Teaching Abroad – Two fun games

Hello everyone!

This past month has been such a super busy month working with many volunteers! Hopefully one day YOU will join us also! (check out our Wat Doi Saket project) We had volunteers from Australia, England, Canada, Germany, Lithuania and USA. They all taught at different locations, and they all wanted to know about games for the classroom. So, I am sharing a few that were super fun here with Thai students.


This game is great for practicing Yes/No questions with the verb ‘to be’ in present simple.

Think of a category: fruits, places, countries, people….

  • Pick one student to stand facing the classroom with his/her back to the board.
  • Write a word from the chosen category, for example: banana.
  • He is now a ‘banana’, but he does not know.
  • The student standing in front of the class has to ask at least 10 questions to guess what he is.
  • Questions have to be yes/no questions only. Am I big? Am I red? Am I gooey? etc.
  • The class can only reply with YES or NO.
  • The student gets 3 opportunities to guess what he is by asking: Am I a watermelon?

You can make variations to the game, like giving certain amount of minutes to make as many questions as possible or choosing from a vocabulary list that you have been working with in class. You can even make teams and keep score.


This game is super fun to play as a warm up to get the students to feel comfortable speaking in English. It is also a good way to practice asking the correct format for asking yes/no questions. (You can use simple present, past or future, if the class is a beginning level I suggest you keep it in simple present unless using the game to practice a particular tense)

  • Pick one student to sit on a chair in front of the class.
  • The class gets to ask any questions they want, but must be in a YES/NO format, funny questions: Such as: Do you like to eat potato chips with your feet? Do you pick your nose with a fork? Do you eat worms?
  • The student in front of the class cannot say anything but BANANAS!
  • The object of the game is to make the student laugh! If he laughs, then the student who made the question gets to go in front of the class and try to go as long as possible without laughing.

This game sounds simple but trust me when I say: students laugh much sooner than you would anticipate.

Here are a few shots of our volunteers using these fun games in the classroom. I hope you get to try them one day and share your experiences.

josh teaching peter teach

If you have any suggestions or questions about anything relating to ESL, leave me a message and I will happily respond!

Chok Dee Kah! (good luck in Thai)

Be well!

Marcia Somellera, ESL coordinator




The Power and Grace of Thailand

I joined ATMA SEVA in July to stay in Chiang Mai for two months, to teach English to novice monks at Wat Phra Non Pa Ketthi, and I’ve now been here two months.  I have happily decided to stay longer!

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Two of my students

I have built many bonds with the novice monks, some of whom I’ll visit at their temples during days off school for casual English lessons. Many wonderful characters, and when I am not at the school, it feels slightly odd not seeing them! A number of students are from hilltribes, so Thai is their second language, and English their third! They try to teach me some words in their local langauge, but I’m still trying to learn Thai! I try to make lessons fun for the novices, including activities and competitions, which they really enjoy, especially when I split the class into teams!

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My classroom!

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Me with some of my students

A few weeks ago myself and other volunteers had a mini English camp weekend in Wiang Haeng, further north towards the border of Myanmar, where we had lessons and activities for the novices there. It was an incredible experience and I gained so much respect for all of them, after we were shown a presentation by the novices, where we learned they grow their own rice, tomatoes and sweet potatoes as well as mango and papaya trees. Furthermore they build their own rooms and huts from the local mud mixed with cement and grass. The novices were wonderful and eager to learn English and take part in the activities, I like to think we all taught each other something.

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English camp at Wiang Haeng

After the presentation, they chanted as we sat at the back and listened before taking part in meditation. They then surprised us with lanterns, one for each of the volunteers, which we set off up into the night sky. In the morning, the novices made waffles for our breakfast, I watched them as they eagerly showed me their culinary skills!
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My new friend with the card he made me

When we said goodbye I was presented a handmade card by one of the novices, which made me get tears in my eyes, so sweet and unexpected.

Living in Chiang Mai is amazing, I have fallen into the way of life here, I have fallen in love with Thailand. Sometimes when I go around Chiang Mai city, I like to let myself get lost and walk around, absorbing everything, from the markets to the temples. So many temples to see, all so uniquely beautiful with great history. Some have lots of visitors and some are wonderfully peaceful, one in particular called Wat Muen Larn, was so peaceful I found myself ready to meditate, and so I did. I spent the rest of the afternoon visiting temples.

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Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai

I am so glad there is an organization like ATMA SEVA and the incredible work they do, it is the best move I have ever made, and I feel so happy and privileged to be working with novices and helping them.

Victoria Castro



Wat Doi Saket project – Eat, Pray, Love, Give

I found ATMA SEVA by chance online, and now I’m in Chiang Mai for 2 months, helping to teach English to young novice monks at Wat Pranon Bagatee in Saraphi.

I arrived on a Wednesday morning, and had my first lesson the next day! I was excited with thousands of butterflies in my stomach at the same time, but with the forwardness, constant smiles and support from everyone I was slowly but surely beginning to feel at ease.

The novice monks were eager to meet the new teacher from London as I was to meet them all, and there are some great characters! It feels like the lessons are full of smiles with a bubbly atmosphere, especially when games are involved!

I had my first lunch with all the students, the monks and other teachers, as well as the few dogs and cats around! But before lunch there’s always a chanting of thanks, which completely moved me to my very soul the first time I heard it. It was all overwhelmingly beautiful, the temple, the kindness, the peace and serenity of it all, I shall never forget those first feelings.

20130712_08061120130712_100101Aside from the teaching, there’s all the exploring of Chiang Mai, with the incredible history and the fact that there are more than 300 wats in this region, as well as hill tribes, mountainous national parks, hot springs, caves and plenty of markets with unlimited food stalls everywhere. It is almost impossible to go hungry!

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One of the things I personally adore is the fact that you can smile at a stranger, and in return get a great smile! This is afterall, the land of smiles, and what a great place to be!

I have now almost been in Saraphi for a week, and it already feels like I have been here longer. Everyone from the other volunteers, the teachers, and the novice monks have made me feel so welcomed and part of the team, the sense of community and togetherness is wonderfully gracious and humbling. I’m eager for each and every day, with so much to do, see and feel, it makes me think these next two months will go by too quickly for my liking!

Getting to know the students and helping them in lessons is very interesting, even just walking around the temple between lessons I will hear “hello teacher” followed by a big beaming cheeky smile!

I found it hard to imagine what it would be like here in Chiang Mai, and now that I’m here, I understand why I couldn’t imagine much, nothing could have prepared me for the genuine kindness and care from everybody here, not just for me, but for each other, everybody helps everybody. 


Victoria Castro



First experience with English camps!

The past five days, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in some English camps as part of my trip to Chiang Mai this summer. I am a seventeen year old senior at Phoenix Country Day School in Phoenix, Arizona. So far in my high school career, I haven’t had formal teaching experience. However in India, over the summer, I taught a group of about fifteen children of migrant construction workers who were impoverished basic English and Math. But now in Thailand, I participated (and occasionally even led) in three different English camps in five days. Three of the days were spent at two different government schools just outside of Chiang Mai. The other two days we traveled to a Dhamma center, in Wiang Haeng, with all the other ATMA SEVA volunteers.

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This is me teaching about body parts

As I had mentioned before, I’ve never been a part of an English camp or any thing similar. Initially, because of this, it was hard to visualize what it would be like. The other volunteers and I were pretty well prepared for our first one with a theme and a game plan for the whole day. I wasn’t too nervous because of this but by the time we got there, it started to kick in that we would be teaching a pretty large group of kids. I haven’t been too good with speaking in front of large audiences so it was intimidating to be in front of a group of almost fifty kids that would be participating. At first, even introducing myself was scary in front of so many watching eyes (having a name that’s a bit hard to pronounce didn’t help). After some initial introductions, we broke into small groups. This was really awesome because I had a smaller group to get to know and do some activities with. From these, I realized that the kids were just happy about getting an opportunity to learn, and they didn’t care too much about how well we did it or whether we made a few mistakes or not. After rotating groups and spending time with the kids, I got a lot more comfortable with the bigger group because I knew everybody, and all of the students had learned my name. Now, I was even able to lead the group for some activities. The following camps went a lot smoother for me after the first experience because I could picture what the camp would be like and all the kids and teachers of the schools we went to were extremely friendly and excited to learn and get to know the volunteers.

