Saturday 26 July 2014


Alister came up and showed me a write-up by one of the students in his Friday class.  I read with some disbelief that a second language student in this school could come up with such creativity in her choice of words and ideas therefore it has compelled me to share her writing on this blog in the hope that it will inspire other students to do the same.   Sometimes, we surprise ourselves by what we can do when we put our heart and soul into exploring and penning our thoughts.

The technique used in this lesson was to try to stimulate the student’s mind by the use of poetry, in this case “Clancy of the Overflow by Banjo Patterson.”  Going through in detail and carefully explaining a poem can actually inspire students to write beyond the context of their lives and experiences.  No doubt they will fall back on the ideas and words used in the poem, but they will also be learning how to write creatively by seeing how others have used the language.

Clancy of the Overflow - By Banjo Patterson

By:  Nur Azmina bt Noordin ( unedited )

Elliot Thompson.  That's me.  A single 29-year-old man who has chosen law as a profession and swore to defend my client whether they are innocent or guilty.  Known when promenading in the public in suits which makes me look sharp and smart.  Also, I own a small office in a department somewhere in this big city, New York.  That is how it is like to be a lawyer.

It was 18th of July.  My day went on as usual.  Desk piled up with several files of cases to solve.  Darkness surrounded my small office as a little ray of sunlight seemed to struggle through the window having been blocked by the massive height of buildings ruining the perfectly round sun.  All of these things made me feel suffocated.  My space to think became limited.

I had enough for today!  I did not know but I was not in the mood to work and I decided to let boredom claim me.  So, I checked my schedule for my appointment and I sighed in relief when I saw none.

"A little rest would not kill me," I thought to myself.

I leaned back on my black chair which was made of fine leather, hoping to get some shut eye.  As I closed my eyes, a memory of Clancy flashed into my mind.  Clancy, a friend of mine from a little village somewhere in Australia which, I went to for vacation years ago.

I remember the flow of the Lachlan river and the greenness of wide fields filled with stock which I witnessed at our first meeting.  He was shearing one of his jumbucks wool when I approached him.  Curious on what he was doing, which looked rare to a city man like me, I got to know him and learned that he was a drover.  I persuaded him to tell me the story of his life and he gladly agreed.  So, he continued to talk with a glint of excitement in his eyes.  I assumed life was a great enjoyment for him and I envied him for that because for me life was just a long period of hectic business.

These flashbacks of memories amused me and rose in me an urge to write a letter to him.  So, I straightened myself up and immediately took a piece of paper out of the drawer.  I wrote with full focus and left my work undone.

Unexpectedly, a reply came a few months later. It was a little difficult to read because the person who wrote this reply seemed to write using his thumbnail dipped in tar.  It said, "Clancy's gone to Queensland droving and we don't know where he are."

It was enough to make me understand that Clancy had been wandering again.  How lucky he was!  Then, I imagined myself being in Clancy's place.

I had gone droving down the river where I could see other Western drovers and greeted them with small nods and a smile that graced my face.  I trailed behind a stringing of stock while whistling my favorite tune.  Having the pleasures of my life that the townsfolk would never understand.

Nature would greet me from every side, from the bushes which waved 'hello' and by the murmur of the breeze.  I would see the splendid vision of the sunlit at daylight and the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars at night.

However, here I was.  Stuck in my dingy little office in darkness.  My sense of smell was heightened by the foetid air caused by the dusty and dirty city that spread into my window.  Noises came uninvited to my ears.  I could hear the fiendish rattle of the tramways and buses making hurry down the street.  The unpleasant noises came from children fighting but all of that faded into the background sounds of footsteps created by the sea of people.  These sounds echoed through my pair of ears.

I went towards my window and viewed the hectic surroundings outside my office.  People walked hurriedly.  Not caring whether they bumped into each other's shoulders in their rush.  Only eager eyes and greed are seen on their faces as city people like us knew there was no time to waste.

I compared the life presented in front of me with Clancy's.  How I wish I could swap with him even just for a day.  I would face the beauty of nature with stock stringing ahead of me while he faced the round eternal of the cashbook and journal.

However, I doubt Clancy would suit the office.  I chuckled.

Oh Clancy, my dear free friend.  Clancy of the Overflow.

Tuesday 22 July 2014


I chanced upon this technique two years ago when I was surfing on the Internet to look for an effective way to help my students describe better.  It has proven to be very useful and successful.  

One important reminder, though is that vocabulary-building lessons should be carried out prior to a Show, not Tell lesson, especially so with average and below average second language learners.

Things to prepare:
LCD projector;  Jumbled up strips of paper describing feelings;  colour paper;  colour pencils;  glue; marker pens / magic pens; dictionary & thesaurus

How do I use this technique in my lesson?
1.  Introduce the concept

Four Essential Elements in Show, not Tell technique

2.  Show examples
An example Alister and I came up with

3.  Practice
I use cooperative learning approach to get students to read some useful phrases/ sentences / expressions describing feelings.  Each group is given 2 words.  e.g.  happy and sad;  angry and bored; shy and amused; etc.  Students, in groups of 3 - 4, are assigned to 2 - 3 phrases on strips of paper.  They are to read and understand the expressions and categorize them under the appropriate circle maps.
It would help tremendously if the teacher has a list of useful expressions to describe various kinds of emotions.

