If you follow my blog here, please consider going to my new website/blog www.jasonryanteacher.com . . .

I am posting there regularly.  Tonight I published 3 new posts. One of which is about the new African Pygmy hedgehog that Julianne and I got . . . exciting!
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Please visit my new blog at www.jasonryanteacher.com to read the full article. Below is a preview of . . . Strategies for Managing Co-Teaching Issues, Challenges, and Problems in South Korean Public Schools – Part II

This article is part II in a series about strategies for managing co-teaching issues, challenges, and problems in South Korean public schools.

In Part II there are five topics,

6. My co-teacher tells me at the last second they can’t come to class

7. My co-teacher never looks at the lesson plan I make before class

8. My co-teacher doesn’t care about the lesson materials I make because they’re not a part of the official curriculum/tested

9. My co-teacher yells and threatens the students so that they’re always scared and nervous

10. My co-teacher doesn’t understand anything when I communicate with him/her about day to day issues

You can read Part I here, Strategies for Managing Co-Teaching Issues, Challenges, and Problems in South Korean Public Schools – Part I

Strategies for Managing Co-Teaching Issues, Challenges, and Problems in South Korean Public Schools – Part II


Co-teaching in South Korean public schools began in 1992 with the Fulbright Scholars program (and possibly before that). Yet even after nearly 20 years of co-teaching there are still very little effective and practical national training programs; nor are there co-teaching manuals for Korean English teachers and native English teachers that specifically address the hard realities of co-teaching situations in schools (note: apparently there are manuals, but as of the publication of this article I have never seen a copy). This article attempts to identify the most common co-teaching issues, challenges, and problems that native English teachers face in public schools–and to suggest practical strategies to manage them. A preview of part three in this topic is provided where the focus is on native English teachers.

Part II – Korean English Co-Teacher Focus

6. My co-teacher tells me at the last second they can’t come to class

Strategy 1: Be proactive. When you arrive at your school ask your co-teachers to let you know at least a day in advance if they cannot attend class with you. But you should also keep in mind that KETs sometimes get told to do things at the last second by their superiors, and may not find out until the last second so they literally cannot tell you in advance. Remind them that you need a co-teacher with you in the classroom, and that you hope they will find someone to replace themselves—even if it’s a Korean teacher (who doesn’t teach English). Having a non-English Korean teacher in the classroom at the very least allows for someone who speaks Korean fluently, and knows how to manage a class of students, to help you.

Strategy 2: If it’s a class that consistently has behavior management problems/issues tell them that you NEED SOMEBODY to assist you in that class. Ask if the co-teacher cannot find any other teacher (regardless of whether or not they are an English teacher) to come to the class to help you. If nobody is free, ask the co-teacher to ask another teacher to be available to come to the classroom for ONE MINUTE to help you if things are completely out of control and you cannot manage the classroom.

Strategy 3: When all else fails, put in a DVD and have the kids watch a movie. Or, call the class ‘self-study period’ and have students review their previous lessons/textbook units. Some native teachers can pull off playing easy games or teaching students a new song (think summer camp stuff) . . . but this depends on the experience/training/teacher personality type and also the general class character and behavior. This is also where having readily available resources (like Uno cards, board games, and other games) can be invaluable.

NOTE: If your co-teacher gives you a hard time for showing a movie during class it may be time to remind them (politely!) that your contract title is that of an “assistant-teacher” and that it also says you will ‘always have a co-teacher during class’ or something to that effect. Don’t be manipulated or shamed into thinking you did something wrong if you are unable to manage a class by alone because a co-teacher was absent without providing another Korean teacher to help manage the class.

. . . . . . . . .

If you would like to read the rest of this article you can see it here, Strategies for Managing Co-Teaching Issues, Challenges, and Problems in South Korean Public Schools – Part II

Please visit my new blog at www.jasonryanteacher.com to read the full article. Below is a preview of . . .

Strategies for Managing Co-Teaching Issues, Challenges, and Problems in South Korean Public Schools – Part I

In Part I there are five topics that are covered,

1.  My co-teacher has low level English language skills

2.  My co-teacher doesn’t come to our scheduled classes

3.  My co-teacher refuses to translate when I ask them to during a class

4.  My co-teacher sits in the back of the classroom and does nothing

5.  My co-teacher leaves the classroom during the middle of a lesson—and (sometimes) doesn’t come back


Strategies for Managing Co-Teaching Issues, Challenges, and Problems in South Korean Public Schools


Co-teaching in South Korean public schools began in 1992 with the Fulbright Scholars program (and possibly before that). Yet even after nearly 20 years of co-teaching there are still very little effective and practical national training programs; nor are there co-teaching manuals for Korean English teachers and native English teachers that specifically address the hard realities of co-teaching situations in schools (note: apparently there are manuals, but as of the publication of this article I have never seen a copy). This article attempts to identify the most common co-teaching issues, challenges, and problems that native English teachers face in public schools–and to suggest practical strategies to manage them. A preview of part three in this topic is provided where the focus is on native English teachers.

Part I – Korean English Co-Teacher Focus

1.  My co-teacher has low level English language skills

Strategy 1: Make sure to give your lesson plan materials (lesson plan, worksheets, etc.) to your KET (Korean English teacher) with as much time as possible for them to go over it. If they are motivated, they will go over all the language content and look up words they don’t know. They can also ask you questions and/or to explain whatever they aren’t sure of.

NOTE: This pre-supposes that the KET (Korean English teacher) does not have any cross-cultural issues/sensitivity to asking a younger, possibly unmarried, and lower social rank teacher to help them with lower level language skills. Make sure that you choose a place where there are no other Korean teachers or students around that might notice you are explaining things to your ‘senior’ (higher social rank).

Strategy 2: When making your lesson plans, write out a full script of what the Korean English teacher would have to say during key parts of a lesson in the classroom while teaching. For example, giving the instructions for a game or activity may be easy for YOU, but when you turn to your co-teacher and ask them to translate—they may not have taught the activity/game before, and will not know the instructions or activity/game concept and language learner procedure that they need to translate. By writing out a mini-script of what YOU will say it allows the KET to pre-plan and think about what THEY need to know how to say. It should go without saying that when you’re in the classroom and saying these instructions that you shouldn’t just reel off the instructions in their entirety . . . say one sentence and then allow the KET to translate.

NOTE: When I taught student-teachers at a national university of education, one of the courses I taught was “Classroom English.” Imagine having to learn, memorize, and practice using all of the different questions, commands, and expressions we as native English teachers automatically use without thinking. Scripting/writing out key parts of a lesson plan for your co-teacher is not a ‘waste of time’ or ‘stupid.’ Help your co-teacher in this way and you are helping yourself when co-teaching in the classroom!

Strategy 3: Write out key language for the lesson and classroom teacher talk in your power point slides. Most, if not all, Korean English teachers have better reading skills than speaking and listening skills. By writing out key language and teacher talk in your power point slides you facilitate your co-teacher being more able to follow your lead during a lesson and time in the classroom. Korean English teachers are human, and when a lesson/game/activity is new to them, it’s difficult to remember every point and detail and instruction. Help your KET out by having the English you may ask them to translate written out in your power point.

Strategy 4: Make building a positive and friendly relationship with them a priority. Go out for dinner with them and bond outside the school. The day before Chuseok begins, get them a small gift (it will mean a lot to them, and they will NOT be expecting it).  Occasionally bring small bags of fruit, or breads and other snacks into your office to share. Social bonds in Korea are made through sharing food and drink.

. . . . . . . .

If you would like to read the rest of this article you can see it here, Strategies for Managing Co-Teaching Issues, Challenges, and Problems in South Korean Public Schools – Part I


I am slowly getting my new website, www.jasonryanteacher.com, and blog up and running again. Today, I published my first EFL/ESL book review,

Jason Ryan Teacher EFL/ESL Book Review #1: Games For Language Learning, 3rd Edition

There are now 20 posts, for example this one, about every day life life in South Korea pictures, and more are on the way.

Please go check it out.

Hi all,

I will be writing and blogging and posting pictures from now on at the following website: www.jasonryanteacher.com

My general plan is to write about the following topics . . .

1. Living and teaching overseas

2. EFL/ESL teaching methods

3. My photography and pictures

4. Movies, TV shows, and books I’m reading

5. EFL/ESL book reviews

And a few other odds and ends . . .

I’m still working out how I want the website/blog to look, and will also be adding links to blogs and websites I like and follow.

Hope you like it,


For some time now I’ve been thinking about all the things I wish someone had told me about before I chose to teach and live overseas.

Not only are there many things I wish I could have been warned about, and given some things to think over and research, before starting my first contract but also things that expat teachers who teach beyond a one year ‘tour of duty’ or ‘tourist-vacation-teaching’ need to know as they move on to new jobs/second contracts/multiple contracts . . .

Something that I’ve now experienced that I didn’t give enough thought and research to is when an expat teacher changes countries after spending multiple years in one country and education system.  The application process, work visa process, and several other issues are written about in this post.

Anyways, I’m sure there are several items that are not mentioned below.  I invite other long-term expat teachers to add to this post comments, items I’ve missed, and their own two-cents of hard-learned experience about the things we have all dealt with while living and teaching overseas.


1. Make a short term and long term financial plan.

Short Term

Decide how much money you will send home each month and stick to it.

Do not assume you will only stay for one year–many teachers change their minds.

Long Term

a) Think about what you need/want to do after you finish your time living and teaching overseas–then think about how much it will cost you to get home, ship everything you’ve accumulated, etc.

NOTE: It’s important to remember you CAN’T TAKE “IT” WITH YOU! Everything you buy once you’re in the country you move to will likely not be something you can put in a suitcase and take with you on the airplane.  You can ship stuff home via container ship or air mail but keep in mind the costs and research these things when making major purchases or many small purchases when nesting in your new apartment.

b) Consider your cost of living for at least 6 months (and save this amount!) after arriving back in your home country until you find a new job and place to live.

2. Before leaving your home country make digital scans of every document you might possibly be asked to submit for your job.

Research the work visa application process.

50 days to China . . . the invitation letters arrive.

3. Before leaving your home country get extra copies of the following documents.

a) original university degree (have one original at home, one original with you)

b) university transcripts (bring at least 3 extra SEALED copies, and if possible bring a half dozen because they will save you time, money, and shipping if you need them when applying for your next job)

c) criminal background check

4. a) Before choosing a recruiter do your research! Look for EFL/ESL teacher bloggers who have been living and teaching overseas for years and ask them if they can refer you to a reputable recruiting website/company/recruiter.  Do not just use the first item that comes up on a Google search.

b) Before accepting a job do your research! Use search engines like Google and Yahoo for multiple key words related to the school/institute/center/university that has offered you a job.  Use a metasearch engine like dogpile.com . . . do your research!

5.  Before leaving your home country get 2-3 copies of your primary documents notarized.

a) university degree

b) university transcripts

c) criminal background check

NOTE: There may be other documents the job and country require.

6. Find out how you can apply to get a criminal background check done from OUTSIDE of your home country, and how long it takes to complete.

7. Before beginning your job search find out how much each fee will be during the paper work/visa process.

a) Getting a copy of your university degree

b) Getting university transcripts

c) Getting a criminal background check

d) Sending documents to your employer overseas by FEDEX, Purolator, etc

e) Getting a medical check done in your home country

f) Getting a second medical check done after you arrive in the country you’ll be working in (yes, even after submitting a medical check from a doctor in your home country you’ll usually be asked for have another done in the new country)

Today I renewed my E2 Visa for a 5th year in Korea without any problems—OTIKE!!!

g) Getting vaccinations

h) Getting an apostillee letter (if applicable)

South Korea E2 Visa — frustrations getting my criminal background check (the sensitive position one) and notarized degree stamped to send to Korea…

8. Find out about airplane ticket contract conditions

a) Does the employer pay for your ticket to the new country?

b) Does the employer pay for the WHOLE ticket price, or just a part of it?

c) Does the employer ask you to pay for the ticket and then reimburse you? How much of the ticket will they reimburse? How long does it take to get the reimbursement? (Do NOT trust the amount of time you are told for reimbursement.)

d) Does the employer pay for your ticket to go home at the end of the contract? If so, how much of the ticket cost do they pay for?

9. Before you go to the airport weigh your luggage.

10. Before you pack do a search for what items are easy to find and available, not expensive to buy, and/or what items are hard to find (or impossible) and expensive to buy.

Before Coming to Teach English in Korea–Things to Bring with You on the Plane

11. For women, do research on what kinds/brand names of birth control are available and if there are any special conditions required to purchase them (e.g. visit a doctor first, get a prescription).

12. If you plan on driving while overseas get an international license.  Research what the process is, and how much the fees are, to get a license in the new country you will be living in.

13. Research what over-the-counter medications are legal in the new country and then plan on what you will bring with you on the plane.

a) anti-nausea meds

b) anti-diarrhea meds

c) Neosporin

d) headache and fever meds

e) cold/flu/cough

14. Before you leave your home country get at least a dozen (yes, 12!) extra passport photos made to take with you. If it is very expensive in your home country to get official passport photos made then consider just having a ‘passport style photo’ done and get copies that are the official size (and that follow as many of the rules for passport photos as possible) made and printed at Walmart or somewhere that can do them cheaply.

Some countries and immigration/custom/government departments require official passport pictures and others will let you use pictures you took of yourself in a coin operated photobooth . . . often it seems that in spite of the rules stating explicitly that the pictures ‘must’ be passport type pics the practice is anything but that . . . but with everything overseas be prepared for some places to demand the real thing and others to not care.

15. Discuss and organize with family and friends who will be willing to send care packages to you of things you cannot get in the new country.

16.  Do research on shipping fees from your home country to the new country, and from the new country back to your home country. 

17. Do research on how reliable the new country’s shipping and mail system is because you may find that your item is a) lost, b) damaged a little, c) damaged a lot, and d) the packaging (and contents) are destroyed.