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Simon says!

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Small group work with the monks

If I could make suggestions for other people going to their first English camp I would first and foremost say that one should remember that even if you don’t feel completely ready or nervous that these kids are super excited to learn and to practice speaking English with you. Its natural to feel a little nervous but just remember that the kids are probably more nervous talking to you, and once they open up it’s really a blast to spend time with them. Finally, the best part is the satisfaction of when you see the improvement in the time they were with you and to see how excited they are to have learned from you.

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Group shot after our final English camp in Wiang Haeng!

If you have the opportunity to participate in any kind of English camp, I would definitely do it. This was my first experience, and I had a blast teaching the kids and participating in various activities. You may feel a bit nervous or intimidated at first, but, by the end of it, you’ll wish you could do it every day!

Click here to read my first blog entry about the golden triangle and don’t forget to ‘Like’ ATMA SEVA on Facebook

written by: Raghav Agarwal



Teaching Abroad – Pronunciation

Pronunciation. It’s one of the biggest challenges for any English learner, and it is a difficult area to teach. Here we have put together some ideas to help English teachers take on these challenges (or at least start to chip away at them).

Here is one exercise that helps you practice differentiating sounds in English by using minimal pairs (for example the difference between /r/ and /l/ in “rice” and “lice”). This activity has been adapted to reflect sounds that Thai-speakers often struggle with, but feel free to adjust the exercises to reflect the nationalities of your students and/or words they have been struggling with pronouncing correctly. This exercise does a nice job of including the “target sound” at the beginning, middle, and end of words to make sure they get plenty of exposure and practice.

One of the keys to learning to accurately pronounce any language is to watch the speaker’s mouth. It can be a bit awkward to do this at times, however, it can make a world of difference. As an English teacher, it is also important for us to be aware of how you shape your lips and tongue in order to accurately explain to your students how to replicate your pronunciation. Prior to class, take note of these subtle differences of how your tongue curves, where it rests in your mouth, and how your breath flows over it.

For example, the difference between the /sh/ and /ch/ (also denoted as / ʃ /and /t ʃ / ) is particularly challenging for students. It is helpful to start by teaching students the classic librarian “Shhhhhh!” motion and asking them to repeat after you. You then introduce the /ch/ sound by having them repeat “Atchooo!” (sneezing sound) or “Choo, choo!” (train sound). You may also think of other words they may have in their language (i.e., in Thai, they use cho, chang” for elephant, which makes a “ch” sound).

In order to make the /sh/ or / ʃ / sound you must pucker your lips and curl the tip of your tongue slightly, without touching the roof of your mouth like this:


In order to make the /ch/ or / / sound, however, you let your lips relax. Then you touch the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth as if you are going to make a /t/ sound. You quickly move the tip of your tongue forward like this:


If you were to hold your hand close to your mouth, you can also feel how the air coming out of your mouth hits different parts of your hand:

The /ch/ will feel like a short burst of air hitting the upper-middle part of your palm whereas the /sh/ will feel like a sweeping breath moving down your palm.

Pronunciation - hand

Here we’ve put together some other resources to help you in the classroom:

American English pronunciation. Videos do a great job of explaining how you should move your lips, tongue and breath, as well as intonation and word stress.
Website includes audio and video.

British and American English pronunciation. Various resources, videos, games, worksheets and other resources to practice pronunciation.
Website includes audio and video.

British English pronunciation. Type in the word you would like to hear pronounced and hear how to accurately pronounce it.
Website includes audio.

British and American English pronunciation. Type in the word you would like to hear pronounced (also includes the definition). You can switch between American and English pronunciations to hear the differences.
Website includes audio.

American English pronunciation. Type in the word you would like to hear pronounced (also includes translation and audio for other languages).
Website includes audio.

Includes games to interactively practice pronunciation.
Website includes audio.

List of additional minimal pairs to practice pronunciation, including vowels and consonants. Website includes audio.

