Ubon Ratchathani Workshop & How to get teachers to read lesson plans

Workshops in Thailand are formal.  Very formal.  So I have to wear a suit.  (Don’t worry I’ve got a GE T-shirt underneath!)  But this morning I thought I’d sneak into breakfast in a t shirt.  But as I looked around everyone was suspiciously incredibly well dressed, and yep these were all the teachers who had all come in from all over the region for the workshop!

And you know sometimes these things can be tough.  I’m so passionate about education and the possibilities of having these tablets in every class in the country.  So it’s very hard when I ask what that the required outcome and goals of the workshop are and am told “do whatever you want!”

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You’d never think the goal was so vague given all the amazing pomp, ceremony and attention to detail in the workshops!

So although I was a little disheartened that the people in charge couldn’t quite see all the possibilities here, you also have to realise that you can’t do everything, this isn’t a perfect science, and we just have to do as much we can.

Plus of course, it does make it a lot easier when teachers come up and say how much the materials help in their lessons, which  *always* lifts me up.

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So the morning session, after the formal start, was taken up by setting up the discipline  (especially important if you are using technology) and running through the basic themes of Disco Warm Up, What’s your name?, How are you?, Left and Right etc. along with a needs analysis and the Genki English rules.

Read one, do one

With only two days of training I also have to get the teachers used to reading and being able to do the lesson plans.

If you don’t do this, and just show them all the activities, the teachers will never be able to do any new games and they’ll just go through the same one or two all year!

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The trick here is always “Read one, do one” i.e. read one line of the game instructions and then do it with the kids.  Then read the next line and do that etc.   Most teachers try and read the whole thing, can’t understand a word of it (even though it is in Thai!) and give up.  So it takes a *lot* of practice to get them to read a line, do a line.

I usually do it by having one game on the projector (from the pdf), again in Thai, getting them to read a line, do a line to play a game.

Then for the next new game I put them in groups and  set them the task of reading and playing the game.  This works when one or two groups, the ones who have “read a line, done a line” start playing and the other groups realise they are behind!

Rabbiting on and on and on 

The other big problem, as always, was the good teachers who were just rabbiting on and on and on and on in English, and the students, and other teachers, couldn’t understand a word of it.  This takes a lot of me doing the same thing in French or Japanese, which they can’t understand, until *finally*  – after what seems like an eternity – they get the L+1 idea that what they say has to be at a level the students understand plus just a *little bit*.  Not 1000 times more!



Overall though they were, as expected in Thailand, fantastic at actually doing the lessons and got so much into it.

And it is actually amazing to see how far Thailand has come in the 5 years since I’ve been here.  It does feel like a whole new country!

Then in the afternoon we had my first experience with the One Tablet Per Child tablets – you can read about that tomorrow!

Richard Graham

I'm on a mission to make education Genki—fun, exciting, and full of life! Genki English has now been researched by Harvard University and licensed by the British Council around the world. The results have been magical! Now I'm here to help you teach amazing lessons, with all the materials prepared for you, and to double your teaching income so you can sustainably help many more students in the future!

6 Responses to “Ubon Ratchathani Workshop & How to get teachers to read lesson plans”

  1. Margit

    Hi Richard,

    WOW so many people!!!!

    though this is not the “highest mood” post you’ve been sending, it really motivates me.
    Since the new school year’s started I’m on a roller coaster of emotions, having to leave behind all what I’ve built up at the old school for 5 full years, the teachers who are finally able to do things without lots of explanations the wonderful room decorated with GE flash cards…
    And always the administrators who have so vague goals, keep changing, take step backwards and make so much of what is there to nothing .

    In my head I know it’s like that almost everywhere, but it is good to read this live report from you.

    You know, the thing is, that when I’m at home thinking about everything it makes me just mad in first place, and I don’t want to tell myself “do what you can and believe in it”,
    But when I’m with the kids I “just do what I can” and it makes me happy and satisfied.

    Sorry for talking about myself after this great report from your side. Please write more more more, It feels great to read this kind of thing.


  2. Julia

    Hi Richard!

    Thank you very much for your live post!

    Hallo, Margit!

    Vielen Dank fuer Deinen offenherzigen und anregenden Kommentar!

    You both really inspire me to overcome hardship I have in my work! This year I’ve understood I need to change something in my teaching and make it better.

    P.S. And as for suits… When I started teaching, female teachers didn’t wear jeans or even classic trousers at school. Male teachers wore suits. Now things are changing, but strictness remains the main tendency of school fashion, though.

  3. Elizabeth okafor

    Well done Richard, So many people. I cant wait to be a participant.

  4. Izolda Kovac

    Your workshops are amazing! It would be great if I could be one of the participants but I live so far from you. Do you maybe plan to do a workshop somewhere in Hungary someday?

  5. Stephen Bartolo

    Of course the most obvious solution is often the best – a bright orange custom-made Genki English suit!!!

  6. Andy Chilcott

    Hi Richard,

    A quick update on the 12 day (now 15 day) English course, in a small village in Mahasarakham, NE Thailand.

    The afternoon (adults) course was terminated after day 8 due to a lack of interest (laziness – Elected representatives word, not mine) on behalf of the government staff, who would rather play games on their PC and go home 30 minutes earlier, than learn English. The lost hours were then tagged on to the morning class which is children aged from 3 up to 17. We have been getting figures in excess of 40 students a day which is very good considering it is their school holiday and they dont have to attend.

    The kids seem to absolutely love it, but were a little shy when it came to speaking English and singing the songs. Solution – stickers. We would have given stars but we couldnt find any, so we have made do with England badges, Rolling stones lips and tongues, flags etc. The response was stunning, the noise now is deafening and Thank you, which ends every mornings lesson, is crazy!

    At the start of the course, I gave every student an English name (I cant even pronounce most of the Thai names). Then asked them to make a name card (about the size of a post card) which they hang around their neck. There was a competition to see who could make the best name card and when a student contribute to the class and is awarded a sticker, it is stuck on the card.

    At times we lose the concentration of the younger children, as a 3 hour lesson is far too long, but a couple of 15 minutes breaks and games seems to do the trick and the results are pretty impressive.

    The warm up last up to 45 minutes, and includes left and right (standing up and also sitting down in a line similar to “oops up side your head”) we do head, shoulders, knees and toes, Look at me, Hello, how are you and also the Hokey Cokey, which the kids love.

    The last 30 minutes is usually spent playing games. The kids enjoy, rock, paper scissors. The loser must go to the back of their winning opponent and hold their waist. They then compete against another winning pair and so on until you have a final with two “snakes” of maybe 20 kids in each … It is great fun. But before each challenge, the kids must introduce themselves to their opponent. They think they are playing a game!!!

    On Monday, we will have the closing ceremony. The kid will the most stickers will get a prize and everyone will get a certificate. Oh, and Richard, I expect there will be some long drawn out speaches and many photos . . . LOL

    Lastly, we have a student in his 50’s, who is a village head. Norman, was doing the afternoon course and now has joined with the kids. He had to go and check why there was a problem with the water supply to a Farangs (expats) house and was able to communicate. This after just 8-9 lessons!!!

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