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Let me preface this post by saying teaching is one of my passions and that I take improving myself as a teacher seriously.  The intent of this post is to make some very needed observations and criticisms about how workshops are designed and how presenters are chosen and presentation materials vetted . . . or, unfortunately, to illuminate the lack of vetting and the lack of supervision . . .

I arrived at Korea University  at 8:40am Monday . . .

I signed in, got my name tag, and picked up a workshop booklet.  After that I headed into the auditorium and found myself a seat.

Some Koreans were testing the microphones and prepping things for the opening ceremony.  The usual items were being prepared . . . national anthem, big Korean flag power point slide, and an overview of the workshop schedule power point slides were readied for the 200 or so native English teachers slowly filling up the auditorium.

As I sat in the audience waiting for the usual hoopla to be finished . . . I thought about how I always find it amusing that foreigners are asked to stand and salute the Korean flag and sing their national anthem.  I have no problem paying my respect to the Korean flag, and standing while their national anthem is played–I am after all at work and on their dime–but I still ponder these things from time to time.

National anthem and flag respecting done the supervisor says some opening remarks, and begins introducing the SMOE office co-ordinators . . . and unfortunately can’t remember all their names.  I am terrible with names so I feel some sympathy for him because I’d probably have been lucky if I could remember 2 and I think he got through about 4.

The supervisor then goes over our schedule for the two days.

Monday December 21st

8:30 to 8:50am – Registration

9-9:20am – Opening Ceremony

9:30-10:20am – Co-teaching

10:30-10:50am – Reflection Session: Classroom Issues and Professional Development

11:00-12:20 – Reflection Session

12:30-13:20 – Lunch

13:30-14:20 – Reflection Session

14:30-16:00 – Co-teaching Demo Lesson and Q&A

Tuesday December 22nd

9:00-12:50 – Co-teaching Workshop

13:00-15:00 – Lunch Party Buffet

16:00-17:30 – Go to see “Jump” (Show)

I had already seen the schedule because my co-teacher is awesome and when she got the memo she printed out a copy for me, and then when I asked her to she translated some of the info written in Korean.  There wasn’t really a lot of info to translate but what there was she did with no hesitation or complaining.  My co-teacher rocks, and I’m insanely lucky to be working with her.

After the supervisor finished going over the schedule a coordinator got up and kind of did the same thing, lol, and then pointed out a map we had been given in our schedule booklets.   Finishing that we had a ten minute break before the first presentation, “Practical Co-teaching,” began.

I walked around and chatted with some people I knew, and then sat down again for the first presentation.

Now this is where I have to talk about expectations.  I’ve learned in Korea that expectations are deadly.  I’ve learned that  I have to identify my expectations, and then unpack all of the unconscious norms and values that are embedded within them, and then think about them within the Korean cultural situation I find myself in and see if what I expect is still reasonable or not.  If it’s not then I have to change my expectations and not try to impose my expectations on the situation and people involved . . .

That being said I found that my expectations for the first presentation were disappointed, and definitely not unrealistic or unfair.  Let me explain.

The first presenter was a MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHER.  He was an excellent presenter.  Well spoken, well organized, and at times funny.  He knew his material well, and did a great job.

The issue here is that he was presenting to an audience of HIGH SCHOOL teachers at a workshop that was taking place four months into their contracts.

I expected that SMOE would have avoided making the same mistakes as it did during the August orientation where the presenters for the high school group of orientation attendees were from middle schools.  I expected that the presenters at the workshop in December would be from high schools so that they could present materials targeted to high school teachers, and use stories and examples from HIGH SCHOOL situations they had experienced.

(To be fair I need to add here that the co-teaching demo later in the day did actually have a high school teacher presenting.)

I also found it odd that the title of the presentation, “Practical Co-teaching,” was not what the presentation was really about.  The content of the presentation did begin with a definition of ‘co-teaching.’   But it was a very brief one and after two minutes the focus shifted to the real theme of the presentation: “Co-teaching culture and relationships with a dash of advice for new foreign teachers adapting to Korean school culture.”

In terms of the ‘practical’ nature of the presentation and co-teaching I really didn’t feel like the presenter gave us any concrete tips on how to co-teach more effectively.  And this leads to my next point–if the presentation was about ‘practical co-teaching’ the case studies used might have been about the typical situations native teachers find themselves in while co-teaching in HIGH SCHOOLS . . . but I’ll get to that in a moment.

The presenter structured his presentation around four things: 1) What is co-teaching? 2) Why Co-teach? 3) Personal Qualities of the Successful Co-teacher in Korea, and 4) 5 Case Studies: “Monster Students,” “Zombie Students, “Less-than-enthused” Korean Co-teacher,” “Unhappy, Depressed Native Co-teacher,” and  “”Slave Driver Principal/Vice-Principal.”  The general pattern the presenter followed was to identify his topic, describe the general idea and conditions, and then suggest what to think about the topic with general suggestions about how one might behave . . . unfortunately not much to do with actual co-teaching in a classroom was talked about . . . not, at least, in a way that native teachers could leave the presentation and think to themselves, “I’m going to use that X-idea/method the next time I co-teach.”

The case studies used, if they were to be in line with the ‘practical co-teaching’ title, might have been the following: 1) Classroom Behavior Hell: the students don’t pay attention and fall asleep . . . and my co-teacher doesn’t seem to care, 2) My co-teacher is absent even when they are in the classroom–what can I do?, 3) I make lessons and send them to my co-teachers but they don’t read them, 4) Communicate with my co-teacher/s? How?  and 5) How can I communicate and negotiate with my co-teacher when they operate under the assumption that they’re ‘my senior’ and I should respect Korean culture and do whatever they say?

There is a fundamental pattern that I’ve learned about from doing my own presentations, and attending workshops through public school education offices, and attending the KOTESOL conference every year . . . talk about theory, talk about ideals, talk about anything you want to . . . but then bring the presentation into the real lived situations directly related to your presentation topic and after identifying real lived teaching issues that your audience of teachers can relate to then present coping methods, problem solving methods, and concrete things that the teachers can leave the conference with and individually develop to work for them according to their specific school and teaching situations.

Unfortunately, this didn’t seem to happen in the first presentation–and I think that perhaps the primary reason is that there was a disconnect between the title of the presentation and the actual content . . . actually, there was something even bigger that needs to be talked about . . .

The final thing I noticed about the first presentation was that at the end there were some slides for Korean English teachers–yes, I just said there were slides for Korean English teachers . . . and this is when I began to get a little pissed off.  WHY would there be slides for Korean teachers in a power point presentation for native English teachers?  I’d really like to know if there’s a valid reason for this . . .

My theory, and if someone knows the truth and I’m wrong please post a comment here, is that the presentation was actually designed for a Korean English teacher workshop or even more likely an orientation.  My suspicions led me to revisit some of the content in the presentation.  A key example being the question, “Why Co-teach?”

For most if not all new native English teachers there is no doubt, no resistance, no questioning of their need to have a co-teacher in the classroom.  The group of teachers that generally have doubts about co-teaching and why it is necessary at all are KOREAN co-teachers . . . was it possible that the presenter was using a presentation that had been made for Korean English co-teachers?  I’d suggest that there is a strong possibility that the material had never been designed for native teachers . . . and while some of the material overlaps, and was relevant to native teachers because of how the presenter spun the language he used it was also information that really should have been given during the August week long orientation BEFORE the native teachers went to their schools–not four months into the contract after many if not all of the issues addressed in the power point content had happened to unprepared new to Korean school culture and co-teaching native teachers . . .

I also suspect that the presenter tried to tweak his power point slides to erase references to Korean teachers (but missed the last few slides somehow) but didn’t realize that the workshop booklet was using the original power point slide content printed out for the native English teacher attendees–oops . . .

In the first presenter’s section of the workshop booklet lies the evidence for my theory.  Under the question, “Why Co-teach?” the first reason is “the Law.”  Now why would you need to use ‘the law’ as a selling point with native English teachers?  Well, you wouldn’t because new foreign teachers walking into an alien culture, with no Korean language ability nor understanding of Korean school and language classroom culture, would NEVER even question the necessity of having a co-teacher . . .

Also, anyone who has been in Korea for at least a couple of years knows it’s ludicrous to suggest to native teachers that they cite ‘the Law’ to try to reason and/or motivate a Korean English teacher, a vice-principal, or a principal to listen to them and/or do something.  Korea is a society ruled by relationships–not laws.  A presenter who doesn’t understand that . . . well, I think he does understand that so I’m lost as to why he’d use that while speaking to an audience of native teachers . . .

I’ll cite two more examples and then try to let this go.  Under the first “Case Study: Monsters,” in the Approach section (a kind of ‘what to do’ section) one of the recommendations is, “Be firm and take control early.  Help your native teacher to establish boundaries and routines” . . . wait a second, did that just say “Help your native teacher” . . . ? And the second example is found under “Less-than-enthused” Korean Co-teacher” in the Signs section (a ‘what to watch for’ section), “You are always “too busy” to help your Native Teacher or to come to English meetings” and “You feel frustrated because you have to always speak English with your NEST,” “You feel you have to explain everything to your NEST,” and “Your NEST is constantly confused” . . .

