Category Archives: Blog

Fostering ‘Real World’ English

Using Picture Description to Enhance English Oral Skills

When teaching a foreign language, one must take into account the following factors so as to create a more effective and engaging programme.

  • school locality and context
  • school-based and citywide curriculum priorities
  • the students’ lives outside of school – their interests, aspirations, and home life

By creating a classroom environment that mimics real life, we bring learners one step closer to using “real world” English. Visuals help them imagine actual world scenarios and react to them more naturally.

As part of my programme with the Grade 3 students, guided reading and picture description is alternated week by week.  Picture description challenges students to describe the details found in a series of pictures, encouraging them to use target vocabulary and connecting words.


Using a guided approach, students discuss the pictures in groups.  After a suitable period of time, each student in the group take turns to describe one aspect of the picture to the whole class.  It is here that teachers can survey the strengths of each participant with praise and prompting, regardless of their ability.  This activity caters for learner independence and imagination to further their confidence and public speaking skills.  It also provides observational details that inform the teacher of a student’s progress in a natural setting where collegiality and respect are modelled and expected.

In these activities, most importantly, teacher ‘lecture’ time is reduced and student engagement and speaking is increased. The teacher’s role is to provide positive feedback on a student’s participation and encourage constructive student-peer observations.

Using pictures when teaching speaking is a very important part of second language learning. The ability to communicate in another language clearly and efficiently contributes to the success of the learner in school and later on in life.


Games Day 2018

Last Saturday, CNEC Ta Tung held its annual Games Day.  It was full of  activities, delicious food and happy children and parents enjoying all the fun activities.
This year the theme throughout this event was STEAM,  a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics in an interdisciplinary and applied approach.  Rather than teach the four disciplines as separate and discrete subjects, STEAM integrates them into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real-world applications.
Children were the leaders in many of the booths showing participants how to play or participate in the experiments done in their STEAM lessons.  It was a great day!
 games dy.jpg

New Year Possibilities

It is at this time of year when the true meaning of the word ‘reflection‘ becomes dynamic in playing a role in starting, stopping, and continuing activities, focuses, and goal setting.  Students, like their teachers can easily do versions of this activity to help establish new and productive routines, and to realise not all methods work every time.

For students who prefer tech versions of goal setting and monitoring their goals, there are a number of free apps that are available that encourage repetition in fun ways that help them to remember.  These apps generally promote a balance reminding them to take a break, or to do a fun activity like sports, gaming, etc.

I wish to take this moment to wish all the admin, staff and students at my school a very happy new year – year of the dog in 2018.  May each of you have health, prosperity and happiness.


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


Decoding New Words Sept 2016.png

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.

My Friend Worksheet P2.pages Pages, Today at 10.09.38 AM.png

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!