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Text Chat Activities – Book Review

Posted by Claudio on November 22, 2015 in Book Reviews |

Text Chat Activities: A Resource Book for Language TeachersIf you have been teaching for a while, you most likely have come across student material that is quite outdated. They often list technology, movie, and song references from days long past. They are boring and almost guaranteed to fail in getting the attention of your students.

So when I came across Text Chat Activities: A Resource Book for Language Teachers, I found it to be a fresh breath of air. The author, Mark J. Oliver, a seasoned English language teacher, has written a book that is chock-full of fun communication exercises that leverage what students like to do: chatting on phones and computers.

The book is divided into three parts:

Part 1 explains in detail what text chat is and how it benefits language learners. It uncovers issues that teachers may face when using text chat in their lessons and how to provide feedback during and after the different activities. In this part, Mark also gives detailed instructions on how to set up activities with different platforms available to students.

Part 2 includes pair activities, each with a specific subject and grammar focus. Each of the activities lists the required resources and give detailed instructions on how to set up the exercises, including clear instructions that can be copied into your student handouts.

Part 3 follows the same format as part 2, but this time for group chat activities.

This book is available as eBook and at a price of only $5 I consider it a tremendous value for teachers who are looking for ways to engage students with fun, modern activities. Click on this link to have a look inside the book.

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Colors in Thailand…and why they matter

Posted by Claudio on April 2, 2015 in Living in Thailand |

Do you ever contemplate in the morning what to wear for the day? This question is answered more easily in Thailand than other countries. Especially when it comes to color choice.

Colors in Thailand matter. At least for part of the Buddhist population. In Thai (and Khmer) tradition, each day of the week is assigned a specific color. This is the reason, you see many people wearing yellow on Mondays, pink on Tuesdays, and so on. The chart below lists the colors considered lucky and unlucky on specific days of the week.

 

Day Lucky Color Unlucky Color
Sunday red blue
Monday yellow red
Tuesday pink yellow and white
Wednesday (day) green pink
Wednesday (night) grey orange-red
Thursday orange purple
Friday light blue black and dark blue
Saturday purple green

 

The specific color of each day depends on an astrological rule (influenced by Hindu mythology) and is based on the color of the God who protects the day.

 

Day Celestial Body Hindu God *
Sunday Sun Surya
Monday Moon Chandra
Tuesday Mars Mangala
Wednesday (day) Mercury Budha
Wednesday (night) Rahu
Thursday Jupiter Brihaspati
Friday Venus Shukra
Saturday Saturn Shani

* Click on each Hindu God for more details 

 

Dressing in the color of the day has somewhat lost its importance in modern Thailand. People still know all of these colors by heart and consider the color of the day they were born their lucky color.

None of these colors seem more important than yellow, which is the color of H.M. King Bhumibol, who was born on December 5th, which was a Monday.

As a teacher, try wearing yellow on Mondays, pink on Tuesdays, and light blue on Fridays. You will demonstrate your understanding of this particular aspect of Thai culture and therefore gain a certain level of respect from your Thai peers. Some schools even require all teachers to wear yellow during the first week of December to pay respect to the King.

 

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Are Native English Speakers Really Better Teachers?

Posted by Claudio on March 13, 2015 in Teaching in Thailand |

It is a long running debate. I actually find the question not very useful because the answer is: it depends.

Isn’t it also important that a teacher has in-dept knowledge of the language, the skills to teach, is passionate, and makes an effort to prepare a good lesson, regardless of their mother tongue?

However, as long as there is a strong insistence by recruiters to only hire native English speakers, the debate won’t go away.

Many recruiters insist on Native English Speakers only.

Recruiters often insist on Native English Speakers only.

The Strengths of Native English Speakers

Native English speakers argue that they make better English teachers because they grew up with the language.

They make a good point.

Non-native speakers often do not have good pronunciation and word-stress, and they sometimes also lack a deep understanding of the intrinsics of a language.

The Strengths of Non-Native English Speakers

There are many non-native speakers who have good pronunciation, word-stress, and a native-level grasp of English.

Those individuals often make great teachers:

  • Their formal learning of knowledge about English helps them develop language awareness.
  • They sometimes can explain English grammar better than native speakers, who just “feel” when a sentence is correct.
  • They have walked in the shoes of an English learner, which enables them to be good learner models.
  • They can be more sensitive to students’ learning problems and can anticipate their learning difficulties.
  • They can teach language learning strategies more effectively than people who have never learned a second language.

Despite having all these strengths, non-native English speakers are often considered second rate teachers, especially in Thailand.

Native English speakers still have a special status of being a linguistic model of the English language. Their English knowledge and proficiency is regarded as a point of reference.

This is slowly changing though. Even organizations like the British Council Teaching English Team have voiced their support for the TEFL Equity Advocates campaign.

My Conclusion

The ability to teach depends on the individual, and it depends on the setting and desired outcome of a class.

Judging a person’s ability to teach English only on their mother tongue seems as silly as judging a person’s ability to cook spaghetti based on their passport.

