Thursday, March 29, 2012

Blog of the week

I'm currently featured as "Blog of the Week" in one of the expat online magazines.  Check out Chincha (really!?) here.

My first Celta Lesson

So the first teaching practice out of the 8 is done and I got an "Above Standard."  I had to do a grammar lesson on the Simple Past, which is very similar to what I do for my actual job.  Present a grammar lesson in an organized kind of way, and plan some interactive, interesting kind of activities that get the students involved.  And keep things moving along at a good pace so the students are on-task and not bored.  And give clear instructions, which I can do in my sleep at this point, since the students at my uni are often extremely low-level.  It was actually a refreshing change to have the students for the Celta Course who are actually interested in learning English, and participate in class, and are generally higher-level than the people that I teach.

Anyway, the Celta is actually kind of ridiculously easy for someone who's been teaching for a few years, since the course is geared to the person who has never set foot in a classroom before.  If only I had taken this course years ago, it could have actually really helped me with my teaching skills!  But, expectations do get higher as the course goes on, so I'll have to keep on my toes and make sure I hit all the points expected for each type of lesson.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Lesson Planning for my first Celta Teaching Practice

There has been lots of stuff that I've found not so helpful on the Celta Course, but one thing I've liked is the focus on how to plan a lesson.

For grammar lessons (I'm teaching the Simple Past on Thursday), there are a few points to consider:

1. Context.  If you give no context, students won't care what you have to say, or remember it.

2. Meaning.  What is the grammar point used for specifically.

3. Forms.  Including negatives and questions.  Many teachers forget these last 2 points.

4. Pronunciation.

5. Practice.  Controlled and Free.

I have to admit, I've been a little weak on context in many of my previous grammar lessons and didn't really say much about pronunciation.  If I take only one thing from the course, this will be it!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Reader Question: Using Twitter in my Classes

This one from Bethany:

"I was just curious how you use twitter in your class. You mentioned that its a requirement for your students and I'm curious about it! Sounds cool."

I've only started using Twitter this semester as a way to communicate more effectively with my students outside of class.  I used to get their email addresses/phone numbers, but I found that students often don't check their email for weeks and that me sending text messages to an entire class was way too time consuming and expensive.  Now, I just use Twitter.

How to set it up:

Make a Twitter account.  I use: (uni name)jackie.  Then, students can download the app onto their Smartphones or Ipads.  If they don't have one of those (usually one 1 or 2 students out of a class), they can do it at home on  Then, get the students to "follow" you.  I give my students a number.  For example, my first class of the week is "1" and my last class on Friday ends up being "8."  They have to use this number as part of their username.  For example, KimSuJi8 would be in my last class.  Then, I use these numbers to put them into lists by class so I can keep track of who has signed up and who is in what class.  Plus, if they ask me a question like what their homework access code is, I can keep them straight without having to go through all my attendance sheets.

How to use it:

I send lots of messages.  The good thing about Twitter is that they just pop up onto their phones through push notifications and they don't have to login.  Some examples of messages I send are things like,

"Remember your homework for tomorrow."
"If you have problems registering for Internet Homework, use the computer lab in the library."
"Hi!  Welcome to the class." 
"Remember: no class tomorrow!" 

Students often ask me questions as well.  Like what score they got on their homework.  Or what the access code for the homework site is.  Or just say hello.  

And I have one special class that I teach on social issues.  They have a book where they have to do weekly readings for homework and take a quiz in class.  I use Twitter to give them hints about what's on their quiz.  And I also ask them some discussion questions about social issues and if they respond, they'll get bonus points at the end of the semester.  

Friday, March 23, 2012

Pearson Longman Internet Homework

My uni is big on "blended learning," meaning that the admin expect us to allocate at least 20% of our final grades to Internet Homework that the students are required to sign up for.  Pearson Longman has this online homework system that they use for a wide range of books, including North Star, Top Notch (what I use), Cutting Edge and Speakout (+many more).  If your program or uni is considering using it, here are the things I like and don't like:

I don't like:

1. It only runs on IE and Safari.  Most people I know use Google Chrome or Firefox.

2. It's buggy.  Like full of bugs.  A lot of them.  Tons.  I can't emphasize this enough.  Randomly, the website will be down.  Students will fill in all the right answers and it marks them all as wrong.  But only for some students.  Not all.

3. It requires a lot of downloads (Java/Flash 8/Shockwave 7/Adobe).  I personally don't like downloading random stuff onto my computer and I'm not sure students like it either.  Plus, not all computers in places like the library computer lab at a uni have this stuff on them and many of them won't allow random people to download stuff.

4. Support/training is not fabulous (in Korea at least).  I learned how to use the system for the fabulous Sam Lee, who was murdered in Indonesia a few months ago.  The newbies at my uni "learned" from some engineer guy who was not fabulous to say the least.  Basically, Sam Lee was the only one in Korea who knew the system and how to train people on it and Pearson Longman had no one to replace him with.  I'm no expert on the system, but I could have done a better job of training a newbie.  Maybe this situation will improve in the future.

5. This is most definitely my uni's fault, but the Dormitory Wi-Fi network won't allow access to the website.

6. It's complicated for the students to sign up.  Like really complicated.  And there are is no Korean language option for sign-up.  I think it's only English (and perhaps Spanish).  Most of the teachers at my uni end up wasting an entire class (out of a 16 week semester) helping the students sign-up.  Contrast this to Twitter (that I require my students to sign-up for) where I told them to pull out their Smartphones in class, download the app and sign-up.  It took about 10 minutes.  

Things I like:

1. It's easy for the teacher once you get over the steep learning curve.  I can set up my semester's homework for 2 levels in about 1 hour.  Then, at the end, I can check 8 or 9 classes of student grades and enter them into my spreadsheet in about 30 minutes.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lesson Planning...the Celta Way

For the Celta Course, there are these intense lesson plans that you have to do for each of your teaching sessions.  For first-time teachers, it would have a lot of value I think. Thinking about timing, possible logistical and linguistic problems, the goal of the session, concept checking questions, etc.  After teaching for 7 years, I think about all of this (and do it) kind of naturally.

Anyway, writing it down makes me a bit insane.  But I see how it's a necessary part of the process.  My first 40 minute teaching session is coming up on Thursday and I've written out the formal lesson plan, in its 6 page entirety.  Now I have the dilemma in whether I should actually bring that 6 page lesson plan with me into the session that I teach.  I could see myself getting easily confused since I always put my lesson into a 1-page plan with numbers to keep myself on task.  For example, this is what my normal lesson plans are like:

1. Attendance
2. Talk about Internet Homework
3. Warm up Game: ________
4. Review from last week: ________
5. Introduce Grammar: Simple Past.  Practice page 13B.  Pencils down, talk with partner.  Answers together.
6. Activity: survey handout.
7. Review/remind about homework.

So, I'm thinking I'm going to condense the 6 pages into this and avoid any chaos.  A confused teacher is not a good thing.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Part-time Celta in Seoul

I'm currently commuting to Seoul 3 times a week, studying at the British Council in Seoul for the Celta Course.  It involves getting up outrageously early and making my way to the nearest KTX train to get on the 7:05 (am!) train.  It's me and the sleeping/snoring businessmen mostly. 

Anyway, so far it's been valuable in terms of learning lots of good stuff.  It's definitely made me think about what I do in the classroom and why I do it.  A few things I've appreciated:

1. The focus on meaning and form when teaching grammar.  Without giving some meaning, or context for using the grammar, students won't remember or care.  In the past, I've often been guilty of just teaching the forms but not doing enough with the other part.

2. And for vocab, there should be meaning/form/pronunciation in your explanation.  I quite rarely focus on pronunciation of the words, but I plan to do this more in the future. 

3.  Grammar.  Serious grammar.  I never really considered myself a grammar slouch, but I'm definitely getting a lot more up to speed on common grammar forms in the English language.  And learning about the different situations in which you'd use each one.  I guess I haven't really taught that many advanced students so have never been challenged beyond the basic stuff.  Most of the students I teach have enough issues with the simple present/simple past/past participle that we could spend an entire year just doing that.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Reader Questions...Job Stuff

These ones from RW:

"1) How probable is it to find a teaching job at the Uni level? (I've got an MBA, TEFL Cert and some teaching exp)
2) Is Seoul the only center for this?
3) How do I choose a Recruiter?
4) Can I apply from another country if I'm a USA citizen?" 
My response:
#1: It's probable, if you're in country and available for interviews.

#2: No, there are uni jobs all over the country and actually, it's not that easy to get a job in Seoul at a uni.  You have to have some serious qualifications/experience in Korea/interview extremely well.  

#3: Unis generally never use recruiters.  They instead hire often through word or mouth, or on places like ESL Cafe.  Any recruiter who claims they can get you a uni job is a liar and while you may get a job from them teaching uni students, the hours/pay/vacation will be like a hagwon.  

#4: You can send in your application from anywhere.  However, if you're not in country it can be next to impossible to get a uni job (I guess that maybe 95% of uni jobs in Korea require in-person interviews).  And the other thing going against you is that it will be harder to obtain the documents you need for immigration, such as a Criminal Record Check.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Reader Question...specific cities or unis

These questions from Ruth: