Monday, May 31, 2010

Most Popular Videos?

As you may well know Pumkin have a YouTube channel where we have posted more than 100 free English teaching videos.

Every video is part of a lesson. There are 11 videos in each lesson. All of the lessons are split up into:
  • Vocabulary Introductions
  • Classroom Section
  • Animations
  • The Pumkin Show
  • Music Videos
I am always keen to see which elements of our shows people like the most. Now it's hard to be sure from our statistics but it is fun trying to work out why some videos seem more popular than others.

This video is the most popular one. It is the first one in lesson 1 and is an introduction to the members of the Pumkin family. I think that because it is the first one it gets lots of views, it has also been on the channel for the longest period of time.

This is a very popular one too. I have always said that I think the animations are the most interesting videos for children. This one is about classroom objects.

Here is another animation that has been viewed many times. It's about counting.

This video is from the Pumkin Show with Pippy and Carley. This introduces the question "Who are you?" and the response, "I am ........" in a dialogue with Professor Popalot.

We might have to wait a bit longer to really see which videos are the most popular but it's fun trying to guess which ones will be watched the most frequently.

My personal favorites are the music videos. So I will leave you with my favorite video.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Follow Your Child's Learning

We have released new and exciting aspects to our online English learning experience. 'Daily Reports' and 'Calendar'. Both give parents or teachers a way to keep in touch with their children's or student's learning.


This page shows all the animals you have freed on each world. This is a page for month 1. You will also notice that I have been a very good student and have done all the lessons in month 1 and have freed all the trapped animals. Yeah!

Use the planets to the right to select the planet you want to look at. The planet on the left is the one you are viewing at the moment.

Each animal can be clicked to see the daily report for that lesson (see Daily Reports).
Around each animal are four icons. Top left is the day of the week. Top right shows a tick if the lesson has been completed. Bottom left is the number of stars achieved in this lesson. Bottom right is a link to download the worksheet for this lesson.

Just below each week is a target icon. This will show you the learning objectives for this week's lessons. The objectives are split into our five target areas of learning: vocabulary, sentences and grammar, phonics, typing and dialogues.

Daily Reports

The reports page lets you see an overview of what has been done on any given lesson.

The animal in the top left corner represents the current lesson. Clicking on the animal will take you to the location in the online world where this animal can be found. You can click the arrows to go to the next or previous lessons.

Each lesson is made up of many activities. The progress window will show you how many of that lesson's activities have been completed.

Worksheets can be downloaded for every lesson. Click the link to download this lesson's worksheet and you can then print it out. All worksheets have a questions section to check students have learnt what was taught in that lesson.

The answers to the lesson's worksheet are also on the daily reports page. Click on the answer card that matches the number on the worksheet to hear a native speaker say the answer. You can compare your student's pronunciation with that of a native speaker.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

English Signs 2

Asia is not the only place that provides funny signs with bad English. English speaking countries also manage to mess up their own language on a regular basis.

Look at this one. I hope it was not a teacher who wrote this.

What it should read.


Spelling = 0
Punctuation = 100
Grammar = 100
Sense = 0
Funny Factor = 95

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Orz, = =, and ˊ∀ˋ.

We have all seen :-) and :-( for happy and sad faces. There is ;-) for the winking face.
So popular have they become that a Russian business man, Oleg Teterin has trademarked this:
But what is orz? What is XD?

Internet users are becoming more and more fluent in the language of the emoticon. An icon that represents an emotion. Smiley faces adorn most chats on the internet whatever the platform, be it Facebook, Plurk, MSN chat, Skype or whatever. If you want to tell someone how you are feeling these days it is a lot more simple with an emoticon.' :-)' or 'I am pleased with this statement'. There are still lots of subtleties that are lost with these emoticons. However they are becoming more and more diverse to cope with all manner of situation.

In Asia there are an almost completely different set of emoticons, while many are similar to their Western cousins, some are altogether different.

So, what is "orz"? Well, "orz" is like other icons that represent a face, only this one represents a whole body. The "O" or "o" represents one's head on the ground, "r" forms the torso and "z" forms the legs. This is a despairing person kneeling down, or a person kneeling in reverence.

囧 is a funny one. This is an old less often used Chinese character that means "patterned window" or "brightness" It is pronounced 'Jiong'. However, of late is has come to take on a new meaning. The character looks like a face and it is commonly used to express ideas or feelings such as annoyance, shock, embarrassment, awkwardness or scorn.

Most other ones are faces. The "XD" is a smiling face, and "XDDDDDDDDD" is a really, really, really smiley face.

I will give you a few others - see if you can work out their meanings.

= = ˊ3ˋ ˊ∀ˋ d^_^b @_@

QQ = .=|| > _ < ''*o*'' ^_^

Good Luck.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

An ESL Teacher's Tale - Part 3

Day 1 - PART 3

I return to the classroom with all but the two youngest students, who refuse to come with me. They stay with the secretary. I have five books to hand out; text book, activity book, phonics book, phonics activity book, and a log book. Once they have their books I indicate that they should open their text books to pages 3 & 4. Five minutes later, all the students have opened their books to the correct pages. Using my book as a guide I begin to read the thought bubbles. The students automatically repeat everything I say, they've clearly had much practice at listen and repeat. The listen and repeat goes like this:

Character 1: "Hello"
Character 2: "Hello"
Character 1: "Hi"
Character 2: "Hi"
Character 1: "What is your name?"
Character 2: "My name is Peter. What is your name?"
Character 1: "My name is Suzy."
Character 2: "Nice to meet you Suzy."
Character 1: "Nice to meet you too."

After several read through's, half the students are able to repeat what I say. The other half both sound and look like they are chewing tree bark. If this was baseball, I would be one happy manager. I once again ask individual students what their name is. Four students answer the question, two mumble something that may be English, and the rest just stare at me like I suddenly grew antlers.

I tell them to close their books and get out the phonics book. As I'm writing the letter 'A' on the white board, I hear a commotion behind me and someone saying "teacher, teacher." Turning around, I see half the students pointing at the clock above the door and the other half stuffing their new books into over sized book bags. It is time to go. Thus, my first day with a new beginner class comes to an end.

(to be cont...)

Friday, May 7, 2010

English Signs 1

In Taiwan there are many signs that are translated into English. This is very considerate of the Taiwanese people to attempt to explain things to the English speakers living in Taiwan.

While this is kind of people to try to explain things in English, we feel that some of the English used is far from accurate. Hence, this makes a recipe for some very funny signs.

Starting today we will introduce you to some signs we find that are a little wrong. We will try to correct them to their desired meaning. This is not always easy! We will also rate the signs on:

1 - Spelling
2 - Punctuation
3 - Grammar
4 - Sense
5 - Funny Factor

All scores will be out of 100.

So, on to our first sign. Found in a rest stop on the road from Tainan to Taipei.

What it should read.

'Children's hand basin.
Please refrain from leaning.'

Spelling = 100
Punctuation = 90
Grammar = 65
Sense = 50
Funny Factor = 82

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

An ESL Teacher's Tale - Part 2

Day 1 - Part 2

It's ten minutes to four o'clock, I had better find my classroom. The room is small, but adequate. It has a magnetized white board, CD player, markers, and a doll house set of desks and chairs. Looking at the size of the desks I start to wonder just how small these kids are. I hear some noise in the hallway and realize that it is now two minutes to four. Several kids enter the classroom carrying backpacks that are both larger and judging from the strain on their little faces, heavier than themselves. I smile and say "hello". In between gasping breaths for air, they smile and return my greeting with a "hi". Out of necessity, they quickly find a desk to plop their belongings on. Once this is done they begin to giggle hysterically between glances at me and each other. The silly face monster face I make at them doesn't help the situation, but it does put us all at ease. Over the next several minutes, this interaction repeats itself a few times until I have nine kids whom I guess are between 5 and 8 years old. I think to myself, this isn't going to be too bad.

The kids are friendly, smiling, and some have even started to speak English to me. Over and over again I hear "teacher, teacher," followed by a string of words in their native tongue. I guess that they are asking me about myself, probably my name and where I'm from. I grab a marker to write my name and draw a quick world map on the white board. No ink. I grab another marker, again no ink. I here the giggles start behind me and increase in volume with each dried up marker I grab. Having no markers left to check, I turn around and shrug. One of the older students stands up and indicates he will go downstairs. I nod and say thanks. "What a great group of kids," I say to myself. Then the late arrivals show up!

The first kid is a bit older than the rest of the students, perhaps 10 years old. He just stares at me when he enters. He is speaking rather loudly in his native language to all in the class. Some of the students start to laugh while others stare at their desks in discomfort. With cocky assurance he asks me my name, where I'm from, and how old I am, all with decent English pronunciation. He translates my answers into the students native language, which prompts a flurry of discussion between him and the other students. I've lost control.

The second and third kids enter, or should I say are dragged in by their parents. They are two girls, probably the youngest in the class. It is obvious that the two of them had been crying. The parents seem somewhat embarrassed, but they do get their children seated. As the parents exit, they cross paths with the boy returning with the new markers. OK, now I can begin teaching. I go to the white board to finish my original plan, to write my name and draw a map. I turn around and say "Hello, my name is A." Some students respond by saying "hello A." Next, I say "What is your name?" All but three of the students sit silently, while the other three answer the question in varying forms - "April", "My name is Jimmy" and "I am Betty." Using exaggerated hand gestures, I repeat ""Hello, my name is A. What is your name?" This time I'm greeted with a cacophony of random syllables. Smiling, I start individually asking each student what their name is. With some help, the students begin to answer the question. "Hello, my name is Sandy. Hello, my name is Gus, etc. All is going well until I get to the last two kids who came late. Before I get a chance to even ask their names, they both start vibrating, then shaking, then go into full fits of crying and tears. Oh no! What do I do now? I back away from them and avoid looking at them. I learned that when I once encountered wild monkeys in a jungle. DON"T look them in the eyes. I next look to the other students for help, some of them are kind enough to try to calm the two girls down. By ignoring the sobbing students and with the aide of the other students, they gradually stop sobbing, yet I can see the well of emotion lingering behind their puffy eyes. I decide to take an early break. I need to get their books anyway.

(to be cont...)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Teaching English Phrases on Plurk

I want to let the cat out of the bag. On our plurk page you can find lots of extra English phrases taught every day! Plurk. If you have never used plurk, take a look, it has a really nice layout and is easy to use.
A large number of our users and friends are Chinese speakers. Based in Taiwan we have built a large following of people who are keen to improve their English. While our course is aimed at young learners there are still lots of things is doing to bring English teaching to all levels of English.

Here are some from last week. Go to our plurk page to find the Chinese translation and to become friends with Pumkin to get more English phrases every day.

"Let the cat out of the bag"

"In the dog house"

"A wolf in sheep's clothing"

No animals were harmed in the writing of this post. To save animals visit us at where children learn English and set free their virtual pets.