The best laid plans…

Sometimes the best laid plans can be useless. 

This has proven very pertinent to me in the last few weeks. We had such a good plan to open our English school in another city. We were so prepared, so ready to start making money off our own sweat and tears for our own profit ( not like now which is divided between six investors.) It was meant to be perfect.

Are you noticing the past tense?

We had planned to open a school in my husbands hometown, but the local government wouldn’t give us the permit. Technically, we could have still opened the school but that would mean that we wouldn’t have a legal leg to stand on if anything went wrong. It was too great a risk for us to take so we have put that idea on the indefinite back burner. Among other things it was too much of a risk for a limited award.

Sometimes, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

Well now I have six months of  FREE time. I am not sure what it is I am going to do, I have already had five months of maternity leave for baby and I feel claustrophobic being in the house. In our original plans I was supposed to be doing marketing and promo work for our new school. Now I have nothing to occupy my time. In another way, I had plans for three months of blog posts based around setting up our school and ESL and now half of those blog posts are useless.

Waiting for July.

My current school has a foreign teacher whose contract finishes in July, after that, she will go her own way and I will take over her classes. but until then I am practically useless.

I want to improve myself, Improve my ability to find a job when I finally return to Australia. I have an opportunity now to improve myself, and I should take it.

China is such a big place and i have only seen a fraction of it.

I want to travel, want to see what I should see before its too late. Me like many others, am always putting travel, life and experiences in the “one day” basket. I have been in China 7 years and the things in the “one day” basket keep getting more and more.

All I know is that when I leave China in a few years time I want my own business, something where I can work  from home or in a studio (I craft occasionally) I want to be able to bring in enough every month to warrant me to be able to stay at home and work for myself.

I know  that this is just a good chance for me to be doing something else. So even though that school never eventuated, perhaps it was for the best. perhaps I can use this time to improve myself and my future outlook.

My advice to myself right now is to buy a new journal, make some new plans because 2017 can’t be wasted on ‘what ifs’ and time wasting thinking about what could have been.

I am sure you have your own plans and ideas too. Have you ever had a door close only to have a new one open? What did you decide to do after a major let down?

The importance of TPR in ESL learning.

What is T.P.R?

A long time ago someone once told me that the key to getting reluctant kids involved in class is to let them “move and prove” themselves. I didn’t really understand how those two words could come to make a reluctant child participate in a class if he didn’t want to be there, and especially with such emotional time bombs as kindergartners.

Today i am going to talk about the first part of that little snippet of advice and talk about Total Physical Response, also known as T.P.R (the “move” in our move and prove)

Teaching ESL in the chinese classroom
Teaching ESL in the Chinese classroom


When you are dealing with little kids, especially in the age group of 2-7 you can coerce involvement by allowing them to involve themselves with their learning on a physical level. This will allow them to make a connection with an action and a word.

For example, if you wanted the children to learn the words big, small, long and short you can show them relevant flashcards, sure, but by involving their little bodies with actions they are more likely to remember this vocabulary.

This technique is especially useful for non English speaking parents as it can be a visual cue for them to help their children at home to review the words.

How do I do it?

You can use your body and facial expressions to teach children very effectively in an E.S.L environment. Even though you may feel uncomfortable at first performing actions in front of parents, when weighed against the outcomes of the lessons, embarrassing yourself a little to get a great vocabulary retention rate is a no-brainer.

Besides, parents will see the effort you are willing to put in to get their kids to learn the words and praise your efforts in teaching their children. Of course this is also applicable in a non parents and students environment and works well in an all student class too.

Let me give you an example for what i mean by T.P.R.

If I was going to teach the words big and small I would begin by stretching my arms out theatrically and spreading my legs wide, showing a big stature. For the word small I would jump down into a crouch while holding my hands like I was cupping a ping pong ball in them.

This gives A clear juxtaposition between the two and is imperative, you can then get the children to guess the meaning of these two actions.

After a basic demonstration and eliciting the meaning from the children I would then get them to stand up and do it together ( in a circle or cleared space) then I would pair them off to do it in front of the class, then we could have a fast action competition. Perhaps after that, depending on their English level or age( not necessarily in correlation) I would play opposites, i.e I say big, you do the action for small, and vice versa.

T.P.R has many and Varied applications.

You an use T.P.R in many different circumstances for a lot of different words. Think how would you do the actions for plate or spoon compared to Train and bike. Having an imagination for actions can take some time, but you will find that no matter the first language of your students, actions are almost universally understood.

Including action and T.P.R in your curriculum doesn’t need to be hard, you can use it for most nouns, verbs and sentences.

Another example of using it in a sentence for older kids is shown in “the chicken and rice song” the grammar point is “would you like some chicken and rice”  “yes i do/ no i don’t.”

After introducing the word “would” and “some” (more examples of how to use examples to teach “some” and “any” coming later) we can build on old vocabulary to make an interesting T.P.R game.

In this example we have two teams facing each other from across the room. One team starts off the song with actions sung to the tune roughly of the chorus of “yellow submarine” we will learn the sentence ” would you like some chicken and rice” of course you can substitute it for any foods that have a T.P.R action. and follow with the answer “yes, i do/No, i don’t.”

*sing* “would(hands palms up in front) you (point) like(hands form a heart shape over heart) some chicken(flap your arms) and rice( like eating from a bowl,) chicken and rice, chicken and rice”

at this time the other team is standing still with arms folded rap battle style, when the first team is finished the second team says “no i don’t” with their arms crossed over their head.

Then its the second teams turn to ask the first team who answer with “yes i do.”

You can change out the foods to whatever it is that you have learned for example; beef and potatoes or milk and cookies. After one round you can either write what the next foods will be on the board or get the kids to brainstorm in their group what the next food is going to be. If you can make the other team laugh, bonus points!

Trust me after singing this song the kids will never forget how to ask someone if they would like something!

Have you had any funny T.P.R experiences in your classroom or at home? Let me know in the comments below.

From Christi.