Thursday, May 31

Featured In US Embassy Alumni Highlight - April/May 2018


I am very surprised to be featured in the April/May 2018 US Embassy Alumni Highlight & I'm humbled by this honor. Thanks so much, Alumni Affairs Team, for helping to spread the word about the "Walk With Me In NYC" initiative!

I'm happy to announce that 5 states & 6 schools are participating in "Walk With Me In NYC"!
1. Penang = Times Square | Cikgu Ashikin Zainull, SK Minden Height
2. Johor = The Great Lawn, Central Park | Cikgu Nor Fadzleen, SMK Bandar Baru UDA
3. Sabah = Liberty Island | Cikgu Marinette Baltazar-Shamsudin, SMK Beaufort 3
4. Sarawak = DUMBO, Brooklyn | Cikgu Ho Jia Yiing, SMK Batu Lintang
5. Selangor = Brooklyn Bridge | Cikgu Nurhazirah Azhar - SK Convent (M) Kajang
6. Sarawak = North Central Park | Cikgu Raihan, SMK Katibas
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Useful info:

Thinking about pursuing your Master's Degree or PhD? The Fulbright Malaysian Graduate Study and Research Program is now open. Click HERE to find out more. Deadline: August 10, 2018.

The Alumni Newsletter relies on alumni participation to update the network on what's been happening with you. If you would like to contribute stories about your exchange experience in the U.S. or any news about your recent projects, publications, travels or achievements, please contact klpaexchanges @ state . gov

Thursday, May 24

How To Get A Malaysian International Driving License WHEN ABROAD


This was how I (1) got an International Driving Permit (Permit Memandu Antarabangsa/IDP), and (2) renewed my Competent Driving License (Lesen Memandu Kompeten/CDL), from NYC. No, you don't need to return to Malaysia. Yes, you can do the same from anywhere in the world! All you skeptics out there can can call JPJ to confirm, the proper term to use is "memohon permit memandu antarabangsa DENGAN WAKIL".

Sunday, May 20

Role Play + Peer Feedback | Low Prep ESL Activity


How do you provide your ss with authentic language practice? One of the ways, I add relevance & authenticity to my lessons is with role play. Also, it a great activity for the end of the day when your ss are tired of sitting all day listening to lectures. How do you make sure that ss are paying attention when their peers are presenting? One of the best ways is to get spectators to provide peer feedback. Here's how I implement this engaging Low Prep ESL activity in my classes.

Skills Engaged: Listening, Speaking, Cooperative Learning
Materials: Sticky notes
Time: 35-60 min (depending on class size)

Monday, May 14

Fluency Lines | Low Prep ESL Activity


How many times have you asked your ss questions, & instead of an invigorating & thoughtful discussion like the one you imagined in your head, you get crickets chirping? Perhaps there is this one student that dominates & answers all your questions all the time?

Ss want to talk but sometimes they might not feel comfortable or they might require extended wait time. This engaging Low Prep ESL activity is one way to provide everyone with an equal speaking opportunity, hold them personally accountable & also allow them to learn from their peers

This activity also lifts up the mood of a class, so if you feel that the energy level in your #ESL class has slumped, you can pull this activity out of your hat! You can also use this at the end of your lesson to give students the opportunity to go over the day's content.

Skills Engaged: Listening, Speaking, Cooperative Learning
Materials: Space (if you have a big class, your students can form a snaky-line or find an alternative space large enough to accommodate them)
Time: 10-15 min

Wednesday, May 9

If My Postal Vote Could Tell Its Story


Oh, if my ballot paper could tell the story of it's travels & the hope it carried on its shoulders.

I'm crying in the subway now while typing this. Couldn't read the news until I finished teaching a morning class. I'm rushing home now to witness this historic moment on the news! I'm sobbing uncontrollably now & New Yorkers are probably thinking I got my heart broken. Oh, on the contrary, these are tears of joy. Hear me cry out from decades of pent up frustration & tampered hope. All the injustices I've witnessed. Totally didn't expect this. Not even close. We are at the cusp of a Malaysian spring. Looking at all the effort put in by Malaysians all around the world. How can I not be moved?

Monday, May 7

Why I'm Not Sending Back My Postal Vote


REGARDLESS OF TOMORROW'S ELECTION RESULTS, I AM SOOOOO FREAKING PROUD OF YOU, MALAYSIANS!!!
It's amazing how Malaysians rise up to the challenge. I managed to find a Malaysian to bring my ballot from JFK to KLIA. Another Malaysian to bring my ballot from KLIA to KCH. And, another to deliver my ballot from the airport to the RO. Amazing!
We've done all we can from abroad.

Now it's up to you, Malaysia! GO OUT & VOTE!!!

Malaysians all over Malaysia, we still need more volunteers to hand-deliver postal votes. Postal votes will continue to arrive from overseas until late May 9th. No matter where you are, we need you! Let's fight until the very end!

Volunteer here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/GE14PostalVote
Tomorrow morning, go early & complete the voting process. Then, I urge you to volunteer to carry postal votes & deliver them to their respective ROs.

If your vote cannot make it back to Malaysia, MAKE SURE NO ONE VOTES FOR YOU by emailing your PACA here to make sure that your name is not on the regular voting list: https://invokemalaysia.org/pc/

For Malaysians living abroad, there might be a fellow Malaysian who can personally bring your envelopes back to Malaysia: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2049351842053459/permalink/2052950415026935/
It's completely legal to have your votes delivered by hand: https://www.facebook.com/ongkianming/posts/1698073126914407
You will have to take some extra steps: https://www.facebook.com/BersihAustralia/photos/a.880742831995030.1073741826.307902042612448/1670725519663420/?type=3

Thursday, May 3

Dear Malaysia, Walk With Me In NYC


New York City is such an inspiring place. Countless movies have been made here. Famous celebrities like Godzilla have been here. It's so amazing that jealous alien races, like the Chitauri, want to destroy it. I've learned & grown so much as a human being immersed in its culture & living amongst its people. I want to share those benefits with all students in Malaysia & inspire them to be global citizens, as well as motivate them to constantly improve their English language proficiency. So come, Malaysia, walk with me in NYC.

Being able to live in NYC has been a tremendous privilege & throughout my time here, I have been looking for engaging & meaningful ways to leverage my position for the benefit of my colleagues & students in Malaysia. Some of my more notable initiatives include a US-Msia Video Exchange Project, sending postcards to 160+ schools in Malaysia, video conferencing with a school in Sarawak, & making a video for a special ed. secondary school in Johor. After significantly investing on video equipment & know-how, I thought to myself... why not do a video for the rest of Malaysia?

Honestly, I've had this idea for a while. I've been holding back because of nightmares of people trolling me because I'm not young, I've gained weight, & I'm just a teacher. But, I've only got 2 more months left. Why not put the idea out there & see if Malaysians are interested? What have I got to lose? Like a famous philosopher once said... Just do it. So come, Malaysia, walk with me in NYC!

Wednesday, May 2

Walking In NYC With SMPKV Indahpura


Recently, I took the students of a Malaysian secondary school on a video walk at Gantry Plaza State Park, one of my favorite parks in the city (mainly due to its inspiring view of the Manhattan city skyline). I posted the video on YouTube (for the teachers to show to their students on a big screen, as YouTube accepts more than double the video resolution of...) & Facebook (where a majority of my audience resides).

To think that it started 2 months ago with a simple Facebook message from Cikgu Zaidah, a PK at SM Pendidikan Khas Vokasional Indahpura. At first, I was very intrigued as I had never seen a school with that acronym before. I looked up the school on their website & found out that it's a secondary school providing vocational skills training to students with disabilities (deaf/blind/mute). Besides BM, BI, Math, & P. Islam/Moral, students are trained in either housekeeping, reflexology, culinary arts, cosmetology, & desktop publishing.

I found myself immediately thinking about the school also offering courses in computer engineering like what Kenzie Academy, which is co-founded & run by a Malaysian, is doing for the Rust Belt States in the USA. These students may have disabilities, but their mental faculties are just as sound as those without.

Monday, April 30

Vocabulary Storm - No Prep ESL Activity


Are your ss competitive? Want an engaging activity that wakes your ss up while assessing their prior knowledge at the same time? Try this No Prep ESL activity.

Skills Engaged: Vocabulary, Cooperative Learning, Spelling
Materials: Whiteboard, & markers
Time: 10-20 min

Sunday, April 29

Calling SMK BL With Love From NYC


When I was in secondary school, we were still using payphones & dail-up internet. Technology has made giant leaps since then. Seeing all these students, it felt like I was speaking to a younger me. You see, I was once a student at SMK Batu Lintang in Kuching, Sarawak, too. Therefore, I have so much hope in my heart for these young people & I totally expect them to surpass me in every single way. My dream is that at least one of them will pay it forward & continue to inspire future generations of BL-ians.

After getting her students to write responses to a postcard from NYC, their teacher, Ms Ho, capitalized on her student's interest with a video call. She overcame the headache of setting up AV technology in her typical low-tech Malaysian classroom so her students got to practice their English in an authentic conversation & experience the potentials of 21st century tools in the classroom. Respect. Her students asked several thoughtful & challenging questions that blew me away. I'll share a few of them as it'll really get you thinking.

Monday, April 23

Group Flyswatter - No Prep ESL Activity


Want a great lesson starter? Perhaps you're looking for a pick me up in the middle of a tough lesson? What do you do to wake your students up after a long day at school? Why not practice previously taught vocabulary at the same time?

We all know that repeated & varied vocabulary practice improves retention. However, the drills necessary for this to happen might be too tedious to carry out in some classrooms, esp if your students are not as committed or your class periods are scheduled at the end of the school day. Here is an engaging No Prep ESL activity that works for both young & old. You'll allow your ESL students a chance to stretch those bones without compromising valuable instructional time.


Skills Engaged: Vocabulary, Spelling
Materials: Flyswatters (if available; otherwise, brooms, sticks, canes, slippers, shoes, etc make for interesting alternatives), dry-erase markers, & whiteboard
Time: 15-30 min

Monday, April 16

Chain Story - No Prep ESL Activity


Want your grammar lessons to be a little livelier? Want students to move a little bit in your class & have a little laugh after a long day? Want them to cooperate & perform peer-correction? Perhaps you should consider this engaging No Prep ESL Activity!

This is an activity that can be easily adapted for higher or lower proficiency levels! It's perfect for assessing grammar: tenses, conditionals, SVA, conjunctions, prepositions, etc.

Skills Engaged: Grammar, Writing, Cooperative Learning, Spelling
Materials: Dry-erase markers, & whiteboard
Time: 15-30 min

Sunday, April 8

Why Every Malaysian Should Send Postcards Home When Graduating Abroad

If you are a Malaysian studying abroad, I implore you to send postcards home when you graduate. Here's why...

Being able to study abroad is a luxury & a privilege enjoyed by roughly 55,000 Malaysians every year (from 2003-2013). It may seem like a big number but it only constitutes roughly 5.5% of the tertiary student population (from 2000-2010). Academically, there is not much difference between degrees earned locally & those abroad. The special-sauce is in the broadening of the mind & the ability to consider multiple perspectives after being exposed & forced to survive in a foreign culture. With a simple gesture, you can share a glimpse of what you've learned with a new generation of Malaysians with the hopes that your postcard will spark young minds & inspire them to surpass your wildest imaginations.

Send Postcards To Where You Know It Will Actually Be Used

Perhaps you can send a few back to your past schools. I'm sure the students there will be inspired by what you have achieved as an alumnus. You might need to do some liaising.

I decided to send my cards to teachers because I am a teacher & I believe teachers make a difference every day. Having taught in one of the most extreme circumstances in Malaysia, I knew that Malaysian teachers face an uphill battle every single day whilst performing their most essential purpose = preparing the next generation for 21st century challenges while climbing mountains of paperwork & mindless midnight data entry. Teachers don't often get the support they need for the work that they do. Therefore, while I was studying, I facilitated a video exchange program between the US-Malaysia. Additionally, upon my graduation, I sent postcards to 163 schools in Malaysia.

Check Out All The Creative Ways Malaysian Teachers Used Their Postcards!

Sunday, April 1

Written Charades - No Prep ESL Activity

How do you make sure your students pay attention to new vocabulary you've covered in your lessons & incentivize them to return to those from time to time? Every teacher knows charades & it's classic vocabulary game that's great for all levels & ages. But, what happens when one student/team completely dominates the game every time you play it? How do you make sure that everybody gets a chance to participate? Also, how do you know if your students can spell the words correctly?

I've figured out a No Prep way to tap into what makes the game great & engage all students without alienating those who are a little bit slow (like myself, I'm really bad at charades). Trust me, your students will frantically flip through their notes during this engaging ESL activity! Try this out & let me know how your lesson went! =)


Skills Engaged: Vocabulary, Cooperative Learning, Spelling
Materials: Dry-erase markers, & dry-erase tablets (you can make your own low-cost version by laminating white/colored paper)
Time: 15-20 min

Friday, March 30

Reflections on the 2017 Video Exchange Project

In early 2017, I wanted to connect students in Malaysia & the US to help make learning English more relevant to young Malaysians & share the wonders of multiculturalism in my moderate-Muslim-majority country with young people in the US. I considered all of the barriers for such an undertaking & figured that the best way to do this was to run a video exchange project targeting teachers as they would be able to provide mentorship & support to their students.

First, let me congratulate SMK St Thomas (Cikgu Khor), SMK Batu Lintang (Cikgu Ho), Youth Guidance (Mr Oommen), & Operation Breakthrough (Mr Rowles) for completing the project!

In this blog post, I will share publicly available pictures & videos from the participants as well as what I have learned as the coordinator of the project.

Thursday, March 29

Sentence Strips - Low Prep ESL Activity


How do you segue from reading & discussion into grammar with an activity that's engaging and cooperative? How can you squeeze more teaching out of a reading passage that you spent so much time sourcing & painstakingly adapting?

This week's Low Prep post-reading activity was created to assess/develop my students' understanding of English sentence structure & give them an opportunity to communicate while figuring out a puzzle with a partner! If you've tried this, let me know how your lesson went in the comments!

Skills Engaged: Grammar, Cooperative Learning
Materials: Paper strips, & scissors
Time: 10-20 min

Sunday, March 18

Sentence Run - No Prep ESL Activity


What do you do to reinforce vocabulary you taught your students? Do you find yourself constantly having to repeat definitions? What if its the end of the day & your students have already sat through hours upon hours of lectures? This activity will definitely help you with all of the above!

I don't know about you, but I for one am tired of constantly having to repeat the meanings of words that I've already explained a gazillion times before. I prefer to remain sanguine & tai-chi the learning burden onto my students. You will see them desperately racking their brains or pouring through their notes for this activity! Ah... the joys of learning.

This is one of my favorite No Prep vocabulary practice activities & it never fails to wake up & engage my students. Students of all ages & levels will enjoy this one. It's a great way for students to revise the vocabulary you've taught them & practice their sentence formation skills too. Try it out & let me know how it went in the comments!

Skills Engaged: Vocabulary, Writing, Grammar, Cooperative Learning, Spelling
Materials: Whiteboard, markers, & a vocabulary list
Time: 20-30 min

Monday, March 12

Essay Strips - Low Prep ESL Activity

When you give your students a passage to read, how can you be sure that they are actually reading & comprehending the text? How do you make reading more engaging?

Created out of necessity while working with a class of students who didn't like to read & inspired by an activity on Breaking News English, here's another Low Prep activity that you might want to try out in your ESL class. Try it out in your class & let me know how it went in the comments!

Skills Engaged: Reading, Grammar, Cooperative Learning
Materials: Whiteboard, poster/easel papers, & markers
Time: 20-30 min

Sunday, March 4

The Disappearing Text - No Prep ESL Activity


This is one of my favorite post-reading activities & students of all ages enjoy it too. The best part is it engages your students for 20+ minutes & it's No Prep! Try it with your students next week & let me know how it went! =)

Skills Engaged: Reading, Pronunciation, Memory, Writing, Grammar, & Spelling.
Materials: whiteboard, marker, & eraser

Saturday, February 24

Register As Pengundi Pos Luar Negara Via Email In Just 5 Minutes!


I sent in my Permohonan Kertas Undi Pos (Pengundi Pos Luar Negara) a month ago after reading this post on my Facebook feed & was surprised that some Malaysians I spoke to thought that it would be too much trouble to bother. That's ludicrous & asinine (my latest favorite word)! Well, guess how long it took me to finish the application?

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