Makes You Think VII

The past, the present and the future walked into a bar. It was tense. This week I bring you the latest from the classroom:

Bite your tongue
The /th/ sound is really difficult. To model it for my students, I ask them to stick their tongues between their teeth and blow out. For those who carry on saying the /f/ sound, I ask them to pull down their bottom lip. We play a game where I present the four actions of ‘tree,’ ‘three,’ ‘thumb’ and ‘tum’ (tummy). We drill how to say them, then I chant them quickly and they must show me the right action. However, this week, as the children lined up by the door, a boy announced, “I’m turd!”

Yesterday one of my pupils who is six years old, said aloud that he did not want a wife. I told him that I did not have a husband. He replied, “If you did, you would go home and shower.” It struck me as odd, but having thought about it more I realised it was perhaps lost in interpretation. His parents must persuade him to bathe by saying he will not get married otherwise.

A novel approach20180211_202531

An unexpected turn of events
During my register, I was missing a student. As I called her name, one member of the class said, “Oh, she passed away.” I was shocked initially, but at that moment I saw her walking past the door to her newly promoted class. ‘Passed away’ was actually ‘passed by,’ thankfully.

A new motto
During a spelling test, I decided to make it a bit more fun.
Me: Garden. I like to sit in the garden. Garden. I eat spiders in the garden…
Student: Me too!
Me: Really?
Student: When I’m frightened of something, I just eat it.

Literally speaking
Sometimes it is difficult to argue with the student’s logic:



I leave you with one unfortunate typo. He meant to write ‘wound’ I believe:wood

If you have any teaching stories to share, I’d love to hear them.

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He can’t keep his hands off her.

He basks in the warm glow of her affections.

Always by his side.

He lights up whenever she speaks.

He holds her tenderly to his face, so close that she too can see the flecks of black and orange in his irises.

I am ignored. Her conversation is more engaging. Even as we talk his gaze lingers on her.

She holds his attention even in silence. Rapture in the dark.

She is private, though. Guarded.

The Apple of his eye.

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Spin Class

Before I begin, I must admit that spin and I are not exactly on good terms.

On our first ever encounter, I was hungover. I had ambitiously arranged a 7am date, believing I could power through on four hours of sleep. I soon discovered I was wrong.

The instructor was not sympathetic. She relentlessly told us to turn it up, which is exactly what I pretended to do. With our legs flying around at a frankly ridiculous speed, she ordered us to take off from our seats. I had not anticipated how my body would react. One leg stopped pedalling whilst the other snapped out of the cleat and orbited off to the right.

After that, I was told to sit down. Another fifteen gruelling minutes of pretending to turn up the dial, I was encouraged to get off my bike altogether. It was finally over. I began thinking that it wasn’t so bad. However, as the instructor approached, I realised I was the only one who was unclipped. She stood beside me, then pointed to the floor. “You’ve gone green. Sit on the floor with your legs above your head. Come on!”

It was a humiliating end to my first session. Even worse, a full two years afterwards, I had graduated and was serving students in the local Co-Op. It was a busy shift and I was clearing the queue single-handedly. I was vaguely aware of someone staring at me, but reasoned it was probably just the crowd willing me to work faster. When a young guy reached the front, he exclaimed, “I knew it! You’re the girl from the spin class who nearly fainted!”

I returned to a spin class today after an eight year hiatus. During the interim, I had two more knee surgeries but I had also done some extensive road cycling, so overall I was feeling more prepared. In a wave of madness, my friend and I had signed up for the 7am class before seeing sense and switching to a 12:30pm slot. My friend, who was a regular, had booked a bike on the front row. I had reserved the neighbouring bike. This was my first mistake.

The instructor was welcoming and helped me set up my bike, moving my seat all the way down. She showed me how to adjust the resistance and the various holds on the handlebars. There were two 1kg weights in the pocket which I swapped for 2kg. After all, I lift 10kg per arm in the gym. This was my second mistake.

As soon as we started, she turned off the lights. I inwardly cursed. How could I see what I was doing now? Despite this, it started well enough. There were some moves to learn such as the head banger, the elbows out, the quick twerk, the bum bop, the hiphop shoulder drops and the fun box slides. Of course, these are not the real names, but I was concentrating so hard on keeping up with everyone I have completely forgotten them.