YES, I am confused–isn’t this presentation supposed to be for native English teachers???! Why is the presenter using materials OBVIOUSLY DESIGNED FOR KOREAN teachers?!

I had intended to write about this with some degree of tolerance because I know presenters are often asked to do work for education offices at the last second, and instructions from supervisors can often be vague to non-existent . . . but there has to be some degree of professional responsibility and dare I say ETHICS?

But the next bit from the booklet materials on the first presentation pretty much destroy any ‘understanding’ I might have for whatever the background excuses might be for why a native English teacher would use a power point designed for Korean English teachers when he is actually presenting to native English teachers!  The following sentence was pretty much the last nail in the coffin, “As a Korean, you possess the trait of extreme loyalty . . .” blah blah blah . . . is this for real???!

I’m sorry sir, but you owe the native English teachers who attended your presentation an apology for the use of materials that were never designed for us.  Unbelievable!!!

Perhaps the most ridiculous content of the first presentation was the part where Korean English teachers are given specific signs to look for if they suspect they have an “Unhappy, Depressed Native Co-teacher.”   The following signs are listed: “lots of complaining,” “every conversation includes, “In America [Canada], we . . .,” “Minimum effort; lesson quality drastically drops,” “emotional distance,” and my personal favorite, and I also think every other native teacher at the workshop felt the same, “Constantly looking at Facebook.”

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Facebook is the Anti-Christ of native English teachers in Korea.  If you see your native teacher worshiping FB make sure to have a teacher office exorcism and destroy the SOCIAL NETWORKING and support lifeline the native teacher is clinging to because they are homesick, have co-teachers abandoning them to teach alone in the classroom, co-teachers who show no interest in preparing lesson plans together, co-teachers who have low level language skills and no understanding whatsoever of Western culture, and co-teachers who do not understand communicative language learning and teaching methods therefore thinking and assuming that the native teacher with a MA in TESOL doesn’t know how to teach (yes, I was sitting by a native teacher with that situation) . . .

NOTE: I am NOT saying here that all Korean English teachers fit the above descriptions.  What I AM saying here is that about 50% of the native teachers, if not more, talk about these things as a part of the normal range of issues faced in the day to day realities of teaching in a Korean public school with Korean co-teachers.

Given the tendency by many Korean teachers to overly simplify ideas about native English speakers I now imagine that Facebook has become public school enemy number one.  I have to wonder now what Korean teachers must be assuming about me because I have FB up on my computer every day at work.  “Is Jason depressed? He’s on that foreign website called Facebook, and I was at this workshop where another native teacher said looking at Facebook means you’re lonely and depressed . . .”  Great.  Thank you.  Fortunately for me  I have a co-teacher who knows better than to take something one native teacher says and blow it all out of proportion and make it into a generalized truth about all native English teachers . . . and in case you think I’m over-exaggerating think about how often you hear Korean English teachers express shock that you can eat kimchi cause EVERYBODY knows that foreigners don’t like spicy food, right?

Moving on to other things . . . on the Friday before the workshop began I posted on Facebook the following comment, “I’d suggest dressing warmly just in case the rooms they put us in at Korea University aren’t heated properly….”  Sadly, my prediction came true.  The auditorium where the opening ceremony was held was unheated.   And the large lecture hall my group went to for the rest of the day was also unheated.

When asked about why there was no heat, two coordinators said they had contacted the university administration about the problem–this was around 3pm . . . apparently calling again and insisting that the heat be turned wasn’t a priority.  During the winter one of the first things I do each time I teach a class is to go five minutes early to the classroom to see if the heat is on because all too often if there is no class before mine the heat is not on.  To me this is just a basic leadership skill: check to make sure the environment a meeting is being held in is comfortable to facilitate the actual purpose of the meeting being successful (instead of attendees focusing on the temperature).  I really don’t know why the problem wasn’t solved earlier in the morning but I also have to suspect that because the coordinators are  young and have little to no social rank in the Korean cultural hierarchy that they really couldn’t do anything about it in the first place.  I wonder, though, why they didn’t pass on the problem to the SMOE office supervisor who had been at the opening ceremony . . . not calling him about turning on the heat could be symptomatic, however, of the common notion that you don’t bother the powers that be with complaints originating from the grunts, er, native English teachers cause . . . well, we’re just not important enough.  I do believe that if the supervisor had been told about the no heat problem that he would have made some calls and I imagine that the heat would have been turned on . . . so unfortunately this puts the onus back on the coordinators . . .

The second session of the day was called, “Reflection Session.”  The group I was in headed over to a different lecture hall . . .

A red flag had gone off in my head last Friday when I saw the schedule for the first time because I really wondered how the reflective session would be structured.  Also, in my teacher training readings I’ve basically come to the conclusion that reflective sessions are a euphemism for thought and attitude manipulation and control.  That sort of thing can be positive if a talented and experienced teacher trainer is prepared and knows what they’re doing . . . if they don’t it ends up being . . . well, you’ll see.

The “Reflection Session” began with a woman identifying herself as a ‘teacher trainer’ and that she’d be ‘facilitating’ our reflection session.  No real explanation of what a reflection session is, and what it is intended to accomplish, was given.  I slowly sank deeper and deeper into my seat, and became more and more frustrated with . . . oh god, where does the list begin?

I expected to hear a definition of what a ‘reflection session’ was because a good teacher trainer knows (and if they don’t know they do some research) what kind of training and experience the group of in-service teachers have that they will be working with.  In the workshop reflection session  the group was comprised of native teachers with only 4 months of teaching experience, probably a 100 hour TEFL or TESL certificate gotten online . . . and then the other side of the spectrum with teachers who have a Master’s degree in TESOL, or CELTA, and extensive teaching experience in Korea and Asia in general.  It would have been very useful to just give a brief definition of what a ‘reflective session’ is and what it tries to accomplish so that there could have been sound kind of framework within which us native teachers could have tried to focus our efforts . . . but that wasn’t given.

Our facilitator then rattled off that we’d be talking about 1) Classroom Issues and 2) Cross-cultural Issues.  Again, neither of these terms were defined, and no guidelines were given for how we might want to talk about them.  I halfheartedly hoped that our ‘teacher trainer’ and ‘facilitator’ might have prepared a power point slide with a list of common classroom issues in Korean language classrooms, and common cross-cultural issues, but she popped off a couple of vague examples of each and then went on to other things.

I sat in stunned disbelief.  No power point, no handout (and no materials in the workshop booklet), no small lecture with content to prepare us to engage in a reflective exercise that had a clear goal?  I thought for sure that something like cross-cultural issues might warrant a 10 minute mini-lecture about things like, oh say, the 4 stages of culture shock, or talking about how native teachers perceive cultural differences and the common mistakes made and then provide some models of how to reframe misperceptions . . . or something along those lines . . . but nope, it was time to organize and divide everyone into groups.

After we’d been divided into our reflective session groups our facilitator said we should start . . . everyone kind of looked at each other wondering what we were supposed to start with and how we should do it–you know, kind of like what you might imagine a room full of teachers might look like when asked to do a task with no instructions, no preparation on what to do and how to do it, no modeling, and no new content to think about and use . . . . that sort of thing.  I think this was when she added that we should choose a secretary for each group who would write down a summary of what we discussed so that we could use that later for what I tentatively call the ‘goal’ for the reflection session group discussion: we had to give group presentations after lunch for TWO HOURS . . . oh god.

For an hour and twenty minutes, in an unheated lecture hall, nine groups of high school foreign teachers talked about whatever they wanted to, however they wanted to . . .oh, loosely under the topics of classroom issues and cross-cultural issues.

Our facilitator toured around the room and stood next to each group for a couple of minutes.   While standing next to the group I was in she didn’t say anything.  I’m not sure if she said anything to any of the other groups either . . . maybe she did, I don’t know.

And then it was lunch time.

We all had our workshop booklets and the maps inside them telling us the building name where lunch was supposed to be held.  For some reason, however, our coordinators didn’t seem to think it’d be a good idea to come along and make sure we found the cafeteria, and that everything was okay.  Instead, the mass of teachers went to one set of doors to the cafeteria, and then whoever was at the front either couldn’t get in because the doors were locked or a Korean told us we weren’t allowed to go through the doors, so we all headed back outside to try and find the correct set of doors . . . and couldn’t so we headed back to the first set of doors . . . and finally got inside the cafeteria.

I took one look around the cafeteria and quickly calculated that the odds of there being enough seats were iffy at best.

I don’t know if this actually became a problem because I decided to go off campus and get some food and just avoid having to walk around looking for someone almost finished their lunch so that I could sit and eat my own–no thanks.

The menu here has an item that people from Boston will find particularly amusing: Boston Butt Steak, lol.

After lunch, the group presentations began . . . and everyone did their best considering we were given no directions whatsoever about how to present.

I continued to sink lower and lower in my seat, again, as I realized that all 9 groups were going to talk about the same issues NINE TIMES.  If our facilitator had actually prepped the reflective discussion properly, and had had a list of common classroom issues and cross-cultural issues, she might have organized our groups to each focus on a different set of issues, or one classroom issue and one cross-cultural issue so that a broad range of topics would be covered . . . or whatever organizational idea that would pre-empt all NINE GROUPS DOING THE SAME DAMN THING . . .and then forcing us to sit through NINE 10-15 minute presentations about NINE GROUPS presenting about the same general issues NINE TIMES . . .

I kept hoping that the facilitator would actually do some kind of moderating and facilitating after each group presenter finished.  But all she did was pick up the microphone and pass it on to the next presenter/s and occasionally make a small comment or joke about what the previous group had said.

Due to the complete and utter lack of structure to the reflective discussions when it came time to do the presentations things had pretty much become a ‘fine-I’ll-do-this-but-I-know-it’s-simply-meaningless-work-for-works-sake’ atmosphere.

People began making jokes, and by the end of the 2 hours things had gotten so out of hand that one presenter made a joke about students asking him if he watches porn, and some teachers in the room began making comments and jokes about it–and our facilitator did what she had been doing all along: sat in her seat and just watched us.

And what was the ONE THING our facilitator actually took time to comment on and explain? One of the presenters had talked about a Korean children’s game where one student stands against a wall, and other students line up and put their heads between the student in front of them’s legs, and then another team of students run and jump to land on the tops of the bent over students’ backs . . .

Instead of commenting on the classroom issues, co-teaching issues, and cross-cultural issues that came up time and again, over and over and over . . . instead of commenting on these things she chose to comment on a children’s game–nice.

The 3.5 hours of reflective group discussion and then presentations simply turned into a repetitive litany of describing the problems native teachers face in the classroom and the cross-cultural issues that native teachers face regularly in Korean school and classroom culture.  Some of the presenters made efforts to suggest ways of coping, problem solving methods, and some possible solutions–but how can a teacher trainer expect new native teachers with FOUR MONTHS IN KOREA to do this competently is beyond me; how a teacher trainer could expect new teachers with only four months in Korea to have the cross-cultural awareness and to have done research and reading on this topic (when they didn’t know what the workshop topics would be) and then to do something productive after discussing topics they themselves chose–how they could come up with new ways of positively framing cultural differences and come up with cross-cultural coping methods and ways to reframe their native cultural biases . . . I really don’t know what this ‘teacher trainer’ was thinking . . .

There are some books I’d like to recommend to the ‘teacher trainer’ that might be useful for future reflection session workshops she might do.  In terms of prep there is very little to do other than choose the reflective exercise type you wish to use, and then think about what what particular goal/s this exercise will be used to accomplish.

Training Foreign Language Teachers, A reflective approach.

Wallace, Michael J.  Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Cambridge Teacher Training and Development, Series Editors: Marion Williams and Tony Wright.

W26 000

Teach English, A training course for teachers.  Trainers Handbook.

Dorff, Adrian.  Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Cambridge Teacher Training and Development,

W29 000

Language Teacher Education.

Roberts, John.  Arnold, 1998.

W25 000

Tasks for Teacher Education, A Reflective Approach.  Coursebook.

Rosie Tanner and Catherine Green.  Addison-Welsley Publishing Company, Inc.1998.

W9 000

Crossing Cultures in the Language Classroom

Andrea De Capua and Ann C Wintergerst

University of Michigan Press, 2004


Let me say again that the primary purpose of this blog post is to make some very needed observations and criticisms about how workshops are designed and how presenters are chosen and presentation materials vetted . . . or, unfortunately, to illuminate the lack of vetting and the lack of supervision . . .

I considered going back through my post and trying to use more neutral and diplomatic language because I think the argument can be made that my use of sarcasm and the scathing tone that comes out don’t necessarily help me present my case but I’m tired of trying to be diplomatic, and trying to ‘understand the unique situation’ that I seem to constantly be bombarded with when I attend workshops . . . being polite and diplomatic doesn’t seem to be accomplishing anything so in this case I’m going to leave the writing style as is.

I hope future workshops don’t repeat the same patterns that I saw in this one because native teachers, for the most part, really do want to become better teachers–the unfortunate truth, however, is that the workshops don’t facilitate this desire . . . and in the reflection session case in particular simply create a forum in which a list of problems and issues were raised over the course of three and a half hours with the end result being that native teachers walked away without any new ideas, perspectives, teaching methods, and resources . . .

At least that’s how Day 1 ended . . . in my mind.

Day 2 looks a bit more promising because I think I saw a teacher trainer I recognize from the August orientation is going to be running the co-teaching practice session in the morning . . . and at the orientation she, and her partner teacher trainer, were awesome.  They were fully prepared, knew their materials and goals, and came across as highly competent professionals who are passionate about teaching and teacher training . . . if I’m right and this particular teacher trainer is running the Day 2 morning session things will take a dramatic upturn and native teachers will leave the workshop with something new that they’ve learned, and something they can actually use back in the home school classrooms while co-teaching.

Keep your fingers crossed . . .


p.s.  Oh, one final observation . . . I’m not sure what kind of budget and or other restrictions may have been at play with the designing of the workshop booklet but I would suggest that 2 pages be added in the future to all workshop booklets.  One page with suggested EFL/ESL methodology books, lesson plan and resource books.  A second page with useful teaching websites.

I decided to do some new writing about topics foreign English teachers in Korea need info about during their first year teaching in Korea, and there is info in this post that some experienced teachers might appreciate too (like book titles that are useful for different types of English camps).

I’ve also been working on some posts about co-teaching because I’m back in the public school system and co-teaching in Korea lacks an organized and well designed training program for the different levels of schools.  I’ll try to post those in the coming weeks.

On my old blog, I have a series of posts called,

A Guide For New EFL/ESL Foreign English Teachers/Instructors in South Korea – Public Schools, Hogwans, Universities, and Training Center/Institutes

and at the beginning of each post I write, ‘If any of the following materials are used as a part of an orientation or new foreign teacher training manual I would appreciate being cited as the author (if it’s something that I wrote, some materials are from other sources and should be cited appropriately) and or as a source from which the materials were taken from (if it’s something I found and arranged and posted on the Net). I’ve spent a lot of time and energy writing and blogging and would appreciate the citation. Thanks.’  Please cite me as the author for my English winter camp post if you use any of the materials too.

Anyways, many new foreign teachers right about now are being asked to prep for winter English camps.  Getting explicit instructions on how to do this, and what to be aware of, is often not what happens.  Foreign teachers should keep in mind that some Korean English co-teachers have done English camps with a foreign teacher before, but that others have never planned a camp involving a foreign teacher and likely don’t know what to tell you to plan, or how to plan it (so it might be a good idea to print out this guideline and give a copy to your co-teacher!).  There are a lot of things to consider when planning and designing an English camp in Korea, and I’ve tried to cover as much as I can here.

1.  Pre-Camp Checklist

a) How many students per class?

Camps tend to have 20 students per class, but this number can be higher or lower so make sure you ask.

I think that if the number is higher than 20 you should politely but firmly suggest that the number is too high–especially when  you’re not likely to have a Korean co-teacher in the room to help with classroom behavior management.  All too often if the KET”s (Korean English teacher) away the mice are going to torture you with bad behavior . . . the unfortunate truth about too many (but luckily not all) students in Korea is that once they realize you won’t use corporal punishment to enforce the rules they often see time alone with you in a classroom as ‘do whatever they want to time’ cause they know you won’t hit them . . .

This is not true for all foreign teachers.  I think personality type, confidence levels, teacher training and experience, and other variables come into play with how students behave when there’s no co-teacher but I’ve also heard too many stories about foreign teachers pretty much giving up and making their camp into watching movies and/or students doing whatever they want while the foreign teacher goes on facebook to chat with friends, play games, or whatever while they complete their class hours but don’t do any actual teaching . . . with some planning and preparation an English camp can be a fantastic experience for both the teacher and the students.  Often a lack of planning and prep are the REAL source of students bad behavior . . . and also the stress and hair pulling frustration that a teacher experiences.  This camp guide, I hope, will help pre-emptively kill a lot of the problems that first time camp teachers experience.

b) Who is screening the levels of students? How are they doing it? c) Will there be mixed grade classes? Or mixed level classes?

This is a vital question to ask because in the past, before I had experience teaching camps, I didn’t think it was necessary to micro-manage my co-teacher while the students are being selected, or signing up, for a camp.  During my first camp experience in 2005 on  Ganghwa Island I was given a class mixed with 1st grade false-beginner students, intermediate students, and advanced students, 2nd grade false-beginner students, intermediate students, and advanced students, and 3rd grade false-beginner students, intermediate students, and advanced students–ALL IN THE SAME CLASS!!!  The complete and utter lack of any kind of educational criteria being used to put this class together made it an impossible class to teach–especially for a first time teacher in his first semester of teaching in Korea.  Simply put, no teaching or learning principles were used in the formation of the class rather it was more about pleasing parents, the principal, and about getting the most students possible in the foreign teacher’s class.

