Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Memory Circle

This is a game that I often use with smaller (less than 10 students) and younger students (middle/elementary school) but I've also used it with uni students with good results.

You can make a rule as to what kind of words the students can pick. If we're studying food and drinks, I'll say that the students can only use those. New vocab from a vocab book, only those words. Past tense verbs, then only sentences from the past.

Everyone will stand up, in a circle, and I will start the game off. "I ate pizza last night." The next student says, "She ate pizza last night, and I studied yesterday." The next student, "She ate pizza last night, he studied yesterday and I watched TV." And so on it goes, around the circle. If someone misses and gets it incorrect, they have to sit down and the game is over. I usually let it go until there are 2 or 3 of the geniuses left and then I give them a prize of some sort and start over with the same rules, or a new set of criteria.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Lesson Planning

...for my students is perhaps less than ideal.

But perhaps, they are less than ideal students. Very low motivation, with the exception of a few in each class, a very low level when they start with some literally not being able to say their name and major, they straight-up refuse to do homework in most cases, they will skip the most classes they possibly can without getting an "F" and attempt to cheat their way through tests. And at the end of the semester, they expect to get an A+. It's almost laughable.

Anyway, that's life at a second/third tier uni in Korea so it goes with the territory. I'm not exactly dealing with the best and the brightest with the exception of a few majors here: robotics, nursing, animation, fashion, which for some reason attract much better students. And what electrical engineering student who just wants to stay and work in Korea really cares about English? I can understand and don't really blame them for their lack of motivation.

But, how does that affect my lesson planning? In a lot of ways. I know that I can't lecture because there simply isn't the attention span to make that possible. The minute I start is the minute that the students little heads start nodding and eyes start closing. So I make it interactive. Like they actually have to stand up and walk around talking to people. Or do a little presentation thing in front of the class, where if they don't at least try, they will look like a dumb-ass. Or I play a game where if they don't participate their group as a whole will suffer the consequences. It seems to keep the class moving along at a pace that's not tedious, clock-watching drudgery for me or them.

I try not to put people on the spot. I'm almost never pick someone out of the audience to answer a question, unless they've first had the opportunity to practice it with a partner. Then, if I do pick them and they have no answer, it's their own fault for being embarrassed for not being able to answer, not mine. They're low-level, so I always take this into account. I realize that big group discussions, or even discussions with 3 or 4 of their classmates just aren't possible for most classes so I don't try.

I will always do an example for each conversation question or game that I do. ALWAYS. They can not be trusted to understand and carry out my instructions, no matter how simply I explain something. The class turns to chaos without an example, and it's totally my fault, so I allow time in the lesson plan for this.

I have many more ideas. Perhaps this will be finished in a part two.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Book or No Book?

There is a lot of debate in the ESL/EFL world about this. I've done both and can see quite a few disadvantages and advantages for either side.

Using a textbook in class:

-obviously, it's easier for the teacher in most cases, unless you are one of those organized people who has a whole file folder system with lessons and things. I'm not one of those people.

-the students can get a more systematic overview of a certain topic, because a well-thought out book will cover the basics.

-it can be motivating for students to finish a book.

Using no textbook in class:

-the lessons can be tailored to the student's needs.

-it can be more interesting because even the best books get old after a while.

Overall thoughts:

I almost always prefer a textbook, because I am perhaps a little bit lazy. Not lazy in the sense that I don't prep, I ALWAYS prepare thoroughly for every class that I teach. But I mean that if I have a book, and I've taught it before or am familiar with the system, I can plan for an hour long class in 10-15 minutes. If I have no book and I'm doing my own thing, it will generally take over 30 minutes to prepare since I'm searching around on the internet and through my old handouts and stuff. This adds up when I usually teach over 20 and perhaps closer to 25 hours each semester.

I also prefer a textbook because I think it's much more systematic. Now, I think that I have a fairly good idea of what I'm doing in terms of teaching ESL, but I certainly don't have the desire to reinvent the wheel. If someone has spent months/years putting a well-thought out textbook together, why would I not take advantage of someone else's labor? Of course, I can mix my own ideas in as well and then the students get the best of both worlds. And this keeps it interesting as well and prevents the boredom of doing the same book, all the time.

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

"Education Fever" by Michael J. Seth

I recently ran across this book about Korea's obsession with education. You can read the first 30 pages for free on Google Books.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Smart Choice Reviews: The Author's Response

So, as I suspected might happen, Ken Wilson, the author of "Smart Choice 1" did find his way over to my blog and my reviews of his books. Here are his comments (in blue) and my own thoughts (in black).

Re the dialogues - the formula for that page was kind of foisted on me by the editor, but got major good reviews in piloting classes, so I didn't object to it. The songs have caused a major split - about 60-40 against them, so they will probably be pushed onto the website in the second edition, which I will start writing in the fall.

I'm still not so into the dialogues and will continue to not use them in my classes, unless there are additional activities or something to go along with them. Or they are easier for the students to insert their own ideas in a way that encourages normal speaking instead of just weird conversations.

Moving the songs onto the website is definitely a good move I think.

The comic strip is a huge success just about everywhere, but of course particularly in Japan, where the manga style originates. They will stay in the second edition, but there will be extra activities to go with them.

If there are additional activities to go along with them, I'd definitely be willing to give it another go. And perhaps even have another try at them, as is. I think I just had a couple dud classes with them and wrote it off entirely as a dismal failure. Perhaps it was just the class that was bad, not the page in the book. 


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Giving clear directions

I think it's extremely important to be very, very clear when giving directions for activities and things but especially so for things that involve grades such as homework and testing. To ensure this, I try to give them in many forms.

1. I will tell the students about tests at least 2 weeks before the test, giving them a reminder every class for the students who were absent.

2. I give them a little handout with the basic points.

3. I write the basic info on the board and give them a little spiel in class.

4. I make them tell me the info before they leave for the day. For example, "When is your test?" "What % is it?" "Where is it? Here or my office?"

I think you can never be too clear when giving directions to people who might not necessarily understand you :)