Observations of TCI in The Indonesian Classroom

What a day it was yesterday! I was incredibly nervous, because I was going to be observed by an Indonesian teacher colleague who was curious to see TCI in action after attending the TCI workshop we’d run at the Intan conference earlier this month.

The previous day I’d attempted to ask a story for the first time. I chose one of the year 7’s classes because the older students have really blossomed with TCI. Yet it wasn’t  that successful, for reasons which are so much clearer in hindsight. I wanted the class to rewrite their own version of Catharina’s story, “Tidak ada Mulut” (No mouth). We began as I usually do by asking, “Ada perempuan atau ada laki laki?” (Is there a boy or is there a girl?), yet this class didn’t want to have a gender, so instead I introduced the word, ‘orang’ (person) which is a great word to know.  We next decided upon the names of the two characters, Lesley (a name which could be either gender) and Big Jezza.  Here is how the story began…

Ada orang. Nama orang Lesley. Lesley tidak punya kepala. Lesley tidak bisa minum dan makan. Lesley tidak bisa menyanyi dan Lesley tidak bisa…. (There’s a person named Lesley. Lesley doesn’t have a head. Lesley can’t eat or drink. Lesley can’t sing and Lesley can’t….)

At this stage, I was expecting them to suggest verbs from the word wall. Yet with circumlocution, one of the students pointed out (in Indonesian) that if Lesley couldn’t eat or drink, then Lesley also wouldn’t be able to pooh. The class was all in agreement. I was torn! Was I asking the story or was I telling the story? I then remembered a fellow TCI junior primary teacher saying that the most popular story topics that hook JP students are blood, teeth & selfies. As this was student led, and the word they wanted was a word that, one could argue, could be very useful when traveling in Indonesia, I gave the word a parent would use with their toddler – eh eh  (each pronounced ‘e’ as in egg). It immediately became the word of the day and became very difficult to complete the story! It wasn’t till the next lesson that I was able to guide them to finally agreeing on an ending to their story which included a little more than just ‘eh-eh’.  I had great difficulty keeping them inbounds – they were determined that there was a blockage – and unfortunately this meant the story contained a lot of totally unfamiliar vocabulary; yet the students were thrilled with the end result.

Here is how we finished it:

….dan Lesely tidak bisa eh-eh.

Ada satu lagi orang. Nama orang Jeza Besar. Jeza Besar punya tiga kepala. Jeza Besar bisa makan tiga es krim. Jeza Besarkasih Lesley dua kepala.

Tenggorok Lesley tertutup dengan eh-eh. Lesley  mau minum kopi es. Lesley berkata, Saya mau minum.” Lesley makan kepala kedua. Tenggorok Lesley tidak tertutup lagi.


So with that story experience fresh in my mind together with the pressure that comes from being observed, I was not totally confident to try asking a story with the other year 6/7 class. To make the story asking process smoother, I used a story I wrote a few weeks ago called “Tidak ada Kaki”. Whereas with the first class, I encouraged them to choose the missing body part, this time I stated it, which meant the level of ‘asking’ was minimised because I imagined it would be safer! Here is the story they created:

Ada perempuan. Nama perempuan Barbie dan Barbie tidak punya kaki. Kasihan Barbie. Barbie tidak bisa berjalan kaki. Barbie bisa minum. Barbie bisa makan pizza. Barbie bisa menyanyi. Barbie tidak bisa berlari tetapi Barbie bisa bermain bola basket dan Barbie bisa merayap. Barbie bisa bermain golf.

Ada laki laki. Nama laki laki Jonah. Barbie tidak punya kaki dan Jonah punya empat kaki. Jonah bisa berjalan kaki. Jonah bisa berlari. Jonah bisa merayap.

Jonah baik hati. Jonah kasih Barbie dua kaki. Barbie bisa berjalan kaki. Barbie bisa berlari dan Barbie bisa merayap.


illustrated by Ruby

Translation: There’s a girl named barbie and Barbie doesn’t have any legs. Poor Barbie. Barbie can’t walk. Barbie can drink. Barbie can eat pizza. Barbie can sing. Barbie can’t run but Barbie can play basket ball and Barbie can crawl. Barbie can play golf.

There’s a boy named Jonah. Barbie doesn’t have legs and Jonah has 4 legs. Jonah can walk. Jonah can run. Jonah can crawl.

Jonah is kind hearted. Jonah gave Barbie two legs. Barbie can walk. Barbie can run and Barbie can crawl.

Beforehand, we had organised some props: a wheelchair, a sarong to cover Barbie’s legs and a pair of stuffed stockings. The story progressed beautifully. As usual, I had no trouble sourcing volunteers for the actors. Firstly Cooper was Barbie and he happily sat in the wheelchair with a sarong covering his legs. He acted his part beautifully. Beth (not her real name)  then jumped at the chance to be the second actor. Her face dropped slightly when I brought out the stuffed stockings, yet she bravely continued and helped tie them around her waist. The girls were madly gesturing to her to pull the ‘legs’ to the side so they didn’t hang in front of her legs. The boys meanwhile, were in hysterics. Beth was such a good sport; she continued to act out her part even though she realized that the whole class (and teachers) were laughing so hard, we all had tears in our eyes. With 2 long shapes swinging around her legs, she walked and ran back & forth on the narrow catwalk through the audience, but it was the demonstration of the crawling that undid the audience. There is no way I can describe it to you and do it justice. I was just so happy I had 2 other adults in the room who can verify just how funny this acting of this story turned out!!

After the 6/7 lesson, the day continued well with all classes beautifully demonstrating why I love TCI. Students gestured whenever I said something they didn’t understand (& also when they did understand because they enjoy the attention they get for gesturing!), students of all ages asked, “Boleh saya Bahasa Indonesia?” if they wanted to say something that was beyond their level of Indonesian and in particular, that all classes can now respectfully greet visitors in Indonesian.

I was on such a high afterwards. It was brilliant that the lessons had all gone smoothly and also that Kay was so impressed with what she’d observed. Her feedback was generous and very encouraging. Yet, I do wonder just how my interpretation of TCI compares with officially trained TCI teachers in the USA. I hope I’m not too far off the mark and until I can attend one of the conferences, I console myself with the famous TPRS quote; “Bad TPRS is better than no TPRS”!!

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