While the example I just used is an extreme case there also milder versions of this that happen.  Putting SAME GRADE but radically different language ability students in the SAME class often happens too.  For example low level 2nd grade students combined with high level 2nd grade students.  This then forces the native teacher to choose which group of students they orient their lesson materials towards.  It is possible to teach this kind of class but it generally can only be done by teachers with a lot of training and experience.  One solution is to pair up weak and strong students and turn the strong students into teaching-assistants, begin with low level vocabulary and language and then work your way up to higher level content so that the high level students get some learning too . . . but designing lesson plans in this manner is not easy, and teaching it is difficult too.  In addition, you also have to consider that Korean language learners will often have social/friendship behaviors that sabotage a teacher’s desire to pair weak/strong students together whether it’s about an age difference, being separated from their friends in the class, or whatever this can often be a major obstacle that gets in the way of the best teaching strategies.

Probably the easiest method for a Korean English co-teacher to create class lists by learner ability, i.e. a class with all advanced students, is by looking at student English test scores.  Unfortunately, it is very difficult for many Korean English co-teachers to actually do a proper language learner ability assessment (whether it’s for reasons of time and number of students, or a matter of the KETs language ability and teacher training).  It’s also hard for many native English teachers to assess learner levels especially when they’re new to the EFL/ESL teaching job.  Simply put, try to get student test scores involved in how they are assigned to English camp classes so there is at least some degree of educational reasoning being used in which student goes into which class.  Otherwise you’re in for some really hard teaching experiences.

d) Is there a budget for lesson/activity supplies?

e) Is there a budget for snacks?

f) Where will the classes be held? What are the conditions of the classroom and how will they effect the teaching and learning?

g) Does the technology in the room work? Check the computer, Internet connection, power point projector, etc, and make sure you know how to use it.

h) Will there be co-teachers teaching with the native teacher? (Usually not.) If so, who is it/are they?

i) Will the heat be turned on? Who turns it on? Will they be in the school during the camp hours? Air conditioning during the summer . . .

k) Are there any camp lesson books from previous native English teachers that may have been at your school? Can your co-teacher show them to you?

2.  The Schedule – What kind of class schedule is being designed?

It’s ‘safe’ to say that a lot of English winter camps tend to have 4 classes in the morning, or 4 in the afternoon–but saying all or most schedules are like this is just misleading.  Be prepared for the possibility of your hours being scattered amongst other teacher’s classes on the schedule if your camp involves other subjects and teachers at your school.  If it’s only you teaching then I think it’s likely that your classes will be in the morning or afternoon.

For example, some camps have FOUR HOURS/CLASSES IN A ROW for the same group of students. This is INSANELY long for Korean students to be learning and using English.  Keep this in mind when you plan your lessons.  Put the more difficult or challenging content (or more ‘boring’) in the first half of the four hour marathon and do some easy fun games/activities style lessons in hour 3 and 4.  I tend to make the 4th hour a free talking, game playing, or really fun activity/game style lesson so that the students and I are not having issues with each other because they’re tired, hungry, and have already been thinking/speaking/and learning in English for longer than is normal (in my opinion for an EFL classroom).

3. Another issue that often comes up in terms of the dates of English camps is that native English teachers are also trying to plan their vacation dates.

Sometimes there can be scheduling conflicts between what a school wants for number of hours taught, and number of camps, and the dates of these camps versus when the native teacher wants to go on vacation.  One way of dealing with this is that  you can very politely suggest that instead of doing 3 camps over 3 weeks that the school takes the 3rd week of camp hours and merges them into the 2nd week, or something to that effect.  For example, in the mornings you’d be teaching a first grade conversation camp for 4 classes, and then after lunch you’d teach an essay writing camp to second grade classes for four hours.  This would be a pretty hard core grind for a teacher to do but if the school is willing to do it that way then some teachers choose that so they can go on vacation when they planned to . . . but you also have to be prepared for the school (or more importantly the principal) to not go for the idea.  This is one of those times when a teacher who wants a favor can cash in on the good relationships they’ve built with the co-teachers and especially the principal, and if you haven’t been doing that/or have had problems (that are or aren’t really your fault) then asking for a favor is probably not going to happen.

Keep in mind that comparing the total number of camps your school gives you with other foreign teachers at other schools (especially if it’s less) will only lead to frustration.  The public school contract says you have to teach 22 classes per week and be in the school for 8 hours a day–regardless of whether or not students are there or if you’re actually teaching any classes.  You may hear of a tiny minority of schools letting their foreign teacher ‘take a rest’ (code for ‘don’t bother coming in to school during the winter break) on top of them getting their contract vacation time . . . this is one of those things that bugs the hell out of me cause I’ve never been one of those insanely lucky teachers who get told this (I’m always at school teaching more camps than the majority of teachers I know) . . . maybe it will happen for me this year–okay, yes, I’m being delusional . . . sigh.

This point needs to be emphasized: some teachers are asked to do less than 3 camps, most seem to do 3 camps, and others may be asked to do more than 3 camps.   The contract says that you must teach 22 classes per week, and there is no stipulation or language about a maximum number of camps in the contract.

There is, however, language about overtime.  If you’re asked to do more than 22 classes PER WEEK then you can refuse.  If you agree to teaching overtime then there should be an overtime rate per class.

4.  Snacks!

Korean students, regardless of whether they’re elementary, middle, high school or university level LOVE SNACKS! If it’s possible to get a budget for English camp lesson supplies you should try to use some of this budget to also get snacks.  If you can get a budget just for snacks alone that’s fantastic, but don’t expect that every school/your school will have a budget set aside for winter camp lesson supplies let alone a budget for snacks.  If your school says there is a budget that’s great–if it doesn’t then try to find alternatives.

Unfortunately, one alternative is to put up some of your own money for supplies.  I’ve done this in the past and have never regretted it.  For 20-50,000won you can get things like color paper, glue sticks, glitter, and other inexpensive supplies to use with lesson activities.  This, of course, does depend on how many students you will have contact with during the camp, and sometimes a teacher may have a schedule where they teach upwards of 200 students in different classes during the course of the week (or however long the camp is) and the reality is you just won’t be able to get supplies or snacks because of numbers.  But if you do some math and think that the money to student ratio is reasonable I highly recommend investing a little personal money for supplies and snacks–the smiles will be worth it.

The least expensive option for snacks is getting large size bags of snacks from street vendors.  The bags are huge (like 3 feet tall) and have the rice cake/ball mildly sweet snacks.  Or large bags of candy at places like Emart run from 7,000 to 9,000won.  Just be careful not to use the candy in the first class, and only as a reward for DOING a learning task successfully (or at least trying really hard to do so).

5.  Supplies and Budgets

Ask your co-teacher about whether there is any money left in the English department budget, or if there’s a budget for the camp/s itself.  Do not expect or assume that money will be available for English camps.  If there is money, great, if not then just do your best with what is already available to you in the school.

One thing new teachers might not think of doing is asking to see the school supply room.  See if you can get permission to rummage around in there and see what you might be able to use.  Also, walk around the school and check out all the classrooms and rooms to see what there might be that could be used for a camp.  For example, there may be a computer lab that you could use for a digital scavenger hunt project.

6.  Ice breaking Activities

It is very important to do an ice breaking activity on the first day of camp in the first class.  If it is the first time you are meeting the students breaking the ice is critical so that some learning can take place in a relaxed atmosphere.  The students and you may already know each other but the students may not know each other so getting them to break out of their discomfort about interacting with students who are not a part of their social circle at the school, or not from their homeroom class, is really important.

One of my favorite ice breaking activities is making a self-introduction poster.  Students can bring pictures from home (this is sometimes hard to organize because asking your co-teacher to tell 12 different Korean homeroom teachers to pass on info about bringing in pictures from home to all the different students in your camp . . . well, let’s just say sometimes there are communication ‘issues’), cut out pictures from newspapers and magazines, draw pictures with markers/color pencils, and then write the English sentences about the self-intro poster beneath.  This is also a great way to get them speaking in a way that they feel safe and comfortable with because they have pre-speaking preparation time to get the language right, practice it, and then in the last stage of the lesson they present their posters to each other in small groups.

Another fun ice-breaking activity is to get students to bring white tshirts from home.  They can make (if you have a large group/class or multiple classes that are all in the first class) team t-shirts with English team names, and you might encourage them to make a team slogan they write on their t-shirts.  The t-shirt ice breaking activity is not quite as good as the self-introduction poster or the balloon ice breaker below, in my opinion, but it IS a lot of fun.  Getting the students to personalize their t-shirts and then present them to each other is one way of making this a more interactive speaking task.  Writing presentation expressions on the white board would also facilitate more speaking too.  Things like, “I chose this color because ______.”, “This is a ________. I like ________ because ________.” “This is my ______ (family member name, person/object name).”  That sort of thing.

The one ice breaking activity I use most often is this one . . .


Ice-breaker Activity

– show students balloon, say, “What is it?” “What color is it?”

