Warm-up Activity using For & Since

I use this activity as a warm-up when talking about the present perfect and using “for” and “since.”  This works well as a follow up review activity for lower level classes or a refresher for those who are more advanced.

Briefly explain why we use both “for” and “since” in the present perfect.

For:  a period of time in the past (5 days, 6 minutes, 20 years etc)
Since: a point in time in the past (2004, yesterday, last week, February etc)

Once they have a decent understanding of the rule write FOR and SINCE on the board. Above the word “FOR” write “STAND” and above “SINCE” write “SIT.”  Explain to them that you will call out either a period of time or a point in time and depending on what they hear they must either sit down or stand up. Go through a few practice rounds with them.

What you do from here is up to the specific class itself. If I have a lot of confident students who are good friends with each other I turn it into a race and the last person to stand or sit has to create a sentence using the period or point in time I gave.

I don’t do it this way if the class is mixed level because I don’t want to single out any one student who may not understand so I let them know that the first half of the class to sit or stand correctly is safe but anyone else could be called upon to make a sentence. That way I can control a little better who has to speak.

It’s fun to trick the students by sitting and standing with them for the first few and then doing the opposite of what they expect when I call out the period or point in time.

This activity is a lot of fun and is great as a warm up or closer activity to get the students moving around!

Survival (teaching the infinitive)

Deserted Island

Survival on a deserted island

I absolutely love this lesson because it is a great way to get students working together and having fun while getting the hang of an important grammar point. The infinitive form of verbs.

to + verb
to cut, to start, to help, to protect etc.

I also like this lesson because it’s easily adaptable to levels and you only have to change the expected outcomes between beginner and advanced students.

Materials: One worksheet (which I will upload in a couple of days)
Time: Approximately 80 minutes

Warmer:
I start this lesson by doing a simple brainstorming activity to get the students thinking about the types of items they would want with them to survive on a deserted island. How you do the warmer is up to you but I like to be a bit direct and to the point with this as other parts of the lesson will take up more time. (students will undoubtedly mention things like, tent, knife, flashlight, blanket and other items they associate with camping)
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ESL Lesson Plan: Relative Pronouns (no preparation)

This is an activity I like to use when teaching relative pronouns. It can be adapted to any age group or level just by changing the difficulty of the examples and expectations of the students. The best part is it requires NO materials or preparation and is great when you need to come up with a lesson quickly.

TARGET LANGUAGE: WHO, WHERE, WHICH, THAT

Warmer:

I usually start this lesson by walking into the classroom looking confused. I say to the students, “I FORGOT!” then, “What’s that woman called who teaches math and has three daughters and is really nice?” at which time they’ll name the teacher. Then I’ll shout again, “I FORGOT!” What’s that place called where you can quickly go inside and buy snacks or drinks but it’s not a supermarket?” (mini mart) … again, “I FORGOT!” by the third time they should be shouting “I FORGOT” with you and laughing along at your silliness. Use as many examples as you’d like to get the students excited about the lesson.

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Learning Bahasa Indonesia like a young learner

I keep telling myself that I need to sit down with a Indonesian-English dictionary and each week pick a new topic like medical, sports, food etc. and learn all the vocabulary. My laziness on picking up new words has stunted my growth a bit. I’m really good with memorization so it shouldn’t be a problem but I find it quite boring to flip through a normal dictionary.

I was at Millennium Plaza in Medan and saw a small display of English language education books for Indonesians. They were mostly color picture dictionaries for young children. They didn’t really fit what I needed because it was a bit too simplified but then I came across these two picture dictionaries that were exactly what I was looking for. It had enough vocabulary to be practical. The pictures help even as an adult.

Bahasa Indonesia Dictionary

Popular Situational Dictionary and Kamus Situasi. They each have categories ranging from city/town life, in the kitchen, bathroom, living room, bedroom, on the farm, in the workshop, at the beach as well as pages for common verbs and opposite words. It’s great to leave out on my coffee table and study. I’m going to try to pick a couple of pages to learn each week and then go back and keep trying to memorize them.

Indonesian-English picture dictionary

My housemate has been living in Indonesia for about 3 years and his Indonesian is very good right now. He can communicate effectively with people here but still needs to improve his vocabulary. We both agreed to sit down and test each other. He’ll be a great resource for me because he can answer questions that I have about the language that are difficult for Indonesians to understand. I’ll be able to keep him motivated to continue studying the language since after about 3 years I’m sure he’s hit a wall.

