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.


Games and Language Learning

This week, our school celebrated Language Week through games, reading activities, movies, and a book exchange.  I wish to thank the English teachers for organising such an enriching event for our students.  These are all memorable and fun ways to engage children in language learning.  My favourite activity, however is games.


Learning a new language is enjoyable when the approach to learning is geared towards having fun!  Nowadays, we can learn languages through social media, movies or even by playing games, either board, paper or word games, or on a computer or mobile device!

There is an old Chinese proverb that perfectly describes the advantage of learning languages through games:

“Tell me, and I’ll forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand.”

Effective language games are designed to involve us in different ways of using the language.

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Language games help children, as well as adults hone their speaking, listening, writing, reading, vocabulary, and understanding of the target language. It should also have longevity so their motivation is maintained each time they play the game.  Game apps are well-known for this design element to automatically adjust its level of difficulty with each successful engagement.

Today’s skillful educator’s role is knowing the necessary balance of games and a variety of traditional methods to provide accountability and enjoyment.  They need to be active in their monitoring of student progress and participation to diagnose the effectiveness of the choice of games, timing, and the assessment of the desired skills.


Big Books = Big Fun!

Readers Theatre: Giving Children a Reason to Read Aloud

Learning a second language is challenging enough.  Aspiring to the level where you are able to appreciate the subtleties and nuances of expression, volume and fluency is truly the art of reading aloud.  Although an unrealistic goal for students who spend very little daily time with English, I think there are simple ways to move children closer to this ability, and in an enjoyable way.

Readers Theatre allows me to hear groups of students read the Big Books in character while the other students are guided in what to listen for, offer helpful advice and, basically, learn to be an audience; to appreciate a good story and how everyone interprets it differently in their presentation.

The students enjoy seeing themselves online (video – YouTube) and share their reading with parents and friends.  This keeps parents ‘in the loop’ on many levels of my programme, reading skills, drama, stage presence, and overall confidence.

We’re currently working on:

  • reading longer phrases
  • trying to add expression to the author’s language
  • trying to read fluidly and in a natural voice
  • reading at a suitable speed without unnecessary pauses
  • trying to look at the audience, at times


Stop Motion – Start the Fun!

This past week was the culmination of the Extra Curricular Activity I presented using Stop Animation technique to create short video animations.

Stop motion is an animation technique that physically manipulates an object that appears to move on its own. The object is moved in small increments between individually photographed frames, creating the illusion of movement when the series of frames is played as a continuous sequence.

Students created their stories using Plasticine figures. Stop motion animation using Plasticine is called clay animation or “clay-mation”.

IMG_6789Students were introduced to this method through an app called, myCreate.


They started with storyboards to record their ideas, drawings and details to direct their work. This was a new experience for them which, at times, was challenging as they were not quite aware of the precision and number of photos that have to be taken just to create a thirty second clip (easily, over 300!).


Once they became immersed in the project and understood what was needed to be successful, they surprised themselves with their creativity and the quality of the outcome. Bravo to them all.

Happy Holidays!

I would like to wish the staff and students a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year, 2016.



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That Final Touch

Students in my various classes continue to amaze me with their ability to engage with multiple languages over the course of any day.  After typical startup routines within my lessons, they review content and high- frequency vocabulary associated with various units/themes and large books we read together.

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It is at this stage that they look forward to a variety of activities to help reinforce the goals of the lesson.  One of these activities, commonly, is the use of the iPads.  Students are seen here practicing vocabulary and, in some apps, being introduced to new vocabulary with the aid of graphics and audio.

I learn so much watching them have their private time with the iPad to see which assigned apps grab their attention, and which ones rarely get used.  I have been using various phonics apps that allow for customizing vocabulary.  I recommend you looking at Alligator Apps for samples of these type of apps, and most are generously free!


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