Tuesday, September 29, 2009

You don't like talking?

I have some classes in this optional English program where the students are very resistant to talking. The major problem of this program is that they basically get their credit for attendance and nothing else. There is a meaningless, token test at the end of the year. Anyway, the students all know this so a lot of them seem to just show up because it's an easy credit for essentially no work beyond showing up for class. To be fair, some students actually care about and want to learn English and they are a joy to teach.

My strategy for the ones who almost refuse to talk? Make it embarrassing for them not to. When we do pair conversation work, I'll set up the activity in a way that's very simple to understand. I'll write the question on the board and go over the 5 "W" questions for follow-up. My example from yesterday was, "What kind of movies do you like?" We'd been talking about movies the entire previous week so they should have had some familiarity with the topic. I'll do a teacher example, with the students asking me the main question and then some follow-up questions. Then I'll unleash them on each other, with a set time of say 2 or 3 minutes. Some students just won't talk. They look down at their books, out the window, sleep, anything but talk. So at the end I'll go around in a circle and ask for a quick summary from each students of what their partner said. The ones that didn't talk obviously have nothing to say. And feel very stupid because everyone else is able to do it. It only happens in one class and then they know I mean business. Try it out!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Slow down!

I have a couple office hours a week and tell the students to come chat, or I'll help them study, or they can bring me a snack or whatever. No students come. And if they do, it's just a little question about attendance and then they run off as soon as it's taken care of. But one girl came, and sat and chatted until I had to get ready for my next class. She told me that my class is like elementary school but that she liked it. Mostly it's because I speak outrageously slow, give crazy simple instructions, use a lot of hand gestures and play games all the time.

Anyway, in a foreign language setting, be careful how fast you talk. There is no need to drop articles and such, like some wayguk-salams do, because that just sounds idiotic and stupid. Just talk in a normal, simple kind of way but at about 1/4-1/2 of the normal pace you would talk, depending on the level. I've had many appreciative students tell me how much they like my class, simply because they undersand me as opposed to their other foreign teachers.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

When 2 worlds collide

One of my coworkers and I have started up this new class at my university, that is technology based and a new kind of thing (at least at my uni!). We are doing blogging and video logging. So far, it's been a fun time, with students writing, reading and commenting on blogs. They are entertained for an hour, quite easily. And I hope some learning will happen too :) I feel pretty happy too, being able to get paid to do something cool like this, that I actually really enjoy. Here is the initial project:

English Class Blog.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Lost in Translation

So a lot of things in Korea are lost in translation. It's mostly my fault in most situations for not speaking enough Korean to grasp the intricacies of what being said. But there are some programs that I teach in, at my uni where a lot of stuff is mis-communicated, and it's not really my fault. In theory, those in charge of recruiting and directing foreigners to teach English in their programs would themselves have pretty passable English. Anyway, my tips to help in these situations:

1. Never give a verbal yes to anything over the phone. My Korean is horrible on the phone and so is most Korean's English. I always ask them to send me an email or ask if we can meet in person sometime to discuss it.

2. Don't worry about all the details. At my uni, it seems that the directors don't really care about what you're actually teaching, they just want a program of some sort and they want a foreigner to teach it. So the key is to ascertain if this is the situation or not. If it is, just agree on date/times/money and worry about the rest later.

3. Everyone says their students are "high level," whatever that means. Just prepare for the first class with some general introductory activities and then see what the actual level is and go from there.

4. And check to make sure you actually get paid. This often happens at my uni, with someone just simply forgetting about you, or they don't know your bank account #, etc.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Starting Class

I know everyone has their own way to start class but here is the method that I usually use and that seems to work pretty well at capturing and getting attention.

1. I walk into the class, adjust the temperature, desks and podium to my liking. I'll turn on the computer and projector if using it for that class. A few random hellos as students walk in.

2. I take my stuff out of my bag and set out all the materials I'll need for that class. Nothing is worse than having attention and then losing it due to poor preparation and having to search in your bag for things.

3. I write up the days agenda on the board. I'll also write the first 1 or 2 things that we'll be doing, so I don't waste time doing this later. By this time, there is usually about 1 or 2 minutes until class starts, so I'll walk around doing attendance.

4. I'll start with a good afternoon/morning and then some general chit-chat for a couple minutes. I'll avoid this with the dead classes because the dead silence is never a good start to a class, but it's actually quite fun with the better ones.

5. Then a game of some sort. Even if it's secretly studying or introducing the topic for that period, call it a game and make it into some sort of competition with a winner and have a prize. For example, instead of just reading the little descriptions in the book of 4 people's plans for after graduation, I copied them out and we'll play running dictation to start the class off with.

That's my routine. What's yours? One final tip that really works for me is to tell the students to talk to me only after class. When I'm getting all set up, I don't like to be interrupted with small issues that can be dealt with after class.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Basic Teaching Tips

Some great stuff on teacher training from the Eflclassroom website. Under teaching tips, there is a presentation of the basics:

1. Write the target language on the board! (always a good idea, since not everyone can pick it up just by listening and it helps to reinforce things, if they can see it).

2. Always provide a simple agenda (this is something I'm incorporating this semester into my classes...so far, classes are going much more smoothly when the students can see the beginning, middle and end).

3. Always teach the big picture first and then the details (obvious to me...not to everyone maybe?)

4. Pause often (I had one Korean teacher who would never give me time to think. She would just butt in with the answer when I just about to say it. It was the most annoying thing and even after I told her to stop doing it, she still would. She was just too impatient to let me go at my own, slow pace in formulating Korean words and sentences. I vowed to never be that teacher. So now, I just wait patiently, very often for responses. I will never give a response after I've asked the students for one. I don't care how long it takes. Someone needs to say something, even if it's one word and it's wrong).

5. Review (I never used to do much review, assuming the students would do it on their own. This isn't the case. And learning a language is all about learning the same things, over and over and over again, until there is no way that you can't possibly not know it!)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Classroom Rules

...are very necessary in a conversational English class in a Korean university. If you think they aren't, get out of your North American/European mindset and take a small trip back to middle school mentality. It's actually pretty okay, as a teacher once you know what to expect and can prepare for it.

Here are my rules, in order to ensure a happy, stress-free year for me (and possibly not the students!)

1. Book! No book=no study. Goodbye, see you next week :) But of course, you can make a copy.

2.Listen. To me and the other students.

3. Cell-phone. I want a new cell-phone because mine is cheap and old. Yours is probably nice and new and expensive. So if I hear or see yours, I'll be very happy. Get it?

4. Time. For 10 minutes, I'm a very kind teacher. At 11 minutes, I'm a mean teacher and lock the door. It's too late. Run if you have to.

5. Nametag. You are young and your memory is good. I'm old and my memory is not so great, so please help me to remember your names.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sites for lesson planning

The 2 that I use most often for my uni/adults students are:

Heads up English
Breaking News English

I do some volunteer teaching 1-1 with Skype and find these sites extremely helpful for that.