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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other titles you might want to check out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Art and Crafts with Children
Andrew Wright
Oxford University Press

Creating Chants and Songs
Carolyn Graham
Oxford University Press

Writing with Children
Jackie Reilly and Vanessa Reilly
Oxford University Press

Drama with Children
Sarah Phillips
Oxford University Press

Oxford Basics: Simple Listening Activities.

Jill Hadfield and Charles Hadfield. Oxford, 1999.

W5, 800


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

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

W19 000


Oxford Basics: Simple Reading Activities.

Jill Hadfield and Charles Hadfield. Oxford, 2000.

W5, 800


Sentences At A Glance, Third Edition.

Brandon, Lee. Houghton Mifflin Company 2006.

W10 000

Paragraphs At A Glance, Third Edition.

Brandon, Lee. Houghton Mifflin Company 2006

W10 000


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

George M. Rooks.

Longman, 1999.

W13 000


Oxford Basics: Simple Writing Activities.

Jill Hadfield and Charles Hadfield. Oxford, 2000.

W5, 800

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Yesterday was day 1 of my second two week English winter camp.  Unlike the previous two week camp that wrapped up last Friday, where there were blue skies every day, yesterday morning was gloomy and overcast.

I wondered if there was any kind of portentous meaning in the gray skies and tried to shake it off as I walked into my office.  I turned on my computer, printed out a few things, and then made photocopies of stuff I needed for day.

To give you an idea of what I was copying (especially if you’ve never done a camp in Korea) here is a list of what I prepared.

1.  Classroom English Rules

2.  Camp Schedule with dates and times.

3.  A handout from the book “Ugly Koreans, Ugly Americans” about asking personal questions and taboos in introductions situations.

4. A writing assessment sheet with 3 simple questions.  I wanted the guys to spend 5 minutes per question, and write a minimum of five sentences or more per question, so I could see what their writing skills were like (one of the two major goals of the camp is to learn how to write a paragraph in English).

After organizing all the stuff I needed for my first day of camp and the two fifty minute periods I would be teaching I headed to the first grader (Koreans use elementary school grade language for high school grade names, don’t ask why–I don’t know) building where my classroom was.

I usually head to my classroom during a camp at least one hour early to prep the room and check that all the teaching technology is in working order.  I turn on the touch screen TV (I’d rather they had a power point projector and big screen, but oh well), and turn on the computer and check that both are working.  I also check that there’s an Internet connection.  All of these things in the past have for one reason or another not been working and if I don’t check with at least an hour to try and fix whatever problems might be happening I risk having to come up with teaching alternatives really really fast (it’s happened in the past, and it’s NOT fun).  OH, I also do these checks EVERY DAY–you can’t rely on the fact that something was working yesterday cause it might not be today.

I open the curtains to let in whatever natural light there is outside (unlike last week, not much) because I think it impacts student mood and energy levels.  If the only light in the room is artificial I think energy levels are lower.

I then check to see if the heat is on.  During the past two weeks of my first camp the heat had already been on, and I didn’t have to worry about walking the 100 feet or so back to the main building on the high school campus to the administration office to ask for it to be turned on.  Yesterday, however, I had to do so.

Having opened the curtains and gotten the heat turned on I then turned to prepping my white boards.  Depending on what I’m teaching, and whether I’ll do the materials more than once in a year, I usually make a power point file so that I don’t have to write things out while teaching.  For the camp, though, I didn’t have a power point made up of all the things I’d be putting on the white boards so I spent a few minutes writing it up.  Oh, and I cleaned the white boards.  It’s nicer for me to write on a clean white board, and I think nicer for the guys to be able to read off of too.

Looking at the above picture I forgot to mention my two ice breaking activities.  The first involves the use of balloons and speaking.  The second is getting the students to make ‘self-introduction posters.’  Last semester my school gave me a small budget to purchase color pencils and I had grabbed those for the guys to use in the making of their posters.  Not only do I have to do an ice breaker with the incoming freshmen who have never been in the high school before, but I also believe there’s a need for the guys to participate in an ice breaker with each other because they come from different middle schools all over the place.

I’ve written out a description of the balloon ice breaking activity that I use in my post called, English Camps in South Korea – A Guideline for Foreign English Teachers, so if you’re curious you can check it out there.  As for the self-introduction posters . . . this is what I do.

