#ELTCHAT summary March 13th 2013 : How to make the most of a coursebook you don’t like (but HAVE to use)

It feels so good to not only going back on participating but also writing a summary for #ELTChat. And this week we had Marisa Constatinides (@Marisa_C) and Shaun Wilden (@Shaunwilden) as our moderator.

Course book is something that we have to deal everyday in our teaching life. Most, if not all, of those classrooms use a standard textbook series. The reasons for this are many; in Indonesia most English courses franchised based so you have to use the ones suggested by your headquarters, also the mandates of the administration, and/or the level of expertise on the part of classroom teachers. For Beginner teachers using a ready and designed course book may help but at the same time can be misleading too. Many #ELTChat participants believe that most of times, trying to use it because It takes more time to adapt it when the book is bad. More work has to be done ( @ bealer81) . And it gives you the feeling that we might as well write own book the amount of effort it takes sometimes  (@Marisa_C). Especially when the tests have to be based around the Course Book that students have paid a lot of money to buy. But then again there is no Curse Book that can fits the needs of every class. At some points, a part of some parts of it can be used in our class.

So, how do we cope with them? What to do when you don’t feel like the  Course Book that you use couldn’t help you in achieving the goals for your class?

A lot of #ELTChatters come out with great suggestion for it:

  • Teachers can use the textbook as a resource, but not the only resource. Find other books that support the material even better. More work? Yes, but it is worth it .
  • Use a textbook as a curriculum guide rather than materials source.(@teflgeek)
  • Find the focus in the Course book and cover the syllabus  our way; modify, change, eliminate, or even add or  ROSA :Reorder, Omit, Supplement, Add (@teflgeek) (@BrunoELT) (@Marisa_C)
  • Fight back! Supplement the textbook with lots of outside readings, supplementary materials, activities. Give students a chance to do more than just the activities on the Course Book make the exercise more based on their world + incorporate relevant vocab/grammar  which will be tested. (@cherrymp), (@Acquk), (@louisealix68), (@jo_cummins)
  • Teachers should be equipped with skills to make a lesson plan, don’t just come to the class relying on Course Book. (@ljp2010).
  • Get the Students to change exercises in some way – personalize them or make them completely silly, write their own questions for a text. Use technology to mash up texts for guesswork – e,g, word clouds (@Marisa_C)

Anyway, should the #ELTChatters are given chances to determine Course Book that would get their vote, most will choose those with

  • appealing content
  • clear language focus,
  • challenging activities .
  • plenty of opportunities to use the new language in relevant and relatively natural ways
  • lexis and listening should be integral

Memorable tweets:

@Acquk                                 A good course book is a springboard to learning and engagement. Therefore it must be adaptable #eltchat

@teflgeek                             It’s the one-size-fits-all dilemma again – how do you tailor the product? #eltchat

@louisealix68                       I think main problem is in the testing – if tests are built around books, then have to teach to the test  #eltchat

@cherrymp                          fight back – come up with supplementary materials, activities etc #eltchat

@teflgeek                             but can use the books as curriculum guide rather than materials source #eltchat

@LTLLblog                            I’ve found some teachers complain about the coursebook because they take a lesson by lesson approach. #eltchat

@Acquk                                 to reduce Lexis-heavy input, I have learners find a few new and important words from a text They can then build sentences etc #eltchat

@teflerinha                          #eltchat Personally, unless really dire, I’d rather have something as a basis to start from at least than have nothing.

@louisealix68                       I try to make my ex more based on their world + incorporate relevant vocab/gram which will be tested.time-consuming  #eltchat

@ManosSY                            #ELTchat ROSA is a good approach as @Marisa_C often says 🙂 ; Reorder Omit Supplement Add (Combine too is OK)

@bealer81                            My gripe with coursebooks is the way they are set out. Not user friendly or photocopy friendly. Maybe publishers should consult Teachers #eltchat

@teflgeek                             I sometimes set homework tasks from the bits of the book I don’t want to use in class. #eltchat

@Marisa_C                           Adapt or Modify activities to show paying Students/parents that you ARE using Course Book also a good idea #ELTchat

@Acquk                                 I always try to use the images in course books! They can generate so much creative output #eltchat

@jo_cummins                      You can often use the reading texts, listenings, topics, pics and create own exercises so Sts think they are using the book #eltchat

@kevchanwow                     What about having our students adapt the materials? Often do something like this with very basic texts and lower level learners. #ELTchat

@Acquk                                 My biggest problem with poor coursebooks: not enough review and reinforcement of vocab! You see a word and never meet it again. #eltchat

@AlexandraKouk                 #eltchat get students to research unit topic online and then compare notes and Course Book materials to what they’ve found.