Live Now, Make Now the Most Precious Time

One of my favorite quotes is from an episode of Star Trek the Next Generation called the Inner Light. Captain Picard was knocked unconscious by a probe sent by a long extinct alien civilization with the purpose of downloading an entire lifetime of memories into his mind that he would experience in a mere 20 minutes so that the civilization could live on and not be forgotten. He spoke these words to his daughter:

“Live now. Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.”

They’re words that I have tried to live by even before watching the episode. I know that there will be a time when I’m older and looking back on life wishing I had done more even though I’m accomplishing much of what I’ve always wanted to do. Life is obviously short. I’m in my early 30’s and as quick as it seems to be moving along I know it will only get quicker.

Why am I discussing all of this right now? Well, it’s just a big giant excuse for me not updating my blog much lately. I’m living. I’ve been having some great experiences with my job starting here in Medan. At different times since 2010 I have reached milestones and achieved small goals that I set out for. I knew that once I graduated in August of last year it was going to be a roller coaster ride. First with turning 30, then quitting my debt collections job, then leaving home, then traveling off the beaten path in Somaliland, then getting my TEFL certification in Thailand, then volunteering in Bukit Lawang and then finally settling down in Medan to teach English in Indonesia. The journey is far from over but I can say with confidence I’ve landed and I’m ready to see where this takes me.

I’m a Teacher Now

While I was in Bukit Lawang and doing volunteer teaching I couldn’t help but feel like I hadn’t quite become a teacher yet. It was a great learning experience for me but there was something missing. Now that I’ve been at my current job for three weeks, I’ve finally felt that the career shift is over. When I left my last job I kept thinking that going back to collections was always a safety net. It’s a skill I now have after 10 years in the industry and if things don’t work out as a teacher I have plenty of job opportunities. I’m happy to report however, that it will be a cold day in Bangkok before I go back to any job that requires me to wear a headset and have my production controlled and monitored by a machine.

Over the years people kept telling me that I would make a good teacher but I never really knew for myself if it was something I could pull off. My TEFL trainer said we would know after our first day in the classroom. I know now. I’m a teacher.

So Where Have I been?
I returned from Aceh with the idea of hanging out for a few days and then heading to Lake Toba later in the week. On the Monday of that week I arranged to observe some classes at school. I went in and after a couple of hours I was asked if I could start work immediately the following day rather than a week later. I took a deep breathe and accepted. Ultimately this way was much better. It was like ripping off a band-aid rather than pulling it off slowly. I would have spent the rest of the week and the weekend thinking about my first day and instead I was thrust into it.

There are three schools that I need to be available to teach at on any given day however my home school is literally next door to where I live. I teach four days a week there and then one day at the flagship school. The good thing about starting early was that I was doing substituting for local teachers. This allowed me to learn the ropes a bit and get used to it without having my normal classes. The real reason I’m here is because another native English teacher finished his 12 month contract and is heading back to Canada. As of September 16th I took over his classes and will now have the same students throughout the semester.

Jln. Jemadi House in Medan, Indonesia

From the balcony of my room.

Home Sweet Home
I’m finally settled into the house I’ll be living in for the long term. It’s a huge four story condo with big bedrooms with AC, balconies, a roof top, a shared kitchen and shared bathrooms. I couldn’t ask for better roommates. We seem to be on the same page so far. My bedroom has some work to be done. There was a leak in the ceiling that is supposedly fixed. The AC isn’t too strong but there is a leak in it and I’m waiting on the mechanic to come fix that. The door to the balcony is an absolute mess and it looks like a giant rat has been trying to chew its way through. I’ve moved in a couch and coffee table from the living room, bought a rug for the floor and moved some things around so it’s starting to come together. Most importantly I switched the dreadful white light to a softer yellow which makes such a big difference.

The Expats
The ex-patriot community (westerners living and working in Medan) seems quite nice. There are probably only about 100 or so of us here which is part of the reason i wanted to live in Medan. Westerners are rare so we get a unique experience. As opposed to Bangkok where there are tons of foreigners and you just blend in as another face in the crowd. There is a core group of guys that occasionally meet up for drinks and only a few western women. As far as I know there are only three Americans living Medan. I’m sure there are more but I’ve only met the two others and one just arrived as an art teacher from Texas.

This is it for now. I’ll try and make sure I update more about the classroom. I absolutely love