Great website for children’s classes. This website allows you to create your own flashcards, bingo games, and worksheets depending on the sounds you would like your students to practice and the vocabulary you would like to cover. Practice long and short vowels, consonant pairs, first, middle and last sounds, as well as blending. Also great for letter recognition for elementary level students.

We hope these resources have been helpful. Check back here for other ideas and resources as we will continue posting other resources and classroom ideas in the Teaching Abroad section of our blog.

The ATMA SEVA team



Teaching Abroad: Thai Kindergarten

After nine months in Thailand volunteering and living on the cheap, I eventually found myself in need of some extra cash. So, like many other travelers and expats in Chiang Mai, I landed a part time teaching job at a language institute. But under one condition – I needed to be able to teach Kindergarten. Although I have had lots of experience with kids, from my elementary school experience in America and working with Atma Seva, teaching in a Thai Kindergarten has been quite an adventure! Controlling 30 four year olds is difficult enough, but with the added language and cultural barriers, and the schools focus on strict discipline, I had to learn pretty quickly to adjust to rules of the classroom. I am still learning every class but here are some tips I have picked up along the way!

Make lessons as visual as possible and use objects in the classroom. If you are teaching numbers, count crayons and toys in the room. Or better yet have the students count themselves. If you are teaching colors, make color cards and have the kids find objects and actually walk up to it and match the color card to the object. Even for days of the week, you can write out flash cards, hand them out to students and have them arrange themselves in order.  (*Hint! Only hand out cards to students sitting quietly- they will be excited to play and other students will pick up on the desired behavior.) Flashcards are helpful but be careful not to become reliant on them as the kids will be bored with them fast. Don’t worry so much about preparing too many materials or worksheets; the more you use objects they can see and touch, the more they understand how to incorporate language in everyday life.

Keep them busy and get them tired! If the kids are starting to get tired or zone out, get them up and moving. It might just need to be a stretch break, teaching body parts and classroom commands along the way (ex. stand up and stretch your arms up high!), or a teaching a dance that goes along with the vocabulary but the more they are active during class the more they are attentive and the more vocabulary they will retain. My kids can really only sit for about ten minutes tops before they are antsy and need to get up and move again, I try to plan for 5-10 minutes of instruction/ vocabulary/ flashcards followed by another 5-10 minutes of a group game. If you can teach the words with an action attached that is even better, so even when they are sitting they are still fully engaged.

Use media. Show a short video AFTER they are tired! You can repeat the video and have them sing along or stop the video to point out colors, numbers and vocabulary they might already know. If there is a dance or hand motions that go along with the video, teach the movements before hand, and then practice with the video 2 or 3 times. This is also something to be careful not be reliant on but mixed with other visuals, and games, songs and video are a great way to keep your students interested (and quiet!) and also to introduce new cultural references.

Recommended Video Sites:

Go slow and repeat, repeat, repeat. Begin each lesson using words they already know and build on previous lessons. If you are scheduled to teach days of the week and last class you did numbers, spend the first 5-10 minutes on the numbers review and then use the numbers to count the days of the week. Keep going back to repeat letters, numbers, colors and shapes, and point them out in books, videos, songs and throughout your next lessons.

Keep smiling! Like most of Thailand, when things go wrong it is so important to just keep smiling and stay positive the whole time. Especially for the young kids learning a new language, maintaining a positive attitude helps the students loosen up and feel more comfortable to speak English even when they are making mistakes. There always seems to be a “silent period” before the kids get to know you and start speaking, so the faster you can break them out of that the better.

Other helpful Websites for Kindergarten: http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/group_games_and_activities.htm http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/alphablocks/ http://esl-kids.com

Katherine Devine


Teaching Abroad – Helpful websites & resources

As part of our Teaching Abroad section, we have compiled some helpful websites and resources for ESL/EFL teachers in Thailand and around the world. Below are some websites and resources that our staff, teachers, and volunteers have used to plan lessons, search for fun games and brainstorm activities for their classes. Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions for us or have any other websites/resources that you would like to recommend for other teachers!

Online Quizzes, Games and Puzzles:

Online Forums, Articles and Reference Guides: