Thursday, April 29, 2010

An ESL Teacher's Tale - Part 1

Day 1 - Part 1

The night before my first class I set the alarm for an early wake-up, knowing that I need to prepare myself with coffee and a big breakfast. But as it turns out, I never needed to set the alarm since anxiety wakes me up an hour before the alarm does. Thoughts of "Who are these students? What am I suppose to teach? and How am I suppose to keep these kids happy?" flood my brain. The previous conversation I had with my boss left me with all this guesswork. The only lasting impression from that conversation was - 'make the children happy and we will be happy.' Pouring myself the second cup of coffee, I begin to relax. I have teaching credentials, I like kids, and if I've learned anything about the modern world it is 'be adaptable.' After jotting down a few notes outlining my plans for the day, I pack up my laptop, gulp down the last swig of warm joe and head to work.

Kids are everywhere. They sound louder than they should. Could be that they are louder, or it could be that the noise is a result of me not understanding a word of their native language. A few kids speak to me using very passable English, I'm impressed with the ease they alternate between the two languages. One moment they are 'screaming' at each other in their native language, the next they are conversing with me in that funny, insightful way that all kids do. My spirits lift, now all I have to do is find the course books for my new beginner class.

The secretary points me in the direction of a big wooden bookshelf. The contents look promising, a virtual rainbow of teaching material at my finger tips, rows of red, green, blue, and yellow books in an assortment of sizes. The books are numbered in sequence for me, Book 1, Book 2, Book 3...and they all have names that make me want to start training for a marathon. After a few awkward minutes of dropping as many books as I manage to neatly put back on the shelf, the secretary comes over and hands me three books. "You will use these," she says. "Thank you" I say, "Is there a desk or place where I can sit down and look at these?" She points at a large table in the corner where older students are either studying, eating, or sleeping. I inadvertently clean a section of the table with my clean shirt sleeve, then decide to use it as my space to prepare for class.

My preparation doesn't last long. I don't understand what I suppose to do with these books. The main text book is full of scenes with people having conversations using thought bubbles. I quickly flip through the book until my eyes land on the question "What is your social security number?" Huh? I think to myself while trying to get the secretary's attention. "Excuse me, how old are my students?" I ask. "Anywhere between 4 and 8," she answers. "Do you have a social security number?" I ask. "What is that?" she replies, "Like an ID number?" Nodding, I quickly open the next book in my pile. The phonics book has the entire alphabet within its' cover, but each letter is associated with random words like "angel", "aardvark", and "ankle" for the letter 'A'. I can make this work, I say to myself.

(to be cont...)

Sunday, April 25, 2010


As a youth I never learned how to type. Now I really regret it. My hunt-n-peck technique is a slow and laborious method for inputting text, as well as making me the butt of many jokes in the office.
I do remember some computer classes at school, but I never remember being taught how to type. I do remember 10 = Print 'Dan is cool' 20= Go to 10.

That was some time ago. Now children seem to be much better on keyboards. However children need to be taught how to type.

"But the question of when a child should learn how to type still comes up over and over again. Research shows that before third grade or so children's hands aren't really big enough to stretch across the keyboard. Until then, it is fine for kids to use the "hunt and peck" approach to typing. Adults often find this painful to watch, but for short periods or the typing of a few sentences, it is actually good letter recognition practice." -

We have a lot of typing games on our English teaching website, some of them are timed. There is one about typing the colors. I seem to be unable to beat my rather poor record of 38.30 seconds.

Give it a try here. You can find it in our free content area.

Free Content Area

See if you are as swift as I am. See if your children can type faster than I can. If they can, don't tell me.

Our typing activities are fun and visually stimulating for kids while being tied into our structured course to reinforce the learning. We all know that when kids are having fun they learn better. If only I had these options as a school child.

"Typing is an essential skill, but it can be painful. Some children just don't know where the letters are," says Susan Mitchell, head of Giles Junior School, in Stevenage. "Typing a three-page story, when they have to spend minutes hunting for every letter, can take forever. Yet we tend to assume that children can type, partly because quite a lot of us know where quite a lot of the letters are, so we assume that children do, too." -

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Happy Earth Day

Go Green, Study Online.

Today is Earth Day. That does not mean that we care about our planet today and today only. It means that today we need to draw attention to issues facing our planet. As an online teaching website how can we help?

