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

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

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Confession of An Addict: Some Thoughts about Teachers PD

A great teacher inspires, so they say. So if you're a teacher and you want to be a great teacher, I think it means that what you really want is to be someone who inspires. The problem is that sometimes the teachers themselves are the ones who are in need of inspiration.

This is normal. Teachers are humans.

As much as I love teaching, I'm human and I have my bad days too. There are days when I find myself literally dragging my feet to go to work. There are mornings when getting out of bed seems the hardest thing. Sometimes I'm tired. Sometimes I'm sick. I'm human.

On days and mornings like that, I would find myself desperately in need of something, anything that can inspire me. It is very hard, even almost impossible, to be a great teacher who inspires when you yourself are uninspired, burned out and unmotivated.

It's an addiction?

I have friends and relatives who love to run. I know a few people who travel all over the world to participate in as many running events as they can. In one gathering, a close friend of mine explains that it's like an addiction. Once you try it, you would want more. And more. And then she adds:

"It's not that much different from your teacher conferences, Cindy. You're addicted to it."
"I am?"
"Of course you are," she chuckles. "You subscribe to conferences updates in the same way that I subscribe to running events. We constantly check out where and when the next conference or the next running event is going to be. We don't mind spending our own money to pay for the fee, the flight ticket, the accommodation. Other people would mind, you know." 

Maybe it's true. I'm hopelessly addicted to conferences in the same way that my friend is addicted to running.

So what is it all about?

Actually, attending conferences and other professional development events for teachers is one of the ways I keep myself inspired and motivated.

By participating in conferences and other professional development events for teachers, I can...

  • ...listen to talks or participate in workshops given by some of the biggest names in the ELT industry;
  • network with teachers and educators from all over Malaysia and all over the world;
  • ...gain new knowledge, information, ideas, resources and materials;
  • inspired by the sharing of other teachers, and sometimes if I'm lucky, I can get the chance to inspire others through my sharing too;
  • ...keep myself motivated. 
For me, conferences give me the chance to rejuvenate. I can give myself a break from the classroom for a few days, fill my brains with new ideas and inspirations, and refresh my memory of all the things that I may have already known and learned but have forgotten. 

In the end, it's all about getting myself in the best shape as a teacher so I can give the best to my students.

It IS fun!

Attending conferences gives me the excuse to travel. Travelling costs a lot, and knowing that I can kill two birds with one stone (professional development and going for a vacation) often makes me feel less guilty about spending all those money. I remember when I was attending the MELTA conference in Johor Bahru in 2013. I hadn't had any break for God knows how long. I travelled a lot for meetings and courses and work-related stuffs, but never for leisure. Right after the conference ended, I took a bus from JB to Malacca where I met a friend. We spent two nights visiting museums, art galleries and historical places in Malacca. Then, we took a bus to Penang where we spent another two nights. Since Penang is Malaysia's food heaven, we spent our whole time there stuffing ourselves with food (with little or no guilt at all). We stopped by at Kuala Lumpur before taking our flight back to Sabah - 100% guilt-free. Heheh!.

The furthest that I had travelled to for a conference was in 2014 for the IATEFL conference in Harrogate, United Kingdom. I got to see David Crystal, Scott Thornbury, Jeremy Harmer and Carol Read in person. I attended Sugata Mitra's inspiring (and controversial) talk. I chatted with Dick Allwright (the Exploratory Practise expert - I read his book!) I attended Macmillan's awesome Dance Party, and took a coach trip to Castle Howard in north England. I listened to Jackie Kay reciting her poems and reading from her book. And I got my first author-signed book after the event. It was the most memorable moment in my life so far. Best of all - it was all for free! I was the winner of Onestopenglish's Creativity in the Classroom IATEFL scholarship and they sponsored the trip for me.

(You can read about my experiences in Harrogate here, here and here).

(You can also read my report on IATEFL 2014 in Harrogate, published on Onestopenglish's website here: My IATEFL 2014 report)

Presenting at MELTA conference 2013 in Johor Bahru

Riding on a trishaw with my friend Felicity in Malacca, right after the conference

In front of Castle Howard, Yorkshire

With Jackie Kay at her book signing

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Downloadable Materials for 'Proud to be Malaysians' (KBSR Year 6)

In this post, I'm sharing some of the materials that I've used to teach Unit 2 of the KBSR Year 6 textbook. The unit title is 'Proud to be Malaysians'. You may have already covered the unit earlier this year, but these might still be usable for revision purposes.

So, here you go.

Sub-topic: Describing Malaysia 

Vocabulary, gap-filling and paragraph writing exercises. You can use this worksheet to accompany the activity on page 24 of the textbook.

Sub-topic: Fun at School

Information transfer, paragraph writing. These materials can be used to get students to practise Section B of UPSR Paper 2.

Big text - you can print these out, paste them on larger sheets of paper (manila cards or mahjong paper) and put it on the board for whole-class reading activity.

Here's a worksheet for parallel writing exercise that students can use to practise Section B, Part 2 of the UPSR English Paper 2.

Word cards / phrase cards for whole-class information transfer activity.

The picture below is from another unit's lesson, but it demonstrates how you can use these word / phrase cards in your lesson activity.

After doing the whole-class information transfer activity on the board, students can do the task individually using this worksheet below.

Sub-topic: Synonyms

I made these word cards based on the word list provided in the textbook.

Here's the worksheet for the word list:

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Lesson Share: Everyone is Special (Part 1 - Information Transfer)

In this post, I'm going to share some activities based on a sub-topic in Unit 1 of the KBSR Year 6 textbook. The sub-topic that I've chosen is called 'Everyone is Special'. It is about people who are physically challenged, and the textbook has a reading text on three special people: Siti Aishah, Beethoven and Stephen Hawking.

I realise that this is a topic from the earliest unit, and so most of my colleagues have already done it with their Year 6 students. But I decided to share this because it's one of my favourite lessons. My students enjoyed the activities, and I could see how the topic had sparked their interests, ignited their curiosity and made them want to learn more about the lives of amazing, inspiring people.

I will divide this lesson into three parts. In Part 1, I will share the activities for reading and information transfer. Part 2 is about paragraph writing. Part 3 is an extension lesson - lesson activities that are still dealing with the same topic but go beyond what is in the textbook.

So, here is Part 1.

Part 1 

Year: 6
Unit: 1
Topic: Wonderfully Made
Sub-topic: Everyone is Special
Focused skill: Reading (Information Transfer)

Warm-up (Speaking)

I started the lesson by writing the statement 'everyone is special' on the board. I asked the students what the statement means to them. I asked a few questions:

Who is the most special person to you?
Why is he/she special?
What do you like the most about this person?

I asked a few volunteers to share their special person with the class. Then I proceeded to tell the students that they are special, too - each and everyone of them. Ali is special because he likes to help people. Siti is always the first one to arrive. Razi has the most beautiful smile, it brightens my day and for me that is so special. A lot of you in this class can read and draw very well. Yes, you are all special.

I asked the students to turn to the person next to them and tell him/her why he/she is special.


Before reading the text, I showed the students pictures of Siti Aishah, Beethoven and Stephen Hawking. I told the students that these three people are very special, and that they have some things in common. I wrote the phrase 'physically challenged people' on the board and explained what it means. The students listed some conditions suffered by people who are physically challenged, e.g. blind, deaf, mute, on a wheelchair, no arms or legs etc.

Then, we read the passage together.

We highlighted the difficult and unfamiliar words. We used the dictionary to find the meanings of the words, and the students wrote them down in their little vocabulary books.

Information Transfer

I printed the information about the special people on cards and put them randomly on the board. The students read the text again and tried to match the information to the correct person.

Group Work

I divided the class into small groups of four or five. I gave each group a packet containing pieces of paper with information about the special people printed on them. Each group would also have a piece of manila card. The students' task was to choose one of the special people and create a graphic organiser about the person.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...