I brainstorm a list of topics with the guys.  Usually name, age, hobbies, favorites, dreams/wishes, and family are the topics that come up.  I do not teach them new language because I believe this is an activity where it’s better for them to be using language they already know.  I can then see how fast and easily they produce language they’ve learned, and how accurately they produce it too.  It takes pressure off of them to learn, and gives them time to adjust to the new environment, and of course me, the ‘alien’ English teacher.  While some students have a natural creative ability many students in Korea lack experience as language learners doing creative activities because there is a general antipathy on the part of Korean teachers, and surprisingly many students too, towards anything that they deem not to be learning tasks that are directly related to mastering test content.  As a result of this Korean students often have a really hard time beginning creative projects/tasks and completing them in what foreign teachers would consider a ‘normal’ period of time, so it’s a good idea to have a model of the self-introduction poster up on the white board, or even a hard copy that you’ve made yourself.  I like to change the colors of the words or letters, the size of the letters, the directions and angles of what I’m writing, and integrate pictures into the poster too.  Once the guys saw what I wanted they got down to it and did a great job.

While walking around to see what the guys were writing and assess their writing and general English levels I noticed something that looked familiar to me . . .

Looking closer I saw that this student had drawn a caricature of me, lol.  Then I noticed the word “surgery” and an arrow pointing to my eyelid–uhm, what???  Later, when I asked him what that was about he kind of shrugged and didn’t really answer.  I’ve been told I have very deep-set eyes, so I wonder if he’s suggesting I need to get surgery to somehow bring them forward and make them more ‘open’ or something.  I will never get cosmetic surgery, but the idea is funny.

Oh yeah, I also told him I thought my picture made me look like a serial killer–the other guys at the table were highly amused at the notion of the foreign teacher being a serial killer, lol.

There are several other posters and I’ll post pictures of the more interesting ones some time this week.  The other student in the picture below drew a picture of himself with a six pack and bulging biceps . . . it’s always interesting to see what the interests outside of school students in Korea have as school dominates so much of their daily lives.

Now you may have noticed that I drew two stick character pictures on the white board in a picture at the beginning of this post.  I’ve finally found a teaching method that effectively prevents students from blurting out rude questions–at least it seems to be working so far with the high school freshmen; whether or not it would work with middle school students is another thing, and I doubt very much it would work with elementary students due to the maturity level.

One of the reasons I do my white board work before I begin teaching is that it gives the students time to read it and think about the two pictures during the minutes leading up to the start of my class.  Later, after doing my balloon ice breaking activity and classroom rules I have an introduction power point I show the students.  It’s full of pictures and basic info about myself: name, age, my university major, my hobbies, family pictures, and other stuff that I think the guys would find interesting.  It humanizes the foreign teacher into a person instead of me as whatever negative image Korean news media has influenced the students into stereotyping me with (though I like to think many of the students are smart enough to know the racist stereotypes used about foreigners are not true).

After I finish my power point I talk about the pictures on the white board and go over the handout seen below in this picture.

I talk about several things over a period of 3 minutes.

1.  The need for Koreans when speaking in English to learn English cultural rules.

2.  The need to avoid using Korean social behavior rules when speaking in English to native speakers of English.

3.  Tips on how to figure out the answers to questions without actually asking the questions.  For example, “Are you married?”  Check the ring finger on the left hand–no ring generally means not married.

4.  I explain that I understand in Korean culture there are questions that MUST be asked and answered in order to know the proper forms of address and to ensure you’re being polite, but that those questions when used in an English conversation with a native speaker of English can often be considered rude.

5.  I point out that while some Koreans may say that we’re in Korea so we should follow Korean culture all the time that this doesn’t work for tourists because they are only here for a short time, that it doesn’t work for business situations because both parties have to respect each other’s cultures, and finally that if I was speaking in KOREAN but using ENGLISH CULTURE communication rules for being polite and making conversation that most if not all Koreans would tell me I MUST follow Korean culture rules when speaking in Korean, and by that standard we should consider what that means for when a Korean is speaking English . . .

There are a few more things I say while I talk about this handout but I think I’ve covered most of the primary points.  I don’t think I would have covered as many points if the freshmen English levels were lower but because I was talking to a very smart group of high level guys I felt it was appropriate.

By now you may be wondering when I was going to talk about my teaching nightmare and zombie students . . .

Here’s my story.  I’ve done my balloon ice breaking activity over a hundred times during my five years in Korea.  I’ve used it with elementary students, middle school students, high school students, university students, and Korean English teacher trainees with good to excellent results EVERY TIME!