– elicit responses with clues: first letter “b”

– blow up balloon/s

– and then . . . there are two ways (and more, use your own ideas too) to continue this ice breaker:

1. Students must say one letter of the alphabet each as the teacher points at them, then days of the week, then months of the year, and maybe numbers (this is a great way to assess the language abilities of the camp students as what you’re doing is also an informal test)


2.  Each student must say their name, and favorite color (or animal, movie star, whatever, but pick the same category for all the students)

– model the English for the students (it may be necessary to write the language out on the white board if they are very nervous or low level)

– do this three times

– explain the rules: 1. You must speak loudly 2. You must use good pronunciation 3. You must not make a mistake 4. You must not cheat

– explain PENALTY (the balloon is popped if any of the 4 rules are broken)

– provide the language on the white board for lower level students to refer to during the activity (for example, students ‘should’ know the alphabet, but may have problems producing it quickly when they’re nervous, so put the alphabet up on the white board but erase every 4th letter . . .)

A (teacher):  “What’s your name?”

B:  “My name is ________.   My favorite ______________ is ____________.”

– then add the game difficulty

– students must 1) say their name and 2) favorite X, and then say,

“His/Her name is ____________, and his favorite ____________ is ______________.”

NOTE:  – if this is too difficult, you can modify it so that it is just the student’s name and a color, Blue Jason, Green Ha Na, Red Su Mi, etc

PENALTY:  when a student makes a mistake, a balloon that has been blown up as big as possible is popped

– the balloon popping is very exciting, and it guarantees students forget to be shy, nervous, or speaking too softly; it also forces them to pay attention to other students names as they don’t want the balloon popped


7. First Day of Camp

The first day of camp can sometimes be a little chaotic.  Some students may arrive late, and you can probably expect that some miscommunications may happen about what is supposed to happen, when it’s supposed to happen, and where . . . .  Also, don’t assume that the first hour/class will start on time and/or that you have the full time for whatever you have planned.  Choose something that you can vary how much time it takes to do, and be willing to drop parts of what you had planned if things start late, or get interrupted by something unexpected.

There may or may not be an opening ceremony.  Opening and closing ceremonies seem to generally happen at overnight camps and not at day camps.  If you’re at an overnight camp you may be asked at the last second to say something to all the students during the ceremony.  You’ll likely be introduced to all the students by whoever is running the camp.  Also, co-teachers usually write up an opening ceremony speech and I’ve often been asked to edit it at the last second so don’t be surprised if you’re handed a speech by a nervous looking co-teacher who wants  your help.

You may have students showing up late because they’ve slept in.  Depending on the personality of your co-teacher the students know what they can and can’t get away with in terms of how they see the rules and punishment.  It may be necessary to ask your co-teacher to be a little stricter with late students, or implement some kind of penalty system and add it to your camp rules.  Make sure to have a Korean English teacher translate the camp rules so there are no ‘misunderstandings.’

8.  Classroom Conditions

Temperature . . . yes, it might be as cold inside your classroom as it is outside.  In 2005, on Ganghwa Island I was teaching a winter camp in a small middle school with less than a 100 students.  The camp itself was a class of 12 1st grade students.  I went to my classroom on the first day of camp to see all my kids wearing winter coats, mitts, scarves and hats . . . and all I heard was, “CHOOWA! CHOOWA!” over and over and over … (this is the Korean for “COLD!”).

I went to find someone to turn on the heat in my classroom and was told that the school custodian was away and that nobody knew how to turn on the heat (yes, the heat is turned off especially in rural Korean schools).  I told my co-teacher that I would teach the classes scheduled for that day in the freezing cold classroom, but that I would refuse to teach the rest of the camp if the heat was not working and turned on in my classroom.  Each native teacher should choose how they deal with this kind of situation, and perhaps my response was too aggressive, but I think there are some situations in Korea where a line has to be drawn and we should say enough is enough, this is wrong and MUST change.  Having no heat in a classroom during a winter camp is one thing I will not be flexible about, and if there had been no heat the next day I would have contacted my co-teacher, told her the situation, and then sat at my desk in the school waiting for the heat to be turned on (and probably have brought all the kids into the office where there was heat so they wouldn’t be freezing in the classroom).

If this kind of thing happens to you be polite, but be firm, and do your best to ‘understand the situation’ (lol, if you’ve been in Korea a while you’ll understand why this is a funny thing to say).

9. English Camp Rules

After doing your ice breaking activity it is a good idea to go over the camp rules in the first class on the first day of camp.  If it is at all possible have a co-teacher with you for at least the first class so he/she can translate the camp rules.  If that’s not possible, then type them up in English and ask a co-teacher to write the Korean translation of the rules on the paper so you can make a handout and go over it with the students.

1. You must try.

2. You must come to camp with a pen, pencil, eraser, and notebook.

3.  You must not be late.

4.  You must respect the teacher.

5.  You must respect other students.

6.  Cell phones and mp3 players should not be used during class.

10.  (Not) Having a Co-teacher

In my first year of teaching in Korea I got really upset when I found out that I would be teaching camp classes alone.  I argued that it changed the value of my contract and that I should be compensated with extra pay because my title is “assistant teacher” in the contract.  I was pretty much arguing with a brick wall and should have just shut up and let it go.  Yes, there should be a co-teacher in the classroom with you, and especially if you’re totally new to teaching and it’s your first time teaching a camp in Korea and you’re still figuring out how to teach and manage students’ behavior . . . but the hard truth is that while camps are often foreign teachers first time teaching alone experiences the schools often don’t have a budget for paying teaching fees to Korean English co-teachers to do English camp classes with you.

There are different ways to deal with not having a co-teacher in the classroom with you.

1) Have students bring their cell phones (they have dictionaries in them) or electronic dictionaries with them to the class.

2) Use books like “Jazz English” that have English vocabulary with Korean written next to the words.

3) Make the most gifted/high level student in a class your ‘teaching assistant’ and when you feel confident that the student understands what you’re saying/teaching/explaining and see that many students still don’t understand you can ask the student to translate the idea/word/instructions.

4) Use the chalk/white board more than usual.  Korean students reading skills are almost always stronger than their listening skills.  Often when students don’t understand what you’re saying they WILL understand what you write on the board.  Also, write out instructions on the board for games and activities if you’re alone cause the students can refer back to it as they begin the game and during it if they forget a rule, etc.

11.  Themes and Types of Camps

In the past I’ve been lucky enough to be given permission to do whatever kind of camp I want to do in terms of content and lesson type.  In 2006 I did a musical theater theme camp where I taught the students the language content of the songs in terms of vocab, grammar, cultural background info, etc, and then we worked on some listening skills exercises . . . and then practicing pronunciation of the lyrics while focusing on problem sounds for Korean language learners . . . and finally we learned how to sing the songs.  After all this was done the students were then divided into small groups where they designed their own choreography to do while singing the song they’d chosen.  On the final day of camp we had a performance of 4 songs over the course of about 90 minutes–it was AWESOME!  In another camp I did a “Hip Hop English” theme camp where I taught the guys vocab (this was VERY hard to do as a LOT of the language is NOT appropriate for teaching in public schools, but you CAN find enough content that is okay to use), expressions, slang, gestures, rhyming and writing lyrics and at the end of that camp the guys performed the hip hop songs they had written, practiced and worked on all week–again, awesome!

Here are some ideas for camp themes . . .

TV and Movies – Acting, body language, speaking, gestures, and cultural background info in the lessons.

Music and Songs – Listening and speaking skills are the focus

English Olympics – Tasks and Projects – spelling bees, mixing physical games with English learning goals…for example, put nouns, verbs, adjectives, articles etc on individual pieces of paper and then in a bucket/box, divide the students into teams, and then tell them to line up behind a starting line and place the box of individual types of words about 10 feet away.  Students must crab walk to the word box, pull out ONE word blindly (no cheating!), and then crab walk back to the line where the next team member does the same thing . . . they do this until they have enough different types of words to try and form a sentence.  The first team to complete a sentence that is grammatically correct wins.

Travel – airport situational English (checking in, customs, security, etc), booking a hotel room, restaurant English, taxis and buses, asking for directions….etc.

Business – giving presentations, job interviews, running a meeting, making phone calls, English for emails, how to make a resume, etc

Writing – sentences, paragraphs, short essays, short stories, short one act plays, newspapers, comic books (make your own English comic book would be a VERY cool camp project, I think)

Reading – learning reading strategies, reading song lyrics, reading movie and TV show excerpts of favorite scenes from scripts, English comic books, and more…

12.  Lesson Cycles

It’s really important to think about how your students have just finished an entire school year.  Contrast how North American students, for example, finish the school year and then have summer vacation whereas in Korea students finish the school year–and then have ‘camps’ (which is a really bad usage of the word) also known as ‘MORE SCHOOL/CLASSES’ . . . camps in Korea should really be called “summer school” and “winter school” rather than camps–cause that’s what they really are most of the time.

My point is that when I have a 4 classes per day, five day English camp, I use a cycle pattern in my lessons.  The first 2 classes of the day are where I put the most challenging and difficult learning content and tasks so that I’m asking the students to do some work when they actually have some energy.  The last 2 classes of the 4 a day type camp I usually do something fun and easy.  In the last class of the day, especially, whether it’s before lunch or later on before dinner, we usually do a game because the kids are tired and hungry and by that point have been in an English learning environment for THREE FREAKING HOURS!  Imagine studying Korean language for that long . . . uhm, no thank you!

