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Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Still Blowing, but . . .

I think we have passed through the storm without  a scratch, though I'm not sure about the southern part of South Korea, or about North Korea.  It's still blowing here, but I think the worst is over.

Storm Dies Down

The typhoon seems to have died down, so maybe the worst is over . . .

Typhoon Bolaven Update

It's still a hour or so before the predicted path of the typhoon hits us.  Winds are strong and blowing tree branches around, but there hasn't been a lot of rain.  Our academy's classes were cancelled, so I'm spending the day at home, and so far have water and power, so things are looking good:)


Tomorrow, around 2 pm, a potentially powerful typhoon is expected to hit the greater Seoul area.  It has been working its way here from Japan.  Most public schools have cancelled classes for the day (Tuesday).

Here's hoping the storm's strength dies down before it gets to us:)

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Student Pairs

"It's your turn."

"No, it's your turn.  You read here . . . "The people are . . ."

Teachers like me frequently pair students together for classroom work.  It can sometimes be very rewarding for the students, as they get to read and listen to each other.

Sometimes, though, it is a situation bound up with personality and other differences--one wants to read faster than the other, one is a better reader, etc.

I have been doing a lot of exercises lately from  One student reads half of a paragraph to the other, and that other student has to fill in missing words (it's called a "gap fill").

Some students seem to enjoy doing the exercise, but other don't; either way, the activity is very good for them, as they have to read and listen and write.  Enunciation is important,, and they have to ask questions such as "Can you repeat that?, "Can you read more slowly?", and "How do you spell ____ ?"

If our class is in one of the rooms with a computer, I sometimes have the students listen to the paragraph read by listenaminute's author (Sean Banville).  He's British and reads a bit fast, but it's good practice for the students.

Other times we do a crossword puzzle, where student A has half the answers and student B has the other half.  They read the clues to each other and fill in the answers.

In sum, active pair work is a vital part of my teaching strategy; it keeps the students on their toes and it's truly amazing, when I think about it, what they can do in a second language.

Food Smells

I think that one of the best food smells--excuse me, perhaps I should say, "One of the best aromas resulting from the application of heat to edible plants or meat"--is the scent of garlic and onions sauteing in olive oil.

Another would be rosemary on broiled chicken and/or potatoes.

In the top five food smells is this one:

The scent of ripening nectarines (or peaches).

These lovely fruits are sitting in my kitchen area, driving me crazy--they aren't ripe enough to eat yet, but they smell wonderful (perhaps because I keep sticking my nose amidst them).

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Too Much Rain

I know that the U.S. has been experiencing a severe drought, but here in Korea it is almost the opposite: we have been getting too much rain (especially in the greater-Seoul area, where I live).

We have had a succession of all-night rains, with water pooling up on the ground.

And it's not going to end anytime soon, as a typhoon is expected for early next week.

I'm assuming that the farmers are not happy and that, as happened before, the increased precipitation is going to push up food prices (similar to what is happening with the drought in the U.S., though not as extreme).

The one benefit is that is has been cooler for the past week, but the humidity bites.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Contact Lenses

The eyeglass store that I have been buying my contacts from for the last 8 months has thrown me for a loop.

Initially I went there to see if we could work together, and indeed there was a young man who spoke English and who gave me a competent eye exam.

He told me that I had an astigmatism in one eye and needed a special lens, and this greatly improved my vision, so I was thankful and returned to the store to buy contact lenses.

However, last weekend when I went there the man was absent, which was fine, but the person who sold me my new lenses (a box of 6 for each eye) charged me about $20 less.

So my question is, did someone make an accounting error or was the first man cheating me somehow?  He did tell me, on our first meeting, that I would have to pay more for the special lenses; in retrospect that seems suspicious, but, at the same time, it makes sense.

I need to go to another store to check the pricing on the contact lenses that I am buying . . .

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Laughing Girl

Yesterday, one of my beginner students (Let's Go 1) was wonderful.  She came to class and I asked, "Who are you?"

She answered, "I'm me!"

I said, "Hello Me," and she laughed.

"Who are you?" I asked again, and she said "I'm Ji-woo." (Ji-woo, her Korean name.)

I then said, "Hello, I'm Ji-woo," and she almost fell out of her char laughing, as did most of the rest of us, upon hearing her.

Sometimes these kids are so easy to entertain:)

Class Punishment

The class I wrote about before, with respect to being lazy . . .

I went to class 20 minutes early and asked them if they had done their homework.

"Yes, teacher."

Then they returned their attention to their cell phones.

When it came time to check homework it turns out that no, they had not completed it.  20 minutes would have allowed them enough time to do so, even though they should have done the homework at, well, home.

Sigh . . . 6th grade students already acting like middle schoolers (and here me being more cynical than ever).

The next night that they have class, in accordance with our previous agreement, they will stay at the academy 1 hour later.

Sunday, 12 August 2012


Tonight is the first time for oh so long that I have not felt hot and sweaty.  I'm afraid to use the word "cool" as it might jinx me somehow . . . what a relief though, if only for a night!

