Friday, June 22, 2012

Education, Language and Learning a Language

Hi guys,

One of the points that I mentioned in the post 'How to get 100% success in teaching a foreign language' was that around 90% students spend 9-12 years studying a language but still can't speak it. They may be able to parrot some sentences out, but they aren't autonomous speakers of the target language.

This is because they are 'learning' not 'acquiring'. By 'learning' I mean 'learning about'.

One of Steven Krashen's main points in the 80s was also that there is a distinct separation between 'learning' and 'acquiring'. He called it 'The acquisition-learning distinction'.

Now although he wrote a book on this in 1981 (31 years ago) titled 'Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning' we still find that in most schools and language institutes in Indonesia today language is still learned but not acquired.

I feel there are three reasons for this:

  1. The acquisition-learning distinction has not been socialized enough with potential and current teachers
  2. It is easier to test that language has been 'learned' rather than acquired (it can be tested just like any other subject)
  3. The text books which teachers are asked to teach from (and which are preparing for those tests) focus of course on learning rather than acquiring the language. 
There are also three reasons that those three reasons shouldn't hold us back on this:

  1. It is easy to socialize the acquisition-learning distinction
  2. The nation will get a far superior benefit from almost 100% of High School graduates being able to communicate autonomously in English rather than 10%. Besides that more students are going to do well in the final year 12 exam in they have been actually acquiring the language for 9-12 years rather than just studying it.
  3. Teachers want to see their students successful. If the focus is changed to being able to autonomously communicate efficiently in the language rather than just get good test scores. I believe teachers will accept the challenge and any changes in the curriculum that supports it.
I want to make this post short and sweet because I believe this is essentially a simple point, a simple fact with simple and easy application. I hope to do more in the application of this point in the coming years, around Indonesia if God grants me that opportunity.

If students acquire English starting from their first year of primary education, they will do well in the TOEFL exams for entry into Universities because they will be competent in the language. The main things that are tested in the TOEFL exam are Reading Comprehension and Correct Vocabulary Selection (usually in the form of multiple choice questions). Grammar is tested but somebody with purely a conscious understanding of grammar will most likely do badly. The student with a subconscious understanding of what fits and what doesn't will do much better in questions relating to grammar. This has been proven in numerous studies and I have seen it also in my own personal experience with language students here.

Further more even if only a slight increase in TOEFL scores and fluency are found (worse case scenario) wouldn't it still be better that most students graduate with a communicative competency in English? a B1-B2 (European standard) competency alone opens ups many opportunities for the individual including but not limited to trade, education, employment, contacts, the global village, cultural perspectives and professional development. Essentially we would be giving millions of people a gift for life, the gift of another language.

So I hope this post has inspired you to spread the message of language acquisition which essentially means a campaign against 'language learning' as there is simple not time for both and our priorities should be clear.

Keep on sharing, shining and changing lives!

Kindest regards,


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

An easy way to integrate values into the classroom

Hi Guys,

I have an easy to apply technique for integrating values into the classroom. It's easy to understand and easy to apply.

I've adapted this from Edward De Bono's 'Six Value Medals'.

The six value medals are:

Gold Medal: Human values.
Silver Medal:Organizational Values.
Steel Medal:Quality Values.
Glass Medal: Creative Values
Wood Medal: Environmental Values.
Brass Medal: Perceptual Values.

These values can be adapted to what you want to see in your students and what you think will serve them as responsible and model citizens paving the way for a better tomorrow.

The value medal system makes it easy to order the many values that we probably what to make habitual for our students. Not only are they easy to remember but they are also easy to display. You could make 6 frames on the wall and award a value medal for each value at the end of each term. The students who are awarded the medals can have their photos in the frames for the next term, to motivate the other students to be conscious of those values and to appreciate their fellow classmates achievement.

We can also integrate the medals into our lessons as sometimes our lesson themes will match with one or more of the value medals. If any values match with our lessons we can make sure to remind the students of them and direct the activities more towards the values.

Do you have any other ideas on integrating values that you'd like to share? Just leave them in the comments section below! ^_^

Alright, that's all from me today. Have a great day and keep shining, sharing and changing lives!


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Lesson Plans. The good, the bad and the ugly!

Hi Guys,

Today I wanted to talk a little about lesson plans. Now for those senior teachers out there I know what you're thinking 'as if we don't know what a lesson plan is' and I agree, I had to think twice before posting on this topic.

The reason I ended up biting the bullet and writing about this is because surprisingly enough during my time training teachers I've had more than a few teachers come up to me and ask me 'What is the best way to make a lesson plan' I've also had them ask 'How do I write out a syllabus'. So that alone tells me it's worth talking about and posting up here.

So let's get into the nitty gritty. The reason I've entitled this post 'the good the bad and the ugly' is because in regards to lesson plans I've seen them all. For many teachers in Indonesian schools lesson plans are a cause of distress. I suspect that is because of a number of reasons:

1. The teachers are asked to give one years worth of lesson plans at the 'Raker' time, which would be a small book. I've seen some institutes give a day or two for 'fine tuning' a years worth of lesson plans. This is all easier said than done. How do you expect a teacher who has been assigned a different subject to last year or even a different level to 'fine tune' the last teachers lesson plans (that is to say if that last teacher made any at all)? How do you expect teachers to handle changes in the curriculum and/or program or be creative in the way they teach when they are asked to confirm exactly how they are going to teach the subject one year ahead of time? These are of course rhetorical questions. We can not ask this of teachers and should not.

2. Often teachers after a hard days teaching, socializing with parents and correcting work don't feel up to letting their creative juices flow out into making improving lesson plans and sometimes just don't make the time to do so. That is why we see 'RPP' (lesson plans) coming up as a popular download on the net. I sometimes wonder whether the teachers lessons look anything like what they've given their coordinator or dept head.

3. Quite often in schools here, there are no set coordinators or department heads. If there are they are usually assigned fairly heavy teaching or administrative duties. This means they often don't have time to properly check over teachers lesson plans, give feedback or do walkthroughs (lesson observations). They usually just request lesson plans are in by a certain date (if they are unreasonable they will ask for a years worth of lesson plans all at once) and then they file them, never to see the light of day again.

So you'd wonder why any teachers would want to hand their lesson plans in if that was the case.

That being said, I have worked at one school before where teachers were asked to put their lesson plans in only one day before, were given feedback on their plans, given training on how to make good lesson plans and were given their lesson plans back before they had to teach and they still didn't like writing lesson plans. So what's the deal?

I think most of the case it's a simple case of poor 'macro planning'. Basically if you don't know how to write up a great syllabus yet you aren't going to be able to make great lesson plans and to write a great syllabus you should have a strong underlying teaching methodology to follow. Think about 'How I want to teach my students?' before you even begin to put pen to paper.

Then and only then think about the curriculum, then the syllabus then the lesson plan.

So it goes like this:

Step 1. Methodology --> How I'm going to teach my students (how are they going to learn best)?

Step 2. Content (curriculum) --> What I'm going to teach my students (what should I expect from them) and how am I going to asses them?

Step 3. Timeline (syllabus) --> When am I going to teach the content my students and what is it going to align with in the rest of the curriculum i.e. other subject/programs?

Step 4. Details (lesson plan) --> Use the above information Step 1 for structure Step 2 for content and step 3 for position to make your lesson plan. It's just basically cut and paste and adding one or two things once you have a strong methodology to guide you. It is best to make a formula that repeats itself and takes care of all of the above. That way the structure is the same, you only have to change the content.

So basically if you're not happy with how you're going to teach your students (your method) change it before the year starts then choose a curriculum (if you can) or edit the curriculum that has been served to you by a 'higher power' (more likely) to suit your methodology. After that make sure every thing you want can be achieved (with plenty of time to spare) in the timeline and think of extra things you can integrate into your classroom (like excursions or daily activities to complement the curriculum). Finally make a basic format and formula for your lesson plans based on the above e.g. Lesson 1/5: Like this! Lesson 3/5 Like that! and Lesson 5/5 some kind of formative assessment. Walla! 50% of your lesson plan woes have gone out the window.

That being said though, there are many teachers out there that will look at the above and say 'what a lot of hard work!' and 'I'll have corrections to do, as it is I am taking work home!'. Well obviously this article isn't for them and they probably didn't read this far anyway (joking). But in the off chance that you are thinking that; which is more important, having the students know what mistakes they've made, or delivering such a shockingly good lesson that the students don't make so many mistakes?

Anyway I hope you enjoyed this write up on Lesson Plans, if it was all child's play for you maybe you can forward the link to some of your workmates that perhaps aren't so savvy yet?

Either way keep up the great work and let's change some lives!

Warm Regards,


P.S. I may post up a basic 'Engage Study and Activate' lesson plan format later, just for newer teachers of EFL to use as a reference. The reason for this is because we still have a lot of English Teachers who haven't any formal Education Qualifications (sometimes they can turn out to be the best teachers). I don't know when I'll post that up but I'll try and remember to do it soon. ^_^

Thursday, June 14, 2012

List of Available Modules for In House Training

Hi Guys,
Below is a list of available modules for in House Training. Most modules take approximately two hours to complete although some are better delivered in a half-day or full-day workshop.

1.        The Principles of Language Acquisition
2.       Contextualizing Language
3.       Building Language Awareness
4.      Integrating Skills

5.       Pair and Group Work
6.      Learner Feedback
7.       Classroom Management (emphasis on large classes)
8.      Learning Strategies
9.      Authentic Materials (using and adapting)
10.    Critical and Creative Thinking
11.     Alternative Assessment
12.    Individual Learner Differences
13.    Younger learners (emphasis of ages 5-10)
14.    Peer Observation (formative evaluation practices)
15.    Reflective Teaching Practices
16.    Power Teaching
17.    TPR and TPRS
18.    Suggestopedia
19.    The Communicative Approach and Language in Use
20.   Integrating Piety and Values
21.    Learning Through Video
22.   Learning Through Songs
23.   Teaching Procedures PPP to ESA and Alternative Procedures
24.   Curriculum and Syllabus Design

For the details of any of the modules such as module components please email me (my email can be found in the banner of this page).
Kindest regards and best wishes,


The 5 E's

The 5 E's

The 5 E's is an instructional model based on the constructivist approach to learning, which says that learners build or construct new ideas on top of their old ideas. The 5 E's can be used with students of all ages, including adults.
Each of the 5 E's describes a phase of learning, and each phase begins with the letter "E": Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate. The 5 E's allows students and teachers to experience common activities, to use and build on prior knowledge and experience, to construct meaning, and to continually assess their understanding of a concept.

Engage: This phase of the 5 E's starts the process. An "engage" activity should do the following:
  1. Make connections between past and present learning experiences
  2. Anticipate activities and focus students' thinking on the learning outcomes of current activities. Students should become mentally engaged in the concept, process, or skill to be learned.

Explore: This phase of the 5 E's provides students with a common base of experiences. They identify and develop concepts, processes, and skills. During this phase, students actively explore their environment or manipulate materials.

Explain: This phase of the 5 E's helps students explain the concepts they have been exploring. They have opportunities to verbalize their conceptual understanding or to demonstrate new skills or behaviors. This phase also provides opportunities for teachers to introduce formal terms, definitions, and explanations for concepts, processes, skills, or behaviors.

Elaborate: This phase of the 5 E's extends students' conceptual understanding and allows them to practice skills and behaviors. Through new experiences, the learners develop deeper and broader understanding of major concepts, obtain more information about areas of interest, and refine their skills.

Evaluate: This phase of the 5 E's encourages learners to assess their understanding and abilities and lets teachers evaluate students' understanding of key concepts and skill development.

Taken from:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How to become a Suggestopedic Teacher:

Hi Guys,

Today I want to talk about a fairly famous method of learning a language but one that is frequently misunderstood or deemed to complicated or outdated to be practical in today's classrooms.

I want to try and dispel that notion for those who have heard of Suggestopedia and introduce it to those of you who haven't.

Unfortunately in most teacher training around Indonesia not much energy is put into studying and appreciating the different methods that have been used over the years to teach language. A lot of the time courses go into the theory of the different methods but often with a critical eye and by critical I mean 'criticizing' not 'important' which I think is an important differentiation

Suggestopedia rocked the industry when it was first released by it's creator and developer Georgi Lozanov. Unfortunately a mysterious and suspenseful curtain (an iron curtain to be precise) was drawn over the method before Dr. Lozanov could teach any practical application of the method. This curtain was only lifted momentarily when Dr. Lozanov was allowed by the Bulgarian government to go to the USA to share his method with Bobbi DePorter. He would not get many other chances to sit down in peace and share his method until the Berlin wall fell (signaling an end to the USSR) and he and his family were able to settle in Austria after hopscotching their way across Europe.

By that time though, the method had lost momentum amongst the Language Acquisition community and was perhaps considered old news. The uniqueness of the Suggestopedia method was perhaps also a great contribute to it's fall from popularity. Like TPR Suggestopedia did not rely on textbooks to work and thus probably wasn't accepted that widely in the formal education community.

This has been a reoccurring plague of thinking that has killed or hindered many good methods for language acquisition and even our basic concept of 'how we acquire languages' has fallen flat on it's face many times because Textbooks and most Summative Tests of 'knowledge' force teachers into a box (but we will discuss that more another day).

For now let's go over the basics of Suggestopedia. Firstly Suggestopedia is based on the concept of suggestion, some people may know it as hypnosis or NLP (Nuero Linguistic Programing). Basically Dr. Lozanov knew about how negative suggestion can seriously affect the brains ability to absorb language and information. An unideal state of mind such as being in a state of worry, stress or discomfort can also have a negative affect. After Dr. Lozanov, Prof. Dr. James Asher and then Prof. Steven Krashen also came to the same conclusions that the brains Affective Filter can hinder the ability for us to absorb a target language. I have discussed this before in my article 'Break Down the Barriers to Learning a New Language'.

What Suggestopedia does is give us a routine, environment and attitude as teachers to lower the Affective Filter and optimize our students state of mind for maximal learning ability. Sounds pretty good? Well we can perhaps discuss the theory of it some other time or in person if your really interested but I'm probably right when I assume it will probably bore you and you want to see practical examples and ways to apply it in your classroom right now. Okay so here we go!

Lesson One

Step one: New Identities (this is done at the beginning of a new course. Step Two-Six will be repeated several times in a course, Step One is only done once)

To improve students motivation and to help them get 'in the zone' they accept new identities which they will use for the duration of the course. This also assists in the students understanding the culture of the language as these new identities represent individuals who are native speakers of the target language.

Step Two: Presentation of Text

I have seen this done in two ways. the first using a dramatic scene where the teacher will act out the text. The second where the teacher hands out a the text, translated but with the translation in the left column and the target language in the right (according to Lonny Goldman this is because the brain has a natural urge to look to the right of the text as we do in reading) and then reads it in a dramatized voice. In both cases the students should be completely relaxed, without pressure to memorize anything and with classical baroque music playing in the background.

Lesson Two

Step Three: The Activation Phase

The Activation Phase will be the next lesson after the Presentation of Text Phase. Students are required to of taken the text home to read before bed and first thing after getting up in the morning. They are now ready for the Activation Phase. In the activation phase, up to 12 activities playing around with the language can be done in a hour. These activities are not always completed but sometimes finished half-way through (we can see reasons for this through psychological studies that show that people remember tasks more when they haven't been completed). These activities are also all masked as fun games or tasks that have no relation to to Language Learning or Acquisition at all (this is to keep the brain relaxed and 'in the zone').

Step Four: The Passive Concert

The Passive Concert takes place at the end of a Activation Phase lesson. Here the students relax completely while they listen to the text being read in a soothing and calm way. It is preferable that they are in a reclining position and listening the baroque or 'Alpha State' sounds. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the 'Alpha State' it is a state where the brains activity is at an optimum activity for absorbing knowledge, you can read more about it here: 'Alpha Waves'.

Lesson Three

Step Five: The Adaption Phase

The Adaption Phase is where the students now play around with the text they have been hearing. Here are some examples of Adamption Phase activities from Lonny Goldman's Website:

'a. Oral Comprehension.  The whole class listens to a tape, and then breaks up into groups of three or four students per group. Each group receives a bundle of cut-up paragraphs, all of which, together, constitute the entire text just heard. The different groups can put the paragraphs into the right order first. When a group thinks it has won, the teacher replays the tape to check whether the order is right (more hidden oral practice!).
b. Written Comprehension.  Each student receives a different newspaper clipping and quickly reads it. Then, in pairs, the students tell their partners about their particular article. The teacher now collects all the articles and puts them down on the ground (or pins them up on a wall). The students then mill about, looking at all the articles to identify which one their partner had.
c. Written Expression.  Students must create something in writing based on a situation in the text. This might be an advertisement for a nice restaurant, an exotic tour proposed by a travel agency, a funny newscast, etc.' 
  -Lonny Goldman

Step Six: The Grammar Phase

This is the only time in the course where grammar is consciously examined. That being so, it's only grammar they they already subconsciously have an understanding of through the text. This phase is usually done in a similar fashion to the Activation Phase in that students play games with the grammar structures in a fun and stress free environment.

 Okay Guys! Well I hope you enjoyed reading about Suggestopedia. As you can see it's actually very in line with what we have learnt about how the brain works in the last 25 years. It is also in line with Steven Krashen's 5 hypotheses of Language Acquisition. So why don't you give it a try some time?

Even if you can't follow the above steps that's know problem because being a suggestopedic teacher doesn't mean you follow a formula, it just means you understand the power of suggestion or 'desuggestion' (desuggesting negative feelings and filters)  and you make sure your lessons all harness it's power.

If you'd like to see some suggetopedic lessons in action you can watch this movie series from Lonny Goldman (a practitioner of Suggestopedia from the USA):

Or you can visit his website at:

Until next time, keep improving your lessons and striving for that 100% success rate!