Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The Plight of Phuket's Working Animals

Photo from the Phuket Gazette

Pop star and self-self styled Sefie queen, Rihanna, caused a kerfuffle in Phuket recently when she took a photo of herself with a Slow Loris. The subsequent outcry made newspapers around the globe and highlighted the treatment of animals in Thailand's premier tourist destination.

‘Rihanna's Instagram selfie with slow loris leads to the arrest of two poachers in Thailand.’ (Daily Mail: 

‘Thai animal keepers arrested after allowing Rihanna to take selfie with 

protected animal.’ (NME: 

Rihanna's and her entourage had barely time to shake off their hangovers before local authorities swooped and scooped the Slow Loris perpetrators. 

'I have asked police to check the area in Patong beach after Rihanna posted her picture on Friday night with a slow loris,' said Local district chief Veera Kerdsirimongkol told AFP news agency.
Reactive policing like the above does little to save face for the police, who walk down Bangla Road every night and somehow miss the peddlers waving endangered animals in tourists' faces.
Local English language newspaper, The Phuket News, has throw their weight behind the issue, making a video highlighting the abuse. Watch it here: 

Phuket Zoo has also come under a lot of flack on Tripadvisor for its treatment of animals.

Here are its Tripadvisor ratings:

Visitor rating
Very good

One recent vistor to Phuket Zoo said the following about their visit to the zoo:

1 of 5 stars
Three words to describe this hell hole... concrete, chains and steel bars. Not to mention cruelty towards to animals from the keepers and the underfedanimals. All the animals have tiny, poor maintained cages, and the tiger is clearly drugged! When the monkeys and the tiger did not do as they were told, there were hit with a stick. It is simply a place exploiting animals to gain money, which by the conditions of the enclosures and the look of the animals, barely any of the funding reaches the animals. You can clearly see the elephants bones!!! i do not understand how this place is still running! Something needs to be done. Do NOT go and fund this cruelty!! not pleasant and the images stuck in my mind!

The company’s website says the following:

‘Visit Phuket Zoo during your stay and enjoy a wonderfully different type of zoo. Lush tropical gardens invite you to stroll around in the shade of giant trees across bridges onto islands containing all kinds of strange animals.’ 

Visitors have pictured this ‘wonderfully different type of zoo.’ Snapshots of chained monkeys and sullen gibbons show a different picture. Many also report seeing physical abuse from staff, drugged tigers and underfed animals.

Photos of Phuket Zoo, Phuket
This photo of Phuket Zoo is courtesy of TripAdvisor
Photos of Phuket Zoo, Phuket
This photo of Phuket Zoo is courtesy of TripAdvisor

The title of a recent Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand paper states that ''Phuket still hell for protected wildlife." One one evening 23 protected animals were spotted in Patong, and this is set to continue. 

The shameful kickbacks and lack of ethical concern drive those with a conscience to despair, but for those lacking in moral fibre, it's business as usual.  


Sunday, 6 October 2013

The Lady's Silence

Last night I watched The Lady, a film documenting the rise of Aung San Suu Kyi from Oxford housewife to Burmese freedom fighter. It’s difficult not to be touched by the passion, bravery and sacrifice she shows for the Burmese people, who suffered not only the indignity of over a century of British colonial rule, but also decades of brutal military dictatorship, which continues to this day. The actions of Suu Kyi have resulted in millions of Burmese looking to the future with hope, rather than trepidation. However, her silence in recent years in relation to the Rohingya situation in the country’s north has left me perplexed.

In her youth, Suu Kyi left Burma to study in the UK, and while at college met her husband, Michael Aris. They settled in Oxford and lived a comfortable life, but everything changed in 1988 when Suu Kyi visited her dying mother in Burma and discovered her political calling. This period saw the first tentative steps forward for The National League for Democracy, with Suu Kyi flexing her leadership muscles, while molding her philosophy of non-violent political change. Many influential meetings ironically took place in the family home, the very place where her father dreamed of a free Burma half a century before.

Suu Kyi's father, Aung San, played a pivotal role in securing independence from the British, but his assassination just six months before the historic handover meant the father of modern Burma never tasted the sweetness of political autonomy.  Suu Kyi followed in her father's footsteps and attempted to instill dignity and belief into a wounded people, stoking the fire of hope within the nation's heart. 

In the eyes of the Burmese people, Suu Kyi overflows with goodness, and her persona, which is gentle but firm, is a potent catalyst for change.  She represents a flame of hope burning brightly in the face of governmental cronyism and ineptitude. This manifested itself in her landslide victory in the 1990 election, the first democratic election since 1960. However, her win was anathema to the military elite who laughed in the face of the country's collective will and placed Suu Kyi under house arrest, where she remained for the next fifteen years. At the same time, influential members of the National League of Democracy languished indefinitely in Burma’s jails. Their only crime was instigating change in a land where misrule had robbed generations of a future.

There is little doubt that The Lady, as Suu Kyi is affectionately known in Burma, acted with drive and forethought, attempting to fulfill her father's destiny and propel Burma forward towards a better future; however, in the wake of her dominance of Burmese politics, her failure to speak out about the plight of the Rohingya Muslims in the countries north east has tarnished the image of the Nobel peace laureate. 

In recent years, Rakhine state in Northern Burma has been rocked by ethnic violence between Buddhists and Muslims. The severity of the situation, combined with the fact that many Muslim monks are hiking up tension with incendiary comments, led me to consider a number of questions:

Why is this upholder of the good, this embodiment of compassion not saying more?

Suu Kyi's silence strikes a chord of unease in the heart of human rights activists, many of whom are beginning to question her motives.

Is she being politically expedient?

Perhaps Suu Kyi is widely tipped to win the 2015 election and become the leader of the country; thus, a show of support for the Rohingya could infuriate Buddhist voters, who in turn might punish her at the ballot box.  

In June, 2013, Suu Kyi broke her public silence on the Rohingya issue when she condemned the government’s two-child policy, which puts a cap on the number of Rohingya offspring per family. The junta state overpopulation as justification for the policy; however, it’s a Muslim only policy and doesn’t apply to the country’s 90% Buddhist majority.

Who knows what the future holds for Burma, The Lady, or the embattled Rohingya minority. Memories of what happened in Ruanda are still vivid in the minds of international observers, and to prevent the unspeakable happening, Suu Kyi might have to speak out more often to prevent a catastrophe.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Oral Narrative Lesson

Level: Intermediate/upper intermediate/advanced

Language: Past narrative tenses/would/emergent language

Materials: Award Winning Short Film - The Shoe

Time: 90 mins

Extras: Digital Voice recorder (many students now have these on their smartphones)


Tell student to close their eyes and imagine the coldest day imaginable. Snow is falling gently in a large city. The roofs of the houses and a large cathedral are covered in white. It's bright and clear winter's day.

Speaking: Students talk to partner.

1. How would you feel if you were in the city?
2. What would you do on a day like this?
3. Do you think everyone is happy when the weather is so cold?
4. What problems might some people face living in such cold weather?

Group Feedback and focus on emergent language and lexical chunks.

Brainstorm the type of clothing needed to survive is such a climate. Write on WB.

In groups, using the brainstormed language on the WB, students decide on the three most important items of clothing and justify their answers.

Video/Oral narrative:

Show the video to 0.19 and ask students to speculate on the characters and where they live.

1. Are they rich or poor? How do you know?
2. What you you think the father of the girl does for a living?
3. Do you think they have a good relationship? Why/Why not?
4. Compare your house with the one in the video.

Now put the students into small groups and tell them they are going to create an oral narrative together using a digital voice recorder. (this might be a good point to review past narrative tenses - past simple; past continuous; past perfect)

Draw student attention to their senses (sight/hearing/smell/touch/taste)

Tell the student that they need to think about the senses when telling their narrative.

Play the video until 0.46 and pause.

Each group should brainstorm together and then one student from each group speaks the narrative into the voice recorder. Set a time limit. (2/3 mins depending on the level)

As a group speculate on what is going to happen next.

Play the video until 1.34 and pause.

Ask the following questions:

1. How do you feel towards the young girl? Why?
2. How do you think she feels about her life? Justify your answer.

Group brainstorm and record narrative.

Play the video until 2.21 and pause.

Ask the following questions:

1. Describe the relationship between the young girl and her father.
2. How does her father feel when she sees her drawing on the wall?
3. What emotions are the young girl and her father feeling while looking into the shop window?

Group brainstorm and record narrative.

Play the rest of the video and ask the following questions:

1. Is the man a good father? Why/why not?
2. Is the girl a good daughter? Why/why not?

Group brainstorm and record narrative.

Follow up questions:

1. Do you think you would have been satisfied if your father had given you a 'doll shoe' when you were a child? 
2. Does the movie tell us anything about fatherhood/childhood?
3. What adjectives describe the love the young girl and her father show to each other?

Now the groups have completed their oral narratives. Groups swap and listen to each other narratives noting useful language. Complete for all groups. Students will now have a large bank of emergent language in their notebook.

Group feedback.

Writing task: Students now use the new emergent language to write the narrative.

