Thursday, 30 June 2011

Reflections...on the lesson on friendship

I'd like to share how the lesson went and some tips on how you can make it better. Overall, I achieved the objectives I set out and students' response was good. They found the song slow but meaningful. You can substitute the song with a more upbeat one. A young teacher, Ikhwan Hazzad from SMK Jalan Kota, suggested that I use White Stripes, "We're going to be friends". As a matter of fact, he played the guitar and sang the song in his class. Cool :)

1. Group formation took a bit of time- you might want to think of ways on how to put ss in groups in the shortest time possible.
2. The wrapping up session after the 'I like You slips' activity could have been done better. The usual problem I face is that ss get really excited writing something nice for their friends that they ignore the time limit given. It would be nice to be able to read one or two slips (if your students allow it) and to summarise the lesson but I didn;t get to do that. Suffice to say, the students were very happy with the lesson.

One group's response is memorable. The group's response to the question 'Friendship is...' is as follows:
Friendship is the marriage of two bodies and one soul. Hmmm... how about that for some philosophical gibberish?

Thanks for the slips I received girls!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

A Lesson on Friendship

My lesson for tomorrow in 4S1 will be on the theme of friendship. This is a must and I conduct  it without fail every year. But I always do this in mid-term when the bond of friendship in the class has somewhat been established. This is how I plan to conduct the lesson:


1. Intensive listening  
2. Vocabulary on friendship   
3. Values - friendship


1. CD player with song 'You've got a friend' (Yeah yeah, I know this is an old song, but hey I must have been in lower sec when I learnt of this song. A lot more meaningful and sensible than the present head banging songs which mean God knows what!! Besides let the young ones listen to oldies but classics once in a while..)
 2.  Gapped lyrics task sheet.
 3.  Blank memo papers and envelopes with each students' name on it.


1. Write some words from the lyrics on the board. E.g.s down, troubled, eyes, call, clouds, door, cold, hurt, name. Get students to guess/predict what the song is possibly about. (You'll get all sorts on interesting answers).
2. Play the song once or twice and while listening, students fill in the missing words from the song.
3. Discuss the answers to the blanks and get the whole to read the lyrics together aloud.
4. Group work- put students in groups of four and  give them the following tasks:
  • discuss and list out the top five qualities of a good friend and five things good friends don't do
  • complete the statements - Friendship means..., A good friend always...., A good friend never...
5.  Get each group to mention one quality and make a list on the board. Make sure different qualities are listed on the board. Do a quick tally to rank the list. Get responses to the three statements given orally too.
6.  Finally, give students plenty of paper and let them dedicate something nice to their friends ( I Like You slip activity I posted earlier). They put the slips into the relevant envelopes for their friends to read later.
7. If your students give you permission, pick some slips at random and read them in class.
8. You can join in by having an envelope with your name too!

Try it and share your experiences!

~the thinking teacher~


Categories Game

The recent heat we've been experiencing has taken a toll on some of my classes am afraid. One such a day was last week in 4S1. So we decided to have a go at a language game. The outcome was fruitful as students really showed a lot of enthusiasm and competitive spirit. Here's how it went:

Game: Categories Game (Tim Bowen)
Objectives: 1. Learning new vocabulary  
                  2. Revising old vocabulary learnt from previous lesson
Level: appropriate for all levels
  1. Divide the whiteboard into six columns and write one category at the top of each column, for example: ‘sport’, ‘profession’, ‘item of clothing’, ‘country’, ‘food and drink’ and ‘animals’. (I added 'weather' as we just completed vocabulary lesson on this topic)
  2. Divide the class into groups of four. Tell them that the first team to provide a word for each column beginning with a particular letter will win a point. 
  3. Then give them the first letter, ‘s’ for example. This might produce ‘skiing’, ‘singer’, ‘shirt’, ‘Spain’, ‘soup’ and ‘seal’.  
  4. When a team is satisfied that they have all six and that they are correct, they should shout ‘Stop!’. Continue with four or five other first letters.  
  5.  Add up all the scores and see which group has the highest points!
This was roughly how I divided the columns on the whiteboard:

Group no.
Write down group number here to keep track of the score easily.
E.g. ‘S’



My reflections:

In future I will use more vocabulary from previous lessons because I realise it's effective to revise and recall  words using this game. Students' reactions? Wonderful. They worked in groups and had to compete with the other groups. The first few groups made the mistake of not calling 'STOP' when they got all the words (which was quite hilarious actually). But eventually they understood how it was played. Try it and share your experience. Leave a comment. Best!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Step-By-Wicked Step: Plot Overview and Moral Values

Some notes taken from my book:

Plot Overview
  •  The novel is written in seven chapters. The first two chapters are without titles while the other five chapters consist of stories from the five main characters, Claudia, Pixie, Ralph, Colin and Robbo.