The instructor was motivating, calling on the themes of the wolf pack. She told us to run together (even though we were technically cycling), push on as a pack and to make ourselves proud. I am ashamed to say I gave up a fair bit. I was the old scraggly wolf they abandon in the woods. It was particularly painful given that I was dead centre and at the front, directly opposite the instructor’s bike. Every time I sat down (90% of the class was done off the saddle), I knew everyone else could see.

The second song was faster. We were told to pedal double speed. My legs were a blur and my hips were struggling to stay attached. Then up. I must have instinctively slowed as the momentum of my spin threw my leg out. My feet took it in turns to unclip each time I tried to recover. I was frantically shoving my shoes back in whilst also being secretly glad of the rest.

In the dark, I tried to read my watch to no avail. Then, during a punishing up/down blitz where the lights flashed on, I realised two things. One, it was only thirty minutes in. We still had twenty to go. Two, my face was magenta and my shorts were dangerously high. I prayed the lights would go out again.

Then came the break. This was perhaps the most disappointing section for me, since there was no resting at all. With our arms out before us holding our weights, we pedalled slowly as we pumped and raised our arms up, down and out. With all the push ups we had done my arms were jellified. The instructor swiftly replaced my 2kg with 1kg and laughed at my former bravado.

Next, we locked in our feet and did crunches, twists and full sit ups. I will admit I spent most of this time trying to keep down a flat white I had enjoyed earlier. My facial grimaces were not enough of an excuse. The instructor cheerily reminded us that we were doing it for ourselves and not her.

The final fifteen minutes went by quickly, perhaps because I was deliriously tired at this point. My heart was skipping, I struggled to keep breathing and my legs were shaking. The pace had increased and we were expected to throw in all the moves, including one where we bounced through all the handhelds. Given my coordination, I got it right one set out of twelve.

The end came at last, and we locked one leg to stretch the other across our handlebars. Straight at first, then awkwardly (for me at least) bent across to the opposite side. As the lights came up, I felt a little embarrassed at my performance, especially as my friend had owned it. However, the instructor was very sweet and said that the first time is always difficult. In return, I replied, “Thank you for the class, I nearly puked!”

I booked a special introductory deal where I get a second lesson included. Wish me luck!

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Makes You Think VI

I, for one, am a fan of Roman numerals. This week brings you more merry mishaps straight from the classroom.

Hand-eye coordination
One of my favourite tasks for my Kindergartners is asking them to wink. As a four sound word, it often comes up in my ‘Teacher Says’ blending game (after all, who is this Simon?). My students will often scrunch up both eyes for extended amounts of time, or creepily stare at me through one eye as they squeal, “Look!” One child who had mastered the skill proudly turned to the others, before giving us a slow-motion blink.

Emotional regulation
Sometimes, children can find it difficult to stay balanced in class. I try to alleviate the pressure of their performance by always praising effort first. Recently, one usually cheerful student cried during class, and sensing her discomfort, I continued teaching before quietly sliding her some tissues. At the end, she apologised and seemed to know what had caused the outburst. “I didn’t have my Vitamin C this weekend.”

Size matters
This week, I was observed by a fellow teacher. During one part of our space-themed lesson, I asked the class to count the sounds to sort various cards into the numbered spaceships. Each item was described for its purpose, for example, “Oh! We will need somewhere to s-l-ee-p. Yes, a bed!” One of the newer pupils looked confused, before complaining that the bed was far too small. Instead of explaining it was a picture and attempting to convey scale, I merely got out my invisible shrinking ray gun and zapped the child. As we lined up at the end of the lesson, the same child poked my belly and said, “Big tummy!” It’s all relative, I suppose.

I avoid making any solid promises as a teacher, but I am ashamed to admit that I occasionally will ask a child to pinkie promise to do their homework. It is sometimes difficult to encourage a five year old to do homework, so I find this a neater incentive to get across my expectations. It has worked on all but one of my students.


I asked my class which animals could be spotted on an African safari. Some answered the usual culprits of lion, tiger, zebra and elephant, whilst some were hoping that rabbits would make an appearance on the ‘big five’ list. I delved deeper and asked which of these had stripes. Of course, many correctly said zebra and tiger. However, one boy shouted out, “A zebra has spots…long spots.” A budding politician in the making.

Sound logic
I taught my class that molten rock was also known as lava, then asked if it was hot or cold. One student, who I knew had a keen interest in volcanoes, said that if you touched lava you would melt like an ice cream and die. But then, you would go to heaven…where you can eat ice cream. I feel I failed my class on teaching them how to safely approach a volcano.


As a teacher, it is important to know the loo lingo. In Asia, children are encouraged to say ‘Pizureen’ which translates to the rather crude ‘pass urine.’ I am lucky to have experienced only three toilet dramas so far. One happened in my very first week as we lined up to leave, and the poor boy suddenly covered himself with his bag. The second incident also happened right at the end of class, but this young chap stared vacantly ahead as he went, before sploshing his bare feet in the newly made puddle much to the horror of the rest of us. The final event was more dramatic though. One girl shrieked, “Oh no!” before announcing to the class that she had, in fact, ‘passed motion.’ As she entered the class the following week, far from being embarrassed as her mother had feared, she squealed, “I’m a poop monster!”

In the eye of the beholder
On reading the word ‘cute,’ I asked the class what could be described using this word. I heard the usual kittens, puppies and bunnies, but one girl said ‘babies.’ She then elaborated on this, by saying only very chubby ones are cute. I recall the same student had boasted that her daddy was very strong, but then at the end of the lesson she corrected herself and explained he was actually very fat.

So close
Many teachers find marking a chore, but I enjoy it for all the endless one-liners it provides. From the massive joy of being ‘on nine clouds,’ to the student who forgot the word ‘van’ and improvised with ‘veg. car.’ One student, who had almost cracked similes, wrote, ‘Her hair was as fresh as apples in a refrigerator.’

I will leave you with some more gems:

IMG_1487414898817dirtydickugly shirtcopsComputer games

Until next time!

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Makes You Think V

The latest round up of the things my students say in our classroom:

These small words, such as ‘at’, ‘on’ and ‘in’, may seem insignificant, but they can really bugger up the meaning of the sentence if used incorrectly. My lower primary students find it particularly confusing that you get in a car or taxi, but on a train or bus. At first, they think it means you stand on top of it to travel.

Science of deduction
One of my favourite games is to ask students to offer an educated guess about an unknown word. I make it more exciting by saying we must be detectives and I get out my magnifying glass to mimic Sherlock (or Geronimo Stilton for them). Recently, the word ‘rodent’ came up. One child thought that it might mean ‘rotten’ which wasn’t so far off, but another guessed ‘food’. I’m not accepting an invite to dinner round theirs.

Inside the lines
Sometimes, our practice of the fine motor skills (handwriting and colouring to the rest of us) can produce something wonderful. I present to you a truly ‘baked’ gingerbread man.


Another tricky hurdle for my students is idioms, those well-known phrases that are often unique to your home country. In the beginning, my students are hesitant to use them, but they soon go overboard and sprinkle them in nonsensically. I created a worksheet to introduce them to body idioms, and gave them a word bank of body parts to complete the phrases. There were some old favourites, such as, ‘legged it’ for running away, ‘nosy’ for someone who is overly curious, and a ‘hair-raising’ experience on a roller coaster. One of my students believed that the phrase, ‘headless chicken’ was actually ‘stomach chicken.’ I bet this is a dish readily available in the hawker centre.

Teaching children to read can be challenging. You need a huge dollop of patience and should be encouraging at all times, but you are occasionally rewarded with hilarious alternatives to the words on the page. Some that stick in my mind from the last few weeks are ‘eating toes’ instead of ‘toast’, washing your hands with ‘foamy soup’ rather than ‘soap’, a student read ‘ate a snake’ instead of ‘snack’, and one boy repeatedly read ‘myth’ as ‘meth’.


The future
In a recent lesson, we sent the children in a time machine into the future, exactly one hundred years to be precise. I asked my class to imagine what will have changed, especially with transport and their school. Many were excitedly discussing robot teachers, flying spaceships and space academies. One boy, who seemed to miss the concept a bit, dryly exclaimed, “But I’ll be dead!”

Eat my dust
One particularly tricky lesson where I had a few emotional three year olds join my class, I made up a funny game to distract them from the fact they were no longer with their parents. Joining up lowercase and uppercase letters, I deliberately drew some lines incorrectly to get them to correct me and build their confidence. When I erased the line, I made a funny “Nom nom!” sound, as if the eraser enjoyed eating up the pencil. All the children laughed except one serious young girl, who worriedly asked, “Where is its mouth?”

Stick to the script
As a teacher, it is important that you think carefully before opening your mouth. Each instruction should be clear, concise and pitched to the appropriate level. However, sometimes you can be caught off guard. I had marked a student’s narrative where they had used multiple conjunctions in a sentence, so I explained, “You don’t need a double ‘but'”. The whole class erupted.