In the fourth hour some games I’ve used in the past are: Jenga, Uno, and Scrabble.

13. Last Day of Camp

On the last day of camp you should expect to only get one, MAYBE two, class with some final teaching and learning taking place, and then the last 2-3 hours will be some kind of fun activity/game time, and the last hour an ‘end of camp party.’  You may want to show a movie for hours 2 and 3 (make an easy worksheet with True or False questions about the movie content and that’s your ‘learning goal’ for the two classes (lol), and then have a small party in the final hour.

If you’re at an overnight camp there will also likely be a closing ceremony.  Expect that you’ll be asked to say something to the kids, and yes, you may be asked to edit a closing ceremonies speech by a Korean supervisor or teacher.

Well, I think I’ve covered everything I could think of that a new foreign English teacher might want to know about English camps in South Korean public schools.  Please check out the list of books below for different types of English camps.

If you have any questions or comments please post them here, or email me at

Good luck,


Books for English Camps

If you want to do a debate camp…

Open To Debate, 70 Korean Issues

Williams, D. Neal


Discover Debate.  Michael Lubetsky, Charles LeBeau, and David Harrington.

Compass Publishing, 2000.

W16 000

Becoming a Critical Thinker: A Master Student Text

Vincent Ryan Ruggiero

Houghton Mifflin


If you are doing a conversation/speaking camp….

Small Group Discussion Topics for Korean Students.

Jack Martire.

Pusan National University Press, 2005

Things English Speakers Do Not Say!

Jana Hold, Charles Middleton, and Kwang-Chul Park

Chonghab Publishing


Intermediate to advanced level

Conversation Strategies

David Kehe and Peggy Dustin Kehe

PLA (Pro Lingua Associates)


Intermediate to advanced level

Strategies in Speaking

Michael Rost



Intermediate to advanced level

Basics in Speaking

Michael Rost



NOTE: If you’re asked to teach a group of students with LOW LEVEL (false-beginner to advanced beginner) this book will be very useful.

Books that you can use to teach cultural content and differences (also see the reading camp list of books) …

101 American Idioms

Harry Collis and Joe Kohl.  Compass, 2004.

W7, 500

101 American Customs

Harry Collis and Joe Kohl.  Compass, 2004.

W7 500

101 American Superstitions.

Harry Collis and Joe Kohl.  Compass, 2004.

W7 500

Ugly Koreans, Ugly Americans.

Min Byoung-chul, EdD

W5 000

If you want to do a reading and/or reading strategies camp…

Steps to Academic Reading Level 3: Across the Board

Jean Zukowsky/Faust

Thomson Heinle


Intermediate level

Steps to Academic Reading 4: In Context

Jean Zukowski/Faust, Susan S. Johnston, and Elizabeth E. Templin

Thomson Heinle


Intermediate to advanced level

Reading for the Real World Level 2

Lawrence J. Zwier and Lynn Stafford-Yilmaz

Compass Publishing


Intermediate to advanced level

A First Look at the USA: A Cultural Reader

Milada Broukal



Intermediate to advanced level

All About the USA: A Cultural Reader Second Edition

Milada Broukal and Peter Murphy



Intermediate to advanced level

More About the USA: A Cultural Reader

Milada Broukal and Janet Milhomme



Intermediate to advanced level

Contact USA: A Reading and Vocabulary Text Third Edition

Paul Abraham and Daphne Mackey



Intermediate to advanced level

If you want to do activity and task-based/project-based camps…

Storytelling With Children.

Wright, Andrew.  Oxford, 1995.

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


Drama with Children

Sarah Phillips

Oxford University Press


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

Grammar Games: Cognitive, affective, and drama activities for EFL students

Mario Rinvolucri

Cambridge University Press


If you’re asked to focus on listening…

Ship or Sheep?  An Intermediate Pronunciation Course, Third Edition.

Ann Baker.  Cambridge, 2006

Pre-Intermediate Level: Just Listening and Speaking

by Jeremy Harmer, Carol Lethaby, Ana Acevedo
Softcover, Marshall Cavendish Limited, ISBN 0462007774 (0-462-00777-4)

Pre-Intermediate Level: Just Reading and Writing
by Jeremy Harmer, Carol Lethaby, Ana Acevedo
Softcover, Marshall Cavendish Limited, ISBN 046200774X (0-462-00774-X)

Just Listening and Speaking

by Jeremy Harmer
Softcover, Marshall Cavendish Limited, ISBN 0462007464 (0-462-00746-4)

Just Listening and Speaking – American English Edition: Intermediate

by Jeremy Harmer
Softcover, Marshall Cavendish Limited, ISBN 0462007278 (0-462-00727-8)

Just Listening and Speaking: Elementary
by Jeremy Harmer
Softcover, Marshall Cavendish Limited, ISBN 0462000427 (0-462-00042-7)

If you have intermediate to a low-advanced group of students that want to do all four language skills camp….

Jazz English, Volume 1, Second Edition.

Gunther Breaux.  Compass Publishing 2006.

14, 000

Jazz English, Volume 2, Second Edition.

Gunther Breaux.  Compass Publishing 2006.

14, 000

If you want to do a writing camp…

Writing with Children

Jackie Reilly and Vanessa Reilly

Oxford University Press


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

Effective Academic Writing 1: The Paragraph

Alice Savage and Masoud Shafiei

Oxford University Press

W? (Got my copy free at KOTESOL 2008)

Effective Academic Writing 2: The Short Essay

Alice Savage and Patricia Mayer

Oxford University Press

W? (Got my copy free at KOTESOL 2008)

Effective Academic Writing 3: The Essay

Jason Davis and Rhonda Liss

Oxford University Press

W? (Got my copy free at KOTESOL 2008)


Resource Books for Teachers

Series Editor Alan Maley

Peter Grundy

Oxford University Press


About a week ago I sat down to plan out the lessons I would do over the course of November and December at the boys high school where I teach.  I looked over all the lessons I’ve designed and chose my ‘Greatest Hits’ . . .

I also sat down with my co-teacher and went over all the dates on which I’d have no classes due to tests, field trips, and any other of the myriad reasons that classes get canceled.  I thought that my semi-long term planning would not be screwed up and that I’d anticipated everything I could that might effect my lesson planning . . . boy was I wrong.

During the last week of October I began teaching my Halloween culture and craft activity lesson.  I put quite a bit of time, effort, and energy into preparing this lesson.  I went shopping with my girlfriend on my own personal time to get supplies for the craft activity, and also for decorating the classroom.  I don’t mind putting in personal unpaid time when it’s for a great lesson, and one that I know the students will really enjoy.


But the Halloween lesson was sabotaged by the H1N1/Swine Flu situation in Korea.  On the last Wednesday of October, around 11am, I found out that ALL first grade classes would be sent home Wednesday afternoon and that they wouldn’t be returning until Monday of the next week.  I didn’t think that this would be a problem for my curriculum schedule as I would just bump everything back a week, and only lose one of the lessons I had scheduled.

I failed to consider that the students had all just done a round of English tests, and that my school organizes the students in each class by test score and the ability that the score supposedly illustrates (I have some issues with the accuracy of said evaluation methods).

This past Monday I came to school and was told by one of my co-teachers that today I was going to lose the first 15-20 minutes of each of my classes to the Korean English teacher telling the students their test scores, and then informing the low-scoring students that they’d be transferred into a lower level class . . . this is something that I abhor in the Korean education system, and have a really hard time trying to find anything positive about the way in which students scores are given openly and the manner in which the other students can openly make comments about the scores and students without being told to stop by the teacher.  It’s a public shaming of awful proportions especially for a teenager, I think, and I wish this practice would stop.

Another consequence of this practice is that it really messes with the teaching plans and goals–it makes long term planning nearly impossible because when you combine this education cultural practice with all the other cancellations and schedule changes for the myriad reasons and non-reasons that are thrown at a native English teacher’s schedule . . . well, you either end up going nuts from banging your head against the wall of education cultural differences, or you go through a metamorphosis as a teacher and learn to adapt your expectations and ideals to the realities of the education system and environment you find yourself within . . .

So I finally got to see the extremely open practice of giving back test score info to students for the first time in person, and I stood there in disbelief (even after having taught in Korea for nearly five years) as I watched the whole process . . .


The teacher seems to start out with the high scoring students first.  He then goes on to read out the low scores and student names.  These students have to stand up and wait as he reads through the entire list . . .


This practice is not only detrimental to the students’ self-esteem but it also royally screws up the curriculum design and teaching of the native English teacher. How can a native teacher possibly plan a syllabus wherein developmental language learning takes place with all of the cancellations and changes and random cultural events (like how many days a school will be on vacation during Chuseok, medical checks for students, field trips, national listening tests, and so on and so forth) that destroy the application of a well planned syllabus, teaching methods, and learning goals that can reliably be taught consistently to a class on a week by week basis–the answer is you generally can’t do it, and need to stick to isolated lessons that are not dependent on students learning a series of interconnected language goals in order to progress and develop their English language ability . . .

As for my Halloween Culture lesson . . .


. . . my original adaptation to the ‘random acts of syllabu-cide’ was to just shrug and move the dates of the lesson to the next week–and teach it then.  The lesson gets delayed but not lost; the teaching prep and time and energy get delayed but not lost; the students get to experience a fun cultural lesson and activity a little later but don’t lose the opportunity . . . but then the testing culture of Korea’s education system stomps into my classroom and begins annihilating the teaching and learning goals by moving students into classes on other days of the week that have already taken the Halloween class . . . alright, yes I’m being a wee bit melodramatic here and exaggerating to a degree–but in some ways this is how I feel after having put special prep, time, and energy into a lesson and then having a large number of my weekly classes miss experiencing the lesson due to seemingly anarchical education and school culture . . . but then, I’m looking at this from my own cultural bias . . . I don’t know, I can’t bend my mind around how this makes any kind of educational language learning professional teaching kind of sense . . . I’m trying, but I can’t . . .

When I initially found out that my English classes were going to lose 15-20 minutes for telling students their test scores and then re-organizing the class lists based on the new test scores I asked, “Why can’t this be done during homeroom time? Why do I have to lose lesson time when this is an ADMINISTRATIVE task?”  The look I got was basically “Why are you asking why? This is the way it is and it ain’t gonna change” . . . sigh.

I then asked why this couldn’t be done in the 10 minute break between classes–again, I got the Why are you asking why? This is the way it is and it ain’t gonna change” look . . .

Taking a deep breath, I just let it go.  There are some battles that are not even worth stepping onto the battlefield and entering into a conflict over . . . especially when it is one of the ‘native English teacher NEMEMIS issues’ that cannot be overcome.

The unfortunate truth for who knows how many foreign English teachers is that these ‘nemesis issues’ have a cumulative impact on teaching motivation, lesson prep motivation, and one’s general passion for teaching English in Korea.  It becomes increasingly harder and harder to maintain the teaching standards each teacher has for themselves in terms of their teaching performance and lesson prep as they experience their lesson plans and teaching time being hit by little things and big things throughout the course of a semester . . .

Anyways . . . to try and put a ‘glass is half full’ spin on this I do like being able to choose what I teach and how.  Not being chained to a textbook is very liberating if you enjoy making lesson plans.  Not being chained to worries about covering tested content within class time is also a wonderful freedom.

It will be VERY interesting to see what kind of changes take place within the Korean public education system if and more likely WHEN English speaking skills and ability begin to be tested.

I have to wonder how this will impact native English teachers because the test design will immediately dictate to a large degree what kind of teaching method and lesson content is approved of by Korean English teachers and language learners . . .

I also suspect that this will lead to a reduction in the cancellations of native English speaker classes because the students will want that precious ONE CLASS PER WEEK time with us wherein they can have access to all the things we bring to the classroom that most Korean English teachers cannot.

Finally, I do have to say that while I’m a bit down because my Halloween culture lesson with craft activity didn’t get taught to about half of my classes my current school situation is still the best I’ve ever had in Korea.  I think that what’s really happened here for me is that the problems with scheduling and my Halloween lesson reminded me of what used to happen at other schools I taught at in 2005 and 2006.  The current situation is NOTHING like what I went through then, and thinking about this now is helping me stay positive and motivated.

I will say, though, that when one of my co-teachers came to me Friday morning 10 minutes before our class began to suggest that I could teach my Halloween culture lesson to the next class because none of the students in it had been in other classes that did experience it—well, let’s just say I was a little frustrated.  I looked at her and said, “I don’t have any candy here for the power point and trick or treat content; I’ve prepared a substitute lesson to use instead” . . .

It’s hard for me to consider but looking back at this situation now I failed to realize that she was really taking the initiative in coming to me and pointing out that I could still salvage one of the classes that missed my Halloween culture lesson.  I failed to acknowledge that she was taking a VERY active interest in my classes and the content, and that she really cares about helping me co-teach my classes and problem solving when things happen.

Next week I’m going to tell her that I really appreciated her taking the time and effort to try and reduce the damage that was done to the prep time I’d put into my lesson.

I also gave up way too quickly when I realized that many of my classes would not be able to do the Halloween lesson because of students being moved around.  If I’d taken the time there might have been a few other classes that also could have done the lesson–but I just wrote the whole thing off as not doable.  I think I also might have unconsciously not wanted to investigate this problem solving method, though, because it would have meant a second kind of disappointment if all of the classes had been changed.

Oh well.  Writing about this has given me a few ideas about how I can deal with it better next time, and hopefully it won’t happen too many times this year.

Like I said, my school situation this year is VERY different, and I should add that the set of Korean English co-teachers I’m working with are fantastic.

Here’s hoping that November and December go well.


This past Wednesday morning I go to my classroom to set up for my introduction lesson a few minutes early.  This is the first week for me teaching the second grade high school boys classes (I’d been teaching the senior grades in a Suneung (“Korean SATs”) listening prep class for September and October).

I turn on the computer, the touch-screen TV, and set up my power point presentation that I use in my introduction lesson.  I put on some Hip Hop music (to wake up the guys as they walk in), and write a few things on the white board like “Classroom Rules” and the 10 Xs system (I erase one X each time a rule is broken, all 10 get erased and there’s a consequence for the whole class) that I use for classroom behavior management.

I finish setting up, check my watch, and have a minute or so to wait before the boys should begin arriving . . .

No early arrivals . . . okay.  Usually at least a few guys show up early to get first pick of where they want to sit, check out the alien teacher–err, foreign English teacher, and chill out while waiting for the class to begin.

The class bell goes off, and I’m standing in the doorway.  I see another young Korean English teacher, and he asks me, “Are you teaching now?” I respond, “Yes, but I have no students” and begin laughing.

He seems astounded by this, and I tell him that it’s a pretty common experience for native English teachers that an entire class just doesn’t show up, and nobody tells you anything about why . . . sometimes this happens for legitimate reasons and other times it’s just plain poor communication and a lack of professional courtesy to make sure the native English teacher is informed about a schedule change, cancellation, or whatever the case may be.

I wait two more minutes, and then decide I’m going to do something I rarely do anymore.

After completing my first semester of teaching Korean public middle school back in 2005, and after experiencing NUMEROUS classes where nobody showed up and I wasn’t informed about whatever was going on, I stopped searching and hunting down the class and teacher that was supposed to be in my classroom . . . I decided that after asking Korean English teachers politely, several times, to talk to me about schedule changes that if the teacher scheduled to work with me didn’t tell me about a change (for whatever reason) that I’d wait 15 minutes, and then shut everything down and return to my desk.

(Bear in mind that sometimes the Korean English teacher is NOT told by the person who changed the schedule.  I used to assume that the Korean teachers always told each other about schedule changes and important info but now I know that’s NOT true.  I have to remind myself that in Korea you need to be really cautious about assuming it’s your co-teacher’s fault when something goes wrong–often there’s a long line of other people who did something or didn’t do something that caused the break in communication or problem situation to occur.)

In 2005, when I was just a newbie teacher fresh off the plane , I’d get really upset and stressed out when a class didn’t show up, and nobody bothered to tell me about it.  After gaining some time and experience in Korea I re-framed my perspective on the issue so that I’d be able to keep my sanity.  I told myself that as long as I had done everything within my power to prepare to teach a class that if nobody showed up the smartest thing to do would be to wait 15 minutes and then pack up and go back to my desk.  Trying to chase down missing classes and the Korean English teachers all too often ends up with just making the situation more stressful for myself; especially when the lost lesson plan time is factored in because getting a whole class to uproot themselves from their desk-cocoons (really, you should see them in the fall with the blankets, mitts/gloves, scarves, and other creature comforts students surround themselves with, lol) and then move their tired bodies over to the English classroom usually requires a lot more time than you’d think it does–I’m pretty sure the students use this kind of event as a work stoppage or slowdown to give themselves a break too.

(I will complicate this a bit by saying don’t let classes get canceled too often without saying something about this because you may give the impression that you don’t care, and that may tarnish your reputation as a teacher at your school.)

Getting back to 2009 and Wednesday’s missing class . . . I decided to actually go and find the missing class because the co-teacher is a good person and we work well together.  There have been no mis-communications or problems and I wanted to get more time in the classroom teaching with her because this was also our first week co-teaching together with the 2nd grade classes.  In addition, if I didn’t do my ice breaking activity and introduction lesson this week I’d have to do some kind of reduced mini ice breaking activity next week before actually trying to get into a conversation lesson with the guys.  Losing the class time this week would create a potential domino-effect of small difficulties for myself in the classroom and I wanted to avoid that if possible.

So I walk to the building where I know my co-teacher’s desk is–she’s not there.  I ask another teacher where she is and he tells me she’s in another building with my missing class in their homeroom.

Arriving at the door of the classroom she sees me and kind of does a collapse-in-embarrassment-pose because she instantly knows what has happened and why I’m there.

The guys all start slagging her for making a mistake and I tell them to be quiet, that they’re lucky to have a good teacher with great English.   They seem surprised and lighten up the slagging a little.

I guess I’m writing about all of this to close with the following suggestions for new foreign English teachers when they run into this type of situation in their first year in Korea.

1.  Be polite and professional no matter how frustrated, irritated, angry, outraged, infuriated you might get for whatever reasons (legitimate or not) when speaking to the co-teacher about a class not showing up.

2.  Ask the co-teacher politely to make sure they tell you about schedule changes, class cancellations, and any other info you need to know about your classes on a DAILY basis.  Make it YOUR habit to ask EVERY morning before the school day starts whether there have been any schedule changes for the day that you need to know about.  Be proactive and take the initiative with this issue and you’ll likely reduce the number of times it happens to you.

3.  Make sure ALL co-teachers have your contact info: email and cell phone.  Ask them to put your cell phone number into their phone WHILE YOU WATCH.  Unfortunately, for good or bad reasons, contact info can be lost or forgotten.  You can also tape/pin up your contact info somewhere on their desk–maybe on the side of the hard drive.

4.  Send your co-teacher an email reinforcing and repeating what you have said to them about communication.  Sometimes the cultural barriers, tension, personality conflict, emotions, and other factors can cause breakdowns in communication.  A co-teacher can later read your email, and if necessary look up in a dictionary words they don’t understand, or look up phrases they know don’t know in English, and this helps them understand what you’re asking them to do.

Assuming a co-teacher understands you, even after you’ve explicitly asked them if they understand you and they say “Yes,” unfortunately cannot be relied on and assumed to be the truth.  In Korean culture, if a person doesn’t understand something to admit that is a loss of face and social rank status; it’s far more likely that you’ll hear a “Yes, I understand you” even if they don’t understand ANYTHING you’ve said because all the person wants is for the confrontation/awkward situation/unpleasant conversation to end.

Another reason to send an email is to give you a record of the communication, and if this is an ongoing problem you can show that you’ve been making professional and courteous attempts to improve the situation.

5.  Do not talk to the co-teacher with a critical tone in the teachers office.  Try to go to another room where there is no audience.  If the co-teacher’s English ability is very poor consider getting another co-teacher to help you but also weigh the pros and cons of doing that as it may cause another kind of loss of face in terms of gender/age/social rank power, or even just the implicit message that you think the co-teacher’s English is poor and you brought in a witness to your implied criticism of the teacher’s language ability (meanwhile the real reason is just to help with communication, but that’s besides the point).

I’m sure there are a few more things that need to be put here and if anyone has suggestions on how to deal with this situation please add them in the comments for this post.

Oh yeah, (as I finish writing this up it’s Saturday night) on Friday guess what happened again? Yep, I went to my classroom, set up, and waited for the bell to ring . . . and NO CLASS! LOL!

My co-teacher comes to the classroom and asks me where the students are–I look at her, smile, and say I have no idea. She says, “I told them to come here.”  I shrug my shoulders and ask her to find out where they are (for me to do so is much more difficult because I don’t know where all the homerooms are, and the second grade classes are in TWO different buildings).

The guys finally arrive about 10 minutes late.  I assume a stern look and ask them why they are late–and they immediately begin slagging the Korean English teacher . . . at first I begin trying to defend the teacher, but then she admits that she forgot to tell them . . .

I let the slagging continue for 10 seconds, and then stop the guys, lol.

Anyways, the most important thing I want to point out here is that getting all bent out of shape, and confrontational and hyper-critical of this co-teacher (and yes, it was the SAME co-teacher as the Wednesday class) would be completely counter-productive to our co-teaching relationship and the long term co-teaching we do together.

When she saw that I was being calm about the whole thing she really appreciated it.  The other thing to add to everything discussed here is that nobody is perfect, and that when I screw up if I don’t want to be treated harshly or critically the model I’ve set up for my co-teaching relationship and how we deal with problems could backfire and bite me in the ass if I’ve been hyper-critical and mean with my co-teachers . . . I certainly don’t want them to be jumping all over me when I screw up!

All too often there seems to be a double-standard for this type of situation though.  Native English teachers can be very critical of co-teachers but if and when the cross hairs of criticism are pointed back at them they cry foul, and that they’re being targeted unfairly . . . it’s something to think about the next time something happens and the critical comments begin flying through the air.

My co-teacher was definitely mortified that two classes had not come to my classroom twice, and apologized.  If her attitude had been one of complete indifference I would have spoken to her after class, NOT in front of the students or other teachers in the office, and tried to convey the idea that it’s important to make sure students know where to go for my classes and what time, etc.

Now some native English teachers are probably thinking right now about the particular type of co-teacher who has a completely indifferent attitude towards the co-teaching classes–basically they don’t give a shit about the class, the quality of teaching, the learning experience of the students, or how the relationship between Korean English teacher and native English teacher is effected by lack of communication about class schedule changes and cancellations . . .

I’ll write about this particular insanely complicated and tangled co-teaching issue in another post.

Anyways, for now suffice it to say that I don’t anticipate anymore problems with no-show classes during November and December.  And even if it does happen I know that my co-teachers will help me to deal with the situation the best we can while still maintaining a good working friendship.


Earlier I wrote 3 posts about my Halloween culture lesson and my experiences decorating classrooms in Korea.  Here are the links . . .

Halloween Classroom Decorations — Looking back at 2005 and my first Halloween lesson in Korea

Shopping For Halloween Decorations at Lotte Mart, Seoul Station

Carving jack-o-lanterns with my co-teacher — Co-teaching . . . it ain’t just in the classroom.

The high school boys have been responding pretty positively to the Halloween culture lesson and craft activity.  We’ve been putting up the different vocabulary craft items they make in class.  Creative, imaginative, artsy type activities are NOT a common classroom language learning experience, let alone a common learner experience in other subjects as well, in South Korea.  This is an unfortunate side-effect of the exam/test-myopia that plagues the entire education system in Korea, and it severely impacts that teaching and learning styles that are practiced.  Fortunately for most native English teachers one of the positive aspects of our classes not being tested is that we have a lot more freedom to do things that are not in direct support of the extreme tests-are-the-only-thing-that-matters-therefore-we-only-do-test-related-things-in-class . . .

In this picture you can see the yarn spider web that the boys helped me put up and attach to the four ceiling fans.  At the front are the results of the craft activity with scissors and color paper.


Here’s a closer look . . . You can see the two jack o lanterns that my co-teacher and I carved this past Monday.


I strongly encourage the boys to be creative and let their imaginations loose while making the Halloween crafts.


As you can see in this picture, one of the boys added his own special details to a ghost . . . lol.


When I asked the boy who made this ghost to explain some of the details his response was, “Nike ghost.”  I have to wonder, however, about one particular aspect of this ghost in its lower regions . . . and I decided not to pursue the matter further . . . ignorance is bliss, ignorance is bliss . . . lol.


Overall I’ve been very happy with the success of my Halloween culture and craft activity lesson with the high school boys.  I’ve heard from a few other foreign teachers that work with boys that they had some resistance and lack of interest in the craft stage of their lessons . . . I’m happy to say that that hasn’t been the case so far over the course of Monday and Tuesday’s classes.

I can’t wait to see what else the boys come up with over the course of the week.  I’ll post pics of the more interesting and unique items that they produce.


My primary co-teacher and I finally got around to carving our pumpkins.  It was her first time carving so she was very excited, and I have to admit I was too.  We set up in a room adjacent to the teachers office . . .


Earlier we had gone to the school cafeteria to borrow two knives, two massive spoons, and a cutting board.  The spoons came in very handy later when we had to scoop out all the pumpkin insides.  Before carving we drew our jack o lantern face designs.  This one is mine.


Is it just me or do I look just a weeeee bit too happy to be stabbing something with a big knife, lol.


This is my I’m-gutting-a-pumpkin-don’t-mess-with-me-I’m-an-English-teacher-face . . . lol.


I believe Dexter might call this ‘wall art’ . . . hehehe.


Awwww, co-teaching at its finest.  Two knives, two pumpkins, and two English teachers . . .


Oh yeah, here’s my co-teacher’s jack o lantern design.


The exit hole for all the pumpkin guts.  Normally this hole is on top of the pumpkin where the stem is but these pumpkins were so small that my co-teacher suggested we use the top as the face–excellent suggestion.


My jack o lantern in process . . . cutting the teeth is extremely difficult because if you slip you can slice into the tooth you’re trying to carve into the face.  I think I did a pretty good job.


My co-teacher did very well.  Her design was creative, and she handled the large knife like a pro.  I need to remember not to piss her off, lol.


I will say I was disappointed that she didn’t scoop out the pumpkin guts with her hands–THAT would have been funny to watch as I imagine the facial contortions and “OTIKE! OTIKE!” (“OH MY GOD!”) would have been highly entertaining.


My jack o lantern . . . ohhhh, scary!


My co-teacher’s jack o lantern–ohhh, cute!


Co-teaching . . . it ain’t just in the classroom.  Think about it.


Coming soon . . . pictures of the English classroom with today’s Halloween lesson craft activity results up on the walls.