  • In the story, five schoolchildren spend the night in the creepy Old Harwick Hall, as part of a school field trip accompanied by their teachers. The schoolchildren do not really know each other, but the discovery of an old diary in the tower room find themselves coming closer together as they actually have a lot in common. The novel is written in an autobiographical style where the five main characters, Claudia, Pixie, Robbo, Colin and Ralph take turns to tell their five distinct stories step-by-step, story-by-story. They share stories of their stepfather, stepmother and step siblings frankly and openly and how they cope with their own situation. Their stories have a mixture of happy and sad endings.

Here are some of the moral values that one can expound from the novel:

Family is everything
This is the main message in all the five stories from Claudia, Ralph, Colin, Pixie and Robbo. Love is the factor that binds the family together but sometimes the family unit breaks down due to a lack of understanding between parents. Most of the time, children are not prepared for such a situation and this lands them in an awkward and painful situation. It is important to minimize the impact of divorce on children and to make sure they do not feel unwanted or unimportant. Parents must always try to keep the family together despite the breakdown in their relationship.

Patience is a virtue
It is important to practice a lot of patience in difficult times. No parents would want a divorce if they can help it. Hence, everyone affected by a divorce must be patient and tolerant.  Richard Clayton Harwick does not show enough patience when he leaves his family because he cannot get along with his step father. As a result of his action, his mother dies of heartbreak and his sister blames him for being selfish and cruel. In Pixie’s story, she does not show much patience towards her step siblings. She refuses to share her bedroom with Hetty. She is also hard headed and argues intensely with her step mother.

We must learn to adapt to new situations
Children from broken homes have no choice but to learn to adapt to new situations. This may be unfair to the children who seem to be the ‘victim’ of circumstances beyond their control. However, in the five stories told, we learn that adapting is better than resisting although it takes a lot of patience and effort on the children’s part. Claudia shows she is a rational and sensible child to accept her step mother. Ralph, who has three step mothers, gets along with all of them despite their different personalities.

Don’t give up hope
Colin’s story is the saddest of all. He does not give up hope of one day finding Jack whom he accepts as his own father. He saves all his money and plans to look for his dad when the time is right. Colin is a very determined person despite his young age. He knows what he wants. Robbo also hopes his sister Callie will accept their step father Roy. However, Callie resents Roy and decides to live with her real father in the end. 

Happy teaching!

~the thinking teacher~

Reading Club 13: A doctor in the house, Tun Mahathir Muhammad

My latest read. I haven't finished but will soon. I love his sharp witticism and directness in his writing.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Ramblings @ blogging :)

I really am feeling lazy to do any school work tonight so I will ramble instead. it's one of those days where you just don't want to do anything. Tonight is RRRRRambling night where I shall write aimlessly and pepper my writing with many digressions (the dictionary says this is the meaning of ramble lah). 

Tomorrow, insyaAllah, I'd like to fast with my daughter, Adibah, this being the holy month of Rejab. Besides, she actually needs motivation to replace the days she missed out last year! Who else has to keep her motivated. Well, wonder what we shall have for 'sahur'...we finished all the fish during lunch and all we have is the leftover vegetable soup. Problem solved, hubby just offered to buy anything I want from the nearby shop! Fried 'kampung' rice it will be. Habis la my diet speaking of which, I've not gone to the gym for a week already. Well, I'll be kind to myself- I was at the gym in Dynasty Hotel last Tuesday but what a disappointment...The treadmill was out of order and it was the only miserable one available. Reluctantly, I tried the cycling machine. I don't like cycling machines. Strange how the hotel claims of  'outstanding facilities'.

