Aparecium: reveal your secrets! *

Reading tips for the ESL student

Harry Potter was certainly excited when he was given the Marauder’s Map affording him the ability to see his surroundings in real time. Imagine if a similar magical item could help students learn to read revealing the secrets to understanding what they read!

An ESL teacher’s quest: to help their students demonstrate an understanding of text beyond its basic phonemes, words, and phrases. This is a monumental moment when students understand text above its printed, superficial level. It is at this stage that text can reflect something living, breathing and expressing meaning, description and emotion. Students typically get hooked on reading for purpose and pleasure once achieving this ability.


There are a variety of reasons why ESL children may struggle with reading, hesitant to acquire the necessary skills in becoming independent readers. In my experience, it typically stems from a lack of consistent effort, motivation, and time to build meaningful routines that aid in learning. Students need time to review (to reflect), play (to take risks) and build new language skills fostering a sense of personal satisfaction and self-efficacy. This learning cycle helps ESL students to strengthen their phonemic awareness, and word and vocabulary building skills. Context and real life application can also determine a student’s willingness to learn to read… using their language skills outside of school.

The main objective of reading is comprehension, as it allows the reader to understand what the text is about.

Reading comprehension strategies (Aparecium: reveal your secrets!) are “what if…” scenarios devised to help children become better readers. Their aim: to provide students with the ability to decode information using techniques and routines, to equip and build independent and confident readers. These strategies can also be used as individualised assessment tools to help guide students and parents in a prescriptive manner. The results can provide in-depth information about what techniques a reader is using and identify areas that need attention for reading to develop.

Modelling and guiding students in the use of these strategies is an important key to their adoption. The examples below should be easily accessible for the students during guided reading times to serve as a reminder when various reading challenges arise. Parents can also use guided reading strategies at home to reinforce in partnership with the teacher. With practice, students soon figure out secrets of word structures (roots, prefix and suffixes, blends, etc.) transferable to other subject areas in their school day. It is hoped they adopt a marauder’s approach to reading, courageously using the secrets and clues to decode new text with an adventurous spirit while seeking information and entertainment from reading.

*Harry Potter. J. K. Rowling


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Life in Primary One

I would like to extend a warm welcome to all the children, their parents and members of the local community who are central to the life of CNEC Ta Tung Primary School.

Our whole school community values the contribution every child brings to our school which makes it a happy place to learn.
Acquiring English through games, songs and chants, alongside more formal learning in a structured environment is a great strategy to help strengthen your child’s language proficiency levels in the areas of listening, speaking, reading, and spelling.  I encourage you to check my website often.  I try to provide parents with valuable information on how to best help your child.
I look forward to making the coming year a happy and successful one for your child.

With kind regards,

Mr Campbell





Congratulations to Joy, Heidi, Hurris and Sam, who have been selected to represent our school in the 2017 Hong Kong Speech festival.  In preparation for the speech festival they are learning proper pronunciation, intonation, pacing and most importantly, the  “feeling” of the poem.  Their poems recorded by me have been uploaded on my SoundCloud account for use at home to aid in practice and preparation.





Speech Festival Tracks

The 69th Hong Kong Speech Festival is underway and many of our students are participating.  Below are the sound files for my students to practice.  I’m sure this experience of preparing and performing at this year’s festival will be a positive one for all.  Good luck to all!

The Fine Line of Boredom

As schools across Hong Kong close for the Summer, children look forward to a well-deserved respite from the hectic school schedule.  Typically, many parents have already enrolled their children in summer programmes as early as January, if overseas.  Planning what’s best for their child, traditionally moves to this conclusion: keep them busy and learning. In many cases, even as adults, the first goal is to rest, relax and catch up on one’s personal, quality time, alone or with family.

As an Educator and Counsellor, I believe children need down time to play freely allowing them to do all the small, simpler activities they enjoy.  This could include building models, play acting with toys or dolls, watching TV, playing computer or tablet games, and most valuable, playing with friends.


After the threshold has been reached and boredom sets in, parents usually instigate for control and scheduling.  This is an opportune time to have meaningful discussion about how to use precious, summer holiday time.  Prompting and reflective dialogue often helps to give them some control in the negotiation, usually a blend of the wants from both sides.

I believe boredom is the fine line between having something to do and, often perceived and not always true, nothing to do.  However, out from that fine line shines the possibilities of new ideas.  This could be a hobby, a visit, a new sport, or a trip to the museum or Science Centre.  It can be anything that helps to build new ideas, insights, and fascination from new situations.  For example, a day camp has the potential to build social skills that could bolster a shy individual, or an afternoon trial lesson in another language, or a musical instrument may trigger a lifelong passion for it.


Some activities, if designed in a clever manner, have the potential to build on challenging school subjects; for example, fun science experiments themed with math, drama and writing (or reading), drama combined with music (or video making and editing), cooking and math skills, coding and logical thinking, general studies, graphic design and research skills. The thoughtful parent will look for these connections.

The next time your child is bored, ask him/her, “What do you want to do?” and watch the possibilities fly!

Learning English with Scrabble

scrabble logo.png

As part of my English ECA this term, students have been introduced to various board games.  One of them is Scrabble.  Students put letters together to form words scoring points for themselves.  There are many of benefits of playing this word game, notably spelling and the use of known and new vocabulary.   Students also develop the social skills of taking turns, patience, and fairness.
What I see my students enjoy the most is their usage of high frequency words (Dolch Sight Words).  Playing Scrabble helps them strengthen their English communication skills and fosters competitiveness and confidence among them.  As an ESL teacher, I believe Scrabble would provide ways for students and teachers to expand their verbal repertoire.  Furthermore, it is a pleasant way for students to learn words for their English classes.

While playing Scrabble, the use of an online dictionary (iPad) has proven to be essential for my students when searching for a word or checking its proper spelling.  Exploring the digital dictionary exposes them to new vocabulary and its definitions, as well as 21st century research skills.   Online dictionaries speak the word for students to practice their pronunciation, as well as show synonyms and antonyms.  When the students form a questionable word, they have to check the dictionary to see if these word actually exists, and in some instances, it does!

Scrabble lightens the mood and allows the students to de-stress after a long day and enjoy their second language experience in a fun way.



Pizza Express Visit

Today, we went on a field trip to Pizza Express, in Mongkok East, as part of our ECA.  The children had the opportunity to visit a working kitchen and experience first hand, what it is like to create one of their favourite foods.  While preparing an individual pizza, each child learned the various names and the process of adding numerous ingredients (sauce, vegetables, cheese and meat choices).  They especially enjoyed watching the changes, stage by stage, that occurred during preparation and baking.

Other highlights included dressing in traditional chef uniform and eating their pizza creation at the end.

A huge thank you goes out to Miss Lai, who helped coordinate this event and Vincent, from the IT department, who donated his time to accompany us on our trip.  I also want to thank our students who were well-behaved and represented our school so well.


Sports Day 2017

CNEC Ta Tung’s annual Sports Day held at Kwai Chung Sports Ground last Friday, was not only fun, but contained numerous, challenging events for our students to excel at.
Children had the opportunity to test their skills and compete with each other in a variety of games. The high-spirited sportsmanship displayed by the students in the stands added to the enjoyment and excitement of the day.
As always, Sports Day was extremely well organised by our PE Department. Thanks to Mr Wong and Ms Lai for hosting the event and to all my other colleagues for playing their part in ensuring that everything ran smoothly.  It was a festive day, one that truly showed the best of our students.
Sportsday 2017

Celebrating 45 years!


December 2016 marked CNEC Ta Tung’s 45 anniversary of its founding.

In order to mark such important occasion, the school planned various activities throughout 2016 and culminated with a dinner celebration which included activities, games, prayer and anecdotes from former teachers and alumni.

I count myself not only lucky, but honoured to work for this school.



English News…


Old Hong Kong… New Ideas

Primary Four students took on an ambitious project that involved all classes visiting the Hong Kong History Museum over a six month period as an extension of their English unit of study, titled Old Hong Kong.  In their groups, they planned what aspect of old Hong Kong they wanted to explore, assigned roles including a narrator or emcee, took videos and pictures with an iPad, and brought it altogether using iMovie.


Students were taught to:

  • plan their visit with questions and decisions about what video and pictures should be included
  • assign key roles of narrator, photographer, writer, reporter, etc. where necessary
  • use specific grammar structures  and target language which they learned in their unit of study
  • develop positive group member skills
  • use the basics of iMovie and the camera feature on an iPad


At the end of each video, students were given the opportunity reflect and express how they felt about the trip and what they had gained from the experience.

Thank you to the English Panel Head, Ms Lai and to the Primary Four class teachers for their constant support throughout this unit of study.