Sunday, September 14, 2014

Teaching ESL, A Shorthand Guide

I wrote a "teaching guide" for the next native English teacher that will be at my elementary schools containing some general and some specific information about teaching in my corner of South Korea. I was so grateful for the letter I received from the previous teacher at Doam and I thought it could also be a helpful blog post.

1. Classroom Set-up
2. Class Curriculum Notes
3. Games & Activities
4. Know Your Contract
5. Teacher Dinners
6. Happy Teaching

Classroom Set-up:

Doam Elementary Timetable:
Period 1: 9:10-9:50AM
Period 2: 10:00-10:40AM
Period 3: 10:50-11:30AM
Period 4: 11:40AM-12:20PM
Lunch: 12:20-1:00PM
Period 5: 1:10-1:50PM

Doji Elementary Timetable:
Period 1: 9:10-9:50AM
Period 2: 9:50-10:30AM
Break: 10:30 - 10:50AM
Period 3: 10:50-11:40AM
Period 4: 11:40AM-12:20PM
Lunch: 12:20-1:00PM
Period 5: 1:10-1:50PM

Classes: This year (September 2014-January 2015), I taught 3rd—6th grade at Doam Elementary and 2nd-6th at Doji Elementary. Most of the grades are divided into two classes. For example, 3-1 is the first third grade class (3rd Grade, Class 1).

Basic class structure: At Doam, my co-teacher SK and I took roles pretty soon on – she led the book lessons, prepared and gave out homework and tests, did the password, and dealt with classroom discipline. I prepared lesson introductions (PowerPoints), made warm-up/motivation games, and put together games and activities for after the book lessons. At Doji, I had the same role, plus I did the password; my co-teacher SH also made games/activities and had a knack for finding motivational video clips. 

1.  Greetings: "Hello, everyone!" and how are you, what day is it today, and how's the weather questions
2.  Motivation: A quick warm up game/conversation that reviews and practices the key phrases and vocabulary
3.  Book Lesson
4.  Game/Activity
5.  Password: Students must speak English to leave the classroom

Attention Grabbers (2):

Teacher: “Look, look, look at me.”
Students: “Look, look, look at you.” [clap, clap, point at teacher]

Teacher: “Be –”
Students: “-quiet!!”

Class Curriculum Notes:

2nd Grade:
There is no English book for teaching 2nd grade. It was a weekly struggle at Doji for my co-teacher SH and me to come up with a lesson plan that would keep the kids engaged – it was a lot of work because we were up against little ones whose English levels range pretty substantially and a big class size at Doji. Plus, we had to create most materials, which takes time. At Doji,I taught 2nd grade with my co-teacher; however, that is pretty unusual I think. For the first six months at Doam, I taught 1st & 2nd grade by myself (with the home room teacher present for discipline).

My advice:
1.  Find a song to open and close with – one with actions, even better
2.  Have a worksheet or activity they can complete – as good as one student’s English may be, as a whole, the kids won’t understand a word of English direction or explanation. Giving them a physical thing to do, to complete, gives them a goal they can comprehend (and the questions and interaction will happen)
3.  Have a simple game – the coin flick game, bingo, tic-tac-toe; they are still learning how to be at school and I found trying to do a class game with teams and rules was a bit optimistic on my part

Here is a general list of topics for 2nd grade I did:
1.  The Alphabet: singing the ABC song, fill in the missing letter worksheets, put the letters in order, writing practice
2.  ABC Phonics: ‘A is for apple,’ what sound does “d” make, phonics songs
3.  Numbers: counting to ten in English, recognizing and spelling the English number words (for advanced student)
4.  Colors: They really like saying what color things are
5.  Animals & Animal Sounds: cow, dog, cat, bear, duck (“Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?” & “Old McDonald”)
6.  Emotions: “I’m happy/sad/angry.”
7.  Food: apple, banana, pizza, ice cream

2nd Grade Resources:
1.  YouTube Channels
A.  Storybots: Fantastic alphabet letter songs (the kids eventually started making letter requests) and other fun tunes
B.  Dream English: I loathe that Dream English guy but the kids REALLY like these songs and videos
2.  Favorite ABC Songs on YouTube:
3.  Favorite ABC Phonics Songs on YouTube:
A.  Phonics Song 2
4.  Workbooks on the shelves at Doam Elementary
A.  These workbooks have lots of pages you can photocopy as well as CD’s if you want to run your 2nd grade class more like the older grades
5. – teachers post their lesson plans online and you can download PowerPoint’s, worksheets, and games (you’ll have to register first)

Example 2nd Grade Lesson (one that went well):
1.  Warm Up Song: YouTube “the feeling song for children
2.  Review: animals and emotions – we have these big picture cards we held up and had the kids drill off
3.  Watch: “Gasp! | A Mickey Mouse Cartoon | Disney Shows” (YouTube)
4.  Ask: “What did you see?” – cat, mouse, fish (water, rainbow)
5.  PowerPoint Review: captured emotions and animals
6.  “Gasp!” Worksheet: matching pictures of the character’s emotions with the emotion words, ABC phonics with the animal names (“C” for cat), writing practice
7.  Coin Flick Game: two versions (animal and emotions)
8.  Closing Song: YouTube “the feeling song for children”
**Note: I’ll be happy to email any lesson plans

3rd - 6th Grade:
Third through sixth grades have an English textbook. There is an interactive CD’s with each textbook that each class works through for each class period. I taught 3rd – 6th grade with my co-teachers SK and SH, who were extremely active co-teachers. The two co-teachers I had during the first six months of my contract took on translator-when-needed and discipline-when-needed roles.  

Co-teaching is an art and you will probably come up with your own methods and suggestions as you start getting used to teaching in Korea. Don’t be hesitant to communicate thoughts with your co’s – I think that they will be very open to any ideas.

Each book lesson covers various vocabulary words and two or three phrases. I spent the first few months greatly disliking the textbooks and the games the books suggested, but as time went by, I came around. The students were learning English and I think my initial reaction to the books was from being a first-time teacher. There is validity to what the books are doing – my advice is not to fight it but to have a gander and enjoy the CD animations.

Korean Schools tend to rotate every year between getting new books for 3rd/4th and 5th/6th.

Games & Activities:

Here are some online resources for games & activities:
1. – Again, you have to register in order to download the materials, but this site has lesson plans, games, and activities specific to the English textbooks you are working with this year. It also has lesson ideas for non-textbook classes, such as 1st & 2nd grade, after school, and winter and summer camps.
2.  GEPIK Teachers Facebook Group – Along with being a discussion forum, teachers occasionally post games, videos, etc. and plenty post questions requesting ideas for extra classes and camps
3.  Any other Facebook group – I was lucky to come with a group of teachers from my home state of Wisconsin, and we shared materials from time to time
4.  Dave’s ESL Café: I never used this site, but it comes up a lot when talking to teachers

Know Your Contract:
I mentioned that the first six months I taught 1st & 2nd grade at Doam. At that time, I was not teaching at Doji and because I was under the number of teaching hours allowed in the GEPIK contract (there were fewer classes of each grade). I was teaching one 1st grade class and two 2nd grade classes a week. Just be familiar, especially at the new school year when classes change and things are rearranged, in order to be prepared and flexible. Your schools can be in their rights to ask you to teach these younger grades or to start teaching at a second, new school which is what happened there with Doji (working at two schools, there is a 100,000 KRW bonus each month in the 2014 GEPIK contract; Doam didn’t know about this, but I informed them thusly and they were happy to increase my monthly salary by 100,000 KRW).

Here are some other big topics of discussion within your contract:

After School or Extra Classes:
During the new 2014 school year, I did not teach any after school/extra classes. In fact, Doam hired an After School Korean English teacher that came in on Mondays and Thursdays (grades 2nd-6th). However, that used to be me. I had three extra classes a week (2nd grade, 3rd/4th grade, and 5th/6th grade) during the first term I taught in Korea. They had wanted me to teach these three classes twice a week, but I declined, though there was a certain amount of pressure.

I got supplementary pay for these once I started working at Doji because I went over the allotted teaching hours, plus the extra work hours in the contract. I was also drowning under all the work. I talked to my co-teacher and had an end date for After School scheduled.

I taught After School with no Korean teacher present – the lesson plans were up to me.

Winter & Summer Camps:
Under the GEPIK contract, you are required to teach a two-week winter and a two-week summer camp. You are free to choose a theme and are the sole creator of all materials, activities, games, projects, etc. You may have a budget for materials (mine was around 100,000 won or roughly 100 dollars), and you should submit a list of requested materials to your co-teacher. For my summer camp, my co-teacher SK was amazing and ordered all the materials for me instead of having me go to the store and buy everything with the school credit card (which is what I did for winter camp). I only taught camps at Doam – the basic structure was as follows:

Week One: 3rd & 4th Graders
Week Two: 5th & 6th Graders
Hours: 9:00AM – 12:00PM

The school provided snacks every day, which included pizza one of the days! Having crafts and just extending games they like to play in the classroom for regular classes (to fit under a theme) worked the best for me. With the camp budget, you can do some fun stuff (designing t-shirts or coffee mugs or making fun food (s’mores, puppy chow, guac)). There are lots of ideas on and the Internet; I found Pinterest to be helpful.

“Desk-warming” is a word you will become all too familiar with. During the school’s vacation period, you have to desk warm (be in school when there are no classes) unless you use your vacation days. I only desk-warmed at Doam (I didn’t go to Doji to desk warm), and I was able to eat lunch with the students and staff who were at the school over the school break, too. The winter school break is much longer than the summer school break - something to keep in mind when deciding when to use your vacation days.

1.  Winter Break 2013-14: roughly from January to March, give or take a few days
2.  Summer Break 2014: roughly the month of August (my vacation was shorter than the two weeks I taught summer camp)

Also, you may get May 1st (Labor Day) off from school – that’s in the 2014 GEPIK contract.

Teacher Dinners:
Teacher dinners are pretty important to attend – it’s a chance to see your co-workers outside of school and to experience eating Korean food with Koreans who know how to eat it. It’s a good thing and unless you have a legitimate reason to decline, I heard that your work relationships can suffer if you don’t make the effort to attend. Doam and Doji tend to have teacher dinners at the beginnings and ends of things – new semester, end of a semester, and new teachers (welcoming teacher dinners, goodbye teacher dinners). Occasionally, there are special teacher outings – I went to several performances in Seoul with the Doam staff. A lot of fun, we had dinner, did some shopping, and saw some great shows.

Doji was more like the teacher dinners I’d heard of – more alcohol and I had to stand up and give a couple of spontaneous speeches. All in all, just go with the flow, observe and follow your co-teacher’s lead, and know that everything will be fine. There are a lot of social taboos, but they know you are a foreigner; they’re not going to judge too harshly ^^

My limited knowledge of social taboos:
1.   Drinking alcohol: never pour yourself a glass; the person across from you will die if you do (someone else should pour your alcohol)
2.   If you are female, you’re supposed to turn your face away and cover your face with your hand when you drink soju 소주
3.   Don’t blow your nose at the table
4.   Wait until someone else starts eating before you do
5.   If you do do something “wrong,” people won’t hesitate to correct you YES!
**By all means, this is no official list. I probably should’ve done more research oh well.

Happy Teaching:

I made a lot of assumptions here, but this is what I found helpful and lacking in the letter I received from the teacher before me. One last time, if you have any questions or just want to talk about anything, please do email or message me. I had a great year at Doam and Doji and in Korea, but some days and some expectations can be incredibly frustrating and disheartening. You have an important place in the English education of these adorable, little monster students of yours, and they will love interacting with you.

Very Best,

Abby Nedeau-Owen
Kakao ID: Prancingbee

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