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Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Poster Day

Yesterday one of my classes made posters as their final class activity.  One of the projects in their writing textbook was to make a poster of their "Dream City", incorporating both written material and a picture.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Middle School

One of the big transitions that Korean children face is the move from elementary school into middle school.  When they graduate from sixth grade, they move from being the big kids to the small kids, as middle school in Korea is three years long (high school is also three years).

So the students go from 6th grade to 1st year middle school, and it is a worrisome time for many, in part because their tests are harder and test days are longer.  While some of our (private English academy) elementary school students do study a lot, especially as compared to some western students (many of my students go to 2-3 private academies after they finish their public school lessons, and some go to 5--piano, math, science, art, computer, Chinese, English, etc.), they are not as burdened as middle school students.

One of my 5th grade students told me last week that his hobby is sleeping, and, while it may sound funny, it is not so extreme as you might think, given these kids' work load.

 In one class yesterday I said, "You have one more week of vacation.  Enjoy it!"  (The new school year begins March 2nd.)

A girl replied, "Don't speak about it."  She was worrying about the anticipated workload of the upcoming new class.

Back to middle school.  Korea has been experiencing a national problem (and it has shown up on CNN) with school bullying.  In December of last year a student committed suicide after being bullied, and, in a strict crackdown, the authorities sent the two classmates to jail for 3 years.

Some of my students have told me that this (bullying) is a concern, as they know they are moving to the bottom of the school hierarchy.

I worry for them, but it seems that national attention may make the problem better.

Of course, it is not just as Korean problem. I have read about American students, as young as 12, getting arrested for behavioral problems.

Part of the problem in Korea, as perhaps in other countries, is the large class sizes, with 30-40 students in one classroom.  The news the other day said that Korea was going to start putting 2 teachers into each classroom (vs 1) in order to better monitor students.  Many teachers have come out against the measure, as they see the problem of bullying/behavior as being one of parental control, not schoolroom teaching.

I am glad that my maximum class size is 10 students, and that I can  know and observe each student.  It really does make a difference.

Heading into the New Semester . . .

. . . our English academy has new books . . .

 . . . more new books . . .

 . . . and lots more new books . . .

 . . . so, perhaps obviously, we haven't found a place to put all of them.

Hopefully mothers will show up early to register for the new term and to pick up their son's/daughter's/children's textbooks, workbooks, and cd's.

(Fyi, in the 2nd picture, above the boxes of books, you can see cards--kind of like credit or bank cards--stored in a rack.  These are cards that students scan when they enter and leave the academy.  The cards tell their parents (electronically) that they have arrived/departed.)

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Messy Teachers' Room = Productivity?

Neighborhood Market

Here are a series of pictures from my neighborhood market (where I buy vegetables, tofu. fruit, etc.--it's cheaper, I have learned, to buy in this market than to buy in the stores (plus I would rather give my money to the independent sellers than to the large corporations, though I do that too) ); unfortunately, it only happens on Friday.

The pictures progress from my apartment building towards the pedestrian center of Sanbon (through the market area and through the building that houses the "subway" station--though this far out of Seoul the train is elevated), the city I live in, altogether about 10 minutes worth of walking:

Video Room Lessons

At our English academy we are fortunate to have a large room to use for video purposes, primarily showing videos from the internet.  The room is sometimes used--due to need--for regular language classes, yet it is also used to provide audio/visual support for alternative classes/lessons.

For example, several of my middle school classes have been reading condensed novels/books such as "Sherlock Holmes" (different stories), "The Lost World" (which Spielberg must have ripped off for "Jurassic Park"), "Dian and the Gorillas" (a nonfiction account of "Gorillas in the Mist"), etc.  For these texts I have usually been able to find a corresponding movie/tv show series (often produced by the BBC--thanks!) to show students in short segments.  So, they read a few chapters, and then we watch a ten minute segment of the story; the combination of reading and watching/listening not only helps to maintain interest, but it also helps with talking about characters, plot, setting, and so on.

Sometimes I build an entire lesson around a video, both for the variety and for the collaborative learning experience.  Over the last few days--as I think I wrote about before with "Presto"--I researched and found a short animated film (in this instance "Oktapodi", app. 3 minutes, very entertaining) which students watched and then summarized, each student writing one sentence in a combined paragraph on the whiteboard.

I also used the short animated film "Pigeon: Impossible" to practice some W-H questions (who, what, when, where, why, and how).

It's great to have such a facility at our new location.  The students obviously like the video-watching experiences, and I like the fact that I can get them to write without really thinking about it as a boring task .

Sunday, 12 February 2012


Korea is pretty good about having bilingual signage (sometimes also in Chinese and Japanese, the two most common types of tourists).  Here's a street sign near my apt.  You might also be able to see the English on the bottled water truck.


Another large batch of soup, some of which I will take to work tomorrow to share (I'm interested to see if my Korean co-teachers find the chipotle chile pepper powder I used as seasoning spicy or not; they eat of lot of red-pepper flavored foods here, some of which are too spicy for me, but from my experience any pepper other the one they are used to is often considered "too spicy", as is ginger, cinnamon, and dill pickles.  Go figure.)

Btw, the white things floating on top are mushroom pieces, as I took the pic when I first put everything in (veggies+pork+a can of pinto beans+a can of tomato sauce), and they hadn't cooked down yet.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

My Freezer

I spent much of last weekend cooking soup--in large batches--so that I could freeze most of it.  I like to cook but I am lazy, so I prefer to throw all of my meat, fish, and/or veggies into a pot (actually 2 pots) and simmer away.  Once I am stocked up, as I am now, I can just pull a container out to thaw and then eat away:)

The Lifeline of Seoul

The subway system, that is.  Here's a pic of the descent, though out in the 'suburbs' where I'm at the train is elevated . . .

One Big Radish

Here's a picture of a Korean (or Asian?) radish (moo/mu/무).  It's nowhere near as potent as its much smaller North American variety; perhaps because of that, it is used quite commonly in cooking, in kimbap (rice rolls--where it is dyed yellow), and as a wrap for meat in some restaurants.  I have been learning to cook with it; one of these big suckers goes a long ways!  It doesn't have a lot of flavor but can add some interesting texture if not overcooked.

Friday, 10 February 2012


Over the past year my eyesight has gotten worse, especially when trying to read small text.  I have worn contact lenses and glasses for 30 years, but never had much change until this year.

Frustrated, I finally went to an eyeglass store and got an updated eye exam.  They told me that my right eye was the same, but that I needed a special type of contact lens for my left eye; apparently the cylindrical shape of the eye has changed, thus necessitating the need for a lens for astigmatism.

The new lens has greatly improved my reading.

I need to do more research on the subject, as language differences impeded a thorough explanation (plus they just wanted to sell me the lenses, along with a pair of reading glasses which I also chose to buy(frames on sale, total $100+, why not?) ).