There are times when you are rewarded as a teacher quite unexpectedly. One fond memory is a student who passed me a pizza promotion flyer as we lined up for class. One six year old wrote this in our lesson recently:


I leave you with my latest wall display to compliment the book bingo game I made my primary students. Until next time!


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Makes You Think IV

After the Christmas break, I’m back with more insights from the classroom. Enjoy!

Graphic imagery
In one reading class, a child misread ‘failing eyesight’ as ‘falling eyesight.’ I mimicked what that could mean (dangly eyes) and the children were grossly delighted.

‘J’ is for…

Students often encounter animals exhibiting human characteristics in literature (especially in Aesop’s fables), and it is important to explain the stereotypical roles they play. I asked my class which animal was said to be wise. One boy exclaimed, “A buffalo!”

I asked my class about whether they could remember their dreams. Many said they imagined flying, running faster than cars and swimming underwater. One student glumly admitted, “I dream of spelling.”


I would like a stern word with whoever named this part of punctuation. Not only do the children struggle to say the word itself, they become so liberal with the little flying comma that they sprinkle it everywhere where an ‘s’ appears once they’ve encountered it. Aged 7, I was guilty of this too. With lots of practice, the primary students begin to understand it is only used for possessives, but the backwards step seems inevitable before they crack it.

When I was marking a 4 year old girl’s homework book in my phonics class, she had correctly circled a ‘mermaid’, recognising it had the same first sound as ‘man’. She said it was her favourite as it “wears a sexy bra”. Another child was outraged at another student and immediately told on him, saying that he’d said the ‘s’ word. I called both of them over, and tried to stifle a snort when that word was revealed to be ‘selfish.’

Kids love being icky. From sneezing out swinging snot ropes, to picking their nose before giving me a high five, they love to share their germs to my dismay. One lesson, I noticed one of the boys in my class had a huge wet patch on his shorts. When we reached reception, he explained, “It’s just saliva.” Oh, that’s better then…

The struggle is real
RIP jumbo pencil. I hope you enjoyed your three short weeks on this Earth. I tried to save you from excess sharpening, but alas, you perished too soon. You are survived by lime green pencil #2. I have since bought the amazing book, The Day the Crayons Quit to further educate my kindergartners.


Method acting
I am worried my ‘teacher’s voice’ might be permanent. I often have a stray sticker stuck to the bottom of a foot, and have given up trying to remove the permanent marker which is just part of me now.

When a three year old child says ‘daddy finger’, I feel a little pang of sadness saying that it is actually called a thumb. For kids new to phonics, giving the first sound can be challenging. The first sound of tiger is ‘tuh’ for example. It’s sometimes hard to argue with their logic of ‘meow’ for cat and ‘oink’ for pig though…

As a final note, I have introduced our centre to the endless delights of puns. Stay tuned for weekly updates, and feel free to share or leave comments below.



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Makes You Think III

This week’s instalment of comments overheard in my classroom:

Isn’t it amazing to think of the varieties of fresh produce and items available in our supermarkets? One text prompted a student of mine to write, ‘She saw milk in the refrigerator.’ Yet she didn’t actually write milk. She wrote ‘milf.’

Like many others, I find the prospect of holding a social gathering and cooking for others daunting. My students, as young as they are, apparently feel the same. Instead of reading ‘picnic basket’ they repeatedly said, “Panic basket.”

Foreign names
Names such as Siobhan and Hermione have been tripping up children for years. For some of my students, pronouncing Western names proves a real challenge too. Many of the stories include names such as Anthony, Naomi and Chloe. Inexplicably, the hardest of them all turned up in an oral exam. That name was Phoebe.

Dentistry designs
One of my students was reading a personal recount about a boy on a farm. He read the phrase, “I wore a thick coat and tough shoes.” However, the /th/ and /f/ sounds caught him out, and he instead pronounced it as “tooth shoes.” I’m not convinced they’ll take off.

Marking can sometimes be an arduous task, but occasionally some absolute corkers will surface. These need no introduction, but I’d like to take a moment to apologise to my Great Auntie Melita. I was brought up to be better. That said, the last one is rather uplifting, don’t you think?

Christmas vibes
Although many children do not celebrate Christmas here, it is still prominent with carols blasting in Fairprice and tinsel exploding overhead in the malls. Although I generally wait for December, I have started early this year since most children are off on their holidays soon. Here are some terrible festive one-liners. Enjoy! 

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