The Stick (or The Other Side of the Coin)

One of the classes that I teach is comprised of 5 or so 6th graders, and, while they are nice and I like them, they are lazy.

Lazy--there is no other word to really describe them.  As a group they often do not do their assigned homework, or only do part of it.

My Korean co-teacher and I were confounded about how to deal with them, so I talked with my school director, and we came up with a plan.

She told them that if they failed to do their homework then, the next class, they would have to stay an extra hour at our school.

So far the strict measure has only been applied to one boy, but I think the rule will be employed again as their summer vacation is affecting their homework attitude (our students are on public school vacation, but they still attend our--and other--private academies).

Normally we use the 3 X system . . . when a class gets 3 X's (on the whiteboard) (usually for speaking Korean, but sometimes also for behavior) they have to write lines (such as the school rules) in their notebooks.

Sigh . . . I hate enforcing any mode of punishment, but I learned a long time ago that most students will not change their behavior unless rules are enforced.

The students whom I have taught for a while know that I am strict but easy-going . . . gum goes into the trash can, if you don't do your homework you get extra work, but if you do a good job you get rewarded in some way.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

About Diaries

Most classes at our English academy keep diaries.  They generally write in them once a week--during the weekend--and the teacher corrects some of the writing.

Clearly, beginners--those at phonics and book 1 levels--don't have enough English skills to write diary entries.  Also, we have found that middle school students simply are too overworked and thus don't have the motivation/energy to maintain a diary.

However, all other students do keep a diary, which means grade 2 through grade 6.

It's interesting to read some of them; teachers can get a chance to see the personal side of students' lives.    Students also get an opportunity to practice English outside the confines of textbooks, and perhaps to talk about personal interests. On the other hand, some students put very little effort into diary writing, so the activity can be a drain on teachers.  As with most things in life, there is a good and a bad side to assigning diary writing for homework.

To motivate some students, if they write more than a page I will tape a piece of candy into the diary.  This "carrot" approach works very well in some cases.

One class (3rd grade?) that I have been teaching for about 2 years is very good; they are ahead of the curve on their textbooks, and whereas almost all other classes only do 1 or 2 texts a semester this class is doing 3.

And they are great.  They haven't complained when I have given them 3 or 4 different homework assignments.  (And let's be very clear here about homework--I am only one of their teachers.  Some students may have 5 or more teachers through the course of a week since they attend both their regular public school and private academies like mine, and all of those teachers give them homework.  Korean kids have a lot of homework, and I do not assign it lightly since I know this.)

Anyway, yesterday, Friday, at the end of class, I assigned homework as I normally do.

To start:

     ET SB 62 LR 3X (English Time student book page 62 listen/repeat 3 times)

They know this and they say it as I am writing it on the whiteboard and they are copying it onto their homework sheets. (Remember, we have been together for 2 years.)

Next line:

     WB 61 (do workbook page 61)


     SR 6-8 LR 2X (Success Reading book pages 6-8 listen/read 2 times) (They have cd's to listen to for most of their books)

Finally, 4th line:

     Diary (write in the diary 1 time)

At this point they groaned a little bit--but good-naturedly--and someone said, "I don't like diary writing"

Click!  This is the preliminary alarm bell, because any 1 student's voice can affect the whole class.

I said, "I love diaries!  I like to read about your weekends."

One girl, very smart and honest, said (in her wonderful English), "Teacher, only you like diaries!"

Click! (That was great English and cute but . . .)

(I thought to myself, "They have no knowledge about what I do with other classes, but now is clearly the time to start with them.)

"Do you know," I said, as they were lining up at the door to leave, "That in my other classes I give candy to the students who write good diaries?"

Lightbulbs.  Clearly, there was some mental processing going on.  (Remember, they're in 3rd grade.)

I'm interested to see what happens, which is most likely that I will reward the top 1 or 2 diary writers and the rest will improve.

That's my hope, anyway.

This is one of the many interesting things about teaching--you're never quite sure how things are going to be received by students.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

I am trying to post pics of the Mars Curiousity Rover landing, showing the rover descending with a parachute (the pics taken by an orbiting NASA satellite)--truly incredible stuff when you consider it.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

NASA's Curiousity Mars Rover Mission

I am completely amazed by NASA's new Mars' rover mission.  I watched the real-time control-room internet feed here today as the nearly 10-year-old planning and building achieved fruition.

I could not imagine, even in my dreams, the risky concepts that NASA came up with to put this car-sized rover safely down on the surface of Mars.

Watch the video from the NASA web called "7 minutes of Terror", referring to the intricate touchdown process for the rover.  Truly amazing!

  *Go to

  *Find the "Curiosity's 7 Minutes of Terror" video and watch it

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Vacation Pics: Food

A restaurant shellfish dinner and a home-cooked burger dinner at a friend's house: good eating!

Gangneung, South Korea: Water

This was vacation week at our school, so I took a few days to head over to the east coast for a bit of heat relief.

Here are some pics of the beach I was at, including the river that flows into it (and a new zip line running across the river).