Thursday, April 29, 2010

Next to/Behind/Across the Street From...

This week, we're studying about giving directions to somebody.  For example, "The Bank is across the street from the Library."  A fun way to make it interesting is to give the students a small picture of a city map (there's one in my textbook), along with a little written description about it.  I give them 5 minutes to memorize what they can, then they close their books and I ask them questions.  For example, "Where's the bank?" or "What kind of restaurant is it?"  I put them in groups or 4 and they have to write down their answers.  I collect the papers, quickly grade them, declare a winner and they get their little prize.  It's fun and learning combined!  Haha.  Tricky :) 


Maybe you're a lot like me and came overseas (for only a year!) to teach because you wanted to travel and make some money at the same time.  You had a good time, and kind of fell into the ESL thing as a career, without ever really planning to.  Or perhaps you had it all planned out, and studied linguistics or something at uni, but never really had any training in the more practical aspects of teaching English. 

Well...the best thing to do would be to take a Celta course (on the horizon for me!).  After that, reading some books, such as these ones:

Teaching English to Children in Asia.
Principles of Language Learning and Teaching 
World Link, Book 1 Teacher's Edition.

could be extremely helpful  The World Link book is an ESL textbook, but is has a very good, practical teacher training section in it.  

But maybe you're cheap like me,  and have all those books and think the CELTA is too expensive but want to continue learning about teaching ESL.  The next thing to do it to go to Itunes and download some podcasts.  My favorites are:

ESL Edgycation
ESL etc.
ESL Teacher talk.

Perfect for when you're on the commute, or working out at the gym.   And I've learned an outrageous amount of good, practical kind of stuff that I've incorporated into my teaching.  Some examples of topics on these podcasts are: The First Day of Class, Motivating Students, Two Discussion Activities.  I'm not sure there's any ESL teacher out there who wouldn't find stuff like this helpful.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Think you're too inexperienced or young to teach?

Well...come to Korea, it's apparently what they're looking for.  (Sigh).  Things need to change here. 

Response to Reader Questions

These ones from Hannah, Mark and Philip.

1. I do not have any specific unis to recommend since I've only worked at my own.  I love my job, but you might hate it, since I don't know you and what you'll like.  Some people want to be in Seoul instead of the countryside or teach higher level students, etc, etc, etc.  Look on the Korean job forums at for advice on specific cities, etc. 

2. If you don't have a Masters degree, your chance of getting a uni job from NOT in Korea is almost non-existent.  You can maybe get lucky if you're here for interviews and have a few connections of some sort. 

3. Look on for job leads.  This is the only site I really use.

4. As for whether kindi kids or uni students are easier to teach?  Well, that depends on the person.  I love uni because I'm not really a kid person.  Some people love kids so kindi is better for them.  With uni comes paperwork/admin/serious lesson planning so disorganized people generally seem to not like it.  If you want to open up your book and see what you're teaching the first minute you walk into class, then the kindi kids might be better.

5. Teaching demos for interviews?  Look online for some sample uni lesson plans.  I'm sure there are lots out there :)  And yes, it is different from teaching kids but less so than you would expect!

Monday, April 19, 2010

on testing...alone or in groups

I have the debate each semester as to how to administer speaking tests: alone in my office or in groups.  This year, I chose groups of 4, while the other students wait outside the classroom for the following reasons:

1. One of my co-workers got accused of sexual abuse last year and I want to avoid having a student in my office, alone, ever.

2. I want to avoid the illusion of having favorites.  If there are 3 witnesses to a speaking test, then students probably won't appeal their score.  When someone gets 3/15, it should be obvious to everyone in the room why.  Same with the student who gets the perfect score.  When students are alone, they have nobody to compare themselves to and the poor students have a tendency to think that they're better than they actually are.

3. It goes quickly.  I can do 25 students in just over an hour.  If they come individually, most of my time is taken up going back and forth to the door to call in the next student. 

4. It's easier to fail the poor students.  I have a harder time doing it when students are alone, since they are not so afraid to appeal/show their emotion when they're alone.  When there are 3 other people in the room, they are more embarrassed to do this and will usually just leave the classroom without some sort of sad story. 

5. And finally, the students don't seem to be so nervous when they're together.  They like having their friends there and since Korea is all about the group they don't seem to mind doing the test in front of their classmates.  I know in the West, it'd be all weird, but in Korea, it's just not. 

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Book Review: "Think" by Michael R. LeGault

I would heartily recommend Think!: Why Crucial Decisions Can't Be Made in the Blink of an Eye for any professional educator.  It's written in Response to Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. 

Having read both, I must say that I'm much more convinced by the former one.  It seems like the intuitive approach suggested by Gladwell is all too common in Western society today and is the cause of many problems.  While our instincts or gut feelings can reveal certain things to us, they are not the whole picture and problem solving skills and intellectual thoughts are often required, but these days these seem to be in short supply.  Anyway, check out the book for a bit of inspiration for teaching

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


A fun, quick game for when you're doing this topic.  Get the students to write 2 (or 3-4, depending on your class size) sentences using these words.  One is true and the rest are false.

My example:  I always eat toast for breakfast.  I usually play basketball everyday.  I never go to the movie theater.

For me, the third one is true.  The other two are false.  So I'd read out my three (you can write then on the board for lower level students) and then the students pick which one they think is true.  An easy way to do this is to hold up 1, 2, or 3 fingers to indicate the true one.  I reveal my answer and whoever guessed correctly gets one point.  The students read out their sentences, one by one and the game continues.  The winner is the one who has the most points at the end.

For plenty of other ESL Classroom ideas, check out Speaking Activities that Don't Suck and Fun ESL Activities for the Classroom.

Free: 40 Tried and Tested ESL Games and Activities

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


...they make my life in the classroom significantly easier. In fact, I'd say they've improved my classes by 10 or 15%, as compared to when I didn't require them. Obviously, learning names is better but each semester, I have over 250 students, and I only see them once a week so this isn't very realistic and I usually don't even make that much of an effort.

The students in my classes use a piece of paper, write whatever they want me to call them on it and then set it on their desk for every class. If they don't have it, they don't get their participation point so there's incentive to do it. If the student tries to hide it during class so I won't call on them, they're the first ones I pick. They learn fast that it's better to just conform to the system and take their chances instead of drawing attention to themselves.

Why it's better?

1. You can call on the sleepy/bored/innatentive students much more easily.

2. It's more personal and friendly to call someone by their name, instead of "Hey, you!"

3. It reduces a lot of stress when I ask a question and everyone looks down at their book, silent. This way, I can pick one of those people with their head down instead of waiting for eye contact.

4. Activities just go quicker when I can call someone's name, instead of trying to get their attention. Of if that person is talking when they shouldn't be, using their name will usually get them to stop immediately.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

It's all too true!

I grow weary of people teaching conversational English that have no skills to actually have a conversation, in English. Or, those that have skills but just have no desire to say more than "Annyeong Haseyo" to the old foreign teacher that they see everyday in the staff room.

Like shouldn't there be tests for stuff like this?