Term 1 Reflections

As term 1 draws to a finish, I have been looking back over my first dedicated block of teaching Indonesian using TCI . It has been a steep learning curve yet at the same time deeply satisfying. I have learned just as much as the students!! Here are the major gems that I would like to share with you from my short journey thus far:

  1. Props – Don’t ever underestimate the power of props. When I copied Sharon’s brilliant idea of using a bottle of Sprite to tell the story: 

Jessie haus
Jessie mau minum Sprite
Ella punya Sprite
Ella kasih Jessie Sprite
Jessie minum Sprite.

I was blown away with the total and utterly mesmorised attention of the classes from year 2 right up to year 7! Even when the Sprite finished, students insisted I refill the bottle with water, so we could continue. Even with water, students were still highly engaged and following the dialogue closely. It not only hooked the actors, but hooked the other students too as they decided whether Ella would give Jessie a drink of Sprite and if not Jessie, then who would be given a small drink of Sprite. It is definitely worth taking the time to organise props for lessons with all year levels. Not only do students beg for repetitions, but it is so much more fun too for everyone. I have never laughed so much with students!! 

    2. Public Holiday Pitfalls  –  Usually I begin my week with the year 4’s and they are a great bunch of students to ‘trial’ my middle/upper lessons with. They give me the opportunity to fine tune my plan before facing the year 6/7’s the following day. While I enjoyed my first Easter long weekend in many years (our Ed Dept usually cleverly incorporates them into our mid semester break), I forgot to keep this in mind and consequently yesterday’s lesson with one of the year 6/7 classes was a disaster. With this class I need to be one step ahead of them. Maybe Trashball or something similar would have been a better plan for a challenging class in week 11.. 

  3. Trial by Error – A exhausting yet necessary aspect of teaching and a fact that I (and any learner) needs to philosphically and practically accept. I’ve read that it can take up to 2-3 years for a teacher to acquire competency using TCI methodology. This is what keeps me going! There are many fantastic blogs and websites full of TCI brilliant ideas and suggestions. Gleaning through them all to find ideas suitable for teaching primary students and then trialling it requires a huge step out of my comfort zone and so much energy. Yet each step is an important and integral aspect of the entire journey.  I must keep reminding myself to continue plodding steadily along the TCI path and not to expect too much too soon! 

4. Dehydration – TCI requires so much teacher talk and I have discovered that I am so much more dehydrated at the end of my days than I was ever before. I have tried to keep up my fluids over the day but haven’t been successful consistently with this yet. I get so engrossed in the lesson that I totally forget to stay hydrated. The most successful stategy I had was finishing my 750ml drink bottle at the beginning of recess and lunch on my way to the staff room but lately even that has fallen by the wayside. Any suggestions gratefully accepted! 

5. The Importance of Developing A Personal Learning Networks (PLN) –  The core of my PLN consists of Annie & Sharon, my Indonesian colleagues who teach in nearby schools, together with Catharina, our mentor who teaches French in New Jersey. The middle layer of my PLN consists of teachers who teach Indonesian and have been following this blog or my tweets. Their input has been invaluable and I have truly appreciated their comments and  feedback. While there are common aspects between different languages, there are also certain aspects that are unique and therefore those who teach and  speak Indonesian have that special eye through which to  understand my reflections and experiences. They too are are coming to grips with our new Indonesian Curriculum to be implemented fully in 2016, another valuable persepctive. The outer layer of my PLN consists of all the TCI language teachers who post on their own blogs or on websites like Ben Slavic’s. There is definitely a gap for me between the middle and outer layers purely because most of the teachers in the outer layer are secondary teachers and none of them teach Indonesian. Yet, they are still a major and important part of my PLN as they have such a wealth of knoweldge and experience that I am truly in awe of them. Without this special group of people, my first term of TCI could have finished so differently. Whenever I felt like I had hit a brick wall and I couldn’t see where to go next, someone would be there to encourage and help. Annie and Sharon have been awesome and once again I am so fortunate to work so closely with 2 teachers who readily joined me on this journey. Our frequent Friday meetings were invaluable opportunities to share lessons that worked well and thus give us each the inspiration and encouragement to continue. Our Skype sessions too, with Catharina have been incredible. Each time we all  took copious notes. It is so amazing to have the opportunity to speak with a junior primary teacher about TCI and how to apply it with very young students. Now that term 1 has almost finished, we are really looking forward to our next Skype call with Catharina. While we usually only speak for an hour, each call is jam packed full of awesome suggestions and information. She truly is an amazing and inspirational teacher  to have in my PLN and a huge thankyou must go to Ben Slavic for initially suggesting it! 