Yesterday, however, was the first time in my five years of using this ice breaker that I experienced an almost complete and utter lack of reaction.

Alright, I think more detail is necessary to understand my shock at the students lack of reactions . . .

Step 1:  I ask the students what ‘ice breaking activity’ means.  Usually they don’t know the term so I ask them if they think it means breaking a block of ice literally.  I mime holding a piece of ice and breaking it with my head, and make a big production of doing it.  I may not get every student in the classes I’ve done this with to laugh, but I usually get at least HALF of the class to laugh.  In yesterday’s camp I don’t think I even got a giggle out of ONE of the guys.

Step 2:  After explaining ice breaking activity to the students, I then pull out a balloon from my pocket. I ask them to tell me what it is in English.  I then ask them to tell me how to spell it.  I ask them what color it is, and how to spell the color.  Getting them to do these simple things begins a pattern of me asking them to do something, and then them doing it (generally a good thing in teaching, lol, and something that if you haven’t taught in Korea you won’t understand why I point out such an ‘obvious’ thing–until you come here and are trying to get students to answer BASIC questions, lol).

Step 3:  I then tell them that we’re going to play a crazy English speaking game.  I tell them that the balloon is magical and it has the power to help them speak English loudly and quickly.  Usually at this point the students all begin laughing, and looking at each other nervously and excitedly.  Yesterday’s freshman . . . pretty much zombies snoozing after chowing down on the native English teacher’s entrails . . . yes, by this point it was that bad! LOL…sigh.

Step 4:  I then begin blowing up the balloon.  At this point I scan the class and look for a student who is shy and quiet.  The reason for this is that as I continue blowing up the balloon I move closer and closer to that student.  I pause one time just before I blow in the last possible breath into the balloon, and ask the class if I should blow more air into the balloon.  Usually I get several shouts of “MORE! MORE!” and “NO! NO! STOP!” from different students in the class, while at the same time the shy and quiet student is trying to crawl under their desk . . . all of this gets the class relaxed and excited to see what happens next.  Yesterday’s class . . . almost nothing.

You might say that I had a Ben Stein-teacher-moment . . .

Apparently my ‘voodoo’ ice breaking activity finally met its match in the zombies attending the camp, lol.

Step 5:  After I finish blowing up the balloon as big as it can get without out popping it I usually look at it, slam it a bit with my hands to make a nice boomy sound, and say something like “Oh, so beautiful” which also gets a laugh from the students.  I then explain the four rules to the game.  1)  You must speak loudly. 2) No mistakes. 3) No cheating. (As in friends whispering answers to students who don’t know what to say.) 4) Perfect pronunciation.  After telling the students the four rules I then get them to recite them back one by one to me to make sure they know the rules.  If the students are lower level I ask a different student, after getting them to repeat the rule, to explain its meaning in Korean, so I can try to ensure the students know what the rules are.

At this point, I then explain that if any of the rules are broken that I pop the balloon–and then I POP THE BALLOON, lol.  At this point the whole class I’m working with, regardless of age or gender, all begin laughing and talking excitedly and they’ve completely forgotten to be shy and quiet around the strange foreign teacher.

Yesterday’s class–I got some animated facial expressions, and a few exclamations, and then . . . back to zombie mode–argh!

Step 6: While the students are recovering from the balloon popping, I immediately begin blowing up another balloon.  Once that is done I tell them that they’re going to recite the alphabet (I usually have to repeat the word 2-3 times because they don’t understand it, and sometimes even get the co-teacher to translate) one by one through the class.  If the class is very low level I do a practice run once through with me modeling the pronunciation–otherwise things go downhill pretty fast!!

Sometimes, believe it or not, I even write out the alphabet on the white board.  Whether or not the class is struggling to recite the alphabet in the game one by one because their levels are so low, or because they’re shy, or whatever the reason happens to be . . . sometimes you have to write the English you’re working with onto the white board.  It’s more important that the activity is successful, especially for an ice breaker, then sticking to some insanely strict idea about what the students ‘should’ be able to do.

Step 7:  The game begins . . . if the students break ANY of the 4 rules–POP!

Step 8:  As I go from student to student I stop the game occasionally to correct any mistakes.  If the student gets the pronunciation somewhat correct I don’t pop the balloon but I do prompt them with a modeling of the correct pronunciation and ask them to do it again.

