The Unfair Game

Going through my overflowing inbox, I discovered an email from Kenny’s Classroom with information about the Unfair Game. If you follow the link, you will be find details on how to access free instructions and an editable template. The reason I am sharing this with you is because I have tried this several times with little success and now I realise why.

The secret is the whacky prize pool. I had no idea just how important this is until I reflected upon why the Unfair Game went so spectacularly badly with a previous year 8 class. I set the students up in teams who then had to compete for points. Unfortunately this over competitive cohort totally burned me so badly I moved the powerpoint to a folder on my hard drive, with no intention of ever opening it again. Now after reading these instructions, I can see where I went wrong…..

Students love the unexpected! What teenager wouldn’t get a kick out of quirky prizes!! Have a look at these suggestions:

Genius isn’t it? This would work with all levels; from junior primary to secondary! It just might be the perfect activity for an end of term activity full of sneaky repetitions, a relief day or just because!!

Brain Break – So Much Potential!

I found this YouTube clip during the holidays:

Marina menari di menara (Marina dances in the tower) or in other words – the perfect way to have fun with word order incorporating target structures while standing, singing and doing the actions for each word.

This term my year 2 target structures include immediate family vocabulary (ibu, bapak, adik, kakak) and tidur (sleep). Thus this brain break lends itself perfectly to getting reps on all. The tune reminds me of ‘She’ll be coming round the mountain.” When creating your own, I highly recommend including a cognate in the phrase. For my context, my year 2 students are familiar with ‘klinic’ and the idea of their parents do these actions in the clinic, will hopefully add a level of quirkiness! However, you may need to get reps on a place, so your cognate could then be either the who or the what.

This week, I hope my year 2’s have fun with this brain break using the following lyrics and slides.

Slide 1

Bapak berdansa di klinic
Bapak berdansa di klinic
Bapak berdansa, bapak berdansa,
Bapak berdansa di klinic.

Slide 2

Ibu tidur di klinik
Ibu tidur di klinik
Ibu tidur, ibu tidur,
Ibu tidur di klinik

Slide 3
The final slide will be where I will mix it up, pointing to the images as I say them!
For example, Bapak tidur di klinik or Ibu berdansa di klinic.

The levels of challenge you could add to this are endless. Once my students are familiar with the brain break, I will play with the word order.
ibu tidur di klinik,
di klinik ibu tidur,
ibu tidur, ibu tidur,
ibu tidur di klinik.


Call and Response Collection..

No matter what the age of your students, call and response are awesome for getting the whole class to stop and listen!

They work like this: the teacher says a word or phrase and upon hearing it the class choruses a response and then magically look towards the teacher ready for an instruction. With brand new classes, I don’t introduce a call and response until all other behaviour management systems are working smoothly. Until then, I use the 1, 2, 3 song (taught in lesson 1) and sing until all students are singing with me.

The first call and response I usually introduce is the following:

When saying it, I pause between lines to make sure all students are keeping up with the instructions. If it is noisy, I will go through it once to get everyone attention and then repeat it. With very young learners, I modify the instructions by removing the word ‘angkat’ so that it becomes: satu tangan, dua tangan, tepuk tangan.

Here are a few more that can be introduced to students in preparation for upcoming stories or for review. My all time favourite that has worked so, so well with all year levels is this one:

I absolutely love this call and response. It is short and effective. When first introducing this one, I explain that the echo must be exactly the same as the original. If I say it slowly, it must be echoed slowly, if sang, the echo must also be sung etc. It is also incredibly helpful during lessons. If someone puts up the stop sign for karena, all that is required for me to say karena three times and with automaticity. The student inevitably echos, ” because, because, because” with a giant smile on their face!

This is similar to karena, except that before saying but, but, but, students stand up and each time they choral echo ‘but’, they slap their bottom, right, left, right. Students absolutely love this one and it certainly has a lot going for it however I have only done this one with students (and families) I knew very well.

That is all I can think of that have been successful and I am currently investigating new ones that could be used with upcoming topics as bonus repetitions of target structures. Here are a few that I might have some potential!

Thanks to the discussion of Facebook, here are a few more!

The following 2 are from Heidi P:

Thanks to Siobhan H for this one:

Part 3. Total Physical Response (TPR) with Young’uns

Martina Bex wrote a terrific post explaining TPR and it is a great place to start – read it here. This post of mine though, will focus specifically on TPR with junior primary students (4 – 7 year old’s). At my amazing current site, I teach junior primary (4-7 year olds) which has been simply divine. Luar Biasa!! With this post, I hope to share the TPR magic used with my JP students and in doing so, begin a compilation of engaging TPR options that have successfully increased my students’ learning outcomes.

TPR is simply ‘learning another language through actions’ (Asher). TPR is based on three understandings; firstly, that language is learned primarily by listening; secondly, that language learning must engage the right hemisphere of the brain; and thirdly, that learning language should not involve any stress (Wikipedia).

While I utilise TPR in every lesson with my junior primary students, it is not pure TPR as created originally by Asher. It is a variation from the many tweaks I’ve made over the years so that it is more compatible with both my teaching style and beneficial for my young learners. Feel free to do this too! I look forward to hearing what works for you in your lessons!!

My previous post outlined how I use class dojo to call the roll which happens at the beginning of each lesson. My expectations for students during the roll is that students will duduk (sit), diam (shush) and dengar (listen). After any sustained focused listening, it is important to follow with an active break with all learners. My current students have only one lesson per week, therefore every single lesson minute is maximised for comprehensible input. TPR is a fun way to get students up and moving while pumping them full of repetitions of target structures. The target structures I choose to use in TPR are critically selected for their usefulness with:

 a. class stories,

b. classroom management and

c. potential student travel to Indonesia.

e.g. running, turn around, vomit, walk, jump, fast/slow, stop, look.