As an online educator, pumkin strives to create an environment of sustainability. Being online is already saving on natural resources like paper. However, it is not that straight forward. Even online business can make their impact on the planet's ecosystem less harmful. Use less power. Computers use a small amount of power but many computers can consume a large amount. Turn off your computers when you are not using them.

Based in Asia, our offices can get very hot in the summer. So we must try not to crank the air conditioner and rather use fans. We can also encourage our employees to use greener methods of transport to get to and from the workplace. Cycling is also good for your health. The Mayor of London cycles to work so you can too.

Reducing energy consumption is good for business and the planet. See the link below for ways to help your business.


Not only can online educating be more environmental it can also be more effective.

“The report found that students who took all or part of their instruction online performed better, on average, than those taking the same courses through face-to-face instruction”

From inside higher ed website.

Visit our site to find out more about Pumkin Online English.

Monday, April 19, 2010

YouTube Channel Hits 100 Videos

100 is something of a milestone, a century.

Pumkin are celebrating our 100th video to YouTube today. Our aim was to bring our video course to students all over the world for free. It appears that we have done quite well. To date we have over 25,000 views.

We will be adding videos to our YouTube channel every week so remember to go back and have a look from time to time.

Here is a fun video about adjectives and animals, always a good combination.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pumkin's Free Learning Area

It has been interesting to get very positive initial feedback from users who have visited our free online English learning content so far. The most satisfying thing has been that this feedback has not just been from parents but also educators who search online for new English content. Here is one user quote that was left in our feedback box:

"I look forward to sharing this site with my students as well as their parents. THANK YOU for such a great product!!"

We have been delighted to hear comments like these: Here are the reasons why we think that our free online English learning area is so helpful to English teachers as well as parents:

1. Our material is organised so that it develops grammar and vocabulary along a logical progression. Whereas other sites simply group English games by type and do not provide a sense of logic, Pumkin Online English provides a thematic development to follow through key basic English concepts.

2. The content itself is professional: Pumkin Online English's free content is a small portion of what we sell to subscribers, so free users can benefit from the same quality product.

3. This system even extends to providing downloadable worksheet PDFs that teachers can then give students for homework.

You can see the materials for yourself in this area:

We feel that this offers a substantial benefit to teachers and parents looking for free English online learning content, and we'd be fascinated to receive further feedback or comments here about how people enjoy our online English learning materials.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pumkin launches YouTube channel

One month ago, started to post some of their English teaching videos to their YouTube channel

When we first started uploading our videos to YouTube we were not sure what kind of response we might get. Well, things are looking good and we have had a steady growth of viewers. After one month we have uploaded 97 videos. These videos have been viewed a staggering 16,000 times. Our channel has also received 3,200 views.

Our videos are arranged in playlists. Each playlist is a lesson comprised of 11 videos. Every lesson teaches specific vocabulary and grammar points. These videos are the introduction to the pumkin course and are used in conjunction with hundreds of cartoons, games, typing exercises, phonics exercises, review classes, dialogue activities and lots more. Visit our site to see how much more children can learn from the full course at

From a humble start we feel that this is wonderful interest shown in our content. However, we are not stopping here. We shall continue to add two free videos every week bringing free English education to the world.

Why not subscribe to our channel and see some of the videos yourself.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Pumkin Online English endorsed by online education

English education expert blogger 'An Online Educator' has referred to Pumkin Online English in his recent post about how leading educational theorists now appreciate the benefits of online learning. Here is an exerpt from his post:

According to Hubbard (1992) language software designers are often unaware of teacher/student instructional concerns. However, this has now changed. Services like Pumkin Online English, the BBC's, and English Media Lab have integrated cutting edge software with their educational material.

The blog post notes that since 2006, educational experts have begun to realize the power of systems like Pumkin Online English to deliver tailor made, effective and well constructed English language courses online for children:

If the answers to these questions are: I have a child between the ages of 3 and 10 who is a beginner English student. I prefer an experienced EFL teacher who is familiar with Asian language learning styles. I would like the English course to incorporate cutting edge cognitive psychological research. I believe that the online course should present the material in multiple contexts. I want my child to develop new learning strategies while still being able to use the strategies familiar to him or her, and my child should be at the center of the learning environment. If you answered the questionnaire as such, then is worthwhile to checkout.