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Saturday, 29 September 2012

Funny Spider Video + Others

Since I'm posting video links, here is a funny one that I posted before (it's not suitable for young kids); one of my favorites:

And then, of course, there are the "trunk monkey" ads that I love:

African Animals Attack

Is the lion at the top of the food chain?  Watch this video and find out:

Might surprise you . . .

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Fee, Fie, Fo, Fum!

On MWF's I am the only male teacher/person at our academy.  I work with 7 women, and, generally speaking, I like it that way.

Last week, on several occasions, I admonished some kids who were running, etc. in the hallway before and/or between classes.

My director--observing me in my self-appointed "enforcer" role--said, jokingly, "That's why we need a man here".

Along the same lines . . .

Friday I started teaching a new class, as one of my coworkers is pregnant and having problems with morning sickness.  If I teach her last class (I have to be at school that hour anyway, as I have a following class), then she can go home early.

This class has 5 boys, three of who I have taught before.  I asked my Korean co-teacher about the class, and she said they were worried about having me as a teacher because they knew I was strict.  They like to play vocabulary games, and they were worried they would not be able to do so with me as a teacher.

I found this amusing but understandable, so I had a short talk with them Friday night, our first class, about my expectations for the class (they are 6th graders).  We got along well--and not a word of Korean was spoken in class--so I have high hopes.

My female coworkers are perfectly capable of enforcing good behavior, and I salute them for the way in which they do so.  However, I recognize and utilize my status as  the "older male" teacher (I am 46; all of my coworkers are in their 30's), and it often eases the way toward behavior modification when needed (on the down side, it takes longer for me to get close to kids).

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Surprising Student Conversation

One of my advanced students and I were talking about topic sentences since I am teaching her to write essays.  Either it was boring or she just had this on her mind, but suddenly she started talking to me about the "freemasons" and how she had learned they planned to reduced the population on Earth from 6 billion people to 2 billion.  One way, she said she had read, that they were going to do this was by means of earthquakes . . . they had a machine that could start an earthquake and had already tested it on China.  (Remember the big earthquake in China in, what, 2008?)

I don't know if my mouth was hanging open as she went on, but it certainly felt like it.

This girl, 12 years old, is extremely bright, and she is essentially fluent in English.

If having a discussion about potential world domination by the freemasons is one way of improving her English, then I am not going to say no, but at the same time--wow!  All this really came out of thin air.  Topic sentences and my lesson plan kind of went out the window.

I ended up, hopefully gently, teaching her the term "conspiracy theory" as I showed her an internet article that "proved" that NASA faked the moon landing, and I talked to her about not believing everything she reads on the internet.

For our next class I intend to do some kind of "reality check" with her using the internet (it's nice that we have access to a computer and a large video screen in our classroom).

I've said it before, one of the reasons I like being a teacher is something new is always happening (but, OMG, a 12 year old Korean girl telling me the freemasons are going to kill 4 billion people by using an earthquake machine?  That I never, ever would have thought I'd hear.)


My students--Korean students in general--do a lot of homework since they have multiple teachers: at least one at their public schools, two at our English academy (1 foreign and 1 Korean), and at least one for each of the other academies they attend.

All of these teachers give them homework.

So, being the nice guy that I am, I try not to give them too much; they seldom complain about homework, and I respect them for that.

I don't think the amount of homework they have to do is necessarily good, or, to put it another way, it helps them learn and keeps them from watching too much tv (they simply don't have the time), but I think it stifles their creativity and limits extra-curricular activities.

Anyway, I try to be fair.

With about 5 minutes to go until the end of a class (50 min.), I tell them to get out their homework sheets and I prepare to write the homework on the whiteboard for them to copy.

It usually looks something like this (for a 3rd to 6th grade class):

  LG SB 13 LR 3X
  WB 11
  NB SB 13 B. W1X
  ES p. 6

That translates as:

  Let's Go Student Book page 13 Listen/Repeat 3 times
  Let's Go Workbook Page 11 (do)
  In your notebook, write exercise B. on page 13 from the student book 1 time
  English Skills workbook page 6 (do)

Yesterday, when I was about to start writing homework on the whiteboard, one student began to tell the others what I was going to write, just for fun (this happens on a weekly basis in several classes, and I have learned to play along) . . . "Teacher, Let's Go page 10, and um, workbook page 9 . . . no, page 8, and . . ."

It so happened that I had forgotten to write down their notebook homework, and so would not have assigned it, but when he was speaking he reminded me to do so.  Thus, they got more homework than they would have.  I had a hard time not laughing about it.

In another class, a student began to list the homework as I was writing it, only he jokingly said, "Write 100 times".

I turned around and said, straight-faced, "100 times?  Ok." and I wrote W100X on the board.

The other students in the class were horrified and said, "Teacher, no!  Please!  Only him!  Please teacher!"

