students.


    • timothyhampson 1:53 am on February 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Mostly the point was that the students could understand the instructions in English and ask questions in English. I’m not sure exactly what you mean by language analysis but probably not. 🙂


  • timothyhampson 8:44 am on December 23, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Fun   

    The three most fun things I did in class this year. Part one: Betty Botter 

    It’s Christmas season and it’s the sort of time for having lots of activities in class and doing some things just for fun. Given that it’s my last week at my job, I’ve been going through the folder where I keep my old lesson plans and handouts. I found the three activities that were most fun.

    The first one is based on a tongue twister that my mum taught me. I’m actually not that good at this one but my mum is pretty masterful when she does it. The important thing with this kind of lesson is to keep it fun. Lots of students are really worried about their pronunciation and it’s important to not damage their confidence. Explaining how it’s really hard for even foreigners to say some things is helpful. I also made a point of performing this and messed up a few times while doing it. My classes got quite good at doing it and so I think if anything it boosted their confidence because they could show off how they could do something hard.

    How to use it

    1. Download and print the handout

    pdf: Betty Botter

    docx: Betty Botter

    2. Go though the tongue twister line by line with the translation. It’s much easier to say something when you know what it means. For a class who could handle it, getting them to rephrase the poem in other words would be better, but the focus should be on the pronunciation more than anything else.

    3. Drill the poem line by line chorally with the class.

    4. Give them some time (as long as it takes, mine took about ten minutes) to work on their pronunciation in pairs.

    5. At the end we had a mini competition (I hyped up the special prize all class and then pulled out a pack of M&M’s which they thought was a good gag). Taking part was optional but almost all of the students did.

    Hope you have fun with this one. If you use it let me know how it goes in the comments.

  • timothyhampson 10:11 am on November 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Fun, ,   

    A defence of fun. 

    %22Fun,_off_the_job_keeps_him_on_the_Job%22_-_NARA_-_514789I wrote last week about values in the classroom. One of the values conflicts that often comes up is fun vs learning. A common complaint of English teachers in Korea is that they are expected to just have fun in class and don’t do any ‘real’ teaching. “I feel more like a babysitter than a teacher.” complained one of my friends. Obviously fun can lead to more learning. Students need to be engaged to learn things. If they’re bored they won’t pay much attention and won’t learn much. The real issue is when fun is treated as a means in itself rather than a means to the end of learning things. Some teachers might feel pressure to choose fun even when it leads to less learning.

    It’s okay to have these classes where fun is the first priority once in a while. It might even be a good idea. Having these lessons once in a while can make for happier classrooms. Students who have fun less serious classes are more likely to work harder in more serious classes. The fun classes can sometimes be a well valued reward for hard work in other classes.

    The second reason is that it’s important to create a less hierarchical atmosphere in the classroom. Having a class where you play some games can help students feel more confident about talking in other classes. When your students have beaten you at scrabble, they become much less scared of making mistakes in front of you.

    Finally, a lot more learning might be going on than we think when we use these classes. Explaining rules, for example, is a good authentic language use. Playing games often brings up lots of emergent language, either through words someone doesn’t know or though stories people tell each other while playing games.

    These kinds of lessons would lose their efficacy if they were all that ever happened, but as a once a month thing I think they’re a good idea. Fun things that I’ve used in the past were board games like Scrabble or Guess Who. For a special, end of course book, treat for my adult class I’ve taken them for bingsoo a few times and just brought some conversation questions in case conversation dries up. The first priority here isn’t to learn lots but just to have fun, but these classes still seem really valuable experiences and well worth doing. I’d be really interested in hearing from any readers who have suggestions of fun activities to use in class.

  • timothyhampson 1:01 pm on November 9, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Fun, Halloween   

    Halloween classes 


    I got asked by Mike Griffin to explain this picture of myself on Halloween (fair question, the answer is basically that my boss picked my costume out for me as a joke and I called his bluff). Halloween is, along with Christmas, one of the celebrations my school goes big on. This year we made Halloween candy baskets. I, as the schools only native teacher, was in charge of going through the instructions in front of everyone. After the candy baskets were done there was a chocolate hunt around the school. We finished up with group photos with everyone  in fancy dress. The finished baskets looked something a bit like this:


    It was a fun way to spend Halloween, next year I’m definitely going to do my own costume shopping.  I really enjoy these classes where the only target is for everyone to have fun and wear some silly clothes. What did everyone else do this Halloween?


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