Homework: Student make an oral narrative telling the story of their relationship with their father on a typical day.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Short Story - Alcoholic Case by F. Scott. Fitzgerald

In the story An Alcoholic Case by F. Scott Fitzgerald, an idealistic young nurse is assigned a case with an alcoholic cartoonist. Her role is to assist him overcome his addiction, but after a short time, a lingering threat of violence causes the nurse to walk away.

“Suddenly she dropped it like a torpedo, sliding underneath her hand and slithering with a flash of red and black and the words: Sir Galahad Distilled Louisville Gin. He took it by the neck and tossed it through the open door into the bathroom.”

Her boss agrees with her decision and attempts to find a nurse with more experience dealing with alcoholics. However, her efforts are in vain. The nurse, inspired by reading about Mary Nightingale, decides to be a hero and return to the man as without her he has nothing. When she arrives back at his home, he is perky and full of life, but this mood is short lived. The topic of booze arises, and the man’s facade vanishes. In the final harrowing lines, the man makes up his mind that he wants to die, and the nurse knows she is powerless to prevent his demise.

“She knew death – she had heard it. Smelt its unmistakable odor, but she had never seen it before it entered into anyone, and she knew it before it entered into anyone, an she knew this man saw it in the corner of his bathroom: that was standing there looking at him while he spat from a feeble cough and rubbed the result into the braid of his trousers. It shone there crackling for a moment as evidence of the last gesture he ever made.”

This short story shows that some obstacles in life are insurmountable. Fitzgerard, being an alcoholic, was painting an admission of his own inability to kick the bottle. As sad as the demise of the man is, it’s a poignant reminder of the vice-like grip that alcohol has over many in society, and the premature end it delivers to those who fall under its spell. 


Friday, 1 March 2013

ESL Picture Story - A Lexical Approach

Picture from The British Council

In this lesson, I used  Eric the Engine picture cards from the British Council's Learn English Kids site in order to generate lexical chunks.

Find the pictures here:

Simply log into the site, download the PDF picture story and cut up.

Of course, you can use any pictures for this activity. Even stick men drawings would suffice. 

Stage 1

Shuffle the cards and place them face down in front of the students - one set per group.

Stage 2

Divide the white board into 7 squares.

Stage 3

A student turns over the first card and then discusses the picture (encourage students to be as descriptive as possible) 

Stage 4

Feed back as a class and write emergent lexical chunks, single nouns, verbs, adverbs on the white board. Elicit to fill any holes in language. After card 1 has been discussed, note this language in box 1 on the board. Repeat for all seven pictures.

Stage 5

Once the eliciting and noting is complete, students discuss the story order. Then rub out and correct the box numbers on the board. Encourage students to justify the order. 

"Why do you think that picture comes next?"

Stage 6 

In pairs students tell the story to each other incorporating the lexical chucks and other language on the board. Set a 3 minute limit per student.

Stage 7

Students make a storyboard 



Friday, 1 February 2013

Reverse Reading Revisited

Thanks to Jackie McAvoy supplier the main thrust of inspiration for this lesson.

If you want to check out the original, you can here:

I have modified it slightly and added a visual element.

Level: Pre Intermediate and above

Time: 50 minutes

Vocabulary: Detective, blow up, bridge, gold bullion, criminal, enemy, thunder and lightning, picturesque, waterfall, nature reserve, evil, magician, poisonous snake, lethal, arrest, jail  


Students - Notebook and pen 

Teacher - Download the following images:!/image/3384850608.jpg

Stage 1: Explain to students that something terrible happened to you this morning. Student speculate on what this might be. Feed back and note any emergent language. 

Stage 2: Tell students that you had a story prepared to read to them, but sadly your dog ate it.

Stage 3: Tell students that that they are going to predict what the story was about. Dictate the past tense questions that relate to Mr Jones 'interesting' day.

  1. What was Mr Jones's job?
  2. What was he going to do?
  3. Why?
  4. What was the weather like?
  5. What did he decide to do after that?
  6. What didn't he want to do?
  7. Why?
  8. What was the surprising end?

Stage 4: Students predict the answers. Encourage students to be as imaginative as possible and use dictionaries. 

Stage 5: Monitor and check grammar and spelling

Stage 6: Students mingle and share their prediction with other students

Stage 7: Tell students that you have some clues that show what really happened (the pictures downloaded above directly relate to the 8 prediction questions) Show each picture in turn and elicit as much detail as possible. Push students to be as descriptive as possible and write emergent language on the board.

Stage 8: Student write the real story by using the picture prompts and the new language on the board.

Follow up: Students can make a story board for homework