Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Kotesol International Conference 2014 Schedule

According to this tentative schedule for the 2014 Kotesol International Conference, it looks like I'll be presenting in the prime-time: Saturday at 1:00.  I'll be talking about the use of portfolios in evaluating EFL writing, with a focus on university students, but it could be adapted to other age groups as well.

I REALLY LOVE meeting readers of my blog, so please come.  Don't be shy and be sure to introduce yourself.

If you're going to miss the conference in Seoul, it's possible to (most likely) see me again, speaking on this same topic on Oct. 18th in Busan at the local Kotesol Busan-Gyeongnam Chapter meeting.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Survey Activity to practice Present Perfect and Simple Past

Present Perfect and Simple Past Survey Activity.

It basically works by students having to ask their classmates the "Have you ever" questions, changing the verb in brackets into PP form.  If the answer is yes,  they then switch to simple past (like normal conversational style) and ask 2 more additional questions, with the partner making sure to answer using the correct verb form for the simple past.  

It corresponds to unit 2 in Touchstone Level 3.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Kotesol International Conference 2014

A reminder that the Kotesol International Conference 2014 is coming soon!  It's just 3 weeks away on Oct.3-5 at Coex in Seoul.  You can easily pre-register for the conference  online and save yourself the hassle of waiting in line on Saturday morning.  It's one of the biggest English teaching conferences in Asia and by far the biggest event in Korea.

I'll be presenting on "Portfolios as a Means of Evaluating EFL Writing."  The final presentation schedule isn't up yet, but I'll let you know the details as soon as I find out.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Cigarette Prices in Korea to Double: Lesson Plan

This lesson plan is for a 1.5 hour "News Club" discussion class.  I'm actually excited to talk about it; the topic should be pretty interesting to everyone.

Cigarette Prices Lesson Plan

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Fossilized conversation partners

In Korea (and in most other places too), a thing that happens is that partners in language courses tend to get fossilized, which means that the same people tend to sit together for all classes during the course.  I hate this for a lot of reasons including:

1. That poor person who gets stuck with the worst student in the class.  The burden should be spread among everyone.

2. It gets boring to talk to the same person everyday.

3. It doesn't train students for life.  I want my students to be able to converse with almost anyone, in English.

4. Mistakes get fossilized among partners.  Maybe someone makes a mistake that impedes meaning.  Their partner asks for clarification once and the person gives it and then continues to make that same mistake over and over and never gets any more feedback that that mistake is impeding meaning.

5. There's no chance for many students to encounter a partner at a slightly higher level of language development (the zone of proximal development), which can be extremely helpful.

It's really easy to mix it up and make the students change partners.  I usually do it randomly by just assigning numbers or letters or whatever, but there are plenty more scientific ways to do it too.  I teach the same class twice a week, so I'll generally let them sit with their friend for one class and then assign a random partner for the next one.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

English Teaching and Building Passive Income Streams

Over on my other blog, Freedom Through Passive Income, I talk about how English teaching can be a good job for building passive income streams and give some tips about how to do this.  English teaching in Korea is actually quite a decent job for anyone looking to get a bit more financially secure since the salaries are often quite high and there is also a lot of lucrative OT work available.  Check out the post here:

English Teaching and Passive Income Stream Building

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Teacher Centered Classrooms vs. Student Centered Classrooms

I'm a big fan of student centered classrooms, perhaps due to the influence of my Celta trainers and the Delta stuff I've done.  The other part of it is that studies have shown that lectures are the least effective way to transmit information and that students retain very little of that information even hours later.  In a second language, I'd guess that even less is transmitted.  Which is why I strive to create student-centered classrooms for at least 95% of any given class.

What does this mean?  It means that the students are actually engaged almost all of the time, either with some material or with each other and that I quite rarely lecture.  I try to create activities that make it easier just to actively participate, than to not.  Even discovering new information or material or vocab is possible through a process of discover rather than me just telling them.  Students compare answers with each other, instead of me always giving it to them.  The teacher is more of a guide down the path of language discovery, rather than the all-knowing guru.

In a teacher-centered classroom, the teacher is more of a performer, on stage and is talking, a lot.  Students in Korea seem to love it.  And probably for good reason!  It's actually so easy just to let all these words pass you by, passively and if no response is expected, then there is really no incentive to even actively listen.  But, it's just so ineffective and really quite useful for student's language development, which in theory is what I'm getting paid to promote.

Teacher centered language learning classrooms are just so, so wrong on so many levels and yet I hear (literally with my own ears) and get told by students of so many of my colleagues who do this.  Everyone should take the Celta!  My small rant is now done :)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Why I love teaching presentations

It's seems like at my uni I've become somewhat of a presentation guru.  I keep getting classes that require me to teach them, which actually makes me very happy, especially because I've been using the most fabulous Speaking of Speech: Basic Presentation Skills for Beginners.

Even in classes that are not really dedicated to speeches, but which fall under the general umbrellas of "conversation" or "whatever the hell you want to teach," I'll try to slip in a little public speaking and presentations.  Here's why:

1. It's a concrete set of skills which students can hold onto and use at a later date.

2. It helps increase confidence when speaking English.  Things like eye contact and speaking loud enough are important, even in general conversation.

3. Presentations at job interviews are big these days in Korea.

4. I'd far rather listen to some (well done!) presentations for the speaking portion of a midterm or final exam than actually engage in 1-1 conversations with over a hundred students, which leaves me exhausted for weeks.

Monday, August 25, 2014

2 of my favorite cards games for students

If you're looking for some card games to play in class with your students (kids or adults), check out Phase 10 or Skip Bo.  Phase 10 takes quite a while to play but it can be adapted into Phase 5 or something like that for a shorter game.  Skip-Bo is kind of like Uno but it has the novelty factor going for it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How to start a class

How to start a class is something that I waver back and forth on and I'd actually like some ideas and suggestions on it.  I've done a lot of things over the years ranging from the, "Hi everyone, how are you?" to giving students some free-writing time, or things like riddles as a warm-up.  They have their various pros and cons, but these days for bigger classes, I'll usually just start with "Hi everyone, this is what we're doing today...."  And then I'll go over the plan for the class.  This semester, I'm planning to follow that up with attendance and then 2 riddles as a kind of warm-up.

For small classes, I do much the same but I get a bit of banter going on.  Banter with big groups of students in Korea usually doesn't work that well so I try to avoid it.

Tips from the readers?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What gets me down about teaching in a Korean Uni

Teaching in a Korean Uni is truly an excellent job and I have very few complaints about it.  Compared to almost anything else I could be doing, it's probably the most chilled out job I could almost imagine.  There is NEVER an English teaching emergency of any kind.  But something that kind of gets me down is the futility of it.  Or at least what seems like futility.

For almost everything I teach, there are no learning outcomes or expectations of any kind, unless I make them myself.  But, if I make them too high and actually challenge students, I'll probably get low evaluations and lose my job.  Teaching in Korean most often feels like I'm just filling the time, while just having to look the part of "professor" but it doesn't really matter if I actually teach anyone anything.

I'm feeling down and out.  Can I make it another 1.5 years to the end of my contract?  Maybe yes, maybe no.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Student Ridiculousness: a Small Rant

Yesterday, I taught an advanced level class where the students are preparing for internships in various locations around the world.  I'm covering the "general English" portion by doing discussion/listening/reading about various topics (that are interesting to me!) like Korea's aging society or workplace discrimination. 

There were only 4 students in class yesterday and three of them were excellent, participating in class and trying to figure out new vocab and phrases and actually thinking about the issue and coming up with some constructive responses. 

But, one of the students kept looking at her desk and not really participating, at all.  Her answers consisted almost exclusively of "yes," "no" and "I don't know."  When pressed for more details, she would just giggle.  I casually walked over to check out what she was reading and it was some kind of English grammar book, that was almost all in Korean.  And I thought to myself, how bizarre because it seems to me that her time, in a class of only 4 students, with a native English speaker would be far, far better spent actually interacting with that native speaker and the other students.  Like she's going to America in about 3 months, where she will have to actually interact with real, live English speakers on a daily basis.  I just don't get it.  Like really don't get it.