Step 9:  Then I move on to days of the week.  After running through that 3 or 4 times, depending on how big the class is, I tell the students we have to raise the level of the game.  I go to my desk and grab my water bottle.  I take out a new balloon, and put a tiny bit of water into the balloon, and then blow it up to about half of the balloon’s capacity.  While I’m doing this I usually hear a lot of excited and nervous comments from the students.

Step 10: Months of the year.  Students usually all begin groaning and making worried comments because they know there’s at least one student who will likely not be able to say the correct month when it’s their turn and that I’ll then pop the balloon . . . but the great thing about the water in the balloon is that if there was any boredom setting in that quickly disappears.

Sometimes I pop the balloon with a tiny bit of water in it and other times I don’t even if there were a few small mistakes made by students.  If the student who makes a mistake tries again and gets it right, I don’t pop it.  For shy and insecure students I also will sometimes give them some hints like the first letter of the word, or first few letters, or I’ll draw the letters in the air with my finger . . . that kind of thing to help out the lower level students.

In classes where I’ve got demon-students who are extremely loud and/or disruptive I pull a chair up to the front of the classroom, point at the student, and get them sitting in it. I then place the balloon on top of their head, and say “Okay, let’s go!”  At this point the class usually goes bonkers, along with the student in the chair, and I know the ice breaker has done its job.  I whisper to the student “trust me” or “kenchenayo” (“relax”) so they have an idea that I will NOT POP THE BALLOON!  I have never in the dozens of times I’ve done this popped the balloon while it is near the student’s head.

The power of the balloon on the student’s head comes from the illusion I create that I will pop the balloon, and this is an immensely powerful motivator to the students in the class to speak English loudly and to try very hard to speak English well.

However, yesterday’s zombie class barely reacted, and even after I put water in the balloon students were still barely speaking above a soft level of volume.  My co-teacher and I were both astounded that the ice breaker wasn’t getting the desired results . . .

I came to the realization, after finishing up my ice breaking DISASTER, that I had gotten a class full of students who were extremely introverted, very smart, and very talented in English.  Apparently this combination of elements in a class will produce an impervious shield that can repel the magical spell of my balloon ice breaking activity.

I guess it was bound to happen some time . . .

Now to begin plotting some kind of learning activity that will truly break the ice . . . MOOWHAHAHAHA!


I’m still writing up the first English camp I just finished this past Friday and will try to post the series (it covers 8 days) some time this week.

This morning I came to school and did the small bit of prep I needed to do for my second two week winter English camp.  Then the events of today reminded me yet again why lesson prep in Korea is pretty much the Achilles Heel of EFL teaching.  Let me explain.

Last December I organized an informal winter English camp workshop at my high school for other foreign teachers who wanted to collaborate ideas and materials.  About 9 teachers showed up and we talked for nearly 3 hours.  It was awesome.  Ironically, we ran out of time before my turn came up to describe the criteria of my camp (number of students, grade level, number of classes per day, number of days in total, and other info) and get some ideas from the others–but that was okay because my English camp experience Korea is pretty extensive (click here to see my English Camps in South Korea – A Guideline for Foreign English Teachers) and while it would have been nice to get some feedback about my camp plan there were other teachers, especially newbies, who really needed more time to collaborate than I did.

Anyways, the reason I mention the workshop is that I had been planning my winter English camp theme, lesson outlines and notes, supplies I would need, and other details nearly TWO MONTHS before the camps I am now teaching would begin–and I should have known better!

Some time in the last week of December my co-teacher and I got together to confirm all the details of my camp . . . and it was at that point that I realized the camps were really just a ‘Come See The Alien Teacher Show’ for the incoming freshman students.  The camp schedule had been set up so that I’d only have TWO HOURS with each of the freshman classes–two hours?!

The only things I would have been able to accomplish in a two hour period of contact time with freshman are: introductions, ice-breaking activity for myself and the students, and self-introduction posters–my favorite ice-breaking activity for the freshman to introduce themselves to each other.

Needless to say I was a bit . . . uhm, what’s the word I want to use here . . . ARGH! That’ll do.

I politely (though with a very disgusted facial expression, I’m sure) explained to my co-teacher that I did not want to do an alien freak show, and asked her if any of the other Korean teachers were having the same sort of schedule set up with the incoming freshman (I already knew what the answer would be–no, of course not) and after she said they weren’t I pointed out that this was a complete and utter waste of my time, and the students’ time . . . and she agreed with me.

