Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Reader Questions: Getting a University Job in South Korea

Some reader questions from Kyle:

"Would you be willing to give some advice?  I'd like to teach at a Korean University with my Masters in Ed. , a K-12 ESL Certificate (State of Michigan and North Carolina), 4 years of K-8 licensed US teaching experience, and 15 years of K-12 ESL teaching experience in Taiwan.


1. Would being 47 years old make it difficult for me to be hired by hagwons, public schools, and universities?

2. What's the best path to getting a Korean University job that pays at least US$30,000 per year?

3. Is it best to travel to Korea first and job hunt or secure a job before leaving?  (I'm thinking Visas and paperwork here, in addition to the benefits being there before signing contracts).

4. Do you recommend any websites/blogs about working in Korea?

5. Can a qualified teacher like me just show up and find a job or is it always seasonal on schedule like hiring in August and in February?"

My answers:

If you're looking for advice about getting a university job in South Korea, check out my book:

How to Get a University Job in South Korea

It'll have all the information you need, and if not, send me another message and I'd be happy to help.

But, more specific answers:

1. Yes, 47 is a bit old but it's not impossible, especially if you look "young" for your age.  The prime age for most places is between about 25 and 40.

2. See the book!

3. It can go either way, depending on how adventurous you are.  It's often possible to find a better job when your boots are on the ground, but the job market is pretty tight for job-seekers these days and you can burn through a lot of money while waiting for the right one to come along.

4. Check my sidebar for a few blogs that I like.  As far as I know, nobody else is writing exclusively about teaching in Korean universities besides myself.

5. Universities hire seasonally, as well as public schools but hagwons hire year-round and you can literally start almost any week of the year.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Using Timelines-Present Perfect Continuous-Present Perfect

In my advanced conversation class, a chapter in Touchstone Level 3 has a section about the present perfect continuous and the present perfect.  It's actually pretty complicated grammar and not something that students can understand that easily.

For example, what is the difference between these two sentences?

1. "I've been watching Survivor since I was in university." (present perfect continuous)

2. "I've watched survivor since university." (present perfect)

Both are talking about repeated activities that happen mostly in the past, but what is the difference?  It's subtle.  In the first case, it's an activity that began in the past, but is still happening now.  In the second case, it's an activity that began in the past, but it's a bit ambiguous whether or not the activity is happening in the present.

To explain this to students, timelines can be really helpful. 

 Present Perfect Continuous



Present Perfect



Monday, November 17, 2014

How to Make Writing More Interactive

In one of my lower-intermediate conversation classes, we were studying about "evening routines" using Touchstone 2, Unit 8

I did the evening routine listening on page 83, and then followed it up with the writing exercise at the bottom of the page.  In order to make it more interactive, I did the following:

The students had to make 3 or 4 "test" questions based on what they wrote.  Then, they read what they wrote to their partner who had to listen carefully.  Finally, the student asked their partner the test questions.

It was quite useful in making "writing" more interesting than usual and also provided some additional listening, writing (questions) and speaking practice.  The test questions provided a reason to listen.  There were lots of laughs and smiles and good-natured joking when a student couldn't answer their partners questions, or got them wrong.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

There's never enough time!

Yes! I agree completely with this article in the Huffington Post about how, as teachers, we know what is ideal and all the fabulous assignments we should be giving and all those teachable moments we should be taking advantage of but how most days, it's just kind of like triage because there's never really enough of us to go around. 

Having 125+ students who all want 1-1 extensive feedback on their writing, or that same number of students who envision hours of "free-talking" with me, their teacher just doesn't work out if I want to have some semblance of life outside of work.  Triage is the only solution most days.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Fabulously Fun Relative Clause Speaking Activity

This week, my classes have been studying about using relative clauses.  The first class was heavy on the grammar with this quite serious self study relative clause worksheet and some writing practice based on these relative clause family and friend questions. For the second class, I wanted to lighten it up and bit and do some more kind of "fun" things, so I made this "Who or What is it?" game that the students really enjoyed. Here's how to do it:

Make a list of things or people and cut them up into little pieces and put them in an envelope.  Put the students in groups of 4 and the first person has to choose a paper at random and keep it secret. Then, they give hints about it, preferably using relative clauses.

For example, if they chose Barrack Obama, they could say things like, "This is a man who's from the USA." "I'm sure he's someone everyone knows." "He has a lot of power which he uses to influence the whole world."

The other 3 people on the team get to guess who it is and whoever guesses it correctly gets to keep the paper, gets 1 point and then is the next person who chooses a random paper and gives hints.

In order to avoid endless incorrect guesses, I said that if you made an incorrect guess, you were "out" of that round unless all the other people also had incorrect guesses, in which case it starts over.

I gave the students about 15 minutes and at the end, the person in each group with the most points got a small prize.

Check out this Ebook if you want to  get a University Job in South Korea

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Quiet Time is Okay (or, I'm not an Edu-tainer)

A common thing that many English teachers in Korea fall into is feeling like they need to be an Edu-Tainer (Education Entertainer).  I think it's mostly because of how foreign English teachers are portrayed in the media: as clowns (Babos in Korean) or dancing monkeys.  This means that some teachers always feel the need to "perform" and keep the students entertained, excited and happy no matter what. 

I resist this at all costs for the following reasons:

1. I'm not naturally an "entertainer." I'm a bit shy and so being on stage isn't really something I crave or want. 

2. Learning can't always be "fun." Sometimes, you need to memorize vocab, or explore a difficult grammar concept in depth.

3. Students are different.  Some like being entertained, some like working quietly by themselves.

4. I'm all about student-centered classrooms.  An Edutainer is all about a teacher-centered classroom, which is something that I think is really bad for students.

5. I consider myself a "real" teacher.  I actually want my students to take my classes seriously and learn something.  I think this is probably best achieved by taking myself seriously as an educator and not falling into the Edutainer trap.

Check out this Ebook if you want to  get a University Job in South Korea

Monday, November 3, 2014

Touchstone Series: a Short Book Review

I used the Touchstone Seriesyears ago at my previous uni and remember hating it.  Like the pages were filled with all these "speak like a native speaker" sections which were just bizarre, and each page had so much stuff crammed into it that it usually stressed me out.  Maybe part of the problem was the program I was teaching in; I "shared" the book with other teachers and was assigned 1 or 2 pages/class so had to teach the pages I hated instead of just skipping over them like I normally would.

Anyway, it seems like a new edition has come out and Touchstone is not as terrible as it once was.  Plus, I usually just choose 1 or 2 pages out of each chapter and then add in my own material so the I just don't use the pages that I don't like.  I still much prefer a series like 4 Corners or World Link but I don't have any major complaints about Touchstone for a general, 4-skills kind of textbook.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Relative Clauses- Student-Centered Style

Relative clauses are important and we use them all the time in the English language.  Of course Native English speakers just use them naturally and rarely make mistakes and even use reduced relative clauses all the time without even noticing it.  The problem comes when teaching them to students because while important, it's also something that most students aren't really confident in, and it's also very heavy on the grammar and metalanguage (language used to talk about language-"reduced relative clause" for example).

So what to do? 

1. Skip that chapter in the book and save yourself a headache?  No! It actually is important and useful (for intermediate and advanced level students-I'm not sure I'd attempt this with beginners). 

2. Become a Powerpoint warrior?  No!  It goes against everything good and holy student-centered teaching.  It's the least effective teaching method and students usually just end up sleeping.

3. Attempt to teach it in a student-centered way?  Yes!  It seems like the best solution to me.

I made this Relative Clause Self-Study Worksheet in an attempt to get students to "discover" the grammar without me lecturing about it.  I'm going to point out the page in the book with the grammar explanation and direct students to refer to it if they are unsure; all of the students have studied this before so I'm hoping they can activate their prior knowledge.

After doing this worksheet, students will do a page in their book focusing on the forms (very controlled practice).  They'll compare with their partner first and then we'll check answers as a class.

Next, they'll think about 1 person-a friend or family member and write down 5 or 6 sentences about them, using relative clauses (2-3 object clauses and 2-3 subject clauses) (somewhat controlled but less than previous exercise).  They'll share with their partner who will think of some interesting follow-up questions.

Then, it's finally time for free(r)-practice!  I'll put this up on the screen: Friends and Family Relative Clause Discussion Questions and ask students to choose 2 or 3 questions to answer.  They can think of 3 or 4 sentences/ question, one of which must use a relative clause. They'll share their answers with their partner and have a discussion together.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Thinking about coming to Korea to Teach English as a Second Language?

Maybe you've found your way to this blog through a Google search about Teaching ESL in South Korea.   On this site, I generally talk almost exclusively about things related to teaching at universities in South Korea, but here are some of my other sites that you might find helpful in making your decision:

Top 5 Reasons to Teach ESL in South Korea

Top 5 Reasons you Shouldn't Teach ESL in South Korea

(who doesn't like a bit of balance?!)

Top 10 ESL Teaching Myths

Check out this book if you want to  get a University Job in South Korea

Monday, October 27, 2014

Advanced level small classes of burnt-out students= Settlers of Catan

These past few weeks, I've had some classes of students who are preparing for internships in the USA who are burnt out.  They've been studying for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week for the last 4 months or so and they've had enough.  The classes are getting smaller and smaller as students are going to the USA, having to prepare documents or going to the US embassy for interviews.

These days, it's only 3-5 students and all of them speak English extremely well so I decided it was time to teach them how to play Settlers of Catan.  I love playing board games and so anytime I can do it in class, I will!  Other teachers in this program are showing movies, chit-chatting about random stuff or going out for lunch so I don't exactly feel terrible about the lack of "serious-study."

Anyway, I gave a quick run-down of the rules in about 15 minutes, in English and they understood easily enough, despite the fact that none of them had played the game before.  We got set-up, with a bit of coaching from me about the initial placements and played a couple games.  The students seemed to really enjoy it and I did as well!  They even spoke English basically the entire time without any prompting from me, which I was impressed with.

Give it a try in your classes if you teach small groups of really high-level students.  They're usually so tired of the normal "conversation" classes that they'll probably be happy for a new challenge.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Tefltastic: Fabulous ESL Games, Activities, Worksheet and other goodness

I was perusing the Internet this morning, searching for some fun activities or games to use in my classes to review the future verb tenses and I ran across TEFLtastic.  It is indeed quite a fantastic site and I found exactly what I was looking for here:

Future Tenses Games/Worksheets

It's almost like he does what I do, just better.  Check it out!