Frequent movement opportunities are vital in JP lessons as most young learners struggle sitting for long. I like to keep this equation in mind when planning: 5 year olds = 5 minutes. I.e. after 5 minutes of sustained focused listening, follow with opportunities to get up and move.

TPR can either have all students in a circle together with the teacher:

or just a few working with the teacher:

Remember – there is no one way to implement TCI, TPRS or TPR. Always tweak ideas to suit both your style of teaching and your student needs. As long as the input is 100% comprehensible and comprehended, your learners will acquire successfully.

Here is a list of ways that I incorporate TPR into my lessons:

Circle TPR – (Shoutout to Ibu Anne)

The structures I always begin with are berjalan kaki, stop (yes, ‘stop’ is English, however it is high frequency in Indonesia) and duduk (sit). My TPR format for JP requires us all to stand and move in a circular direction. In a deskless classroom, we all move in the same direction around the kursi luar biasa but in a room with desks, I allow students to choose their own direction to avoid bottlenecks. Students walk as we chant berjalan kaki. They stop when I say stop and then as a finale, I ask students to duduk. A few lessons later, I add berdansa (dance) and then in the following lesson, putar (turn around) is introduced. I love berdansa purely because it’s a cognate and adds fun! Putar is one of those words that is very useful for classroom management.

Other movement verbs I add gradually include berenang (swim), melompat (jump), berlari (run), jatuh (fall), merayap (crawl). I also will add in other target structure verbs into TPR e.g., makan (eat), minum (drink). All great variations to ramp up story asking with actors too!!

Here is some audio to give you an idea of what it sounds like:

Berjalan, berjalan, berjalan kaki x 2


Berenang x 4

Berjalan, berjalan, berjalan kaki x 2


Berdansa x 4

Berjalan, berjalan, berjalan kaki, x 1



Makan hamburger, makan hamburger, makan hamburger besar, makan hamburger kecil.

Berjalan, berjalan, berjalan kaki x 2



Leading up to this in my lessons, the first PowerPoint slide includes a quirky GIF accompanied by the structure ‘berjalan kaki’:

and the final powerpoint slide looks like this:

New language is introduced before we begin and again, where possible, incorporates a GIF and the structure in writing for emerging readers.

My students absolutely love this. I vary the number of times I say each structure, to ensure it isn’t predictable. If/when students stop participating appropriately, I change to the following.

Gender TPR Instructions

For some teachers, using gender as a way to group learners is maybe potentially troublesome, yet as gender vocabulary in Indonesia is high frequency, I believe it’s inclusion is useful for my students on their familiy holidays in Bali. Although I have yet to teach a JP student with gender identity issues, should that change, catering for all students would remain a high priority and an alternative would be explored.

As you can see from the above PowerPoint slide, there are three instructions. They appear one by one on each PowerPoint slide using ‘animations’ and a presenter clicker. I firstly ask ‘Laki-laki berdiri’ (boys stand up), secondly say Laki-laki + verb (e.g., dance, hop, swim) and then thirdly, ask ‘Laki-laki duduk’ (boys sit down). I then repeat it with the girls who either do exactly as the boys did or do something entirely different depending on the cohort. I used this last week with my 4 year old’s as a change from circle TPR and they loved it. Although a few did ask when we were doing berjalan, berjalan, berjalan kaki (as it is referred to by most students!) The secret is to keep it moving yet with heaps and heaps of repetitions of both the gestures and the language. I even sang a few of the repetitions which was well received! The beauty of having a second group of students repeating the same actions, is the repetition. I intentionally choose the more proficient group to go first to model and also provides opportunities where I can acknowledge student proficiency!

All the Worlds A Stage (ATWAS)

ATWAS works best in the JP context with short stories, super condensed story versions or a single paragraph from a story. I have three ATWAS variations, each of which require students to demonstrate comprehension through movement.

Variation # 1- Using actors to enact the story! I really like introducing the story for the first time this way. It gives me the chance to work one on one with only a few students to monitor their comprehension, reinforce acting ‘rules’ and sensor performances as they act for a highly engaged audience. I begin by asking for actors.

When working with young’uns, it is important to clearly state the expectations before choosing actors every single time! In my spiel, I remind students that I will choose an actor randomly using the sticks to ensure I ask someone who hasn’t yet had a turn. If their name comes up, students need to know that it is highly likely that the audience will laugh at something they say, do or wear, before they accept. If/when a student accepts, I write an ‘A’ on the back of their stick to record it.

KLB = Kursi Luar Biasa, M= mata-mata, A = actor, C= backwards charades

I highly recommend ramping up the experience for both actors and the audience using quirky props including hats, glasses, wigs, masks, clothing etc. I source mine mostly from op shops.

senang sekali!

I choose the actors as they are needed. It slows the telling of the story and also allows me to restart or retell a part of the story for repetition when adding a new character. Coaching the actors also helps to slow storytelling, check for comprehension, repeat sentences and call for acting ideas from the audience. Before telling the story, it is vital that actor and audience ‘rules’ are revisited. The actor can only do or say what I say. If a student repeatedly and deliberately forgets to follow this, I whisper in their ear that I will replace them if it happens again. Usually thisis enough to help them to self regulate and improve their acting skills. Quirky, over the top acting is encouraged as long as it demonstrates comprehension and is appropriate. The audiences’ role is to sit back and enjoy the show, offer positive encouragement and suggestions when asked.

I usually go straight from variation # 1 into variation # 2 as it both provides an opportunity for students to stand up and move after sustained listening while also maximising the story retelling with the story & acting still fresh in their minds.

Variation #2 – Students stand in a circle facing inwards, hands by their side. I explain to students the following: I am going to tell the story again and I want each and everyone to act it out. I also mention that I will be looking for the action that best matches the sentence I say and that there is no speaking or sound effects unless the character says something (this instruction will need constant reminders). I then say the first sentence which is usually, “Ada perempuan.’ (there’s a girl) or “Ada laki-laki.” (There is a boy). I repeat the sentence slowly numerous times while looking around the circle. When I see a student doing an action that clearly and imaginatively demonstrates what I have just said, I congratulate the student by name to encourage the class to look at what they are doing. I also like to acknowledge there are many ways to act out each sentence, so will try to acknowledge other creative students when appropriate. Also, it’s important to add comprehension checks, especially when it is clear that there are students who need it and/or to celebrate individual student proficiency. Repeat this for each line of the story.

Variation # 3 – In the next lesson, we do another version of ATWAS.  This version can take quite a large portion of the lesson, especially the first time. As there is a mixture of both focused listening and actions, students rarely lose interest. It begins with students choosing a partner and I like to clearly demonstrate how this is done each time to avoid hurt feelings. 

I like to demo this process in English with a student who has a good sense of humour. Cari satu teman means ‘find a friend’ and to do that, we walk towards someone who is standing up. We then ask that person, “Would you like to be my friend?” and they will answer with either ‘yes please’ or ‘no thank you’. If they say, “yes please.”, you both sit down and wait. If they say no thank you, then the answer is, “no worries.” This continues until there are only two people standing. They look at each other and sit down as they automatically become partners. This last point is super important to clarify with young’uns as several enjoy saying no and then are upset when they are with a person not of their choosing! The class then stands and begins. If there is a student left over, I ask them if they would like to be my friend and they then help me demo the next step. This inevitably turns their frown upside down!

The next PowerPoint slide prompts determining who will be which story character:

Siapa buaya? Siapa Emma?

A demo of this step is again super important. I begin by looking at my friend/partner and ask them which character they would like to be. They usually answer with Buaya, to which I say, “No problem! I’ll be Elsa and you will be Buaya”. Then I explain that we are going to do a second demo. This demo is OTT but the kids love it and so far, has ensured the majority of pairs are happy with the outcome. I again ask my friend who would they like to be. No matter who they say, I sob and say with a sad, croaky voice, “OHHHH, I wanted to be Buaya/Elsa!” After they recover from my reaction, they usually reassure me, “OK, you can be Buaya!” To which, I thank them profusely for their kindness before suggesting, “How about I am buaya the first time we act out the story and you can be buaya the second time we act out the story?” Thus clarifying with the class that we will do this twice. They will each get their choice of character eventually as well as listening to the story twice!! Input for the win!

From this point, the lesson returns to Indonesian. Students then look at their partner (lihat teman), decide who is who for the first round. When it looks like the decisions have finished, I say, Elsa berdiri (Stand up Elsa). I check that there is an Elsa for each pair. Then I say, Elsa duduk (Elsa sit down). I repeat this for buaya.To begin the story, I again ask, Elsa berdiri and the fun begins. After the story is finished, I ask the class to again duduk (sit). In English, I remind students that we are now going to swap character roles. They look at their friend and ask them if they want to swap roles. Here I state clearly that if one of the pairs wants a change, both must change. I then repeat the process exactly as outlined earlier, however add a twist with the final line of the story. Instead of buaya makan Elsa (crocodile eats Elsa), I swap it so that Elsa makan buaya (Elsa eats crocodile). I love this twist as you will observe immediately who are the fast processors!!  I again acknowledge the students who acted out the twist correctly. I repeat the line and do a comprehension check. Then the pairs act the final sentence again! What a hoot! Have you noticed that the first two steps of this ATWAS style are conducted in English? I am a big believer in using English to explain classroom procedures. It both ensures greater levels of understanding, makes it so much more quicker to explain so that we can start the activity asap and reduces student anxiety through incomprehension.

Bu Cathy Berkata (Simon says)

A classic TPR activity but not one I use very often. Students love it though. I am not a fan of games where students get out and then sit out. Instead I prefer to tweak games like this so that instead of focusing on who got it wrong, flip it and focus on students who were successful and couldn’t be tricked!

Circle TPR

– ‘Siapa Punya Strawberi’ (Who has the strawberry?) is a game I did at the beginning of this year and was often requested throughout the year. I like it because there is a focus on a particular structure which in this case is, “Siapa punya?” The class sits in a circle with one student in the middle hiding their eyes. I prefer that the student kneels with their face down, eyes closed and their two hands over their eyes. I then walk around the circle saying siapa punya, siapa punya, siapa punya stroberi? While handing out 3 strawberries to 3 different students. The three students hide the plastic strawberries either under their legs, in a pocket or behind their back. I then ask the student in the centre to ‘berdiri’ (stand up). They then approach 3 different students one by one, asking each, “John punya stroberi?” to which ‘John’ either answers, “tidak punya” and shows their empty hands or “punya” and surrenders the strawberry. The ‘winner’ is the student who found the most strawberries after their three goes, if having a winner is important.

Duck, Duck, Goose – not one I do often but still worth adding to the list. I like this this game for noun repetitions e.g. laki-laki/ perempuan, ibu/bapak etc.

‘Kasih’ (give) (Shoutout to Catharina for this one!) – Students all stand in a circle with one student in the middle holding a hardy soft toy. The teacher calls out to the student in the middle, “Kasih John” (give it to John) and the student heads over to give John the toy before John repeats the phrase substituting his name with a class mates. This game is extremely popular and can get very loud very quickly as the object of the game is counterintuitive. In this game you do NOT want the toy! It’s a good idea to introduce the game with walking to give students time to adapt to NOT wanting the toy! The round finishes when John gently touches the stomach/shoulder of the student whose name was said last before they say, “Kasih …….” To minimise the shenanigans that go along with requesting turns, I recommend that the next person in the middle will be the person on my right and then turns will continue person by person going anticlockwise around the circle.