@LTLLblog                            And of course, the winner in worst coursebooks are those that try to be ‘cool’ for the teens…cringetastic #eltchat

@Marisa_C                           My recipe for fixing poor coursebook pages – Mystery, Guesswork, Curiosity, Desire to communicate, Games playing, Imagination #eltchat

@Marisa_C                           Get your students to evaluate the Course book you are using – if they like it try harder – if they don’t, perhaps tell the school! #Eltchat

@yitzha_sarwono                Learn the content to see if you can make an easier version to use it in class; simpler extra exercise or activities #eltchat

Useful links from the chat :

It’s a great chat indeed. As always I like to end it with Quote of the Chat. This time came from Kevin Stein (@Kevchanwow)

“But what I could teach was how to study, how to learn, how to make connections. These don’t change depending on the coursebook”


See you guys in another #eltchat! Aza aza Community!


Cool things that happened to little Icha (yesterday and today)

I just happened to check my twitter when I saw Tyson Seburn (@seburnt) retweeting Mike’s blog (@michaelegriffin) post . So, I thought I took on the challenge and here goes….

  1. Just found out that during daily greetings yesterday that my class love reptiles! We had a field trip that also included a visit to a small reptiles park and we had fun playing with them. And amazingly during our talk, they admitted of no longer afraid of snake! We played with this huge albino phyton during the field trip and to see me actually having a blast with the snake has got my students to chase away their fear and in return loving the experience. Nadine’s mom has actually offered whether she would like to have a snake as her pet! 😀
  2. I went to a meeting with Adi Cerman from VIE Foundation and Ibu Sisilia from UI about iTDi’s taking part in TEFLIN next August. Oh and guess what? I actually mention Mike’s interest to submit a presentation there (Mike, you did say you love the theme and seriously thought about doing a workshop there 😉 ). It’s so cool for me to meet and talk with people who inspires you to do and be more!
  3. I managed to keep walking and not stopping at a huge sale happening in the mall where I had that meeting. Okay , that may sound lame. But to me, to actually walk off from  50% and 70% discount shoes is not an easy thing to do. So I’m proud of myself 😀
  4. I managed to read and edit all of my teachers’ comment for students report books in a public transportation. I took 3 bus to go to the meeting spot and had to stand on the last bus but was still able to finish the job. Please don’t ask about my handwriting though, that’s a different story. But at least I didn’t hear my teachers complain about it when I handed them back 😉
  5. I watched American Horror Story marathon all alone last night! I’m not a huge fan of horror film, so to see them on my own on Thursday night was kind of cool for me . I got the cardio exercise too from all of the gasping I did during the series 😛
  6. I took my students on a small field trip to a supermarket. We’re learning about Mall this week, so I thought that having my students to experience a little grocery shoppping might be a good for them. And it was a blast! They had fund right from the start! I had to give them rules on things they’re allowed to buy because otherwise they would’ve gone for candy and chips. It was so cool to see them making desicion on things to buy, walked to the cashier to pay, handed down the money and then took their plastic bag with a proud smile, knowing that they had done it all by themselves! Oh and they actually amazed a lot of people in the supermarket for their fluency in English!  But too bad all of the photos are in school camera so I couldn’t upload them now, but I’ll be sure to do that first thing on Monday.
  7. I finally leave  school on time! I usually arrive the first in school and leave the latest, unless I have a meeting where I’d have to leave school early too. But today as I promised my sister to watch a movie, I went home at 3 pm! Even my teachers were surprised to see me leaving on time! 😀
  8. I tried Durian Mochi for the first time! One of my student brought it and she said that her mom wanted me to try it. As a durian lover, I found it very interesting how the sticky rice collaborate with the significant smell and taste of durian.
  9. I have found a new set of pictures to paint on our glass door next week! I’m going to have 4 seasons painted on the door. Also a new recipe to cook in the class next tuesday, where I’ll be cooking something from Anna Olson’s show. You’re going to have to wait to see the result of these two things though

And as I listed down my cool things, I realize how great life has been treating me. So thanks for the challenge Mike! You’re another cool thing that happens to my life! Aza aza grateful!