Got home earlier from KL due to unavoidable circumstances and was greeted by hungry Ondeh-Ondeh (the male, yellow cat) and Si Bengis (a beautiful Persian cat that you can never ever rub because she is mighty fierce and proud!) Well, the cats are not even mine...but they always meow for food outside the kitchen. My daughter decided to call the yellow one Ondeh-Ondeh. He is so protective over Si Bengis but he's a gentle one. We gave them some whiskas and how fast they finished them. Could it be that hubby hadn't fed them at all while I was in KL? Oh but how they have aged (the cats I mean)...both had scars on their bodies and Ondeh-Ondeh's eyes were watery. They certainly look old and weary perhaps due to the fights they'd had. They say cats go away when they sense their time has come. I hope it's no time yet for Ondeh-Ondeh but I seldom see him nowadays...

I can only describe last night's experience a nighmare! After visiting my mum in Batu Pahat, my daughter and I waited until after the Mahgrib prayer (well, to be precise, after my sister Maisarah had spent some time listening to and correcting my recitation of the Yassin after the Mahgrib prayer. She has all my respect for she has a certificate in tajweed- lessons she took from renowned teachers to perfect the recitation of the Quran. Forgive me God for the numerous errors in my recitation!) We left Batu Pahat at 8.30 p.m. and reached home an hour later but to our dismay, we had not brought the house key!! What ensued was a franctic search (without the police) for my husband. First stop, Kejora Hall ( in the neighbourhood) as he had mentioned he was going to have a badminton game. But he was nowhere to be found. That's where he usually plays badminton! To cut a long ramble short, we looked for him in three places in Kluang town after a tip off from his friend. He was never found. Tired, we decided to have Nan bread, tandoori chicken and nescafe at Jamilah Restaurant in town, thinking that if he were to pick up my calls, I would still be in the vicinity and I could get hold of the elusive key. It's not me to have late night supper or 'ngeteh' as we call it in Johor. But I must say that the bread, tandoori and nescafe were perfect! You must be wondering what happened to the handphone! Technology! Well, it was not meant to be-dear hubby left his handphone in the car all through his game, so he was unaware of my many calls!! When he finally did notice, it was already midnight. It wasn't his fault and it was Father's Day so I kept my cool throughout. Lesson learnt - don't leave home without your OWN house key :)

Well just one more thing- my second shot at the 'Gred Khas C' post. After last year's disappointment, 'silly' me decided to reapply and go through all that stress again. YES. Someone asked, "Again?" Yes, why not. Despite the anxiety and all the expectations that go with it, I'm giving it another shot.Wish me luck all.

Sleep tight everyone :)

Teacher Talk (19): Things will be better...

I received this email recently. Your comments/advice are welcome to help this teacher in the hope that we can contribute in making ELT a happier vocation :)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011 2:03 AM
Assalamualaikum Cikgu,

May you be blessed by Allah. I'm currently teaching in ***. I've been an avid reader of your blog for some months. Yes it's true as claimed by some, your blog is informative. I have been teaching English for the past 11 years but I haven't done much. The truth is, my Head and I are not on the same wavelength. It took me years to realise this until recently when a senior colleague broke a news that was quite a blow. It seems to her (my Head) that I'm always digging out her weaknesses as the Head and I'm doing it publicly i.e. during panel meetings. FYI, I consider myself a vocal and creative type. I like being innovative and trying out new ideas. She, on the other hand, prefers things to be done the way they have always been. So, when I keep being the one who proposes new ideas, questions how things are done or suggests how they could have been done better, I have without my realising it challenged her capability as the Head. She thinks I'm personally attacking her. Never I have any intention to intimidate her role as my Head, let alone to do it publicly.

My husband's advice- just lay low, keep your innovative ideas to yourself and your students.

What say you? I have no one to talk to in school. I can't possibly share this with the Head of Language Dept. nor GPK Akademik as my Head has poured out everything to them both.

My Response

sorry i took so long to reply. was in kl for a week. thanks for visiting my blog. i hope it's useful. sorry to hear of ur predicament. i'm not an expert but here's my advice:

1. sounds like a classic east meets west case..even if it's so, you should still be able to do things within your circle of influence e.g.s your classes, english society, your given responsibilities. covey (7 habits of successful people) talks about making an impact in your circle of influence and not waste time on things you can't influence (of course, after trying hard)  it's very rare to find people who agree with us..if that's the case, we would not improve as everybody agrees with us, don't u think?  besides, it takes all sorts to make this world :)

2. you can always talk to her and see if she sees ur point of view. although sometimes it doesn't work the way you want it to, at least she knows that you feel that way. however, sometimes it's not worth it (something i've experienced personally) because the KP was dogmatic in her ways. people are afraid of changes- they are too comfortable in their ways that creative people are a threat to their comfort. u have to decide if this is the option u want to take.

3. do not let this affect ur enthusiasm and innovative ideas. get up and move! the japanese proverb says. "fall down seven times, stand up eight". of course it's not easy to get people to see what we see especially if they are cookie cutters. don't let this stop u from trying out new ideas. hey, i've been accused of all sort of things as well- that i never listen to other people's opinions, that 'i don't know how things are done here' (verbatim), that i am 'too hard'. well, if i were to brood on these, i will never get on with my work.  the truth is, there are many who will find fault with u even with your best intentions! don't sweat the small stuff! do what you can in your circle of influence (recommended reading). make the best of the responsibilities given to u ok? all the best.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Fruitcake Special- First Place, Group 6, 4S1

Sharing of best practices. My students in 4S1 performing a sketch on the Form 4 short story, 'The Fruitcake Special'. Each group was given a few pages of the short story to perform and they were given about a week to prepare. Peer evaluation was done in the simplest way- each student was given a small, blank piece of paper to write the best three groups they liked. The papers were collected and tallied. Group 6 was voted the best by all their peers. Not bad considering the short time given to prepare. Even though the short story will not be tested in the SPM, I still teach it because literature is one of the best ways my students can improve their language. The videos have been uploaded to their digital notebook for all to see.
Well-done girls! Full results:

1ST PLACE: Group 6 (Huey Boon, Wen Qi, Sze Ying, Xiao Hui)

2ND PLACE: Group 4 (Han Leng, Sheng Hsia, Miroshiga, Chen Hong)

3RD PLACE: Group 3 (Jia Li, Wan Qian, Yik Ni, Yi Xin)

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Teacher Talk (18): Literature PMR and SPM

An email I received recently (published with permission).

To: ""
Sent: Thursday, June 2, 2011 10:28 AM
Subject: Questions regarding New English Literature Component

Dear Pn. Rahmah,

First and foremost, allow me to introduce myself. My name is *** and I am a private school educator from Penang. I just chanced upon your blog recently, and find it really informative. To be honest, I am totally impressed with your selfless attitude to share good practices and also your ICT-savvy skills. I am a young teacher who has been with the school for a few years and been assigned to teach PMR & SPM English.

When I first started, I was not too familiar with the old literature poems, short stories and novels back then. After spending a few years getting used to the texts and teaching methodology, the implementation of new literature components was a setback to me as I had to go back to square one. Nevertheless, I welcomed the change as the new texts were a breath of fresh air and students found it to be more interesting and responsive.

With your vast experience in the subject, I hope you won't mind to help me with a few areas of uncertainty.

#1 PMR Literature 
F1- The River, Mr Nobody and Flipping Fantastic
F2 - I Wonder, Heir Conditioning, All is One and All Alone, and Rumpelstiltskin
F3 - A Fighter's Lines & Leisure

Are the above texts correct in terms of year to be covered? This year, I still have the last batch of 5 students sitting for PMR using the old texts. 

#2 SPM Literature
F4 - In the Midst of Hardship, He Had Such Quiet Eyes, QWERTYUIOP, The Fruitcake Special and "Gulp and Gasp"
F5 - Nature and Are You Still Playing Your Flute?

I read from another blog that there is a change in Paper 2 Section D. Instead of 25 marks, it has been reduced to 20. The teacher said (5) for poems and (15) for novels. I wonder what happened to the F4 short stories? Won't it come out in the exam? If not, what is the point of studying them, I am slightly confused. Can you please advise?

Sincerely hope you can find some time to help me with the questions. Thank you in advance.


My Response

thanks for your questions and comments.

1. for the literature texts for form 3 go to:
2. for the latest on assessment go to :
3.yes, you're right, short stories are not tested. I'm baffled too.

I hope I've been of some help. Would you allow me to publish this email in my 'teacher talk' section? Others may be able to respond too. Let me know.

Of educators then and now (the STAR)

I read this interesting article recently. What do you make of it? Feedback welcome.

Of educators then and now (29th May 2011)

I AM always baffled when my younger colleagues tell me about the setbacks they face as teachers. What they experience now is nothing compared to what we senior teachers had to go through in the early days.
Apart from the numerous interviews we had to go for before being accepted into the teacher training colleges, we were posted to schools in towns and villages that were far away from our hometowns.
Finding a room or house was not easy and many of us had to still travel a considerable distance from the school. This required us to take the buses or ride on our bicycles.
We made sure we reached school at least 10 minutes before school started at 7.30am.
May I point out that many teachers these days have no sense of punctuality and often come to school later than their students!
These days, fresh graduates are luckier as many of them get to serve in their hometowns on their first posting which means they don’t experience the type of problems we faced.
As for teaching, we would come to class with a well-structured lesson plan compared to teachers these days who are unprepared. They have no passion for the job because they know that most of their students are being tutored outside school.
Those who cannot afford tuition will continue lagging behind, but do their teachers care?
Many teachers these days are also reluctant to attend additional courses so long as they fulfil the seven-day Latihan Dalam Perkhidmatan (in-service training), which is mandatory for all teachers.
The reason why they aren’t keen on attending these courses is because they do not want their holidays to be disrupted.
This is not all, the school authorities are reluctant to take action against them.
Up to a decade ago, only a competent and experienced teacher would be appointed as Ketua Panitia to head the respective subject panels at school.
These days, a teacher with less than a year’s experience is allowed to head one of these subject panels.
While it may seem like I am griping, parents and many dedicated teachers in the profession will agree that teaching is no longer as noble as it used to be.
Those who have only recently entered the teaching line must buck up and take an interest in their job, otherwise they will be doing a disservice to their young charges.
Via e-mail



Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Teacher Talk (17): Continuous Writing

In the quest for professional development, please keep your questions coming. Here's an email I received today from an English teacher (published with permission). Your responses are most  welcome. Just leave a comment in the comment box. Who knows they may help this teacher. Remember, collaboration and talking about what we do are important for our professional growth. It's when we stop talking about our beliefs and practices that we become demotivated and helpless.

From: To:
Sent: Wednesday, June 1, 2011 11:42 AM
Subject: continuous writing

Salam, Puan Rahmah,
may i know for continuous writing (spm) eng paper, for quest no 5, let say the question ''SMILE"  , if  the student use it (smile)as a character in their story instead of using writing it as a fact,  can they get good marks?
2) if they write less than 350 words but it is  good essay , can they get 40 marks and above?

My Response:

thank you for your question.

1. For one-word essay or open-topic essay, the student is given the freedom to write in the form of a narrative, descriptive, factual etc. essay. therefore if the student makes it a character, it is perfectly acceptable. But of course you still use the descriptors in the bands to assess the essay.

2. If the essay is shorter than 350 words but written excellently (not just 'good'), the candidate can still be awarded above 40 marks. However, the essay cannot be too short as it's rare to find a good essay that covers all (the mechanics and nuances of writing) if it is short.

~the thinking teacher~

Keepin' em posted: The STAR Education, Sun, May 29th, 2011

Allow me to share this article in which I was featured :))

Keepin’ em posted


There is now a new generation of teachers who share their thoughts and communicate with students through blogging. IT IS a “place” where she expresses her thoughts and feelings freely and to Saodah Ajil, the writings on her blog are a reflection of herself. Hailing from Kelantan, this teacher likes sharing educational articles and inspirational sayings with her students and her own brood of children at
She adds that she also loves to express the beauty she finds in prayer, children and education on her blog, as they are inspiring.While keen to improve her proficiency in English, she is also proving the point that older, “motherly” teachers like her can be tech-savvy too.Similarly Cyril Dason, a young teacher, who is also into blogging says “it’s good for networking and putting my thoughts out there. I also have students reading my blog and it’s a platform to share my knowledge with them”.Cyril blogs voraciously in
about his personal thoughts but sometimes offers his followers a dose of current issues together with automotive and tech news.

The ICT (Information Communication Technology Literacy) teacher in Kuching who also heads the fraternity of Sarawak Bloggers
, says that it is exciting to get to know people and see how their life is different from his. “My close friends at the moment are mostly from the blogging circle. Not all of them are teachers though – some are executives, CEOs (chief executive officers), varsity students and even people involved in health care. On top of that, blogging helps improve my English.”Blogging expands one’s social network and allows an individual to vent their feelings, says Caroline Charles, who adds that in the end, one is addicted to sharing their daily thoughts on his or her blog!”This young teacher from Keningau, Sabah, says that she first began blogging to record the progress of her chemotherapy sessions while being treated for Persistent Thropoblastic Disease. Blogging to her was so therapeutic that she continued even after her treatment had ended. “I blog mostly about my personal life that revolves around my passion for beauty, travel, weddings, dog, shoes, shopping, books and self-reflection. I had so much to blog about my students that I finally created another blog just for school-related entries.” Her blogs are : ; and
She also reflects on what she has written. “Once the year is up, I look through my posts and note what I have and haven’t achieved. This helps me put my life goals back on track.” Amanda, another young teacher, blogs to air her opinions on current issues and trends. In addition, she writes her own poems. Her blog is also an invaluable teaching tool because she uses it to post literature notes for her students. Content-wise, teachers have to be careful. “As a teacher, I have to watch what I write,” agrees Amanda. “As a role model, it’s tough to be pure in heart, words and deed. And that’s where the problem lies. No sensitive issues! It’s a complete oxymoron to want to speak my mind, and at the same time be polite about it!” Her principal can read her blog too! While she toes the line somewhat, Amanda feels she needs to remain “real” to her students who understand only too well where her angst comes from.

Meanwhile, Muhd Radin Muhd Imaduddin, who is currently attached to the Education Ministry’s Curriculum Development Division, blogs to move forward with the times. He started his blog in 2004 because as a member of PEPIAS (Persatuan Pelajar Islam Selangor), he was dissatisfied at what was achieved in small circle meetings. While his blog allowed him to compile and organise the essence of their discussions, it died a natural death when he was posted to Sarawak in 2007, where online access was denied to him. A year later, upon his transfer back to Peninsular Malaysia, he revived his blog and even got students to improve its “cosmetic” appeal. “Why blog?” I ask him. “Why not?” he replies, “it’ is free, isn’t it? Besides, it’s easy to create, enhance and maintain. For its very flexibility, I love blogs.” For Radin, his blog is not only his “personal space’’, but also a platform where he can open up to his students and be more available for them.
“I think today’s youngsters need mentoring, and in order for us to reach them, we need to be seen as people who understand their concerns. “A teacher’s blog opens up channels of communication between him and his students and allows them to know how approachable he is.” Radin directs his students to his blog whenever he sees them struggling with a particular issue. “In my blog,” he reveals, “there are a wide variety of sayings and articles – both religious and secular – which can motivate and inspire my students.”

In complete agreement is Guru Cemerlang (excellent teacher) Rahmah Sayuti. However in her case, she focuses on teacher development. The tagline for her blog is the “thinking teacher”.She believes “teachers should think about what they do and why they do it.” A professional blogger, Rahmah uses her blog to help “create more awareness” while “sharing the best practices in the teaching business” with “linking useful materials for teacher development.” She is justifiably proud when she tells me that her post on the tried and tested “basic sentence patterns in English” has been downloaded 5,674 times since 2008! In fact, the ideas and links that she has been posting so far are so useful, that one ardent fan described her as a “gift” to the teaching world.

To sum up, blogs today are fast becoming a way to open up the world of teachers to others. So, the question is whether to blog or not to blog? Our Prime Minister in his keynote address at the First Malaysia-Asean Regional Bloggers’ Conference in Kuala Lumpur last month, said that it was important to learn from the views and constructive criticisms of bloggers as this would help build a better Malaysia and future for all of us. “The relationship must be based on mutual respect. We might not agree all the time, but we cannot be disagreeable,” he said. “The government-knows-all” era is over, he added, reminding bloggers that they should know better than to trespass the line between posting their honest views and spreading lies and half-truths.

Or you can click here.