6. Lesson Planning – On looking back through my lesson plans, I have definitely learned that while it is good to have a few brain breaks up my sleeve, it is also important to keep my planning simple. My initial lesson plans from the first weeks were very long and were a great example of over plannning which is a good way to start! I tried to cover everything at first and then realised that it was not only unrealistic but also pushing the students too quickly. Narrow and deep is the TCI catch cry for a very good reason and this is what underpins the success of TCI over the methodologies I used previously. 

7. Patience is a Virtue – When reading blog posts written by other teachers who also use TCI, I have to keep reminding myself that comparing my students (or their lesson outcomes) with theirs is pointless. My students & i have only just started so it is natural that we can’t yet have impromptu detailed conversation that are 100% comprehensible. It is of greater importance that we start with the Indonesian version of the super list of verbs sourced from frequency lists and accept that initial discussions will be be very basic. 

8. Humour – At a point about mid-term, I reached a point where everything gelled. Suddenly I relaxed and started to enjoy myself with the students. At that point I realised that it was the first time I have ever laughed so much WITH  my year 7 students. Previously, any hilarity got out of hand and ended with me having great difficulty bringing them back on track without loosing that sense of connection. Yet with TCI, we laugh together at the ridiculous  scenarios the students suggest and then act out. Not only do students have fun, call out and be totally silly, but because it is all in Indonesian, it is amazing and all students are totally mesmorised and engaged thus keeping it manageable!  

9. Tight Timelines have Vanished – Previously, my term outline was tightly planned and in order for me to achieve my term outcomes, every lesson was precious and heaven help anyone who interfered with my schedule!! Taking sick leave was avoided and any additional offered non contact time was reluctantly refused because my planning didn’t have much flexibility. This has all blown away with TCI as everything is based upon student aquisition which is a  huge unknown. Once we know what the target structures will be, out planning will focus on that until we, the teacher, deem the students ready to progress to the next step. Consequently, with our upcomiing APBIPA visitor, Bu Mia, I feel far more relaxed and am really looking forward to her time in our school. Students will be able to experience a cultural lesson with her and this will also give them impromptu and authentic opportunities to practise and demonstrate their acquired Indonesian to date.

I am so looking forward to term 2 and having the opportunity to apply all that I have discovered. I also hope that my reflections give other Indonesian teachers the encouragement to consider trialing aspects of TCI in their classrooms. Last year, I dabbled just by experimenting with a few activities that sounded interesting and that is how I urge you to start too. While I am nowhere close to TCI mastery, I am nontheless, very happy to help any Indonesian language teacher if you would like to discover more about TCI. Ask away and if I don’t know the answer,, someone from my amazing PLN will certainly help!!

2 thoughts on “Term 1 Reflections

  1. Emma Gubbels says:

    Hi Cathy,
    I have just discovered your blog over the school holidays and am very interesting in the TCI approach. I am a primary Indonesian teacher in a Victorian school but have only returned to teaching Indonesian two years ago after a 15 year break. I think this sounds like just the approach I could be looking for as I have been increasingly frustrated at the limited amount of language learnt in my more traditional topic based approach. I have been working my way through all your recommended websites and began with your Siapa nama story from Ben Slavic in class this week which was great fun. I was hoping to ask you a few questions via email if possible regarding lesson planning and starting points? Thanks for the inspiration!


    • bucathy says:

      Lovely to hear from you! You can email me at casibly@yahoo.com or find me on Twitter @BuCathy
      I would be only too happy to work with you by email although please remember I am a newbie too!! I highly recommend you joining Ben Slavic’s website which is US$5 a month. It is the most amazing wealth of information and importantly includes a forum specifically for ‘elementary’ teachers.
      Looking forward to hearing from you.


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