Again, rather funny, at least for me.  They sometimes do not know when I am joking, and I like to play off of that uncertainty.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

There's No Privacy? Really?

My view is that Mitt Romney,the privileged Republican Presidential hopeful (caught on video saying some things that perhaps he shouldn't have), and the ever-popular Duchess of Cambridge (caught on camera exposing some things she shouldn't have), perhaps should have a conversation about the unavoidable lack of privacy in this modern world and, perhaps, about how supposedly intelligent people might deal with it.  But that's just my opinion.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Post-Typhoon Sanba

The typhoon--named Sanba--that came through quite a ways south of us today did no damage, thankfully, though we got quite a bit of rain (little wind).

The news is stating that the typhoon was the 16th one to hit Korea this year, though in the greater-Seoul area I think we have only gotten significant weather from 4 or 5.

I hope that was the last one:)

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Tricky Student

One of my advanced students, a 6th grade girl, was assigned to write an essay, and when she gave it to me, she said, "Teacher, isn't my handwriting good?"

Since we have talked about her handwriting before, it was a natural comment, so I looked at the writing paper I had given her (normally I ask her to type assignments, but she had told me the week before that her family's printer was out of ink).

I responded, "Your handwriting looks good . . . wait a minute--it's all the same!  You typed it . . . you changed the font!"

While I know teaching is a profession filled with "firsts"--something new happens all the time--never, ever have I had a student try to trick me like this.

She laughed and told me how she had changed the font and fed the writing paper through the printer.

Nice try!:)

P.S.  Yes, we did fix her grammar errors, especially the subject-verb inconsistency, errors she should not be making in the first place.

Online Games

If you are a teacher fortunate enough to have classes in rooms with a computer/video system, or if you want your kids to play educational English computer games at home, then check out the games on these websites:

You'll have to search the sites for the appropriate level games.  Some of them are great, some not-so-great.

Typhoon Sanba is Coming

Another typhoon is coming:(

Typhoon Sanba is expected to hit Korea on Monday, coming in at the southern tip from the Japanese island of Okinawa,  and travelling straight up the peninsula.  It is expected to be as strong as typhoon Bolaven, which did quite a bit of damage a few weeks ago (some food prices are higher because of it) and killed a number of people.

The good news is that by the time it gets to the wider Seoul area, where I live, the typhoon's strength should have weakened.

The bad news is that the southern parts of South Korea may get hammered pretty hard.

Tomorrow I am going to do some preparation that I didn't do last time.

Those of you in Korea (or elsewhere) looking for news about the storm can check here:

which is the Korean Meteorological Administration's "typhoon" "forecast chart" webpage, and also here:

at the two main Korean English-language newspapers.

I'm not going to worry yet; my thoughts are more that this typhoon stuff is getting a bit old, and that I feel bad for the farmers here.

Sunday, 9 September 2012



My all-around, number-one favorite game.


Because it requires students to use all four skill sets: reading, listening, speaking, and writing.

Also, it can be adjusted to fit most time frames.

In addition, it provides the teacher an opportunity to review different sets of vocabulary.

Finally, it is also a useful way of practicing classsroom language.

I start by giving students a half-sheet of paper (The other side has been used, so it's being recycled).

I write on the white board 3 lines vertically and 3 lines horizontally, and tell them to do the same on the paper that I gave them (or, for a short/fast game, 2 X 2).

Then I tell the students what the vocabulary is; sometimes I refer them to pages in their text book, and sometime I write on the whiteboard.  For example:

16 words
*8 Past tense verbs
*8 animals

It usually takes about 3 minutes for the students to fill in the vocabulary, and I help them, if needed, by writing on the whiteboard.

Then we begin.  I select a student to go first.  That student says a word from his/her grid, and the other students cross it off if they have it.

Then it's the next student's turn (I always have them go in a circular pattern around the classroom).

They have to use language like:

*It's Mike's turn
*Can you repeat that
*What was your word?
*That word is finished

When we played bingo in a class yesterday, I heard students saying, "You".

I stopped the game and said, "It's really not polite to say 'You'.  It's much better to say 'It's your turn'."

Parking in Korea

Where do you park when the lot is full?

Where else . . . in the middle of the street.

Korea has such lax parking regulations that it's ridiculous.  In the handful of years that I've been here, I've seen a parking ticket being written out 1 (one) time.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Things I Do at the End of Class

I have been meaning to write this post for a while.  If you're a teacher or a parent it might be of interest.

As an English teacher in Korea I make an effort to respect the time frame for my classes.  I have 50 minutes per class, and while I tend to do a bit of warm-up after the bell rings ("How was school today?", "Happy Friday!"), I usually get started fairly quickly.

We usually check homework together, as I feel it is a better use of time ("Change workbooks with your partner.  Get a colored pen or pencil.  Ok, Sally, read number 1.")

Then it's into the lesson and activities.

