Category Archives: Blog

Apps that Enlighten ESL Learning

Teachers strive to guide students in their learning as individuals in contrast with the traditional, full class lecture approach whenever possible.  This is evident in their decision to cluster students into groups with a similar achievement or ability level.  A stigma of branding student’s capabilities can be a detriment when perceived by other students.  Although, a teacher’s best intentions are understood, its consequence can perpetuate low self-esteem and anxiety in students.  This is amplified when special needs students are involved, or with the below average in achievement students who tend to fall between the cracks receiving no or minimal modification to their programme. Technology offers numerous supports that help empower students to take greater responsibility and independence for their learning.  This is in a more personal and respectful manner… all between their fingers and a device.


Tablet technology has been a welcomed hand of friendship for students to visualise and individualise various aspects of the curriculum over the past eight years.  Its function is to promote discovery, wonderment and active exploration with touch, motion, and sound, according to Apple.  With thoughtful planning, a students’ day can be filled with a blended approach of many methods to achieve the goals of the classroom programme. The technology, not merely as a substitution for simple typing and transcription of facts elevates the learning potential to inter-disciplinary, creation-based, collaborative, promoting activities founded on higher order thinking skills ideology.


Futaba – up to four can play for picture – text identification in a gaming environment which can be personalised for your students

With the thousands of English learning apps for children on the various app stores, a definite conundrum exists in selecting the most robust and diverse apps.  Educators time is precious to be able to afford the time to download, try, evaluate and long-term test an app’s value.  An app called ‘Daily App Advice’ by is a must-have app for educators.  It offers the daily user to 4 or more apps in a variety of categories that have gone free for a day.  Once downloaded, these apps can be installed on all iPads under the same school account.  Teacher networking is another way to keep informed of useful apps for education, either within your school or district or with online sites, for example:


Little Finder – listening skills app for one or two



Choosing Suitable Apps

This basic rubric provides hints to help educators to identify apps that afford the best user experience in achieving curriculum goals and reflect sound pedagogical best practices for classrooms. With practice, educators will quickly develop a skillful eye to evaluate an app’s appropriateness and which to avoid.  The author takes the stance that using any aspect of technology is only a part of the many, varied learning tools and methods available that support a blended approach in education.



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.





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.

My Friend Activity

P2 students have been reading the big book, My Friend, Oscar, which is about friendships.  In this activity, students present their friend with a series of short answer questions.  In the preparation for this activity, the students were guided by a worksheet that helped them interview their friend for key answers.

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My Friend Interview Sheet.

Students practice presenting with their friend working on their enunciation skills, volume, and expression.  These skills develop with time and confidence.  This activity also deepens their friendships, as well as gives them a skill set to use when they meet a new friend, or classmate (for next year!).

We will try using the iPads to video some similar activities so students can have greater control over their video, location, timing, video angle, and to use some of the editing features of iMovie.  This will build their technology skills and confidence, especially peer-to-peer support and teaching each other.

This video is a collection of the student pairs from this P2 class.  I’m very proud of their risk-taking, collaboration and success!

Cooking Creations ECA

Procedural writing is a valuable text type tool to help students organize their thinking, planning, and their end product.

Getting  my students to prepare food through an ECA, allowed them to discover new flavours,  foods, and boost their second language skills by putting them into action.

In order to get them to learn key vocabulary and food preparation steps, I  introduced them to the Toca Kitchen 2  app.  This app allowed to them to actually simulate food preparation, write the steps, learn the key vocabulary, and test their final product by feeding one of the characters.

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They also had the opportunity to visit Pizza Express and prepare their very own pizza.  It was valuable experience to follow oral instructions while creating their own pizza.  It not only allowed to try something new but also boost their self-confidence while honing their English speaking and listening skills.

‘Crabs on a Rock’ Rocks!

Students in P2 performing ‘Crabs on a Rock‘ in a Readers’ Theatre fashion.

One of the best ways to engage ESL students and teach them to read with comprehension, expression and  fluency is through Reader’s Theatre.

Reader’s theatre is a strategy that combines reading practice and performing.  Reader’s Theatre gives children a real reason to read aloud, it’s fun!

As you will notice from my videos,  it does not require extensive preparation, fancy costumes, props, sets, or memorisation.

This reading style allows children to act out a story as many times so they come to understand all of its nuances.  Also, it enables them to get past a superficial literal level.

With Reader’s Theatre, they’re not only reading and fully understanding a story, but most importantly, they’re living it.

Sports Day – Let’s Play!

What a great way to start Spring with our annual Sports Day event!  The children had a great morning participating in running, relay, skipping and many other races; something for everyone.

Sports Day allows children to showcase many of the skills they have learned in physical education classes.  This day was made extra special by the large turn out of proud parents, and the cooler weather.  I was amazed how well the children demonstrate what it is to show good sportsmanship, team spirit, and cooperation.  It gave me a subtle chance to interact with the students in English in a less formal environment compared with the classroom.

Well done to all the children and thank you to all of the teachers for organizing such a meaningful event.  The students and parents see that physical education and organised competitions are valued as part of a holistic approach to school life.