One last thought: I think Thailand is on the right track to demand non-native speakers take a TOEIC exam. There is no passing score, but if you end up with a score lower than 850 you are not at a native level yet. This should motivate you actively improve your English skills in all four areas of the language: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. You owe it to your students.

What do you think about this debate? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

 

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Makha Bucha Day – Honoring Buddha’s Teachings

Posted by Claudio on March 4, 2015 in Living in Thailand |

In the Thai language Makha (Pali: Māgha) means the Third Lunar Month. Bucha (Pali: Pūjā) means “to honor”. Makha Bucha (Thai: มาฆบูชา) day honors the teachings of Buddha on the evening of the full moon of the third lunar month.

Activities on Makha Bucha Day

Visiting a temple to make merit, listening to monks preaching, and giving alms in form of food and everyday items. People also often make merit by releasing fish and birds kept in captivity.

Keeping the Five Precepts: abstain from killing, not taking what is not given, avoid sensual misconduct, abstain from false speech, and not consuming alcoholic drinks.

In every temple in Thailand there is a candlelight procession called a Wiian Thiian (Thai: เวียนเทียน), which translates as “circling around with candles”. Monks and members of the congregation circle the ordination hall clockwise three times while holding flowers, incense and a lighted candle. Each revolution is to pay respect to one of the Three Jewels of Buddhism: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

Monks circling the ordination hall three times on Makha Bucha day.

Candlelight procession on Makha Bucha day at a temple in Naklua, Thailand

Origin of Makha Bucha Day

Ten months after the enlightenment of the Buddha, four events occurred at the Veḷuvana bamboo grove, near Rājagaha in northern India. These four events are commemorated on Makha Bucha day:

  1. 1,250 disciples came to see the Buddha that evening without being summoned.
  2. All of them were considered Arhantas (Enlightened Ones), ordained by the Buddha himself.
  3. The Buddha gave those Arhantas the three principles of Buddhism, also called “heart of Buddhism” in Thailand: to cease from all evil, to do what is good, and to cleanse one’s mind.
  4. It was a full-moon day.

The date of Makha Bucha day varies each year, since it is based on the lunar calendar. This year it is on March 4th, 2015. In Thailand this is a national holiday so people can participate in the ritual and make merit.

Abstinence from Alcohol

On Makha Bucha day, there is an alcohol ban in Thailand. Restaurants do not serve it, stores do not sell it, and most bars are closed for the day. Consuming alcohol would not only violate Buddhist principles, but also be considered a civil offense. Nevertheless, some venues will still be open and serve alcohol, often disguised by being served in a coffee mug, especially in tourist areas.

My Personal Experience of Makha Bucha Day

Ever since I moved to Thailand, I have participated in some of the activities on the day. I typically make it a point to join the candlelight procession in the evening, which has always been a memorable experience. You won’t have to travel far to join in, since there typically is a temple near by your place you live.

Have you ever participated in any of the activities on Makha Bucha day? I would be delighted to read about your experience in the comments below.

 

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How to Look for a Job as English Teacher in Thailand

Posted by Claudio on March 2, 2015 in Teaching in Thailand |

At many schools in Thailand, the academic year is already over and you may be looking for a job at a new school.

English Teacher in Thailand

There are many reasons to do so: perhaps your current agency didn’t get the contract renewed, perhaps you want to move to a different area in the country, perhaps you are looking for your very first job as English teacher in Thailand, or perhaps you simply are ready for a change.

If this is you, here are some tips for you if you are currently looking for a job.

Search Online

You most likely are already familiar with the job board on Ajarn.com. It is the number one place for schools and agencies to list their jobs. But don’t limit your search just to one website. There are other great websites that list attractive teaching jobs. Teaching Thailand and Ajarn Recruit are two of the sites that list a good number of jobs. And then there is always Craigslist.

Visit Schools Directly

Make a shortlist of the schools in your area, prepare a nice folder with your resume and a cover letter, add supporting documents and a nice portrait photo, put on your best teaching outfit and spend a few days visiting the schools in your area. Ask for the head of the English department, introduce yourself, and state your interest and reasons for wanting to work at that particular school. You might be surprised about the effectiveness of this approach.

Join Dedicated Facebook Groups

Did you know that there are some dedicated groups on Facebook with job listings for English teachers in Thailand? Here are two with a good number of jobs: English Teaching Thailand and Bangkok Teaching Jobs (despite the name, they list jobs all over the country and all of the jobs posted must offer at least 40k in salary).

Prepare Well – Avoid Common Mistakes

When applying for a job online, there are some mistakes that I have seen people make. A while back I wrote a blog post to help job searchers avoid these mistakes. Have a look at my article 7 common mistakes when applying for an English Teacher job to enhance your application’s success.

 

If you are looking for a job, I wish you much success in finding that very special home for your teaching skills and background. Use your time during the break well and start your search early.

If you already have a position secured for the new school year, enjoy your break. Relax, recharge your batteries, and spend some time improving your skills – either read a book about teaching English as a foreign language, or look through YouTube to see what you can learn from other English teachers.

 

What are your job-hunting strategies? What websites are you visiting to find a job as English teacher in Thailand? Please share your tips in the comments below to help others to succeed in their job search.

 

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