Expressions to use in class

Cooperative learning and circle maps in action 

4.  Presentation
Each group to share their product by reading and acting out the expressions assigned to them.
Read and Act 

Check these websites out to get more examples of Show, Not Tell technique:

Thursday 10 July 2014


Short descriptive paragraphs written by Form 5 students at SMK Muhibbah, Sandakan, Sabah. It was a series of 3-double period 'Show not Tell' lessons getting students to describe emotions through observing body language.  

1.  The first lesson engaged students in categorizing 'show' phrases under different categories of emotions.  Students, working in groups, were assigned two adjectives related to feelings and they had to identify as many phrases as possible from jumbled-up slips of paper.

An interesting observation made was that students were able to understand some difficult phrases by looking up keywords in the dictionary to help them put the words into the correct categories.

2.  The second lesson had the students demonstrate emotions through body language while other students shouted out suitable words or phrases to describe the actions with a group representative to record the words or phrases on the board.  Kind of like a game of charades.   It really helped them  to understand and differentiate between a telling and a showing sentence.  

At the end of the lesson, they produced a descriptive paragraph based on the telling sentence assigned to them.

3.  In the third lesson, they revised and proofread their paragraphs by rephrasing vague verbs with strong action verbs, general adjectives with specific ones that appeal to the 5 senses, adding dialogues and further information.  

Categorising phrases

Writing a descriptive paragraph

Writing a descriptive paragraph
Voila!  Students' descriptive paragraphs...

Thursday 5 June 2014


Showing sentences should use strong vivid verbs to help to energize the writing.  This was a revise and review lesson, focusing on verbs.  It can also be used as a pre-writing exercise.

Materials to prepare:

a.  List of words
b.  Envelops containing strips of strong action verbs
c.  Colour paper
d.  Magic pen
e.  Glue
f.  Dictionaries
g.  Thesaurus

1.  Show a slide on overused verbs and ask students to review their writing.

2.  Inform students of the activities and  learning outcomes expected of them for the lesson.

3.  'Cooperative Learning' and 'Circle Map' in action.  
Group leaders must ensure that the verbs are distributed equally among the members so that everyone is engaged in the task.

4.  At the end of the lesson, students would do a gallery walk, replace the vague verbs and revise their essays.

Note:  Students love this engaging activity but they still have issues when using the words in the appropriate context.  So, I came up with this table to help myself and the students.

Reference table for the verb 'said'

Good activity to help students categorize the verbs.  Do give feedback.

Some useful websites:

Reference table for the verb 'walked'

Good activity to get students categorize the verbs.  Do give feedback .

Some useful websites:

Sunday 1 June 2014


Some students face problems of not having a convincing storyline to write.  One way is to read stories or the newspaper to come up with interesting ideas for plots.  Here are some samples to help you  write a meaningful story.

Based on a true story...

What valuable lesson can we learn from this?


In this case, being honest in returning something that is not yours is easier for a rich person to do than a poor person because selling the ring would make life a lot more comfortable for him.  

Nur Farahin and Miratul (5 Science 1 / SMK Muhibbah 2014)

Awangku & Azrul (5 Science 1/ SMK Muhibbah 2014)

Sunday 4 May 2014



Quick reference for students to make your story captivating.

Saturday 3 May 2014



One way to make your narrative captivating is to vary your sentence structures.  If a whole essay is written merely in simple sentences or compound sentences, it will make your story boring.  Therefore, learning some complex sentence structures will enhance your writing.


A complex sentence is formed when we combine an independent clause with a dependent clause.  Both clauses are simple sentences which contain a subject and a verb.  The only difference is a dependent clause does not express a complete idea and it depends on the main clause for its meaning.  

Conjunctions and relative pronouns are used to construct complex sentences.

So, how do we make it simple for our students to understand the mechanics involved in constructing complex sentences?  

For second language learners with little English language exposure, perhaps we can try this technique out:


It may look or sound a little complex but we need to start from somewhere.  It is never too late to learn.

Note:  The acronym given in most websites is AAAWWUBBIS, but I modify it to triple A, double W, double B, U, I, S.  It depends on your preferred way to remember.

1.  These is an example of two simple sentences.

2.  Let's try to use the conjunction 'As' to join the above sentences together.

3.  Let's take a look at the SSVEEE table below.
This is an example of the conjunction 'as' to join the two sentences.

4.  Here's an example of  the conjunction 'when' to combine the sentences.

5.  This is an example of the conjunction 'although' in a complex sentence.  Do take note of the common error our Malaysian students make when using the conjunction 'although'.

Note:  You can also put the conjunction in the middle.  
e.g.  Angelica made friends easily although she was new in school.

6.  Here's an example of the conjunction 'because'.

7.  Example of the conjunction 'since'.

8.  Example of the conjunction 'until'.

9.  Example of the conjunction 'if' in a complex sentence.

Check out how the conditional 'if' is used in four different situations.
Click any of the below:-
First Conditional(Real Possibility);
Second Conditional (Unreal Possibility);
Third Conditional (No Possibility);
Zero Conditional (Certainty)


1.  Adding additional information to a subject, verb and object will turn a sentence into a complex sentence.  
Let's add further information to the following subject using the relative pronoun 'who'. 

We can stretch the complex sentence further by adding the conjunction 'when'.    For example:

2.   Here's an example of using the relative pronoun 'whose' to give additional information to the subject.

3.  Let's take a look at how the relative pronoun 'which' is used to make a complex sentence.

4.  This is an example of a complex sentence using the relative pronoun 'that'.

5.  Examples of complex sentences using relative adverbs 'when' and 'where'.

Check this websites:
1.  Complex Sentences
2.  Compound and Complex sentences