Mari Buat Lingkaran (lets make a circle)

This video is one that perfectly combines movement and output through lyrics that are repetitious and limited. Be warned though, the song can easily become an ear worm after playing to back to back classes.

Other TPR ideas: There is a fine line between brain breaks and TPR – but for me, they can be both when the vocabulary required is limited to 2-3 words. Brain breaks that require either unfamiliar Indonesian or only English cannot be considered as TPR.  Here are a few that I’ve used.

Tepuk Tangan – Typical TPR structure that I have blogged about previously.

Three levels/Three Structures – I have no idea what this activity is called but, in my head, I refer to it as ‘3 levels/3 structures’ because it works best with three structures represented by three frozen body poses; one standing, one lying down and one either sitting or in the crawl position. For example, buaya – lying stretched out on the ground, kancil – on hands and knees & kafe – sitting on an imaginary chair drinking tea. To play the game, the teacher calls out one of the three structures and students get into the pose for that word. This is a terrific TPR game for students with lots of energy as it wears them out very quickly.

Team TPR is similar to three levels but instead the students are in small teams of 3-4. I haven’t tried this with 4 or 5 year old’s, however it worked well with 6-7 year old’s. Firstly, identify three structures from the story, then create a totally different and quirky frozen tableau for each to represent meaning. Using the structures kafe, buaya and berlari from the Elsa dan Buaya story, ‘kafe’ (cafe) could have one student kneeling on hands and knees to represent a table with the rest of their team ‘sitting’ around the table drinking tea (a flat hand to represent the saucer and the other hand up to the mouth with the pinkie outstretched), ‘Buaya’ could be represented by the entire team lying down side by side with arms open for crocodile mouths, and ‘berlari’ could have all but one student running and looking backwards with looks of amazement while the final student is crouching in the start position for a running race. Quirky poses increase engagement.An important difference between this game and the one above is that I am looking for the first entire team frozen in the pose with all aspects of the pose incorporated. If students wish to compete, points can be wawarded to teams that achieve this. Here is a photo from last year of a group of year 4’s participating in this:

Wii Fit – this one comes directly from La Maestra Loca. It’s perfect for targeting berlari, melompat, stop/berhenti.


Hopefully there is something here in this post that you can use in your teaching. I plan to continue adding to this compilation over the next 12 months. If you too have contributions or suggestions, please, please add them in the comments or contact me directly. There are not many posts specifically about TPR for the JP cohort, thus I will truly appreciate your input!!

Part 2: Apa Kabar in the JP Classroom with Class Dojo

I have written several posts outlining the various ways I use Class Dojo in my lessons across all year levels. See here and here. This post, though, I will focus on how I use Class Dojo with my 4-7 year olds to call the roll.

I strongly believe in the importance of building automaticity with answering ‘Apa kabar?’ (How are you?) as this is usually the first question indonesian visitors ask my students! Thus, calling the roll with my JP students centres on first introducing and then consolidating the acquisition of bail-baik saja (fine), lumayan (ok) & kurang baik (not so good). Once the acquisition of these structures is solid, calling the roll then becomes another awesome way to gain bonus reps on structures useful for stories e.g., senang sekali (very happy), lapar/haus (hungry/thirsty), panas/dingin (hot/cold). I have also found the absentee data useful for tracking students who are routinely removed from my lessons for music, literacy/numeracy support etc.

I always start with baik-baik saja, then add kurang baik and finally lumayan. The next structure I introduce is senang sekali. Senang sekali (very happy/excited) is included for several reasons. Firstly, it gives students the language to express how they feel about an upcoming special event e.g. birthday or maybe because they are the lucky one to sit in the kursi luar biasa (awesome chair).  Being the fourth response students acquire for answering apa kabar, it is a target structure that hopefully is transferred to long term memory in its entirety, not as two single words. The importance of this is that can in the future recall this phrase to review Indonesian word order which varies to English. I get such a buzz when my students use ‘sekali’ (very) in new situations. Today a year 2 student answered apa kabar with ngantuk sekali dan lapar sekali (very tired and very hungry)!! What joy!

Once students have acquired these 4 responses, I introduce them to my apa kabar song

which I created 20 years ago to consolidate all structures plus selamat siang (good day) and terima kasih (thank you). I enjoy creating My Talking Pet videos singing using either cute, quirky or familiar animals for added input. My students never tire of seeing their pets singing or talking in Indonesian! To do this, I invite students to email me digital photos of their pets. These photos are fabulous for reviewing past and present structures and consistently ramp up engagement even further!!

The next responses I teach do not follow any system – they are purely added according to the needs of the students and/or the upcoming story. Often, a student will ask how to say how they are feeling and if many others ask for it too, I add it to the next weeks lesson, especially if it has potential for further usage. Other responses I have taught beyond those already mentioned include; sakit (sick), gila (crazy), pusing (dizzy), kecewa (disappointed), kuatir (worried), marah (cross), sedih (sad), bingung (confused), malu (shy/embarrassed).

It is now week 7, (term 3) and I’ve just moved onto the next step. It’s now their turn to call the roll using Class Dojo. Using the random button on class dojo, a student is chosen randomly. I ask that student ‘Mau mengabsen?’ (Would you like to call the roll?) and they answer with mau or tidak mau. I am a strong believer in avoiding requiring students to ‘perform’ in front of their peers if they are not yet comfortable doing so.  I clarify to those who answer ‘tidak mau’ (and there are always a few), that their name will come up again so if they change their mind, they will get another chance.

