TEFL: Activities Using Little to No Resources

One of the more challenging aspects of teaching in Kosovo is working with few resources. We have chalkboards/chalk and (some) textbooks (half of my classes don’t have books yet … and school started a month ago). That’s pretty much it. The Peace Corps wants us to develop sustainable new ideas for the classroom. Even if I could afford to buy extra materials, that really isn’t fair to the other teachers, who might not be able to do so.

I’ve mentioned previously that this is my first experience teaching in a classroom. I’ve been scouring the Internet for ideas for classroom activities. Printouts are a challenge. My school has one printer, and it isn’t even an industrial-sized one you see in offices across the U.S. It’s closer to the size you might have in your home office. So, printing out materials for dozens of students every day isn’t really an option.

I’ve rounded up some of the best activities I’ve found so far that require few to no resources. I’ll likely continue to add posts like these to the blog as I discover/come up with more ideas. There are a million “icebreaker” games out there, but I’ve focused on educational activities where students have to speak or write in English.

Teaching Present Continuous
1. One student comes up to the front of the classroom and acts out a daily activity.
2. The other students have to call out what he/she is doing. “He is brushing his teeth.” “He is washing the dishes.”

Hangman (for use with any vocab words)
1. Allow students to take turns acting as the “hangman,” choosing words and calling on their classmates to guess.

Teaching Parts of the Body
1. Sing “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”
2. Draw a body on the chalkboard and have students come up to label parts

A Tree Map (used to teach are/can/have)
Draw something that looks like this on the board:
|             |           |
Are       Can     Have

And ask students to help you fill in the tree. Example: Spiders
“Spiders are hairy.” “Spiders can jump.” “Spiders have eight legs.”

1. Describe a room and have students draw what they hear
“There is a coffee table in the middle of the room. On the table is … Under the table is …Beside the table is … ”

Stand Up If …
1. Have students make a circle with their chairs. Remove one of the chairs.
2. Have a student volunteer stand in the middle of the circle.
3. The student volunteer has to come up with a sentence, such as, “Stand up if you’re wearing a white shirt.”
4. All the students wearing a white shirt must stand and try to find a different chair, while the person in the middle also tries to find a chair.
5. The last person standing has to come up with the next sentence.

**I compiled these into a downloadable PDF: tefl-esl-activities-using-little-or-no-resources.

If anyone out there has other ideas, please feel free to share!

Take Me to Kishë

As I’ve mentioned previously, I am living in a Catholic village in Kosovo. Catholics are in the minority here, as 95% of Kosovars are Muslim.


When I first met my permanent host family back in July, they had other family members visiting. One of my host father’s sisters is a nun, and she was there. Inevitability, someone asked me if I am Catholic. When I said no, the nun turned to me and said, in English, “No problem.” (Which made me like her immediately.)

The Albanian word for church is “kishë,” pronounced like the breakfast food “quiche.” My village’s kishë is at the end of my dirt road.

I attended services with my host mother and host cousin/student the Sunday before last. The church in our village is fairly small and not very ornate (ex: there aren’t any stained glass windows.) The service was only about an hour long, and of course, it was conducted in Albanian.

Also, I don’t know how you could’ve missed this news but in case you did, Mother Theresa was recently canonized. Mother Theresa was Albanian. 🙂

Questions About Schools in Kosovo

My friend Dana loves it when she makes “guest appearances” on this blog. (Hi, Dana!) She recently emailed me a bunch of questions about school. I thought about making a video to answer them, but I am lazy so, no.

What ages are they again?
I teach 7th and 8th grade, so they are eleven to … fourteen?

Is it just you and the kiddos all day? Is there anyone else in the classroom with you?
No, I am not supposed to ever be alone in the classroom. I am partnered with a Kosovar co-teacher. The goal of Peace Corps is to help teachers here develop new methods of teaching, and to develop sustainable teaching materials.

How long do you have each class?
40 minutes

How many classes a day do you teach?
It varies … 3-5 classes per day. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to teach 20 classes per week.

What time does school start and end?
Most schools in Kosovo operate on two shifts, morning and afternoon. I work mornings, so 8:00-1:00. I think the afternoon shift starts at 1:00 and goes to 4 or 5:00.

What’s all the rage on the playground?
Because the school day is short, I haven’t observed an official recess time.

Are they soccer kids?
Totally. Volleyball is also a popular sport here.

What’s the big activity for them?
I don’t know.

What gets them excited?
They seem to be into all of the things American kids are into. One of my students has a cool Spiderman/Batman pencil case. Another student has an adorable Hello Kitty backpack I want to steal. (Of course, I am kidding. I would never steal from a child. Maybe.)

What are the other classes most of your students are taking?
The basics … Shqip (Albanian), English, math, geometry, physics, geography, history, physical education …

Are they led down a vocational route, or a route to higher education?
Both. My understanding is that kids take a test at some point. Depending on how they score, some are sent to vocational school, while others apply to college.

