Saturday, October 26, 2019

I'm on Study Leave!

Hi friends! Just a quick post to let everyone know that I'm currently on a one-year study leave to pursue my postgraduate study - MPhil in Education (Research in Second Language Education) - at University of Cambridge. I truly apologise for all the unanswered e-mails and messages in my Beyond Chalk & Talk FB inbox. A lot of things are happening at the same time - and I'm still trying to find my feet. Not an acceptable excuse to ignore you all, I know. I sincerely apologise from the bottom of my heart,  and I promise I'll try my very best to make up for that in every way I can.

There are requests and inquiries about new books and modules - I'm sorry I won't be able to do all those at the moment. But feel free to check out my latest book in the Genius DSKP series published by Penerbit Ilmu Bakti here. I have posted a few worksheets and materials on my Facebook page, you can check them out here. Sorry, that's all I can offer for now. I'll try to update the album from time to time whenever I have the chance.

I also received a couple of requests for teachers training / workshop. Believe me, I really really wish I can do that. But at the moment I would need to postpone all such activities for very obvious reasons. I promise I'll get in touch with everyone as soon as I finish my studies. We'll plan something, you have my words for that. :)

If everything goes well, I should be back in Malaysia around August or September next year. Thank you so much for your continuous support. Please pray for me, and do keep in touch!

Take care, -ccj

Update: I forgot to mention something. You might want to check out my Instagram page, too. I post classroom tips and materials there on a frequent basis :)

In front of the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Holiday Memories & Language Lessons: Part 2 (People & Culture)

Hi friends! This is Part 2 of my series of blog post on the topic Holiday Memories & Language Lessons. As I've stated in my previous post, there are three parts in this series:

Part 1: Landmarks & Historical Places
Part 2: People & Culture
Part 3: Landscapes & Sceneries

Just like my previous post, I don't intend to write a full lesson plan for the photos and videos that I'm sharing in this post. Instead, I would list down some possible activities that we can do with them. The activities can be done in a single lesson, or in a series of lessons. A lesson can focus on one skill at a time, or it can also be a mixture of different skills. By sharing this with you, I hope we can brainstorm ideas on how we can use our own collection of photos and videos in our language lessons. If you like, you can share your ideas with me in the comment box. We can make this a platform to inspire one another :)

Street Musicians

Some of us like to take photos and videos of people and the culture of the places that we visit. I know I do. This is one of my favourites:

I took the video and photo at the Market Square in Cambridge, UK. I just love watching performances by street musicians. This band is called The Trials of Cato - check them out, they're awesome.

Now how can we use these as stimuli for language lessons? These are some of my ideas:

Listening, Speaking, Vocabulary & Grammar
1. Introduce the words 'street musicians', 'performers', 'buskers'
2. Talk about the musical instruments - introduce vocabulary for different types of musical instruments
3. Adjectives - get students to use adjectives to describe the video. What do they think about the music? How do they feel when they hear the music?
4. Talk about the video. Ask pupils what they can see. How many people are there? What are they doing? How do they look? What do they feel? What objects can the students see? Get students to describe the people and objects that they see in the video.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Holiday Memories & Language Lessons: Part 1 (Landmarks & Historical Places)

Hello teachers! How's 2019 been treating you so far? I'm sure things are starting to get busy, and memories from our December holidays are gradually sinking into oblivion and fading away. But they needn't be! Have you ever thought about sharing your holiday fun experiences with your students?

I know many of my friends have been visiting some exciting places during the holidays. And I'm very sure that many of them have taken lots of pictures, maybe even some videos. I have some ideas on how we can use our holiday pictures and videos to make interesting language lesson activities. Instead of assigning the usual 'write what you did during the holidays essay' to your students, why not do something different by first sharing with the students what we did during the holidays?

The reason why I believe this would work is because I always find that students are more interested in a stimulus if they know that it comes from something personal, from 'real-life' experiences. My students love personal stories more than something that I grab from the textbook. More than that, I find that students are more excited and motivated to share their own experiences if I'm the one who start the ball rolling.

I'm sharing here some examples from my previous posts on how I 'spiced up' otherwise 'ordinary' lessons simply by using stimuli from the students' lives or my own life and surroundings:

A Trip to the Beach: Using Story Mountain to Teach Narrative Writing
Guitar versus Ukulele: Teaching Students to Express Opinions

Okay, now let's get back to this post. I've decided to make this a series of posts, that I'll divide into three parts:

Part 1: Landmarks & Historical Places
Part 2: People & Culture
Part 3: Landscapes & Sceneries

Maybe you've visited some famous landmarks or historical places during the holidays. If you've taken  some snapshots or videos of the places, you can use them to make your language lessons more interesting. In this post (Part 1), I'll share a sample lesson using a video clip and a picture of a famous landmark.

The Corpus Clock

The Corpus Clock is a famous landmark in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Here's a video that I've taken:

Here's a link to a slightly better-quality version on YouTube: Corpus Clock on YouTube

And here's a snapshot:

Here's a link to a Wikipedia article on the Corpus Clock: The Corpus Clock

Suggested lesson activities

Listening & speaking
1. Show the video and the picture and talk about it. Ask the students what they see. Ask them what they think it is. Talk about the shape, colour, appearance (e.g. old, shiny, strange etc.).
2. Introduce the word 'landmark'. Talk about the meaning of the word. Give some examples. E.g. local landmarks that students are familiar with
3. Dictation: read the Wikipedia article aloud and ask students to write what they hear (the text can be simplified for less advanced students). Variation: Dictation + gap-filling activity. Students listen to teacher reading the text and fill in the missing words. This can be followed by some vocabulary work.
4. Ask questions about the Corpus Clock based on the article.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Making 2019 the Best Year for Teachers

The new year is here! - and everyone on social media is posting reminiscence, reflections and memories of 2018 as well as hopes, resolutions and ambitions for 2019. For many Malaysian teachers, I know it's a mixture of feelings. Many are sad because the holidays has ended, but at the same time are also excited for what 2019 may bring. Staff meetings have started since last week for most schools, classrooms decorated, lesson plans prepared, yearly plans printed and bound etc etc. Regardless of what some people say, I believe with all my heart that Malaysia has some of the best teachers in the world.

Image from Global Education Census, published on New Straits Times
I'm sharing here the links to a few articles on Malaysian teachers:

Malaysian teachers among the most dedicated in the world - Cambridge Assessment International Education
Malaysian among 50 finalist for Global Teacher Prize 2018 - Malay Mail
Malaysia's 2019 Global Teacher candidate talks about learning disabilities, and his hope - Malay Mail

We don't hate the burdens

I saw some making cynical comments about the Minister's announcement on reducing the burdens of teachers. As a response, this is all I want to say: teachers NEVER want their burdens to be reduced. We actually love our burdens (yes, I'm serious).

We love all the burdens related to teaching. We love decorating our classrooms till the wee hours of the night. We find cutting coloured papers, or drawing with markers, or laminating A4 print-outs, or meddling with Adobe Photoshop to create our teaching materials therapeutic. Regardless of what we say (or how often we actually do it. Haha!), we actually love writing lesson plans (for ourselves and our classrooms, not for anyone else!). And despite our constant complaints about how our students are driving us crazy, we actually love them with all our heart and can't imagine our lives without all the craziness. Let me explain this: we are just sick of all 'burdens' related to non-teaching stuffs.

We would rather use the time when we stay up all night keying in meaningless data into a portal (that we doubt anyone would ever use for anything) to prepare our lessons. We would rather use the time we spend to 'screen' students to no end to do some actual teaching - to teach the children how to read, and write and count - not to 'diagnose' whether they can do it or not (of course they can't do it, we have no time to teach them with all those 'diagnostic' work). We would rather spend the time that we do to prepare for the school's 'big programmes' (to impress I-don't-know-who) to connect with our students, to communicate with them personally and individually, to understand them better so we can teach them better. We would rather use the time we are forced to spend on preparing 12 or 24 or 36 files to prove how efficient the management of our schools are to finish our marking, to give individual feedback to our students, to make an impact on their learning. We would rather be in the classroom all day than to use our precious time to do work just so some people can have something to brag about on Facebook and WhatsApp groups.

So let me say it again. Teachers never want their burdens to be reduced. What we want is this: for people to just let us teach. No more nonsense. We are teachers. Our job is to teach, and we'll embrace the job - burdens and all. Don't reduce our burdens. Just get out of our way and let us teach.

Well...I can rant endlessly about this, but this is not what this post is about.

Looking back

I know I haven't posted much since I joined PPD KK three years ago. Working as a District English Language Officer (DELO) has been an adventure. I remember receiving a mixture of reactions for my decision to join PPD.