Those that accept, begin by pressing the following to record that they will call the roll.

This then becomes a visual record of the students who have called the roll. With older classes, this is perfect for sudah/belum repetitions, but with students this year, I am really trying hard not to overload them with new vocabulary. My classes only get 50 – 60 minutes a week, and with 6 days between lessons, I aim to get repetitions on the language already covered to further consolidate its acquisition. Thus, I point to each students name on class dojo and then look at that student and say to them, “Chelsea tidak mengabsen.” following it with a comprehension check (what does ‘Chelsea tidak mengabsen mean’? or how would we say ‘Chelsea tidak mengabsen’ in English?))

When the student gets to their name on the roll, here are two options I’ve tried. The class can chorally ask the student apa kabar or the student calling the roll can ask me instead.

My students love calling the roll, loving interacting with the smart board and love the chance to ‘be the teacher’! It’s a win-win! This is as far as I usually go with my junior primary students.

Do you call the roll each lesson? I am curious to discover what percentage of teachers do and if so, how. What do you do that your students find engaging?

2022 MLTA NSW Conference – Memory

Have you realised how much I enjoy Languages education research? I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to begin my Masters of Education; Languages fulltime as it gave me time to broaden my understandings of language learning and teaching. I am also incredibly thankful that I studied simultaneously with a wonderful TCI/TPRS colleague, Bu Heather, as it allowed us to discuss various aspects of Languages research from a TCI/TPRS perspective.

Yesterday I attended the 2022 MLTA NSW conference with one of my brilliant colleagues, Bu Asti. We were delighted to hear Steve Smith speak. I first heard him talking on Liam Printer’s The Motivated Classroom podcast. I highly recommend listening to Liam’s podcasts– they contain a great balance of research and practical ideas for language teachers working with middle primary aged students and above. Can you imagine how ecstatic I was when Steve Smith began his webinar by introducing us to memory research and how it applies to Languages!

Staying on top of research requires not only considerable time but also a certain headset. In this post, I will focus generally on outlining how memory works through teasing out iconic research, some of which dates back to 1885! I hope while reading this, you can reflect on your own teaching practise to determine the extent your practice aligns with accepted understandings of memory.

This post attempts to explore aspects of the research Steve discussed in his webinar. I have found memory research so useful and I wished I had known more about it earlier in my teaching career. I have expanded on several of the points Steve made using either the book ‘Cognitive Psychology and Instruction’ (Bruning, Schraw & Norby. 2011) or relevant SLA (Second Language Acquisition) research. I hope this post is readable and most of all, helps you understand why informed practice leads to sucessful learning!

 Steve Smith has taught French in the UK for 30+ years. He has co-authored several books with Gianfranco Conti, one of which is “Memory; What Every Language Teacher Should Know’ ($45.54 on Amazon). What a great title! Here he is with his wife talking briefly about this book.


Steven began the webinar by explaining Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve which illustrates how quickly newly introduced information fades over time. Isn’t it astouding!

Ebbinghaus also hypothesised on the link between stress and remembering; something I think we would all agree with. Removing stress from learning is imperative. For many students, speaking/writing (output) can be stressful. For me, as a new learner, speaking in the target language produces an instant memory blank! Stephen Krashen‘s theory of second language acquisition is based on five hypotheses; one of which is the Affective Filter Hypothesis.  This hypothesis states that several factors including low motivation, low self-esteem, anxiety, introversion, and inhibition impact on acquisition. Thus, the ideal state for language learning is when the affective filter is so low that learners are completely unaware that they are immersed in the target language.

For language teachers, being aware of Ebbinghaus’ research is critical. To avoid new vocabulary fading, fast, quirky repetitions will significantly help to delay the ‘decay’. In a TCI/TPRS lesson, this can be achieved through numerous comprehensible questions and answers in the target language to incorporate the target structure in ways that appeal to and/or are meaningful to the learners. With my young learners, I love doing this with quirky images of cognates that faciliatate discussion incorporating the target structure.


Steven then outlined the two types of knowledge; explicit (declarative) and implicit (procedural) and how each leads to either language learning or language acquisition. Explicit knowledge is that which is learned explicitly e.g. the rule i before e except after e. Implicit knowledge is that which we learned unconsciously e.g. the specific order of adjectives for English. Steven then asked us if declarative knowledge can become procedural knowledge, i.e. will explicitly teaching grammar rules help students communicate in the target language? To answer this question, I encourage you to try this: speak in your first language without using the letter ‘a’. Try it for a few seconds and then reflect on the hard work your brain did to achieve that!! Stephen Krashen’s Monitor Hypothesis explains that learning rules explicitly creates an ‘editor’ which monitors output through planning, editing, and correcting. It made your output considerably more onerous, doesn’t it? Could you feel your brain planning, editing and correcting while speaking? Thus, implicit learning ie, listening to comprehensible target language will lead to acquisition whereas teaching language rules is only necessary for language learning. Through understanding the difference between explicit and implicit teaching, we can determine if our main teaching goal as a language teacher is building proficiency or building knowledge! Both have value, but the balance is heavily weighted towards implicit teaching if proficiency is the goal.

Memory Models

The scientific study of memory began with Ebbinghaus (1850-1909). While no one yet knows precisely how the brain stores memory, most memory researchers agree on several points:

  • Working Memory and Long Term Memory are separate systems.
  • Attention is extremely limited. The mental energy necessary for thinking and understanding is huge and overloading working memory will impact learning.
  • Cognition includes both automaticity and controlled processing (implicit/explicit).
  • Processing information is influenced by many factors including prior knowledge, context, emotional state etc.

Memory models vary in many ways. Consider the following model:

Atkinson & Shiffrin, 1968

The modal memory model (see image above) is easily the most commonly understood model of memory. There are significant variations between models yet all agree that the dotpoints outlined earlier are vital for planning and teaching. I believe they should underpin all our teaching and if we do not understand or implement the research findings, we are likely failing our students.  
Blunt but true!

Memory Understandings

Here is a summary of the research regarding the three major systems of memory (ie Sensory Memory, Working Memory and Long Term Memory). While reading the following, consider the implications for language learning:

The main systems of memory are Sensory Memory, Working Memory, and Long Term Memory. Information is first stored in Sensory Memory then moved to Working Memory where with attention, it can be cogitated upon &/or manipulated to make sense. (Remember when you spoke without using an ‘a’? That all happened in Working Memory!) Long Term Memory is where information is stored for long periods and can be retrieved consciously (explicit memory) or unconsciously (implicit memory).

1. Sensory Memory and Working Memory both have an extremely limited capacity and time limit for holding information. Miller (1956) suggests that adults can hold approximately 7 plus or minus two pieces of information in working memory. Interference, decay and new information impacts the time input remains in these two memory systems. Atkinson and Shiffrin (1971) claim that new information stays in Sensory Memory and/or Working Memory for just 15 – 30 seconds. New information can only be kept in Working Memory longer through rehearsal e.g., repeating them verbally.

2. There is are two subsystems within Working Memory that each either manage verbal or visual input, distributing the processing load equally and operating simultaneously without impacting on the other. If anything, they appear to increase the likelihood in moving information from Working Memory to Long Term Memory. Consider the value of using images and/or props when introducing target structures!

3. Teaching that fails to recognise the characteristics of Cognitive Load Theory (overloading Working Memory) results in cognitive overload. Cognitive overload is when the brain hits the wall because the brain was given too much new information with insufficient rehearsal/repetition opportunities. The implications of cognitive overload impact not only on decreased student outcomes but will also negatively impact on student motivation and engagement levels.

After outlining relevant memory research, Steven then offered many suggestions for activities that will help learners build memory. Here are a few of his ideas for building phonetic memory:

  1. Track the Sound – read a text to students who listen and count each time they hear a particular phonetic blend.
  2. Minimal Pairs – words with similar sounds (e.g. ada/apa) are used in comprehensible sentences for students to identify which one was said.
  3. Correct Transcription – provide learners with a close (text with words missing) and for each missing word, provide several answers for students to choose from. Gaps are filled in while listening to teacher read.
  4. Mind Reading – Brainstorm (retrieve) target structures and teacher writes them on the board. Teacher writes one a mini whiteboard and students choose the one they guess the teacher chose.
  5. Sentence Chaos – teacher writes a number of sentences on the board. Students in groups of three appoint a referee. The job of the referee is to read the sentences from the board in a different order. The other two take it in turns to say the sentences in the new order.

Steven recommends teaching ‘chunks’ rather than single words and states that phrases are more useful for communication and also strengthen the likelihood of retrieval. To support retrieval, he recommends using sentence builders as a ‘Do Now’ activity. I have used ‘Do now’ tasks with older classes as they keep students occupied if I am greeting students at the door or setting up for their lesson. ‘Do Nows’ are a type of warmup that helps student brains move into the flow of Indonesian. Here is a French example that Steve shared (apologies to the fellow sitting in front!). For this task, Steve instructs students to work with a partner to create sentences using the ‘chunks’ in the grid. They can add or change one or two new details or change the tense.

If you are interested in further ideas for retrieval practice, check out here episode 6 from Liam Printer’s podcast titled ‘Retrieval Practice: 11 zero-prep strategies for an engaged classroom’.

Once again, a huge thankyou to the wonderful MLTA NSW committee for delivering a fabulous conference with quality local presenters (shout out to Katherine Brownlee) and international presenters.

If you too enjoy research and would like to chat about something you’ve either discovered or read about in this post, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Wrangling – Teaching Preliterate Students – Part 1: Classroom Management

This poster underpins my classroom management system and I gratefully acknowledge the wonderful Annie Beach for her brilliant illustrations. These three verbs, I believe, are structures that successfully guide all students to become successful language learners. They are thus, a great place to start with preliterate learners and right from the start, help the teacher work towards staying in the target language during lessons.

I introduce the above poster during the very first Indonesian lesson and the language is reviewed every lesson. To facilitate acquisition, the structures are introduced both orally and with hand gestures e.g. duduk = two hands palm down pushing down towards the ground, diam = pointer finger in front of the mouth & dengar = hand cupped behind an ear. Movement opportunities for young preliterate students are beneficial for both acquisition and engagement. Engagement is vital for successful learning.

Initially, I put no demands on student expectations beyond duduk, diam, dengar. However once calling out in English needs to be addressed, I introduce the structures, ‘nakal’ and ‘pandai’. The following three slides demonstrate how I introduced my behaviour management system this year.

nakal/pandai = clever/naughty

satu stick = one stick
count the points

The first two slides are placed at the beginning of each lesson whereas the third is almost at the end and becomes the final task we do before singing sampai jumpa (goodbye) to each other. I have blogged about this system several times previously, so hopefully I won’t repeat myself too much. This post is a good one, however I no longer finish with the treasure box. I originally chose the structures nakal/pandai as they fit so well into the stories included in my scope and sequence. However, times have changed and while I’d feel extremely uncomfortable using the words clever/naughty in an English context, I have kept nakal/pandai because they are just so typically Indonesian. I have though, recently changed the images to represent nakal/pandai. I feel that having monkeys adds humour, continues the monkey theme Bu Annie created and also avoids gender/cultural stereotyping. I haven’t and don’t translate the word ‘stick’ because it is such low frequency and reflecting upon my travels throughout Indonesia, cannot ever remember needing the word paddle pop stick!! Again, I introduce the new structures of nakal/pandai with gestures (pandai = tapping the side of the head with the pointer finger & nakal is the age old pointer finger going up and down with a frown) and then starting from the following lesson, the two structures are reviewed frequently during Kursi Luar Biasa (KLB); see here. The second slide early in first term, includes only the structures students have acquired to that point ie ‘satu’ (one). As soon as ‘mau’ (want) has been introduced, I add it to the slide. All written language on the PowerPoint slides is kept to a minimum and always includes a pictorial comprehension clue to support developing literacy skills.

As mentioned an earlier post, each class has a bundle of paddlepop sticks with a student’s name written on each. I now choose a different colour for each class to make it easier to reunite missing sticks to their correct bundle. From the container of paddlepop sticks, I select one stick, checking firstly that student is not absent. It is then stuck to the board near the two magnetic laminated mini posters of nakal & pandai with bluetak ensuring the students name facing the board awaiting the reveal at the end of the lesson.

Locating the stick together with the mini nakal/pandai posters is important. I am finding that each year, I face increasing numbers of young learners with minimal self-regulation skills. I am a strong advocate for the Zones of Regulation program which brilliantly helps students identify and regulate their emotions and also explicitly equips them with skills to self-regulate. Conversations about self-regulation in my lessons always occur in English not just because young students do not have the target language necessary, but also to ensure the conversation is succinct and comprehended. Lesson time is precious and my goal remains to maximise target language input opportunities within the constraints of working with each cohort.

The finale of my classroom behaviour system has so many benefits I barely know where to start! We still count the trallied points (see above) together. This process has been incredibly helpful for students developing strong knowledge and understanding of the Indonesian number system, including noticing that an Indonesian 7 is written differently to an Australian 7. Counting the points is hands down better than a number worksheet! Eventually with time and more stories, other structures can be incorporated into the counting routine eg big/small, which one, how many, biggest/smallest etc.
Once we’ve counted both tally sets, my spiel goes like this: 
Bu Cathy mau lihat stick (Bu Cathy wants to look at the stick)
Siapa? (Who is it?)
Class then suggests a students name. If incorrect, I negate saying, “Bukan Bob!” thus providing input on negating nouns in Indonesian. If the lesson is short of time, I add a clue e.g. laki-laki/perempuan (boy/girl). Now some students are asking me this!! Woohoo.
When the students’ name is guessed, I ask that student, “Mau duduk di kursi Luar Biasa?” (Would you like to sit in the awesome chair?) and will work towards the answer, “Mau/tidak mau” but also accept ya/tidak. I very rarely insist students participate in lesson tasks, so if a student declines, I assure them in English that it’s totally ok however I will ask them again during the year because they may change their mind!! I then choose another stick. Engagement and participation are not mutually compatible. The most important aspect is always input; not output! I really love, love, love that the ‘reward’ for a greater number of pandai points offers an experience rather than an object.
However, it also needs to be added, that if there are more nakal points, the stick goes back into bundle, and no-one knows whose stick it was. The follow-on consequence of this depends on the class. If they really need a consequence to emphasise my expectations to duduk, diam, dengar, then no-one sits in the chair the following week and instead, I invite an adult to sit in it instead! I love this as it gives the adult the opportunity to demonstrate how much Indonesian they have acquired!! Conversely, if the adult is new to our lessons, it then gives the students the opportunity to impress the adult by translating my questions!! Win/win! An alternative to this, is offering the current person a bonus week sitting in the kursi luar biasa! No-one has yet refused this!! Kwk, kwk

Wrangling – Teaching Preliterate Learners


I thoroughly enjoy teaching junior primary! Teaching young learners Indonesian is enjoyable for numerous reasons including that they

– are highly motivated and engaged

– are keen volunteers

– are super inclusive and mutually supportive of each other

– adore anything wacky and quirky

– are not hormonal

– believe their teachers are superstars

– frequently mention how much they love learning Indonesian

Conversely though, as a TCI teacher, this would have to be one of the most challenging cohorts to work with. Especially if you are a teacher who is just beginning to explore using TCI or TPRS.  There is almost nothing available commercially or professionally, to either guide or support you on this journey unless you teach Spanish. Tweaking content written for older students doesn’t organically transition smoothly to a JP classroom context.  Teaching pre-literate (emerging literacy skills) learners is a whole new ball game. I would like to give a special shout out here to Amy Roe, creator of the ‘Storytellers Corner’ , and to Maestra Anna (aka Bu Anne ). While both are Spanish teachers (Anne also teaches Indonesian), they are both extremely approachable and I highly recommend reaching out to either or both if you like their resources but don’t teach Spanish.

However, finding appropriate resources is only one aspect of the challenging nature of working with preliterate students. Here are some of the other challenges:

  • Extremely short attention span
  • Inability to focus for more than 5-10 minutes
  • Emerging literacy skills – most are preliterate
  • Developing self-regulation skills
  • Developing understanding of personal space
  • Egocentric

My JP lessons now are taught via PowerPoints. I will admit though, that the initial ones took hours to create but eventually it became easier. Once a successful master has been created, each consecutive PowerPoint only requires slight tweaking. At the end of each story, PowerPoints can be easily saved till the next time that story is taught.

I began using PowerPoints after attending the ‘1000 Words; Using Picture Talk’ online workshop with Amy Roe. I immediately realised the huge advantages for using PowerPoints. Initially, it was to ensure lesson content was delivered consistently across like year levels. I found that when stressed and/or exhausted, I skipped parts of my written plan. Using PowerPoints stopped this in its tracks! Now if I skip something, it is intentional. Other advantages include being able to embed images and videos onto slides, removing the need to turn my back and all that potentially follows. If you are tempted to try using PowerPoints, I highly recommend investing in a wireless presenter so you can progress slides from anywhere in the classroom!