I’m pretty sure it also helps that I had several papers with me including a camp syllabus that I had designed.  I had already gone over with her the theme I’d chosen for my camp, the learning goals I had for the students, the number of classes assigned to each of the learning goals, and other planning I’d done . . . it was pretty obvious to my co-teacher and the Korean teacher that this wasn’t a case of a foreign teacher whining and complaining for no good reason–I had specific professional teaching issues with a camp concept and schedule that wanted to use me as an alien freak show, and lucky for me this was one of those rare times during my teaching tenure in Korea that the Koreans in charge of my teaching situation listened to me, heard and understood what I had to say, and agreed with me.  (Yes, I’m still in shock!)

(For those reading this blog outside of Korea, and who have never taught in a Korean public school, what I mean by ‘alien freak show’ is the tendency in Korea to parade foreign teachers out in front of students, Korean teachers, and sometimes even parents during the first day of an English camp.  Typically the audience ooohs, and ahhhs, laughs a lot, and yells things at the native teachers whose reactions range from ‘let’s get this over with’ to ‘oh my god, why am I here?’)

The fact that my co-teacher listened to me, and didn’t try to strong-arm me into agreeing and submitting to a plan that we both knew is bad, is yet another example of why my co-teacher is the goddess of all Korean English co-teachers in Korea.  (Anyone who knows me in Korea will also know that this is NOT typical of my general discourse about co-teaching in Korea–so let me assure you that when I give this kind of high praise it is based on having worked with a large number of co-teachers.)  Most other co-teachers would have argued with me or tried to persuade me to just say yes or blatantly ordered me to obey and follow the schedule as it had been set up.  I didn’t get any of that pseudo-Korean army culture nonsense from my co-teacher–wow.

After talking with me in English for a couple minutes she then explained in Korean what I had been saying to the Korean teacher in charge of organizing the camp schedules for all the teachers at the school.  He understood, and had the decency to look a bit embarrassed at the situation; I found out later, however, that it hadn’t been him at all who was responsible for the idea of putting me out on display for the freshman (I won’t say who it was, but expats with time in Korea will know who makes those types of decisions in Korean public schools, ’nuff said).  The  meeting ended with me telling my co-teacher that if I had to do an alien freak show that was ‘fine,’ but that I was very unhappy about it and hoped that some kind of changes would be made to the concept of the camp and its schedule.

Looking back at this meeting and the fact that I didn’t go into a typical Jason-hyper-assertive borderline hyper-aggressive push for concrete changes to be made in my camp schedule and the type of camp classes I’d be doing . . . well, let’s just say I am shocked by how much I’ve changed since, oh, let’s say 2007.  In 2007 I had been in Korea going on 3 years, and I got to a point, I think for very legitimate educational and professional reasons, where I stopped being concerned with education ‘cultural differences’ and would go hard core assertive on my co-teachers about any issues and situations that fell under the general category of ‘good EFL/ESL teaching and learning’ criteria; I got to the point where I completely stopped considering relationships and social harmony (according to Korean cultural rules) where I was working because I truly believed that those things in Korea are the antithesis, rather, the Nemesis (I mean ‘Nemesis’ here in the sense of something that is the education system’s own worst enemy) of professionalism and quality teaching and learning.  I still believe that the Korean school and work culture focus (one might also say ‘obsession’) on relationships and social harmony as a priority that supersedes professionalism and quality teaching and learning is one of the biggest problems in the education system in general–but I’ve learned how to identify Koreans who will use the indirect approach effectively (meaning ‘backroom meetings where Korean social political power is really exercised away from the underlings–namely ME) to try and maintain harmonious relationships between everyone involved in the English camp situation and at the same time try to produce a good quality camp concept, schedule, and ultimately avoid making teacher Jason an alien freak show.

I think it was a few days later that my co-teacher told me that my ideas had been well received and that instead of doing the alien freak show style camp that I’d now be doing 2 two-week camps, 20 hours of teaching time each, with 20-25 students in each of the camps, and that I could use the same lesson materials for both camps thus cutting down on my prep time and energy.  SERIOUSLY?!  She truly is Korea’s goddess of co-teachers!  I was in shock that this big a transformation had been made, and I had been working really hard to try and create a more open-minded attitude on my part towards the original plan in spite of my absolute disgust towards it . . .

To tie all of this back to today, and it being the first day of my second two-week camp . . . my first camp went exceptionally well.  Last Friday I gave my guys a student survey questionnaire to fill out about my teaching, camp lesson content, and other aspects of the camp and I got really good scores on everything.  Here’s the questionnaire I gave them,

2010 Winter English Camp Student Survey

1.  How was the teacher’s speaking speed in class? 1 2 3 4 5
2.  Did the English paragraph writing have enough classes? (6 classes) Do you think you need less or more classes?*If you missed a writing class please check this box.

1 2 3 4 5
3.  How was the teacher’s explanation of how to write English paragraphs? 1 2 3 4 5
4.  Did you have enough time to do writing exercises in class? 1 2 3 4 5
5.   Please rate your interest level in learning how to write BEFORE the writing classes. (1 = no interest . . . 5 = very high interest) 1 2 3 4 5
6.    Please rate your interest level in learning how to write AFTER the writing classes. (1 = no interest . . . 5 = very high interest) 1 2 3 4 5
7.    How was the teacher’s attitude? (1 = not prepared and uncaring …. 5 = excellent preparation and high enthusiasm) 1 2 3 4 5
8.   Did using video raise your motivation to practice speaking? 1 2 3 4 5
9.   Did using video help you improve your speaking and gestures? 1 2 3 4 5
10.   How was the teacher’s explanation of how to do a demonstration speech?(pronunciation, rhythm, gestures, body posture, etc) 1 2 3 4 5
11.  Were the demonstration speech handouts interesting and fun? 1 2 3 4 5
12.  Were the writing exercise handouts interesting and fun? 1 2 3 4 5
13.  Did your English writing skills improve?(1 = not at all …. 5 = 100%) 1 2 3 4 5
14.  Did your English speaking skills improve? (1 = not at all …. 5 = 100%) 1 2 3 4 5
15.  How would you rate this winter English camp overall? 1 2 3 4 5

1 = Needs Improvement, 2 = Okay, 3 = Good, 4 = Very Good, 5 = Excellent

1.  What are your 3 favorite things about this English camp? Please explain why for each.
2.  Where are 3 things you didn’t like about this English camp?  Please explain why for each.
3.  What would you like to learn in future English camps?  Please explain why. (Think about this summer 2010.)  Here are some examples: essay writing, story writing, reading, listening, speaking/conversation, business English, job/university interview English . . .
4.  Please write any thoughts or feelings about the English camp and Teacher Jason you want to share.  Be honest so that future English camps can improve.

I think the freshmen, and my Korean co-teacher, were shocked that I was giving them the opportunity to VOICE their thoughts and feelings about the camp, and potentially to criticize me as a teacher.  I also think that the freshmen really liked that they were being given a tool with which they could actively participate in shaping future learning and teaching–something that rarely if ever happens in their regular classes (though this coming semester will see the beginning of Korean teacher evaluations by students).

I was really happy to get 5/5 across the board from all the students for overall satisfaction with the camp.  The rest of the scores were predominantly 5s, and the remainder 4s . . . with one exception.  Many students gave 3s and 2s for question #2–they wanted MORE WRITING CLASSES WITH ME–AWESOME!!!

Okay . . . re-reading this post I’m realizing that it’s gotten a bit more ‘organic’ than I’d like it to be though I would like to think the tangents I go off on all spring from writing about winter camps and lesson prep, lol.

To wrap this up . . . I think my winter English camp schedule changed a total of about 8 times before it was ‘set in stone’–though I hesitate to use that expression because in camp #1 and now in camp #2 I am being thrown a curve ball that impacts how I organize my lessons for writing and demonstration speeches.

Apparently no one gave much consideration to the fact that the incoming freshman have to return to their middle schools during February to attend their graduation ceremonies.  There are also a few days where the guys have to go to the school too for ‘classes’ which are really nothing more than an opportunity for last minute administration tasks to be done before they move on to their high schools.

How does this impact my camp schedule and lesson plans you might ask?  Well, I’ve assigned six hours of class to learning how to write paragraphs and paragraph format rules.  The six hours take place over the course of 3 days, and if a student misses even ONE day of the three they have a really hard time catching up with the others because of the developmental structure of my lessons and the writing exercises I have them doing in each class.  Last week, a couple guys missed one day, and one guy missed two days, and when they walked in and tried to participate and keep up they really struggled.