From Confession of an Addict: Some thoughts about Teachers PD (Part 2)
 It wasn't an easy decision to make, but I did explain in that embarrassingly long post the justification for my actions - why I did what I did. In sum, this is what it was actually about:

From Confession of an Addict: Some thoughts about Teachers PD (Part 2)

I did experiment with a few ideas during my short term as a DELO, but I guess I'll reserve the sharing for another post. What I do want to share in this post is what I've learned through the three years of tumultuous yet rewarding experience.

What teachers want

When I tell people that I never actually left teaching, in my mind I was thinking about going back to school after I've 'satisfied my curiosity'. But after doing what I've been doing for quite some time, I realise that working with teachers is not that different from working with students. The experience is similar, in so many ways. What do teachers want? The same things that all students want.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Latest Edition of My Book

Just a quick post to announce the latest edition of my book for Year 6 English Language in the Genius DSKP KSSR series, published by Penerbit Ilmu Bakti. Comes with a booklet containing extra UPSR format practices. Available in most local bookstores.

To order online, visit:

Monday, February 19, 2018

Using Audiobooks to Engage Reluctant Readers: Articles and Publication

Hi! I hope it's still not too late to wish every one a Happy Lunar New Year! May the Year of the Dog brings you good health, prosperity and happiness! :)

I made this post as a follow-up to my previous post on the websites, YouTube channels and mobile apps where teachers can find good audiobooks for their classrooms.

Following that previous post, a lot of teachers have contacted me expressing their interests to try out audiobooks in their classrooms and their desire to find out more about it. I have promised to work on a post specifically dedicated to classroom activities using audiobooks. But before I come out with a new post, I think it would be a good idea to first share some of my previous works on the topic.

I have previously shared some of my materials on audiobooks on this blog and a few other platforms. To help make it easier for my friends who are interested in this topic, I have decided to compile everything in this single post for easy access.

Getting Started

If you've been following this topic from this blog and my Facebook page, you might have already come across my article on World of Better Learning on how I used audiobooks to help my students to be more motivated to read. If you haven't, I think the article would be a good place to start if you're interested in knowing more about how to utilise audiobooks' potentials in reading instructions.

Link to the article: Engaging Reluctant Readers

Sources of Audiobooks

In order to get started, you would of course need some audiobooks. I have created a post where I have compiled some of my favourite websites, YouTube channels and mobile apps where teachers can get good audiobooks for their classrooms.

Link to the blog post: Audiobooks for the Classroom: Websites, YouTube and Mobile Apps

Projects and Research

A lot of teachers I know would like to see how it's actually done in practice. In this post I've decided to share what I have done in my own school and with my own students.

I have published an article on the topic in the International Journal on e-Learning Practice (IJELP), Volume 2, 2015. Here's the abstract:

Audiobooks are valuable tools that have a lot of untapped potentials and benefits. This research explores the two different roles that audiobooks can play in helping reluctant readers to improve their reading skills and to get them to be more interested in reading. The research is conducted in a Malaysian primary school in a small village. It is targeted on 20 children who have been identified as reluctant readers. In the first cycle of this research, the role of audiobooks is as an input for learning. Audiobooks accessed through the Internet and mobile devices are used to assist children in their reading. In the second cycle, the role of audiobooks is as an output or product of learning. The respondents are engaged in the Audiobook Project, where they are given the opportunity to work collaboratively with their peers to create audiobooks and share their works on a blog. The quantitative data in this research is gathered through pre and post tests as well as a survey, while the qualitative data is derived from pre and post interviews. The findings of this research suggest that audiobooks are able to improve the respondents’ reading comprehension skills, engage reluctant readers and help develop their self-perception as readers. The findings also suggest that the potentials of audiobooks can be optimised to the fullest when they are used in combination with effective strategies such as collaborative learning, ICT integration and communicative approach.

The full text is available to download from this link: Engaging Reluctant Readers through Audiobook Project

I have also presented my Audiobook Project at the 25th MELTA International conference in 2015. The presentation has won the Basil Wijasuriya Silver Award for Outstanding Conference Presentation.

Link my presentation slides: The Use of Audiobooks in Improving Reading Comprehension and Changing Perception of Reading among Reluctant Readers

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Audiobooks for the Classroom: Websites, YouTube and Mobile Apps

I am 99% recovered from a nasty eye infection which had made it very difficult for me to perform tasks that would require me to strain my eyes; and that would, of course, include reading. If it wasn't because of audiobooks, I think I would have gone crazy. I spent my two-week sick leave listening to three Shakespeare plays and Dickens' 'A Tale of Two Cities' on LibriVox, and am currently half-way through the award-winning 'Evicted ' by Matthew Desmond on Audible. My audiobooks have been my life-saver during those difficult times when I couldn't use my eyes to the fullest capacity to read properly :)

Cambridge University Press ELT has recently published my article on their website World of Better Learning on the use of audiobooks to engage reluctant readers. I have since then received a few messages from teachers who are interested in trying out audiobooks in their reading lessons. One of the most common questions is on the sources of audiobooks, i.e. where teachers can get them.

In this post, I will share my sources of audiobooks for use in my reading lessons in the classroom (and also for my own pleasure reading/listening).



If you are teaching young children and primary school students, you will love this site. It has a wide range of choices of audio stories for children. The categories include original stories, classics, fairy tales, poems and music.

In order to use Storynory in the classroom, you would have to have Internet connection as the stories can only be accessed online. Here are some screenshots of the site:

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Using Technology to Engage Reluctant Writers

In 2015, I conducted a project with my students at Gudon National Primary School, Kota Kinabalu Sabah where I used technology such as blog and WhatsApp to engage reluctant writers. The project won the Cambridge University Press' Teacher Research Programme and I was given the opportunity to present the project at the 2016 IATEFL Conference in Birmingham, United Kingdom.

I have received e-mails and messages from a few colleagues, requesting for the materials from the project. I decided to compile everything here in this single post for easy access.

My IATEFL talk

Cambridge University Press has shared my IATEFL talk on its website, World of Better Learning. Here's an extract from the article:

This popular talk, filmed at IATEFL in Birmingham, centres around a project in a Malaysian school where digital resources were exploited to make writing activities more personalised and interactive.

Cindy noticed that her students spent a lot of time using technology, in particular their mobiles, and wanted to explore how she could use this to make writing a more positive experience for them.

(Go here to view the original post on World of Better Learning).

Here's the video of my presentation:

Link to Youtube video:

Teacher Research Programme (TRP)

I have also written three blog posts on my experience in conducting the project with my students - also published on World of Better Learning. Here are some snippets, and the link to the full article.

My students loved smart phones, computers and the internet. Technology made them excited. The examination writing paper requires the students to be good story-writers. I planned to start a project that revolves around using technology to engage my students in story-creating activities...Through this project, I hoped to be able to change my students’ attitudes towards writing and learning...

This project aimed to determine to what extent the use of technology tools can improve my students’ story-writing skills. To do this, I planned to use tools that my students were already familiar with. My students loved smart phones and they used WhatsApp as well as photo and video-editing software a lot. My intervention strategies included using these tools to create prompts for story-writing. I also wanted to see whether technology tools can be used effectively as a platform for students to share their works and receive interactive feedback from their peers.

Through the research, I learned that the most meaningful and effective learning can happen when students’ engagement is at its optimum level. Anything and everything that a teacher wants to achieve in her classroom can be achieved if students are engaged. I can bring all the latest pedagogical approaches, teaching strategies and sophisticated tools into the classroom, but if I fail to find out what engages my students and use it effectively to help them learn, I am going nowhere. As one of my students puts it, “Teacher, you’ve helped me learn what I need to learn by making me believe that I really want to learn it.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Things I'm Grateful For (Happy New Year 2017!)

It's the second week of 2017...and I hope it's still not too late to wish everyone a happy new year. So, any new year resolutions? I aim to make 2017 a better year by giving myself more time to read for pleasure, to travel for pleasure and to write for pleasure :)

Under 'write for pleasure' is doing this I aim to blog more often than last year. I realised that 2016 had not been very productive for Beyond Chalk & Talk - only two posts published for the whole year. So 2017 is the year to do more blogging. So, this is my first blog post in 2017, and I want to start by counting my blessings.

2016 was tumultuous, filled with ups and downs - but overall it had been a great year. Here's a list of the things that I'm grateful for:

Friends and family - near and far

I don't think I have the words to describe how grateful I am for my beloved family and for all the wonderful friends that I have in my life. 2016 had not been a very good year for me health wise. I was in and out of the hospital a dozen times. I had been unwell, I had been depressed - during those times I could be horrible and it wasn't easy to be around me, I know. But my dear family and friends were never far from me. They might not be close to me physically but they were always there for me and with me. I'm beyond blessed. Oh, and I have to mention this: God had blessed my brother and his wife with a baby girl. My beautiful niece Jordan Nicole was born on the 9th of September last year, and I'm officially a #proudaunty.

Christmas with family, 2016

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Confession of an Addict: Some thoughts about Teachers PD (Part 2)

This is my first blog post in 2016.

My previous post was published in September last year. It has been a while, hasn't it? A few people have contacted me requesting that I write posts or share modules about the new UPSR format. Some friends are expecting blog posts about my recent trip to Birmingham. I'm supposed to be spending this Labour Day break to prepare materials for a workshop that I have to conduct on the 5th, or complete my Literature Review for my masters proposal. I'd like to sit down and get all those things done, but the urge to write this post is very persistent and I don't think I can ignore it any longer.

My new role

Some of you might have already known that I've moved to a new role since November last year. I left my last school for a post in the district education office. I am now in charge of supervising and coordinating English language activities for primary schools in Kota Kinabalu. To some people, this means that I have left the teaching job. Accepting this role means I would no longer be in the classroom, and my work would mostly revolve around administrative tasks. I received variety of reactions for this decision, ranging from...

You're the perfect person for this job!
KK teachers are so lucky to have you!
You've gotta CHANGE the system!

How could you leave us? 
The best teachers should stay in the classroom.
Anybody can do office works, but not everybody can teach! 
Why would you want to waste your talent?

People who know me know how much I love teaching and how much I love my students. They can't imagine how I can NOT find it heartbreaking to leave the classroom that I love so much for a job that mostly requires me to do clerical stuffs and attend endless meetings. Do I miss teaching? Of course I do. There was one time in my first week at the new office when I locked myself in the wash room so I could cry a bit without anyone seeing. It was during this time when a few close friends received text messages from me, telling them that I had probably made a mistake. I felt like I had made the wrong choice.

I've been thinking about it, and decided to embrace this new role any way. And although I still find myself struggling to find fulfillment (confession: it's my fifth month, but I'm still adjusting) I've made up my mind to stay on for at least a couple of years.

Why? I'll tell you why - but first please read on.

Part 2

In my previous post, I wrote about why I like attending conferences, and how I wish that Malaysian teachers are provided more support to attend conferences. I wrote about the need for teachers professional development to be given more importance. I shared how teachers can do it for themselves. And I also wrote a little bit about what kind of  professional development that inspires me and what kind that turns me off.

I've chosen to make this post a continuation of that previous post. In addition to teaching, I'm also deeply passionate about teachers professional development. One of the reasons why I decided to accept this role as the district English language officer  is because it gives me the chance to play a more direct role on teachers professional development in my area. I'm curious about what I can do about it.

Good quality teaching?

The Malaysia Ministry of Education has decided to include this famous quote from 'How the World's Best Performing Systems Come out on Top' (Barbara and Mourshed, 2007) in its 2013-2025 Malaysian Education Blueprint:

"The quality of a school system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers."

I read through the Blueprint and learned about how the Ministry is making a commitment towards improving the quality of Malaysian teachers. I read about how the Ministry aims to do this - how a large sum of money will be spent on teachers upskilling programmes, how in-service trainings will be more school-based, how the pre-service training will be revamped. And apparently the Ministry also believes that by transforming teaching into a 'profession of choice', i.e. by raising the minimum academic requirements for entry into teachers training institutes, the profession will attract applicants among the best performing students and hence, the system will have more 'good quality' teachers as a result.

What attracts my attention is this statement:

There also appears to be differences in perceptions of what constitutes good quality teaching and learning between schools and the JNJK. (chapter 5, page 5-3)

According to the Blueprint, there seems to be a disagreement between schools and the inspectorates on how 'good quality teaching' should be defined. However, the Blueprint does not provide any definition for 'good quality teaching' or how it aims to measure the 'quality of teachers,' though it does imply that 'lessons delivered at high standards' are those that 'utilise many best-practice pedagogies', 'sufficiently engage students' and 'cultivate higher-order thinking skills.'

Image source: Malaysia National Education Blueprint 2013 - 2025

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...