To overcome challenges while maximising the benefits, my PowerPoints aim to:

– limit the amount of text on slides,

– limit the number of target structures,

-maximise opportunities wherever possible to get repetitions of past and present target structures,

-balance the ‘up/down’ (see below) and

-include frequent movement opportunities.

Managing the input of L2 (Indonesiann for me) as well as the output of energy can extremely challenging with preliterate learners. Successful acquisition for preliterate learners requires very short engaging activities that are ’up/down’ in nature. ‘Down’- that which requires students to ‘duduk, diam, dengar’ (sit, shush, listen) and sandwiched between the ‘up’ that which is basically anything that gets learners standing up and moving around.

In building up this collection of pre-literate active input ideas, I am particularly grateful to Catharina G. As a long-time teacher of pre-literates, she has a wealth of knowledge and experience which she has shared generously in her role as my mentor and for that, I will be forever grateful to Ben Slavic for introducing us!

In upcoming posts, I plan to explain my teaching through the slides of a recent kindergarten (5-year-old) PowerPoint. I have broken this lesson into several posts to ensure I can comprehensively cover each aspect as well as emphasise the importance of limiting the judicious selection of structures for both current and future classroom management and stories.

Upcoming posts will cover:

Part One – Classroom Management

Part Two – Mengabsen using Class Dojo

Part Three – TPR

Part Four – Target Structure Review Activities

Part Five – Target Structure Introduction Activities

Part Six – Brain Breaks

If you can think of a topic that you would also like me to include, please comment below!!

Create Awesome GIF’s of your Pet!

Searching today for a GIF that is both appropriate for my young learner cohort and engaging, I had a sudden inspiration to google how to create my own. Turns out, I can make them easily on my iphone!! No app required! I discovered the increased level of engagement last week through a recent my talking pet video creation of my daughters’ cat singing.

Students were thrilled to discover that it was actually ‘my’ cat and not just a cat image available through the My Talking Pet app. Generated a lot of interest! Thus, to capitalise on this, I created a GIF of Lelo and it was so easy, I am inspired to share with you how I did it!! I am sure this can be done on android phones too!!

Here is a video of explaining how to do it!

It was so straightforward!!

I did notice though, that when I imported the GIF into my powerpoint, the loop feature was disabled but it was easy to fix that. In playback, I clicked on the ‘loop until stopped’ box.

Starting again….

I have just finished my first week of teaching Indonesian at my new site. Yes, that’s right, I’ve moved again, and it was the best decision I ever made. After resigning from DECD SA and on the advice of several good friends, I applied for and won a job in Sydney! It has been refreshing working with staff who have my back!!

The main attraction of this job (other than being in NSW), was the potential of being a dedicated TCI/TPRS junior primary teacher. I absolutely love working with JP students – their motivation and engagement is off the chart and consequently their progress is insane. They don’t get hung up on making mistakes, and they give everything and anything a go. It is so rewarding beginning with students usually start with no Indonesian and yet by semester two, our lessons can be 95% in Indonesian!

As always, I have started with Jim Tripp’s “Pleased to Meet You” story. It’s the perfect story to start with – regardless of age – for laying the foundation for future lessons being 95% in Indonesian.

I also love TPR (Total Physical Response) as both a means for keeping students moving and for acquiring verbs. Our first lesson this week introduced berjalan kaki (walk), stop and duduk (sit). Offering young students’ frequent opportunities to move is the secret to increased focus. It sounds like an oxymoron but frequent brain breaks effectively manage wriggles. TPR is a brilliant brain break as not only does it get students up and moving, but also introduces students to structures that will eventually occur in stories e.g. pelan/cepat (slow/fast), berdansa (dance), menyanyi (sing), berlari (run). TPR is a win:win!

Another aspect I introduced last week into my first lesson is calling the roll with Class Dojo. Assessment wise, the data is incredibly helpful for students who are regularly absent from lessons (MiniLit, MultiLit, extra curricula), but it also has another major advantage. It provides me with regular opportunities to target “Apa kabar?” (how are you?) which is usually the first question my students are asked when greeted by Indonesian friends and colleagues. I begin with the basics; firstly baik-baik saja (fine), then lumayan (ok) & finally kurang baik (not so good). These three structures are incredibly versatile and thus are excellent foundation structures.

I strongly believe that we should choose early structures wisely. Look for ones that are easy to say (consider the difference between pronouncing paham and mengerti for early learners), ones that provide a base upon which future structures/ grammar popups can be based e.g. senang sekali (word order) and for intercultural understanding opportunities e.g. kurang baik (less than good). I love ‘lumayan’ (so-so) as it is amazingly versatile. Not only is it useful for explaining how you’re feeling, but is also can be used with adjectives e.g. lumayan besar (sort of big).

Thus, once the basics have been acquired, the roll is the perfect way to introduce other feeling structures that will come up in future stories e.g. lapar (hungry), haus (thirsty), panas (hot), dingin (cold), ngantuk (sleepy) etc.

With JP classes, the aim of the roll is purely acquiring a wide variety of structures, however with MP & UP classes, the aim changes to building automaticity. This is done through adding challenge by timing classes. This starts with classes each lesson trying to beat their own class high score before introducing a whole school challenge to see which class can call the roll the fastest. Can you see the structures needed for this? Brilliant hey?

I really hope that even though my posts will now come from a JP perspective, you will gain ideas regardless. Maybe, in reverse, you will see ways in which what I write about could be adapted into meeting the needs of your cohort. In actual fact, all language learners have the same needs regardless of their age!