Wordling up!

Using Wordle in a Kindergarten classroom

I have always loved learning new things and the apply them in my class. And I love the fact that my class has always been opened to try new things too. As I follow Ozge on Twitter  and her blog www.ozgekaraoglu.edublogs.org I’ve learnt a lot of new tools to be used in the class from her.

This term I decided to try http://www.wordle.net/ in my class. I learnt that some of my students don’t really like phonics, building words and reading, so I try to use Wordle in one of our session. After we learnt a set of words, I asked them to write them up using Wordle. At first some of them didn’t really like it as the keyboard on the computer is different from the ones we use in Montessori. But once they have seen the outcome, they actually love it so much! They enjoy choosing colors, font and the layout.


This application has actually helped me in the classroom, as it made my students excited about learning new set of words, becuase they want to type them in Wordle. Here are the results of our 1st trial


I love it when an application works and actually helps the lesson. I would love to try some more for sure! 


A flashback of my 2012

The good, the bad and the exciting moments


Some of the amazing people I’ve met in 2012

I’ve always been such an optimist person. But 2012 has sure given me a lot that I could ever imagined. I think I’ve been blessed with a lot of good things for a small little girl like me. My Karma must have been working out well.

One of the highlight of the year has got to be me bracing myself to present in a conference! I have to admit, that since I presented on Teachmeet, I have grown some confidence, but of course talking online (where you practically sitting on the comfort of your own home) with talking in front of live audience is not the same! I’ve learnt a lot from both platforms though. One thing for sure, I still need to work on my speed and pronuncitaton because I tend to speak faster and very unclear when I’m nervous. I know people said that you could imagine your audience to be on their underwear to make you feel safer, but trust me, that didn’t work for me! I was even more freaking out! But I’ve learnt that familiar faces among the crowd could help you out through the presentation, and I’m just so lucky to always have several friends among the crowd. 

Another thing that has made my 2012 rocks is of course my class! I love the fact that my students are very openminded and excited about embracing a lot of things I’ve offered them! We had a lot of projects together. From Skype session to schools in Australia, Animoto, making comics, Voicethread and the recent one was having our class recorded on video. In fact my class have always been part of my source of presentation. Indeed they are my inspiration!

Aside from my professional life, I’ve been blessed with good things on personal level too! The most exciting thing was to finally learn to dive! It has been my dream to go under the blue water ever since I snorkelled in Bunaken back in 2010. So I was very happy to finally do it! It wasn’t easy and I had doubt myself actually, but with perseverence and determination that I wouldn’t waste the chance I was given, I braced myself. I learnt a lot too during my diving; that nature is one strong element and we must respect it. I also learnt that composure is needed to go underwater because your life could depend on it. And of course I also learnt about how to put on BCD, check your O2 etc. I’d love to dive some more in 2013. Crossing my fingers for it!

It wasn’t always sunshine in 2012 for me though. I’ve lost 2 uncles this year and my cousin is still battling with tongue cancer at the moment which of course breaks my heart. I was involved in a motorcycle accident and my UK trip was canceled due to Visa thing. And I lost my dear kitten in a very tragic way. 

But I know I am still showered with good things. Last but not least of course the traveling and all the amazing people I have come across along 2012. I’ve been very fortunate to have met some of the people that have inspired me in person. But I’m also happy that I could connect with a lot of people online and it’s still feel like we’ve met face to face! And I thank technology for that! I am aware now that a relationship and friendship can not be limited by how often you see each other.I love that fact and I love my life for it!


some of the incredible people that have inspired me

 With all those that have been parading my 2012, I’m very excited about 2013! Bring it on for I am here to rock!

Aza Aza Achieving!


My lovely class!

and how I miss them


(top : Nadine, Emeral, Aliffa & Keshia. bottom: Daniel, Padma, and Lavinia)


I’ve been teaching for years. And when you’re a teacher, you’ll always have stories to tell about your class, lesson or the students in it. One or all of them could drive you to come to work smiling everyday, give your best and make your days!

At the moment I’m teaching a K2 class in a small Kindergarten. I only have 7 students. That is maybe why I’m so attached to them. And this holiday season I miss them a lot! I tweeted about it and then Naomi (@naomishema) gave me the brilliant idea! She said I should write a post about them! So…here goes J

3 out of my 7 students have been with me since they were 3 years old. They are Aliffa, Daniel and Padma. Keshia and Emeral joined the following years, then followed by Lavinia and Nadine.

Aliffa is one smart girl! She was the first one who embraced English and practiced it in the classroom. As she loved to lead around, pretty soon all of her classmates began to speak English too! She loves reading and has a very good comprehension over everything that she has read. She goes to school wearing hijab, not because she comes from a moslem family but because she asked for it! I find it amazing that someone her age (4 years old when she 1st decided that she wanted to wear it) has been able to make such a decision, a lot of time she does look and sounds older than her real age. But she can be such a baby too! Every morning during gym time, she always asks to sit on my lap, then hugs me while telling story about her days. One thing about Aliffa; She doesn’t like winning or losing, she feels that everyone should win together and live happily ever after!

Daniel is the only boy in class. Sometimese h feels a bit left out when the girls start to play Princess or Barbie during play time, but there are times when he would join in, if they let him play the king’s role 😉 Daniel has a very good grammar for a 5 years old. He knows how to use V1 or V2 on conversation. Daniel is a bit choosy on his food though and he doesn’t eat as many as his friends. I have to come out with many ways to get him to eat a lot. He is very good at logic and loves questioning everything, that’s why I always prepare myself to answer all of his curiosity. Everyday he kisses me on both of my cheeks and forehead and gives me a tight hug before he goes home.

Padma is a shy girl. She is Hindunese so I feel guilty sometimes that we can’t provide her with religion lesson the way her friends are, but both her and her parents don’t mind it. Hindunese has a lot of celebrations and festives so she misses school quite a lot for them. She is a very sweet girl! Always sits nicely and listens to me. She doesn’t really like competition though, she is always afraid of losing. It took me a while to make her see that winning and losing is a part of everyday’s life and it’s okay. Surprisingly though looks very shy, but when she is asked to step to the challenge she will rise to the occassion! Last year I had to lose Aliffa during school’s musical because she had to go to Singapore, but when I asked Padma to take her role, she could actually do it nicely! And she wasn’t even nervous on the stage! Another thing I love about Padma is her hair! She has the most beautiful hair in my class J

Keshia is the darling of the class! Even every teachers in my school love her! She is this tiny girl with a big impact! The way she bursts in to the schol everyday reminds me of Kramer from Seinfeld! She would push the glass door with both hands until it’s wide open then stand there grinning from ear to ear before saying “good morning Ms. Icha”. She loves attention and knows how to get it! I put a lot of effort in her to not only making her love phonics, reading and writing, but also to make her do things on her own, because unlike other kids, when she first joined my class, she had a nanny waiting for her in the classroom and provided her with anything she needed. Now she even rejects the offer of having a nanny in her house! She still very clumsy and playful but now she has no longer avoiding phonics or reading and is quite independent and can do things on her own.

Emeral is the ideal student for every teacher. She is a very smart girl with a very sweet attitude. She will obey the teacher, listen to everything and do exactly what she is told! But she is also very quiet. It took me 3 months to get her to talk to me about things beyond the lesson. It takes her 9 months before she wants to play with other class and a year before she finally wants to join singing and dancing during gym time. Emeral can only be her self in a private trusted environment; our classroom. She has a photographic memory & can recall a lot of specific things correctly! And when she is among her classmates, she is a very cheerful and reliable friends! Lately she started to feel comfortable playing with K1 class. She also always kisses me on the cheek everyday and hugs me. Whenever I miss school, she would ask her mom to call me to know how I am doing.

Vini is the youngest in our class. She is this lovely girl who always smiles and is loved by her friends. My only worry when she first joined my class was the fact that she always copied her friends, that she didn’t have her own identity. It seemed like she was afraid her friends would hate her if she had an opinion. I worked hard to make her came out of her shell. Whenever we had to choose something, I’d ask her first. I made her choose and came out with a decision. After almost a year, I’m amazed to see her finally said “no” to her friends when they asked her to play something she didn’t like. Vini is also a dream daughter for every mom, because not only that she’s pretty and obedient, she will eat everything her mama prepares for her! She always eats everything I cook for her too! Oh, she spent her early years in Singapore so when she first joined our class, we had a little trouble figuring out what she said, because her accent was a bit different from us, but now, we understand her completely J

Nadine is the newest addition to the class. Her father comes from Africa so he speaks french, her mama is an Indonesian. So for a while, Nadine struggled with the language as we all have been speaking English and she had to catch up. But I love the fact that she is very confident that she has never let it stop her from playing with her classmates. And she is one independent and helpful girl! I have never seen a 5 years old who would jump and get things for me without being asked to, just to help me out! Once she even did the dishes! She is very good at math and writing! Her handwriting looks as if she were already a Primary school student! Nadine is a very tidy person, she would clean up after everything and place them where they belong! She reminds me of Monica from Friends 😉 One thing that worries me though, Nadine loves to climb! From bookshelf to the t
op of the slide on the playground! This girl has no fear! Her mom even told me that they put a camera in her room so they could see what she’s doing in it because once she climbed the stairs and fell down. Now, she doesn’t look so much like Monica if you think of it 😀

So, those are my beloved students. And Now I miss them even more! But knowing that they’re having a good time on their holiday makes it worthwhile. I’ll be seeing you pretty soon class!



We are so much better when we join our hands!

How PLN has opened my eyes and changed my point of view.

Recently I have had a lot going on in my life that I know would have never happened if I didn’t hit a button and change my life in a click! 

First of all I have always seen my self as an ordinary teacher. I mean, I love my job, I’ve always tried to make my students feel happy and come home with at least something from my class, and I sort of always worried about who and what I am as a teacher. I never thought that I would matter outside the place where I’m working.

Never in my life I would imagine that someday, not only I could do a lot with my teaching, I also feel alive and happy about everything in my life; as a teacher and as a person. 

It all began when I joined twitter of course, I started following people from public figure to random interesting people. But only when I started following educators that I’ve finally found myself. One of the 1st people I followed and built my PLN around with is of course Barbara Sakamoto (@barbsaka) . Her involvement in #eltchat gave me so much confident in trying to explore the posibillity of becoming more than just an ordinary kindergarten teacher. 

I remember my 1st #eltchat involvement, I was very nervous, I didn’t have the nerve to even reply or speak on my point of view even though I was very eager to do so. But then I thought to my self that it’s now or never. So with that aza aza fighting in mind, I clicked the reply button and sent out my 1st tweet to #eltchat. To my surprise, I was heard! I got a reply from Marisa Constantinides (@Marisa_C) and Barb too. And it really changed my life! Literally! I wasn’t afraid to engage in the chat, even voluntering in writing the summary. Aside from that, I also started following more people who were not only help me to develop myself as a teacher, but as a person too! Without realizing it, I have built my own PLN in a way that is amazingly fast and fun too! I learnt a lot from the people in my PLN. I read their blog, interact with them and get to know them. Only by then that I know how to appreciate myself more. I could see that all these people that I’ve never thought I could possibly interact with in real life are just like me; they are dedicated teachers, love their job, have great passion about their life and could also break down and fall the way I did. Everybody at s ome point have experienced something in their life that has made them the person they are now. In a way, I see my self in many of them and it helps me to grow,

I have just written a guest post for http://www.teachingvillage.org about how it feels to attend a conference that has turned my life around ( http://www.teachingvillage.org/2012/10/27/little-teacher-me-in-the-big-elt-world-by-yitzha-sarwono/ ). After reading and hearing a lot of positive feedback from a lot of people, I’ve come to realize that once again my PLN has proven me that everything that we do in life matters and people are better when they are together.

This friday, November 8th 2012 Pusat Pengembangan Bahasa (PPB) UHAMKA in partnership with International Teacher Development Institute (iTDi) supported by VIE Foundation and International English TEFL TESOL Institute proudly present a very special webinar for teachers in Indonesia and around the world  http://www.smore.com/4cfz-we-re-better-together?ref=email-content#w-3947491586

As someone who has experienced the power of PLN, I do believe that this one is not to be missed! Because, as simple as it looks like, building the right kind of PLN can help you set your goal then achieve them. We can really grow as long as you have the drive and the will to do so. You can read Barb’s blog post about PLNs : What is a PLN, anyway? http://www.teachingvillage.org/2012/01/03/what-is-a-pln-anyway/

So, let’s join hands and as Steven Herder (iTDi’s Program Director) once said : “Anything I can do, We can do it better”. 

Happy Teacher , My story ^_^

Tell me what’s yours

When I woke up this morning, I had an amazing feeling running through my vein! It’s like the sky is brighter and The air is fresher. Well, I know it’s Friday so I can really smell weekend around the corner already, but something is differently nice and I don’t know what it is. Could it be because my Japan trip is coming? Or did I just have a really good sleep last night?

Then I saw my twitter and realized why I’d felt like walking on sunshine, it’s the International Teachers day today!  Yeay!

So, is it really in my blood, this love of being a teacher, that I could even feel the day? I have no idea, but glad I am feeling awesome on this special day.

Being teacher really is something that came to me without realizing it. I mean, I come from a long line of teaching as a profession in my family. I have cousins who are headmaster, economy teacher, science teacher, english teacher along with my uncle and aunt who were also working as teacher. Even my late grandmother used to teach in all girls’ school. So yeah, it runs in the family………………..

But I feel like I become one because I have this sort of informative sense in my personality! I meant when I was in school I had this need to always be the one people come to for some information. I hated it when I didn’t know the answer to something. It literally drove me crazy! Maybe that’s why tutoring my friends was something I enjoyed doing, because then I got to be the one giving them all the they needed to know on something.  On my Drumband I also loved playing mentor to all new members, even when I was only joining for a year and still pretty awful at playing my snare drum, I still loved helping and making sure they got it right.

My 1st paid job ever was of course tutoring my friends in English during my junior high. And I also made money helping my Drumband coaches trained a junior high’s Drum band . But even then I didn’t think I was gonna be a teacher. I loved teaching and sharing but didn’t see it as my goal for future.

Until I was given 2 choices. Didn’t really remember how but I landed 2 jobs at the same time. I was accepted as an English teacher and a broker. So during those  training days I had to traveled half way across the city to make both of them. I had a blast actually doing them both, until I had to choose between one . My Mama told me that she couldn’t see me as someone other than a giver so she said I should choose this teaching job, beside this Company who would hire me as their broker only want me because I had a better English than the rest of the applicants, not because I was good at it (at least that’s what I thought), so I made my choice and have been happy ever since!

I have been teaching English since 2001 to a wide range of students. From children to teenagers, even Mothers  and Working people . And man do I have thousands of stories! 😉 I had good days and awful days, nice students and challenging ones, great lessons to the ones I wish I could just dissapear into the floor. I had led teams of teachers that had also given me many experiences.  I even had a moment when I really wanted to leave this teaching business because I just couldn’t handle all the politics around the business ( I’ve never known there was one until that time actually). But just when I was ready to give up, I found my calling : Teaching Young Learners!

I took the job as Montessori Kindergarten teacher merely because the school is quite near to my house and I felt  challenged to learn more about the method. And I have to admit I’ve been finding it very interesting and mind engaging as the method surrounds itself on the object which is the students! Oh I could just blabber about it ( I think I had in many occasion 😀 ), but the point is I have found my true calling all over again: Being a teacher and for once actually proud of it! I have always been happy as one but not so much in having a pride on my selection of career. I do now though! Everyday I get up with excitement for I will meet my bliss; My students! They have given me more that I could have possibly imagine. I am so lucky to be their teachers



I must thank the Internet and Twitter too for taking part in my growing. If it wasn’t for Twitter, I would never have known,  friended and met great teachers like Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto, Vicky Loras, James Taylor, Anna Musielak Kubecka, Arjana Blazic, Mari Yamauchi,Shelly Terrell, Ibu Itje Chodijah, Adi  Cerman and many more that I could not mention here. You guys have been my source of inspirations.

So today is Teachers’ day, Let’s celebrate by saying how happy we are as one.

I’ll start : 

I am so happy, comfortable and proud to say I am a Kindergarten Teacher!

Aza Aza Teachers!