I try to finish on time in order to get my students out the door on time, as either they have 10 minutes break (which I think they need) or they are leaving the academy and need to catch one of the academy's vans.

This means I often finish a few minutes early, and long ago I found I needed a few educational activities I could do in a short time frame (as in minutes).

Here are a few of them, all of which my students have come to enjoy:

5 Things

So my students are packed up and ready to go.  I ask, "Bella, tell me 5 animals that don't have legs", or "Mike, tell be 5 foods that are green", or "Yeo-jin, tell me 5 countries that are not in Asia."

The other students shout out answers, but the chosen student has to tell me the 5 things.

This activity makes them think outside their books.  Sometimes they know the answer in Korean but not in English, so as a class we help each other to learn the vocabulary.

Map Search

In most of our classrooms we have a world map posted on the wall.

I ask, "Justin, where is Brazil?" or "Henry, where is Sudan?" and the chosen student has to get up, go to the map, find and point out the country.  If the student can't find it, another will eagerly help him/her.

This activity helps students learn the English names of countries, and I have noticed an improvement in students' geographical awareness.

Memory Circle

I begin, "I like to play soccer" and the next person has to say, "I like to play soccer and play tennis" and then the third person says, "I like to play soccer, play tennis, and go swimming" . . . and so it continues.

Or, I say, "I want to eat pizza" and the next person says, "I want to eat pizza and watermelon" and then the third person says, "I want to eat pizza, watermelon, and chocolate cake . . ."

Short Children's Films

On this site:

you can find a bunch of short kids' films (2-10 minutes), mostly animation.  I have shown some of them to my students during break times.

I would strongly suggest that you pay attention to the age ratings and that you preview the films, as they range widely in almost every aspect.

The "canary" one is cute:)

Cheers to Canada!

What I read in the news today:

Friday, 7 September 2012

Interesting Class Action

In one of my Let's Go 2 classes, I had an unusual thing happen this week.

On Tuesday my third grade students in one class were reading their storybooks in pairs, and two of the older (and more skillful) girls finished first.

Sometimes I have alternate activities lined up for more advanced students in these situations, for otherwise the students who finish early might get bored and start speaking Korean, which I want to avoid.

In this case, because the two girls sit right in front of my (the teacher's) table, I waited to see what they would do.  The other students in the class were still reading, so, I thought to myself, watching these two girls, were they going to goof off?

No.  One of them, kind of a leader, seemed to suggest to the other that they begin writing the next exercise in their notebooks, an exercise I had not assigned yet.  I was a bit proud that they they would contemplate doing unassigned work, yet I knew their thinking--let's do it now and we can relax later.

(Generally I frown on students working ahead, but not always.)

Things got busy and I forgot about this little mini drama.

Thursday, the next class, I assigned that same writing activity as an in-class assignment.  As the same two girls were sitting in front of me, I noticed and remembered that they had already completed the activity in the previous class.

I wondered what they would do (note that I always make a teacher's mark--in my case a star--at the end of completed notebook assignments, so that I know what is old and what is new.  This action "saved" me twice today when students tried to pass off--consciously or not--old work as newly completed homework.  However, in the case of these students, I had not "starred" their work, because it had not been assigned . . .)

One student glanced at the other, and I saw the message being telepathed: "Let's pretend to do this."

I gently reached out, took one girl's notebook, and remarked, "You're a fast writer!"

(It was about 30 seconds into a writing assignment that should normally take about 5 minutes.)

Inside I was laughing.

I said, "You two have to write the exercise again, but I will give you an extra homework sticker."  (After a certain number of stickers they get to chose a present, either a pencil or an eraser.)

They were pleased, I was pleased (after all, they did do the assignment twice), and I am curious to see if the two girls cook up another scheme.  That's what keeps me on my toes.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

New Semester

Last Thursday was the beginning of our new semester, which roughly coincides with our  students returning to their public schools from summer vacation.

It's a bit chaotic, as always, but definitely less so this year, as most of us (teachers) are keeping the same classes and--for the first time--the academy is no longer providing books.  Now, the parents have to acquire the textbooks on their own.

The good thing is that we do not have stacks upon stacks of books and cds.  The bad thing is that, on average, 2 students in each of my classes did not have their books for the first class.

Class sizes were smaller for most of July and August, as many students took a break.  Now I am back to full size (10 students) for many of my classes.

We have started teaching some new books to our middle school classes based on the new NEAT test that the Korean government is planning to use for university entrance exams.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Post- Typhoon Week

Friday we had our first sunny day (mostly) in a while.

South Korea had a period of hot weather that was killing off farm animals, but then we reverted to rain and more rain.  And then typhoon Bolaven came.  And then a second typhoon came two days later (Tembin?).

Too much rain.

Food prices are going up, especially for some fruit.

In the midst of all of this, our academy is starting the new fall semester, so students who have been taking a break are coming back and new students are joining--most classes are full up at 10 students.

New books, new students, new goals . . .