What is the school structure? Is there a principal? Who do you report to?
I report to the school director, who I believe reports directly to the Ministry of Education. (Side note, I love that name. It reminds me of the Ministry of Magic in Harry Potter.)

How many grades are there?
All of them. 🙂

Do the older kids have after school jobs?
I don’t think so. Employment here is scarce for adults. I don’t think most children work.

Are there any sort of extra curricular activities?
If you’re talking like a drama club or something, not that I’ve seen. Some volunteers run programs like English Clubs, etc. There’s also a new poetry competition that’s starting up, and a push to start chess clubs in schools.


Thanks for your questions, Dana!

Kosovar Food + Recipes

I’m not terribly interested in talking about food (I only like food when I am shoveling it into my face). However, my friend Lisa asked me to do another food post. And since I love Lisa, here you all go.

In this post, I’ll be including pictures of traditional Kosovar food I’ve eaten, along with links to where you can find the recipes (in English). Think of how you can impress your friends, Kosovar and otherwise, by serving these foods. 🙂

First up is a picture of this fried dough thing. It was delicious (I ate like four or five). I was also really excited to eat these because they reminded me of beignets from New Orleans. (I emailed this pic to my dad to remind him of our trip there.) I found a recipe for them here.



Next, we have pite (pronounced “pita”). I don’t know how to describe pite, other than to say it’s dough with filling. I’ve had it with leeks (ew), cheese (not bad), and pumpkin (now, that’s a delightful autumn treat!). If you want to try your hand at making pite, here is a recipe.

Last, we have flia. Flia is a fairly polarizing food among the Americans I know. Some people love it, some people hate it. I am fairly indifferent to it. Flia is just layer upon layer of dough. That’s it. And it’s traditionally cooked over an open fire. I watched my host mother make it once in 85-degree weather. Um, no thanks. If you are feeling ambitious, here is a flia recipe.



I Applied for the Peace Corps and You Should, Too

On October 1, the application for Peace Corps Kosovo 2017 closes. That means you have barely a week left to apply. (Of course, there are other programs to consider, too. I just wanted to make a plug for my own program!)


Are you feeling trapped in your boring office job? Do you want to help people? Do you like to travel? Do you enjoy eating the same foods over and over again? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you should think about applying.

I spoke to a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer before applying. (You can see my application timeline here.) She told me, “Apply even if you’re just thinking about it.” That was sound advice, so I am repeating it here. Even if you’re on the fence about applying, why not just do it and see what happens?

I was feeling a little down recently, so I made a list to remind myself of all the reasons I joined the Peace Corps. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • To help others
  • To be proud of something
  • To do something different with my life
  • To experience something new
  • To meet new people
  • To change my worldview
  • To learn more about another place
  • To have more time to write and be creative
  • To open new doors in my future
  • To show others another way of living


So, if you’d like to apply to serve in Kosovo starting in June 2017, click this link!


Friday Gratitude

Media Consumption this week:

  1. I’ve been watching episode after episode of Broad City and laughing. (The show is on its 3rd season, so I am late to the party.) Here is my favorite scene (11 seconds):
  2. I also finished my sixth book since I’ve been in Kosovo: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. My official review: Meh.
  3. I downloaded Hillybilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. It has been getting a lot of attention, so I am excited to read it. (Thanks again, Chicago Public Library!)

And while we’re on the topic of books, one of my favorite authors, Tana French, has a new novel coming out October 4. It’s called The Tresspasser.

I track my blog statistics, and sometimes I can see what search terms bring people to my site. This made me smile, in an “awww” kind of way:
I hope things work out for you, whoever you are! (Also, for the record, I’ve never posted about either of my host mothers hating me. Weird that you would end up on my blog.)

Also, here is a plug:
I’ve been reading Jackie’s blog for years, and she recently opened an etsy shop to share her beautiful photography.

Have an awesome weekend, everyone! Talk to you Monday.

Crochet Project: Circular Scarf

I’ve crocheted a few projects in the past, but I am definitely still a beginner. Crochet is something I would like to become more proficient at, so I’ve been spending a fair amount of time watching YouTube videos to learn different techniques.

I wanted to make a scarf as a gift for a friend who has done a lot for me here. I found this video to be extremely helpful and easy to follow:

I opted for red (a cheery color for dreary months) and gray (my second-favorite color, after purple). This also happens to be the same colors used in the video.

After I learned the stitching, the rest of the project was easy. However, after I crocheted three rows, I realized that the scarf was insanely long. I don’t know how that happened. I measured before I began.

I cut/unraveled the ends of scarf. It looked like this:

cut scarf with scissors

It made me a bit nervous, like, had I just wrecked my work? I messaged a former co-worker, who first taught me to crochet. She suggested unraveling the ends a bit more and tying them off, and then connecting them to make the scarf circular (something I had been considering, but wasn’t sure about).

So first, I unraveled/tied off the ends, and then used a tapestry needle to weave the ends back through the scarf.


I still thought the edges looked rough, though, so I finally decided to make the scarf circular by crocheting the ends together.

Here’s me modeling the finished project: