Clifford the Big Red Dog and Arthur the Aardvark

This semester, all my students have been very excited about reading, so I’ve decided to introduce them to some classics from my childhood. In my first two classes, Clifford the Big Red Dog and Arthur the Aardvark were huge successes.


To begin, we watched the theme songs from the television shows to get an idea of what the stories are about and who the characters are. Then we took turns reading from the books. Neither of the classes are quite up to the level of English in which the books are written, so I rewrote everything for their level. In the case of Clifford, below, for my lowest class, I ended up writing them a completely new story.

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For my middle class, we read a modified story about Arthur and D.W. learning to read, so the class could really empathize! To supplement the book, we performed a drama in pairs where one student played Arthur and one played D.W., and they had to run around the classroom reading words on the walls. The kids got really into finding the most difficult words on the walls and sounding them out.

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I like chicken, I like fish

By far the most popular video in my first two classes, which has become something of a TFP cult phenomenon, is the song affectionately known as “I like chicken”. With simple words and a very catchy tune, it has become the go-to song for my kids to sing when they are bored, excited, happy, finished with a worksheet… you name it!

The original song:

The kids were extremely excited to make their own video for the song, although sometimes they got too involved in singing and dancing to heed the original rhythm…

To reinforce the “I like / I don’t like” construction, we watched another video about a talking cow who is a very picky eater…

As our Thursday art project, we colored cow masks for our own class production. Ahmad was very excited to show his off.


After we made our masks, we read, practiced, and memorized the text of the drama, and then performed it in pairs–wearing the masks, of course! Below, Omar and Aboud do a wonderful job.

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What did you do yesterday?

Nooran and Maryam interview each other about what they did yesterday, to drill irregular past tense verbs, and then launch into a rendition of “Hit the road, Jack”, this week’s song.

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New chairs in Salem village!

Thanks to our community partners in Salem village, we finally have new chairs with desks for the students to write on! All the students are extremely excited.


As a beginning of the semester art project, the students helped to make leaves for “class trees”, on which they wrote their names and favorite hobbies. Along with the other posters on our wall, we are trying to make the classroom a beautiful place to learn!Image


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Welcome back to TFP in Salem Village!

It has been a great few first weeks of the second TFP semester in Salem village! I’m very happy to be back and to see so many familiar faces in class, and so many new ones. After levelling the classes, we have three distinct levels, so each class has taken on a very different character. The first class is practicing handwriting and phonics, as well as basic vocabulary, while the middle class is learning past tense and present continuous! My highest class is quickly reviewing the basic tenses and working on more complex reading and writing activities.

It is looking like a great semester, and I’m very excited to see the students progress!


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End-of-the-semester party, December 2012

As I organize my pictures, I am reminded of all the blog posts I meant to do but which fell by the wayside with the busy pace of teaching, lesson-planning, visiting families, and exploring Nablus. First and foremost is last year’s end-of-semester party in December 2012!

Ameer and Yousef, brothers whose house adjoins to the community center, eagerly agreed to run to the nearby store and buy us drinks for the party. (They were also eager to show off their strength for the camera!)


As we waited for students to arrive, we performed an impromptu concert of all the songs we sang last semester, including “Wheels on the Bus”, “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider”, and “Here Comes the Sun”.


Finally, food, drinks, and students were all here, and we all admired the beautiful table. Some amazing kids brought homemade food and snacks, and a few thoughtful ones picked flowers along the way for decoration.


After we dug into the food, the games began. The most popular one, of course, was “Pin the Tail on the Donkey”….


but Limbo, in the older kids’ party, was also a hit:


At the end of the party, we all tried to cram into a group picture, with varying degrees of success. (I am somewhere in the middle, I think…)


All in all, it was a great party and a beautiful way to end the semester.

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“Look to”

If there’s one thing my high class in Salem will remember, it’s that they must never say “look to” when they mean “look at”. When we started out the semester, all the students would consistently use “look to”, especially when pointing out some wrongdoing on the part of their classmates. “Miss, look to Hassan! Look to Ahmad!” It took consistent prompting, but after several weeks of my gentle correction, scolding, and exaggerated yelling fits, they finally started using it of their own accord.

Now, “look to/look at” has become an inside joke with my 4:00 class, and has even spread to their younger siblings. The students will correct each other during class and, on the rare occasions that they want to annoy me, will deliberately instruct me to “look to” someone, but their smiles give it away.


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This week’s game: “Pin the vocabulary on the student”

This week in my lower classes we learned body part vocabulary, which we then used throughout the week in a variety of songs, readings, skits, and games! The occasion was perfect to teach “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” which the kids have requested every day since to the point where I can step back and let a student lead the rest of the class, even without music!

The class’s favorite game so far is “Ms. Chloe Says”. This week, in honor of our new vocabulary, we added directions such as “touch your head”, etc. The kids were so good that I introduced some more complicated words, like “elbow” and “eyebrows”.  As a treat on Thursday, I let a well-behaved student lead the kids who arrived early to class in a quick round of commands. Below, “Miss Nowar” proudly instructs her peers.

We also pioneered a new game, invented by Mr. Ben, where teams of students race to attach body part labels to one of their group members. Ansam, Asala, and Fatin were our first winners, and Yazan proudly models their achievement:

Finally, we read a story about one of the students falling down and hurting various body parts because she didn’t look where she was going. This segued into skits about falling, getting hurt, and visiting the doctor to get patched up.


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The Itsy Bitsy Spider takes over Salem

Our class song this past week was “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”, which fit in nicely with our weather vocabulary and has an awesome hand-and-dance routine which was a huge hit. Even though some of the words proved a bit difficult (“water spout” was nearly impossible to explain with our limited vocabulary, and “dried” caused serious pronunciation problems) it made for some good reading practice as well. Both of my beginner classes did stellar jobs on our final performance of the song, although the “rain” consistently decided to “wash out” the spider quite literally…


As I found out when I spent the night in Salem on Thursday, Salem residents who aren’t even in my classes know the first line and general tune of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” because they live within range of our badly-soundproofed classroom. Hopefully it will make it into the party playlists.

The intrepid spider made a comeback when we went to pick olives on Friday morning. Harvesting the olives is hot and tiring work, so the kids like to sing as they dart about like monkeys in and under the trees, and “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” is fresh on their minds, alternating with their impressive repertoire of the songs of Fayrouz. (It also gave us the opportunity to work on our pronunciation a bit more!)

The olive trees above Salem.

Many of the olive trees in Salem are up on the side of the small mountain near the north of the city, and the view, when we climbed to the top, was beautiful. It was fun to hear the kids banter between themselves as they worked, though I couldn’t catch much of what they were saying. Luckily, because they are so eager to practice English with me, I made them translate most of the goings-on.

Ameer proudly holding a shirtful of green olives.

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“Thank you, Robin Hood”

Last week in my upper-level class, we read the story of Robin Hood and discussed whether stealing can be good, and whether Robin Hood was justified in breaking the law. I was proud of the way the students were able to put forth some quite nuanced and complicated ideas with their limited vocabulary! Because Robin Hood was a popular hero, we brought him back this week as we reviewed vocabulary pertaining to daily routines and conducted ‘celebrity interviews’, where the kids got a chance to speculate about what the lives of people like Justin Bieber, Fayrouz, Barack Obama, and of course Robin Hood, were really like. Maryam distinguished herself as an incredibly talented interviewer, holding the microphone out to her guest like a professional and summarizing his response in a few words for her audience before moving onto the next question. Kefah amazed me with the way he got into character as Robin Hood, from eating deer for breakfast to living in Nottingham. (Of course, some students didn’t make such a clean transition: Hasan’s Justin Bieber persona was punctuated with frequent references to “my cousin, Robin Hood”.) Some highlights from Maryam’s interview of Kefah, below:

Interviewer (Maryam): What do you eat for breakfast, Robin Hood?

Robin Hood (Kefah): I eat deer. Very good.

Interviewer: Very good. What car do you drive?

Robin Hood: I, I haven’t a car. Because I am poor.


Interviewer: What do you think is unfair in the world?

Robin Hood: The king, his rule … no kill deer. Because the deer, the food for poor people.

Interviewer: Thank you, Robin Hood!

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