Thursday, September 29, 2011

Kotesol International Conference 2011 Presentation

It's official...I'll be presenting during the terrible most coveted 9am on Sunday morning slot at the upcoming Kotesol International Conference in Seoul Oct. 15/16.  I guess my blogging fame has not spread to the masses yet.

Anyway, I'm presenting on Motivation.  Book your rooms and set those alarms early!

Monday, September 26, 2011

A writing activity for beginners

In one of the extra classes that I teach, "Writing" was on the schedule for today.  The only problem is that they are beginners, so it can be kind of difficult to make it happen in an interesting, easy-to-understand kind of way.  So, this is what I often do in this situation:

Take whatever you're studying in the unit.  In this case, it was free time leisure activities.  Then, make a fill in the blank paragraph on the board or Powerpoint.

I live in ______.  In _________, people like to __________, _____________, ______________, and _____________in their free time.  Young people think ____________is __________because ______________. 

First I fill in the blanks using the city where my uni is (and where I happen to live).  Then, I turn the students loose to do their own hometown.  It takes about 5 minutes.  My hope it that the students can get the hang of making some interesting, grammatically correct sentences and still use some of their own creativity and thinking power.

A fun game to review "P.P."

Have your students write four "I've....." sentences.  3 are true, 1 is false.  Then, if you have a small class (under 8), have the students read out their sentences and the other students guess which one is false.  For more advanced (or just really small) classes, they can ask some questions to try to figure out the false one.  Once the students guess (individually), they get a point for a correct guess.  If you have a bigger class, put the students in groups of 5 or 6 and let them play together while you supervise.
teaching esl grammar

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

Some Oldies (Classroom Activities), Round 2

A few practical things for the classroom from waaaay back in 2009:

An Interesting Writing Activity for ESL Students

An English Grammar Review Game

A Couple ESL Vocab Games

1, 2, 3 strikes...and you're out

In my classroom, I try to only deal in positive behavior because I think that 98% of my attention should be given to the people who are genuinely trying to learn.  And of course the challenge is to engage everyone, so that 100% of the class wants to be there and learn English in a productive, cooperative kind of way.  I do this mainly through my reward/motivational system that I use.  However, there are times that this fails and I'm forced to pay attention to disruptive people, as was the case yesterday.  Here is what happened:

Strike 1: When I start class, I expect everyone to stop talking.  These 4 boys continued their conversation despite me looking clearly at them and waiting for them to stop.  I foresaw further problems, so I split them up by moving 2 boys to the front of the class.  The 2 boys remaining at the back improved their behavior so there were no further problems.  The 2 boys at the front were a different story.

Strike 2: The lesson continues and I'm doing a short grammar lesson.  I expect silence when I'm doing this except when I'm asking for some feedback.  Of course, if someone is confused they can ask their partner for help, but it's usually obvious when it's not idle chit-chat.  These 2 boys at the front were chit-chatting away, quite loudly so that is was enough to distract other students.

I said to them, "This is #2.  #1 was moving to the front.  If #3, goodbye and I will mark you absent."  The lesson continues.

Strike #3: We were playing a game that involved each team giving an answer.  I don't mind a little banter back and forth between the teams as long as I can hear the answers clearly.  These 2 boys were being obnoxiously loud so I told them to be quiet because I couldn't hear the answers from the other teams.  This was strike 2.9.  A minute later, they are being way louder than is appropriate in a classroom (yelling), so I asked them to leave.

I like the 3 strikes because almost nobody gets to 3, even kids.  In fact, most people calm down and act appropriately after the first warning. After the second one, students get the seriousness of it and usually feel quite bad about it and most of them apologize to me after class.  Anyway, if you're struggling with discipline, try it out and see if it works for you.

Readers: what do you do for discipline in your class?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

7 Reasons to Teach ESL at Home

Most of the readers of this blog teach ESL outside of their home country.  However, here is a nice article about teaching ESL at home.  I'm almost convinced...if only the pay for Canadian ESL Teachers was better. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Your students are not morons

I was having an interesting conversation with a couple of my coworkers the other day about how the teachers at our uni think about the students.   Obviously some of them (I hope me!) treat them with kindness, and respect.  Others think that the students are total idiots because their English ability is so low.  The thing is, we work at a science and engineering school so most of our students are in these fields and obviously languages are not their strong suit, science and math is.  Just because someone is bad at English doesn't mean that they're a moron.  My coworker mentioned that if people judged his intelligence based on his Korean ability he'd rank somewhere in the 3-year old toddler range. 

So what I'm saying is this: treat your students with respect, even if they don't know a word of English.  They are probably very good at something else.  Or, have just had a hard few years but life will get better for them later.  Or, they just want to be a taxi driver, so who really cares if they speak English or not.  As a teacher, you have a chance to show kindness and love, and have a positive influence in people's lives.  Starting with the basic premise that your students are stupid idiots is not a good way to do this. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

On why I don't speak Korean in front of the class

My Korean language ability is at an extremely high beginner level (venturing into intermediate?) but I will never, ever speak it in front of the class.  It's often better than the English ability of many of the students that I teach.  Check out A Geek In Korea's story for why speaking Korean is not such a good idea (unless you're really good).  It just seems like a testing ground frought with mine-fields and potholes where the potential for me to make mistake after mistake is just too high, which makes me look ridiculous and stupid, which is something I ALWAYS try to avoid when teaching. And after all, it's not a Korean class.

However, I will use my Korean for speaking 1-1 with students who genuinely don't know English well.  Like they ask me for a translation of a word, or need to talk about why they won't be in class next or something like that.  Sometimes with Chinese students, it's the only way to communicate because sometimes they literally can't even read English.  And, if we're learning new vocabulary that I think the students don't know already, I'll look it up on Google translate and write the Korean on the board for them.  And I'll use the Korean for things like absences, attendance, future verb, etc that the students really don't know usually. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Reader Question...which city to live in (besides Seoul)

These ones from Kristy:

1. Are you still in Korea?
2. Also, I'm trying to decide which city to live in (not Seoul).

1. Yes, I am still living in Korea, despite always saying that this will be my last year :)  When you've been here 6 years, and have a car and a cat, and friends, and a life, and an excellent job with good salary, it's hard to make the break.  

2. As for which city to live in, the choices are plenty.  There are  a few basic options:

A. The big cities like Seoul, Daegu, Daejeon and Busan.  These places will have everything foreign available and plenty of expat clubs and cultural experiences to partake in.  While Busan is a bit of an exception, since it's at the ocean, the others are concrete jungles for the most part so if you like your "green" then they might not be for  you.

B. A satellite city of Seoul like Bundang, Incheon or Suwon.  They are similar to "A" in terms of opportunities and concrete jungle-ness.

C. Jeju Island.  This can be a very isolating place but it's perfect for the outdoor lover who likes scuba diving, hiking, biking, surfing, etc.  I would move to Jeju in a heartbeat, if I could find a comparable job to what I have now (it doesn't exist: I've looked!)  But think about it: anytime you want to leave Jeju, you'll need to take a short plane ride, or a long-ish boat ride.

D. A smaller city, such as Cheonan (where I live), Chungju, Sokcho, Changwon etc.  They have between 200 000- 1 000 000 people.  There are enough expats to get your fill of all things foreign, and will even have a few foreign restaurants but the pace of life will be much slower and it will be easier to escape the concrete.  I find that I spend outrageous amounts of money in the big cities because I'm tempted by foreign food and bookstores, but in Cheonan not much is happening so it's easier to save.  And I also spend a lot of time at home, playing board games with friends and drinking my homebrew, or having a BBQ with coworkers.  So, it's just different than Seoul.

E. The countryside.  This can be a nightmare if you're a newbie to Korea.  Think about how life will look in a small town with only 3 foreigners (who you maybe loathe) and no Koreans who speak English well enough to hold a decent conversation.  It will be a long, long year unless you come with a partner and you can help keep each other sane.  I would personally never do it. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Is Korea Worth it? You be the Judge, Part 2

An update to my previous post about the new visa regulations and the hassle it was.

Is Korea Worth it? You be the Judge, Part 1

About 6 months after starting the whole process to get my diploma certified (I'm Canadian so no Apostille, instead my process is different) and my Criminal Background Check certified, I received the package yesterday from my mother. 

And the EXTREME annoyance that I felt at the start of the process has greatly dissapated and the moderate annoyance I felt part-way through when I wrote that last blog entry has fizzled out into a buzzing mosquito amount of annoyance.

So it's probably time to re-visit the question of whether Korea is worth it or not.  My answer is that it depends.  The paperwork is a huge hassle, but much less so if you're actually in your home country doing it.  Like say you've finished uni and have your degree and transcripts and want to go to Korea 4 months later.  It would definitely not be too annoying and I would say to go for it. 

However, if you're in another country besides your home one and are looking for the basic level ESL Job at a hagwon, then no, it would not be worth it in my eyes.  Hagwon jobs are notoriously bad and salaries have been stagnant for the past few years while the cost of living keeps increasing.  And does anyone know whether interviews at the consulate in your home country are still happening these days?  If yes, I wouldn't fly back home just for that rigamarole. 

If you have your eye on the prize though (a Korean Uni Job), then jump through all the hoops and get it done, because once you get one of these jobs, life is pretty good here in the ROK in terms of salary, teaching conditions, vacation, and OT opportunities.  However, it's hard to find one of these jobs without a Masters and experience, so don't get your hopes up, newbies to the ESL Teaching world with only a BA!

I'm been blathering on.  To sum it up, is Korea worth it?  Yes, in some situations.  In others, probably not and look at some other countries first (Vietnam, China, Hong Kong, Middle East).


As the years go by, I'm learning more and more about how to do things efficiently.  For example, thanks to the genius of Google Documents and having done the work already, (refer to this previous post I did about it: Lesson Planning in the Cloud) I'm able to do 4 weeks worth of lesson prep in about 1 hour.  With all the holidays at the beginning of semester, it basically brings me up to midterm exam review.

And the online homework thing for the main book I use: Top Notch.  Here is an old post about Top Notch Online Homework  The question that nobody could answer last semester (the first time my uni used this book/online program) was if you could assign the homework once and get it to filter down to all of our 8 or 9 sections, or whether we had to assign the same homework 8 or 9 times.  I ended up assigning the same homework 8 or 9 times, as did almost all of my coworkers.  However, this year we all learned the secret to assigning it only once.  As a result, time spent assigning homework dropped to about 2 hours (for the entire semester).  I'll just have to check the final grade at the end.

I feel good about start of the semester efficiency and wanted to share my happiness with you.