I know that professional teachers, regardless of what socio-cultural teaching environment they find themselves in, always have to adapt and be flexible to schedule changes, and to having students walk into their classes who have been absent and need to be caught up . . .

But I think that Korea must be at the far extreme end of the scheduling and lesson planning continuum.

More to come about Day 1, Winter English Camp #2.


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.


My first Halloween in Korea was back in 2005.  I was living and teaching on Ganghwa Island, and was one of just 6 foreign English teachers on the whole island.  My home middle school (I taught at 3, and lived next to one of them) was in a two-street village next to a mountain–needless to say the kids and teachers had never been exposed to anything resembling a western cultural Halloween event so I decided to do a culture lesson and decorate my English classroom.

I spent my own money on the decorations because the middle school was small (98 students) and they didn’t have any kind of budget (especially after spending 40,000 on building a new English Zone).  I went to Walmart in Incheon (back in the day when Walmart was still in Korea) and picked up supplies and some decorations.

The kids really liked the Count Dracula I found at Walmart.

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Pumpkins are insanely expensive in Korea (when compared to prices back in Canada) but many of my students came from farming families and they brought in pumpkins that their parents donated.  I quickly learned that Korean pumpkins have unbelievably thick and HARD skin.  I think I destroyed two large knives while carving these pumpkins; I also had to use a heavy handled butter knife as a substitute hammer to drive the blade through the skin of the pumpkin while carving–it’s that thick!

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I picked up some cheap plastic Halloween props and taped them onto the walls.

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I also bought a spider web, and then made construction paper spiders and taped them on the walls near the web.

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While I’m no arts and crafts expert I think my spiders turned out pretty well considering I wasn’t using a stencil.

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The best thing I found at Walmart was this glow in the dark skeleton–the students really got excited when they saw it.

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As for the Halloween culture lesson itself I put together a 15-20 minute power point with pictures of the following vocabulary: werewolf, Frankenstein, skeleton, witch, ghost, black cat, spider web, spider, graveyard/cemetery, vampire, Dracula, scarecrow, pumpkin, and jack-o-lantern.  I found pics of world competition level pumpkins from pumpkin growing competitions in Canada and the USA and the kids totally freak out when they see the pumpkins back in North America–especially compared to the typical pumpkins in Korea, lol.


Winning Pumpkin

I also have a series of slides that describe the 6 steps you do when carving a pumpkin and making it into a jack-o-lantern, and pics of how to ‘bob for apples.’  Also, I have a 6 step breakdown of Halloween night and describe the typical process involved in going ‘trick-or-treating.’ At the end of the power point I throw in some pictures of Halloween costumes in New York City, and then we do a review of the vocabulary.

This year at the all boys high school we’re going to do what I just described and then do a craft activity where the boys will draw, cut, and color different Halloween vocabulary and cultural objects.  They will then write the vocabulary names on their object and we’ll put them up all over the classroom, and then out in the hallway after we take up all the wall space in the classroom.

Julianne and I spent last Friday night decorating one of the two classrooms I use at my boys high school.  We’re still not done, but here are some previews . . . oh yeah, I managed to get funds from the school to buy colored paper, glue, and other supplies so it was nice to not have to spend my own money–but I still would have done that if I hadn’t gotten funds.  It’s worth it to see how much the students like the decorations.


I bought rolls of yarn and tied them to the four fans on the ceiling to create a spider web . . .


Visualizing what the Halloween tree will look like before we began cutting . . .


This classroom is pretty big, and I like that the tables/desks can be moved around.


Spider web done . . . now all we have to do is make the spiders.  Oh yeah, I bought fishing line to hang them with so they look more realistic.


Julianne and I are going to add grave stones, grass, a moon with clouds, and a few other things to complete the scene we’re creating on the closet wall here.


I got the idea to make the branches of the tree end with hands and long sharp fingers–I think it looks pretty creepy and hope the boys like it.


While we were putting up the haunted house I got the idea to make it look like it’s a face too.  We still have to add window frames to the two yellow squares, and a few other details too.


Did I mention that I think the spider web rocks?!!! I can’t wait to see what it looks like with the spiders hanging from the fans and parts of the web.


On Monday the students will be making jack-o-lanters, bats, spiders, witches, and more from colored paper and then we’re going to put that stuff up on the walls–expect a follow up post with pictures to come on Tuesday or Wednesday.


And on that note–it’s lunch time.



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