Also be aware that the box/package can and may be opened by customs AND your employer without your knowledge and/or permission!

18. Do research about housing conditions with your employer and the contract.

Foreign/Native English Teacher Apartments in South Korea — Videos of a wide range of sizes, quality, and conditions.

19. Do research about housing conditions and the country’s cultural expectations/taboos.

20 Do research about housing conditions and the country’s laws. DO NOT ASSUME that the laws will be enforced–especially for expats.

21. If you are LGBT, do research about the country’s culture and social norms, laws, and how your employer/land lord/and others will treat you.

22. Before you get on the plane research the general air quality conditions of the new country and/or region you’re going to be living in.  For example, if heading to China you may be putting yourself at risk if you have asthma or any kind of respiratory condition or illness.

23. Before you leave your home country find out the availability of any medications you need access to regularly.

24.  Research the quality of medical care according to western cultural standards and expectations in the new country/region you will be living in.

H1N1 and visiting a South Korean Hospital — Do NOT pick your nose and then hand out sterile masks!

The Nurse Who Could Speak English — Visit to Seoul National University Hospital International Foreigner Clinic

New Foreign English Teachers in Korean Public Schools — Health and Homesickness in Korea

Visiting a Korean Emergency Room — Gangwon National University Teaching Hospital: a nurse gave Julianne a needle full of “red stuff” tonight . . .

First hospital trip in Changsha, Hunan, China — “You wanna do WHAT with that?! Uh-UH! We’re outa here!”

25. Register with your country’s embassy in case of an emergency/war and evacuation.

26. If your passport must be renewed while you’re overseas find out how you can renew it while in the new country, how much it costs to do it, and how long it takes to do it.

27. Do a search for “What it’s like to live and teach in _____?”  Look for blogs, expat forums, message boards, and articles about the living and teaching conditions in the new country/region you are considering.

What’s it like for native English teachers/expats to live in Changsha, Hunan, China?

The End of Your First Contract

1. Get a Proof of Employment” letter from each employer you work for while overseas.  Make a digital scan of it. Make photocopies of it.  If you plan on changing employers, and especially changing countries, you will likely need it during the next employer/country paperwork process.

2. Get a reference letter from at least 2 supervisors at your place of employment.  Ask for at least 3 original copies that are also signed.  Make a digital scan of them.  Make photocopies of them.

3. Begin the process of getting a new criminal background check early enough that you’ll have it finished and ready for when you need it for the next contract/employer/country.

4. Research if it is possible to get documents notarized within the country you are now living and working.  Find out what the fees are.

Living and Teaching Overseas

1. Talk to family and friends before you go and explain to them that you need their support while you are 10,000 kilometers away (more or less) from them in a culture that may be the complete opposite of your own.  Set up how often you will call (Skype is free computer to computer), how often you will email each other, etc.

2. Expect that you will discover who your ‘real friends’ back home are when you live overseas.

Different time zones and distance often are more challenging than you can imagine.  Also, people who have never been outside their home country cannot imagine or understand what you will be going through.  They will likely not understand why it’s so important to keep in touch, and make efforts to maintain a relationship/friendship with you.

3. Expect that missing birthdays, weddings, births, deaths, and other major events in your family and friends’ lives will cause you homesickness, stress, and unhappiness.  Make a plan and develop strategies to help you manage your feelings and stress.

4. Expect your employer (the majority, anyways) will not be sympathetic to homesickness and personal issues.  If a relative dies, unless it’s an immediate family member you will likely not be given time off to go home for the funeral.  For example, if your grandfather or grandmother, uncle or aunt, die you will likely not be given time off to fly home for the funeral.

5. Start a blog and write stories and upload pictures about your adventures and experiences overseas.  Be careful, however, not to use the blog as a place to vent about anything and everything.  Keep in mind that current employers and future employers (overseas and back home) will be able to see what you write and the pictures you post.

2010 Lotus Lantern Festival Saturday Evening — Mini-concert in front of Jogye Temple

Nighttime in China Street Scene – Shirtless, Beer, Snacks, and Girlwatching . . . this is China! II

6. Be cautious in what you write and what pictures you upload onto social networking sites like Facebook.  If a student hacks your Facebook wall and you’ve been posting all the extremely negative thoughts and feelings you may have about culture shock and the people you work with, students you teach, etc . . . you may find yourself on a plane going home.

Also be wary of friending students on Facebook.  Cross-cultural awareness and English language and cultural background info are often poor in the students you’ll be teaching; all it takes is one status update that a student you’ve friends misunderstands and shows to his/her peers, parents, and possibly other teachers you work with and you could find yourself terminated and sent home.

7. Western cultural teaching professionalism does not exist overseas.  This may seem like a gross over-generalization–try living overseas in multiple countries and then reconsider that perspective. Remember this and try to avoid using words like “should,” “should never,” “why” and more.

Cultural Taboos and Native English Teachers in South Korean Public Schools

What’s it like to teach English in a high school in Seoul, South Korea?

EFL/ESL Native Teacher Schedules in Korean Public Schools — Day 9 of the semester and I still don’t have a ‘permanent’ class schedule…nice.

Foreign/Native English teacher first day of spring/summer semester back at school — a detailed account

8. Western cultural education ethics should not be applied when working overseas.  Cheating, for example, is often an institutionally accepted reality in the education system of many countries.  Officially, it is forbidden, but in practice there will often be a ‘look the other way’ unofficial policy that everyone but you knows about and follows willingly and/or unwillingly.

9. Be willing to invest a little money in teaching resources and supplies.  These things will help you do your job better, reduce your stress, and help you to get your next contract too.

“Must Have Books” for EFL/ESL University Instructors

List of EFL/ESL teaching methodology, lesson plans, games and activities, and cultural background books in my personal teaching library

What are good EFL/ESL lesson plan, activity, game, resource books for teaching English in a Korean high school? – Here’s my list.

10.  Learn and know what your signs are that it’s time to go home, change countries and cultures, or make some kind of changes in your living and teaching conditions.

How do you know when it’s time to leave Korea? — Julianne and Jason are going to China, WOO!

11.  Remember that you will need to ask for reference letters at the end of your contract.  Use this simple fact to calm yourself down when something happens that makes you angry or upset.  If you say or do something that upsets the person you’ll be asking to write you a reference letter at the end of your contract–you may find it difficult to get that letter due to something that may, or may not, have been worth expressing your anger or being upset with them about whatever situation you found yourself in.

12. Expect that your housing conditions will be different than back home, and that there will be surprises.

Bugs and Apartment Life in South Korea – A giant cockroach visited my girlfriend today . . . no, really.

Foreign/Native English Teacher Apartments in South Korea — Videos of a wide range of sizes, quality, and conditions.

Because almost stepping on a dead rat barefoot first thing in the morning is fun–NOT

12. Expect that banking will be different and possibly like nothing you can imagine.

What’s it like exchanging money and doing an international money transfer at a bank in China?

13.  Be aware that in many countries it is possible for your visa sponsor and/or work supervisor to stop you from leaving the country with a phone call.  Also be aware that some places have set up automatic messages that let your visa sponsor and/or work supervisor know that you are at the airport waiting for a flight–and that they can stop you from leaving.

If you end up in a workplace and living conditions that are beyond what you can tolerate and need to leave the country . . . not knowing that you can be stopped at the airport can make leaving impossible until you have the permission of your visa sponsor and/or work supervisor.  In many cases they will not let you go until they have found a replacement, paperwork has been completed, money has been paid for legitimate reasons (and non-legitimate! some teachers find themselves forced to pay a bribe to get out of the country), etc.

NOTE: In places like Saudi Arabia,  you are a woman and married, you must have written permission from your husband to leave the country.

The End of Living and Teaching Overseas

1. Research what documents your home country employers need/want when you apply for a position after living and teaching overseas.

2. If you have pets find out what medical records they must have to get on the airplane.  What vaccinations are required and how much they cost to get? Where can you get these things done in the country/region you are in? For example, in China I saw a friend go through hell to get these things done.

3. If you have pets find out how much it costs to get them to your home country.  It could be THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS.  If you don’t consider this before adopting a pet you’ll then have to either find someone to take them from you and/or give them to an animal shelter.

It’s been quite a while since I blogged here at kimchiicecream.  Julianne and I have been in China now since September 2010, and I went through some dry spells in terms of blogging . . .

But over the past month or so I’ve been blogging up a storm at my China blog, http://serenityinchina.wordpress.com/

Some of my favorite posts are,

English in China – Painting and “Very, Sweet, Sexy” Chinglish on Side of a Car

Nighttime in Martyr’s Park, Changsha – Whipping a humming spinning top (no idea what actual name is) IV

Nighttime in China 15 – Mom and Daughter Doing Homework

Nighttime in China 4 – Massage Parlor

Because almost stepping on a dead rat barefoot first thing in the morning is fun–NOT

Overloaded bike in China

Chinese Food – Giant Steel Heating Tank for Food Dishes – II

Chinese Food – Intestines in oil with some veggies (yes, that’s what I said, lol)

But a Chinese man singing “Can Belto” . . . in the key of “O” is beyond my tolerance abilities

Chinese Food – “I’d like to order the duck.”

2011 Hunan Botanical Gardens, China – Cherry Blossom Posing Time!

Drying Fish and Laundry on a Line in Changsha, China

My blogging style over the past six months has been more photoblogging with much shorter stories.  Some readers of my Korean blog have ‘suggested’ in the past that I could do with uploading a ‘few’ less photos–and due to abysmally slow Net speeds where I am they’ve gotten their wish, lol.

Anyways, if you’re bored and need to kills some time while you’re not busy teaching, doing shots of soju and eating sangyapsal, etc, check out the pics and stories on my China blog.


While I’m not living and teaching in South Korea anymore I can’t help but notice and pay attention to news related to Korea.

Shooting  “a 30-minute film about a surreal encounter between a fisherman and a female shaman” is just plain cool, and I love Park Chan Wook‘s films–my favorite being Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.

Click this link to see the story, Director shoots first major movie solely with iPhone.

As usual, Korea loves pointing out any and all ‘firsts’ that it accomplishes: “PROne, the agency representing Park Chan-Wook, claimed the iPhone movie would be the first ever to be shown in cinemas.”  I don’t know if this is true or not, but if it is I think this is one occasion for which congratulations are in order.

I seriously am curious about the creativity behind this kind of a project, and am intrigued by how Wook “describ[ed]the process as more democratic since everyone with a smartphone took part.”

I wonder if the film will go international with a major distributor. For now, the movie will be “shown in 10 cinemas nationwide from January 27 for four days.”

Almost makes me want to go back to Korea–almost.


I decided to launch a new EFL/ESL teaching blog for 2011 as it looks like I’ll be doing what has become a short term career for another couple years (hopefully not longer, but we’ll see).

I used to post a lot on http://kimchi-icecream.blogspot.com/ and then I decided to move over to https://kimchiicecream.wordpress.com/ as I like wordpress better for blogging.  You can read a lot of older posts at the blogspot site, and for most recent posts check out the wordpress site.  I will try and make a ‘best of’ or ‘most useful’ blog post here of my older material at some point as I get this blog up and going.

From now on please read the http://eflteacherlearner.wordpress.com blog for posts about teaching and other related topics.  Julianne and I may live and teach in a few more different countries, and I will not be starting new teaching blogs for each move we make as it’s too much work.

EFL Teacher Learner will be my blog home for writing about teaching for the remainder of the time I do this career.  I hope  readers continue to find my writing interesting and useful.

Below is an excerpt of the first blog post I have published on http://eflteacherlearner.wordpress.com



EFL/ESL University Listening Test Design, Writing, Editing, and Recording – Do’s and Don’ts

I went today to do my first listening test recording in China for my university. I think I’ve probably done 50+ listening test recordings over the past six years I’ve been teaching, and I’d like to think I’ve accumulated a bit of useful experience and ideas about how things should be done.

As a native English speaking instructor I always struggle to find ways to integrate myself into the L2 educational environment–and in China it’s no different than in South Korea in terms of trying to remind teachers to give me the information I NEED TO KNOW, and to keep me in the communication loop with all the parties that are involved in the process of designing, writing, editing, recording, and then editing and checking the final product.

If you’re new to EFL/ESL teaching, I strongly recommend you purchase a good book on test design.  There are three titles that I’ve come across that are really good.

Assessing Speaking by Sari Luoma. Cambridge Language Assessment Series, 2004

Testing Second Language Speaking by Glenn Fulcher. General Editor: C. N. Candlin. Applied Linguistics and Language Study. Pearson Education Limited, 2003

Testing for Language Teachers, Second Edition by Arthur Hughes. Cambridge Language Teaching Library Cambridge, 2002

Of the three books, I’d recommend the 3rd title, Testing for Language Teachers, Second Edition, as the most useful book for any type of test you might have to make for the four language skills. For new EFL/ESL teachers who are beginning a career this book is an invaluable resource.

Yet at the same time the EFL/ESL training, experience, and methodology books we have can cause us unnecessary stress when it comes to designing tests, writing them, and then (in the case of listening tests) doing the recordings.  Knowing how something should be done, or can be done, and then seeing first hand how untrained, inexperienced, incompetent, or working under poor conditions teachers ACTUALLY produce tests can be . . . ahem, unsettling.

Depending on your personality this may result in anything from a shrug, and saying “Okay, let’s get on with it,” to banging your head into a brick wall as you intermittently do shots of the cheap local libations (not, of course, that I’ve ever done that, lol).

Before I (finally) get to some Do’s and Don’ts, let me say one final thing: ‘professionalism’ is a huge cultural difference.

Let me say that one more time: PROFESSIONALISM is a cultural difference.

I’ll write about this topic in depth some other time, but for now suffice it to say that during today’s recording session I kept hearing other university instructors say to me, “You’re so professional.”  And it made me want to ‘scream’ a wee bit because I was biting my tongue from pointing out all the small issues I kept seeing crop up in the process for the listening test recording we were doing, and the bigger issues I wanted to say something about but didn’t because there was no time to do anything about them, nor did the general education culture and setting allow for the proper rehearsing and language pronunciation issues that kept appearing during the recording session I had with my Chinese English teacher partner.

It’s definitely a blessing and a curse to be seen by other teachers, and your supervisors, as being a ‘professional teacher’–especially when the behaviors or actions they’re commenting on are, in my mind anyways, things that EFL/ESL professional career teachers should do WITHOUT THINKING . . . anyways, back to the topic at hand.

Do’s . . .

1. Ask your university contact person for their cell phone and email, and then ask who the other people are that are involved in the test recording process and production line. (Oh yeah, and ask them if they have YOUR cell phone and email info–ask them to READ IT TO YOU, lol.  Sometimes ‘loss of face’ will prevent a teacher from admitting to you that they lost your info, or forgot it, or whatever is going on–and then later when they need to tell you something they can’t because they don’t have your contact info.)

2.  Ask your university contact person the following explicit questions.

a) Who will approve the listening script and questions?

b) Who will be my partner for the listening recording?

c) Who is available to edit the written script and questions for the listening test?

NOTE: Then ask again for the contact information for these people to keep everyone involved in the communication loop.

3. Do use the ‘spell and grammar’ check in MS WORD.

4. Do SPEAK OUT LOUD anything and everything that will be recorded.  My senior year high school English teacher taught me perhaps the most valuable editing trick is to read out loud the text because unnatural sounding language is easier to detect and revise, and errors that you missed while only reading also sometimes get caught by the ear when the eye misses it.

5. Do PRACTICE and REHEARSE the text to be recorded before you get into the recording studio (IF POSSIBLE–it’s not always possible).

6. Do PRACTICE and REHEARSE with your partner, and any other speakers involved, before you get into the recording studio if possible.  Often, if your partner is a L2 (non native English speaker) there are words they do not know  how to pronounce, sentences with difficult stress patterns, and vocabulary or cultural items that they do not know.  You can help them practice whatever they need to BEFORE getting into the recording studio where it’s not a good time to have to stop and start, stop and start, because they are making errors that cannot be used on a recording for testing purposes.

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Please click on this link to read the rest of this post.


For something like two years now I’ve been trying to find the time, and energy, to post a list of books that elementary school and middle school level native English teachers in Korea would find useful for the absolutely ridiculous lack of planning, literally last second planning education culture that is prevalent across Korea.

Ah, before I continue, here are some links to other posts of mine that new teachers, and for that matter veteran teachers, might want to read if they haven’t seen them before.

English Camps in South Korea – A Guideline for Foreign English Teachers

The Kimchi Icecream Guide for New EFL/ESL Foreign English Teachers/Instructors in South Korea, 2010 Edition – Public Schools, Hogwans, Universities, and Training Center/Institutes

ESL/EFL English Camp Guide for Native Teachers in South Korea – Getting ready for summer English camp (aka more classes, more studying) and final exam period at my school

While surfing Korean English native teacher blogs today I noticed this post Yet again, I’m annoyed! by a blogger I enjoy reading, strangelands. The sad thing is that as more and more time passes I see yet another expat teacher getting more and more frustrated by the ridiculous unprofessionalism of the education culture in Korea . . . but there’s nothing we, as expat EFL/ESL teachers can do because the education culture is so utterly lost and chaotic that even the Koreans who can actually see the problems don’t know how to manage them.

Anyways, on a more productive and proactive note I am posting a list of books that EFL/ESL native English teachers can use for their regular semester teaching, after school program classes, and for summer and winter camps.

This blog post stems from the comment I posted for Yet again, I’m annoyed!

Go buy “Projects for Young Learners” Resource Books for Teachers by Oxford, and do the Fantasy Island project with the kids. Unless you’re given kids who are beginners/false beginners you can do the projects with them in the fantasy island unit (about 10, I think), and just make lesson notes for yourself as you go through the camp each day. Actually, considering the fact that you’ve been given such little prep time you might consider doing the task-based project anyways. If you have a co-teacher who can translate, the kids can learn a little vocab, a few useful short expressions/questions-answers, or whatever you choose, and then do the project and while interacting with you they get some experience doing a project and having to try and use their English to communicate….after all, that’s all the Koreans want, right? For the students to learn English by osmosis and proximity to the foreign teacher; this is the embodiment of the general teaching culture in Korea that thinks it’s okay to give a teacher these kinds of teaching and learning conditions….

Also, try picking up “Games for Children” Resource Books for Teachers by Oxford. It’s full of different games with different levels, amounts of time, degree of difficulties in game concepts and cognitive levels, etc.

The cheapest book you can get is this one,
Oxford Basics: Simple Speaking Activities.
Jill Hadfield and Charles Hadfield. Oxford, 1999.
W5, 800

You can pretty much modify the vocab and language goals for each of the 20 or so lessons found in the book on the fly.

Get some books and then stress will disappear (well, it’ll be less anyways), and your prep is done in terms of before the camp. Photocopy the pages from the book, make some insanely small lesson notes for each thing you’ll use, and hand them to the idiots that ask you to do a camp with no info about location, classroom conditions, resources available, language learner levels, etc.

Other titles you might want to check out.

Five-Minute Activities for Young Learners
Penny McKay and Jenni Guse
Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers

Lessons from Nothing
Activities for language teaching with limited time and resources
Bruce Marsland
Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers

Games for Language Learning, Third Edition.
Andrew Wright, David Betteridge, and Michael Buckby. Cambridge University Press, 2006.
Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers. Series Editor, Scott Thornbury.
W28 000

Oxford Basics: Simple Speaking Activities.
Jill Hadfield and Charles Hadfield. Oxford, 1999.
W5, 800

Oxford Basics: Presenting New Language.
Jill Hadfield and Charles Hadfield. Oxford, 1999.
W5, 800

Oxford Basics: Vocabulary Activities.
Slattery, Mary. Oxford, 2004.
W5, 800

Oxford Basics: Cross-curricular Activities.
Svecova, Hana. Oxford, 2003.
W5, 800

Storytelling With Children.
Wright, Andrew. Oxford, 1995.
Resource Books for Teachers, Series Editor Alan Maley.
W26 000

Very Young Learners.
Vanessa Reilly & Sheila M. Ward. Oxford, 1997.
Resource Books for Teachers, Series Editor Alan Maley.
W26 000

Games For Children.
Gordon Lewis and Gunther Bedson. Oxford, 1999.
Resource Books for Teachers, Series Editor Alan Maley.
W26 000

Drama With Children.
Phillips, Sarah. Oxford, 1999.
Resource Books for Teachers, Series Editor Alan Maley
W26 000

Art and Crafts With Children.
Wright, Andrew. Oxford, 2001.
W26 000

Projects With Young Learners.
Diane Phillips, Sarah Burwood & Helen Dunford. Oxford, 1999.
Resource Books for Teachers, Series Editor Alan Maley
W26 000

Art and Crafts with Children
Andrew Wright
Oxford University Press

Creating Chants and Songs
Carolyn Graham
Oxford University Press

Writing with Children
Jackie Reilly and Vanessa Reilly
Oxford University Press

Drama with Children
Sarah Phillips
Oxford University Press

Oxford Basics: Simple Listening Activities.

Jill Hadfield and Charles Hadfield. Oxford, 1999.

W5, 800


Do As I Say: Operations, Procedures, and Rituals for Language Acquisition.

Gayle Nelson, Thomas Winters, and Raymond C. Clark. Pro Lingua Associates, Publishers, 2004.

W19 000


Oxford Basics: Simple Reading Activities.

Jill Hadfield and Charles Hadfield. Oxford, 2000.

W5, 800


Sentences At A Glance, Third Edition.

Brandon, Lee. Houghton Mifflin Company 2006.

W10 000

Paragraphs At A Glance, Third Edition.

Brandon, Lee. Houghton Mifflin Company 2006

W10 000


Share Your Paragraph: An Interactive Approach to Writing, 2nd Edition.

George M. Rooks.

Longman, 1999.

W13 000


Oxford Basics: Simple Writing Activities.

Jill Hadfield and Charles Hadfield. Oxford, 2000.

W5, 800

Julianne and I also picked up these titles recently, and have found them to be VERY useful to have in our teaching library.

Reading Extra: A Resource Book of Multi-Level Skills Activities (Cambridge Copy Collection) by Liz Driscoll (Spiral-bound – Apr 26, 2004)

Pronunciation Games (Cambridge Copy Collection) by Mark Hancock (Spiral-bound – Feb 23, 1996)

Imaginative Projects (Cambridge Copy Collection) by Matthew Wicks (Paperback – Nov 27, 2000)

Writing Extra: A Resource Book of Multi-Level Skills Activities (Cambridge Copy Collection) by Graham Palmer (Spiral-bound – Apr 19, 2004)

Here are some more titles that might be worth checking out (but that we do not own).

Primary Activity Box: Games and Activities for Younger Learners (Cambridge Copy Collection) by Caroline Nixon and Michael Tomlinson (Spiral-bound – Mar 5, 2001)



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