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Saturday, 23 February 2013

Using Technology in Classes

On Monday, March 4th, students in South Korea will begin their new school year.

The English academy that I work at follows the public school cycle, so we will also begin new classes.

Right now we are ending the current academic year, which means student reports and book parties and goodbyes, but also planning for new classes.

In thinking about new classes, I have found the internet to be increasingly useful, as it:

     *provides variety and helps to stimulate students' interest
     *can reinforce content areas
     *allows for listening opportunities that aren't otherwise available
     *promotes educational games (vs. "the other" . . . a future post)

Over the past year, and especially in the last 4-5 months, I have spent a lot of time searching for, reviewing, and "testing" English game websites with my students.  I do this for the above reasons, but also because I would like my students to play some of the games at home.

I have posted, at different times, some of the websites that I have experimented with, but I want to summarize what websites I plan to use in this new semester:

#1: If I had to pick one website to use in my classrooms (we have 3 that are equipped with a computer and a large monitor) I would choose the Listen A Minute website:

It is well organized and has saved me so much time with respect to classroom preparation.  Mostly, however, I have noticed an improvement in my students' English skills over a period of time.

If you click on the "Word" button you can manipulate the texts before printing them off; also, you can also click on the "listen" button to play the relevant paragraph for your students.

#2: I really like the BBC Skillwise website:

Go there and check it out.

#3: Another British site:

It has some good games, especially at the bottom of the recommended page

#4: For variety, to review vocab, etc, I like Esl Games World:

I will continue to add to the list . . .

Food Class

One of my advanced classes (though only 2nd grade) is completing a writing book (Write Right 3), in which the last unit covers recipes/food.

I promised them that--as part of the unit--we would make some food in class.

As expected, and as perhaps natural, it took some time to agree on what kind of food to prepare.

In the end, the students decided to do two things in teams: make ham sandwiches and make a fruit bowl.

Here are a few pics of the food-making process:

In the end it turned out quite well, and I was proud of the students for remembering to bring their food items, for sharing tasks in class, and for doing a great job of cleaning up.

They liked making their own sandwiches and fruit:)

"New" English Game Website

For the past week I've been showing some classes a website produced by England's BBC.  It's called Skillwise, and features several pages of games that are, for the most part, quite well done.

On the third page of the "English Games" section you can find a syllables review game (all of my students like it, though it's a bit slow), several "treasure hunt" games to review verbs, and an advanced murder mystery game called "The Big Scan".

I completed the mystery game last night with a middle school class (the game took two classes to complete), and they liked it, though I think they were a bit overwhelmed with all of the details.

Anyway, the site is worth a look.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Free Online University Courses

Based on a friend's positive experience, I signed up for a free online university course through Coursera

one of the several organizations that are pioneering free university-level education to the world's computer-connected people.

The course doesn't begin for a few months, but it seemed better to sign up early, as these offerings--led by some top-ranked professors--can attract tens of thousands of participants.

Many of the current course offerings are focused on science and technology, but there are also some humanities-oriented subjects available for people like me:)

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Teachers Shouldn't Assume

Last week when I collected diaries from my classes there was one diary that stood out--it was quite well done.  In fact, it had no grammatical errors.  Yet there was a problem.

The student--a boy who sometimes has an almost-attitude--wrote about his sister being sick.  He said she had stomach problems and had to go see a doctor and get some medicine.

Then he wrote the following line: "I wonder if it was because of all of the crap we ate yesterday."

Oh my gosh.


I hadn't run across that word before, but I do sometimes have to deal with middle fingers being raised and some rare curse words.  Sometimes my Korean students have to learn that things they hear or see in movies/video games have strong meanings in real life and aren't very funny when done in public.

So I wasn't completely shocked, but I was surprised.


Ok.  Time for a teacher-student chat.

Class time rolled around, and it turned out that this one student was the only one present for the class.


I started out with, "David, your diary this week was well-written.  I liked reading the details about your sister's sickness.  Is she ok now?"

Then I moved into telling him about how a word he had written was not nice to write for a school assignment.

He looked at me with a blank face.

Ok, ummm . . . "One thing you didn't mention in your diary writing is what food your sister ate that you think might have made her sick.  Perhaps instead of saying "crap" you could write about what kind of food she ate."

He replied, "We all ate crab."

Korean Grilled Meat Restaurant

Our English academy had a staff dinner last night at a meat restaurant (galbi/samgyeopsal), which, kind of a Korean staple with respect to restaurants, serves slices or pieces of beef and/or pork to be cooked at the table.

I've posted plenty of pics of these types of restaurants before.

However, I haven't been to one for a long time and, since many of them have different types of table grills, I wanted to post this one pic:

As you can see, in this restaurant the meat is not grilled directly over flame (which some claim is better for health, even though you're eating rather fatty pork).

That in itself is not so unusual, but the tilted grill is (it allows fat to drain off to the left side).

What is very unique (I've never seen it before) is the soup bowl placed in the middle of the grill.

It holds a kind of soup (dwenjang jigae/된장 stew) which is normally served towards the end of the meal.

It's a fermented soybean paste soup with tofu, hot peppers, and zucchini.

At this place a waitress comes around and refills the soup pot, and it's kept at a slow boil since the pot is on the grill.

Also on the grill you can see onion slices and garlic (I don't like either raw, but I love them cooked) and a bit of kimchi (which I prefer not cooked).

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

North Korea's Nuclear Test

Well, so much for being optimistic.

North Korea went ahead and tested its third nuclear weapon, and now the question is what's going to be done about it.

Will Russia and especially China do something concrete?

Monday, 11 February 2013

North Korea's Backtracking

North Korea appears to be backtracking on its planned nuclear test, perhaps due to pressure from Russia and/or China.

Recent news reports, such as this one from The Korea Herald, say that:

"North Korea's planned important measures may not refer to a third nuclear test, a state propaganda outlet has suggested, adding to the confusion over Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.

"The U.S. and hostile forces jumped to conclusions that the republic is planning the third nuclear test, citing their hypothesis and argument," the propaganda weekly Tongil Sinbo said Friday in an article posted on a Web site operated by the North.

The weekly said the U.S. and other countries know little about what important state measures North Korea will take and whether the measures involve a nuclear test or anything worse.

The report came days after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un vowed to take "substantial and high-profile important state measures," amid tensions with the international community over its Dec. 12 long-range rocket launch."

If the reports prove to be true, North Korea will soon be asking for aid as a concession.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Online Educational Gaming

One of my favorite online English games for my students to do before class or during break times involves putting words in the correct order to make a sentence. It's not really a "game", but it seems like it, since students are up against a clock and have to complete a number of sentences before getting a score.

If you go here:

and go to the bottom of the page where you'll see a Santa Claus figure, you can try it out.

Alternatively, go to , click on "kids games" [sic], and then click on "play with words" and you will be on the page.

You can play the same game with different vocabulary.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Lunar New Year

It's Lunar New Year in Asia, one of the biggest holidays of the year.

If you watch CNN you might have noticed the mention of the phrase "the biggest human migration on Earth" with respect to China, where millions, or hundreds of millions, of people return to their family homes for the holiday.

South Korea is like that, though, of course, on a much smaller scale.

Almost all of my students--and I surveyed all of my classes--are going to their grandparents' homes for the holiday.

This means a mass exodus from Seoul, as few people were born here (I don't technically live in Seoul, but in the surrounding area).

As I write this, there are likely huge traffic jams on the highways, and buses, trains, and airplanes are filled up.

All of the people are returning to their family homes for the holiday.

Monday is a national holiday, and schools are closed Tuesday as well.

Happy Lunar New Year!

Greedy Pigeons

On the way home from my market shopping, I stopped to get a pic of this pigeon backdropped by snow.  I was hoping that it would let me get close and take a NatGeo kind of pic.

However, after I put my bag down, took off my gloves, and took this inital pic, the bird's buddies descended on me in a flock, apparently thinking that I was some kind-hearted person with food for them.

There were a lot more than these four.

Under the penetrating glare of their beedy eyes--"Feed us!"--I gave up my original intentions and left.

There were two that were flapping their wings, mid-air, in my face, so I really had no choice.

Pigeon intimidation can be a cruel thing.

Saturday Market

On Saturdays, next to the subway station where I live, about a five-minute walk, there is a small one-day market: fruits, veggies, seaweed, snack food, etc:

In the row of tents on the left side, at the far end, you can see the blue and white striped tent.

That's where I usually buy my veggies for making soup and for salads.

The inside looks like this:

Here's what I bought today:

Onions, garlic, cucumbers, potatoes (they look black because they haven't been cleaned), asian zucchini, pumpkin/squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots.  I usually buy lettuce and several kinds of mushrooms too, but I have enough left from last week.

All that cost me app. $25; not cheap, but then it goes a long way when making soup.

Yeah for fresh food!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Snowy Weather

We had a light snow day recently:

Some of my students were happy because they got an hour delay at school.

We got some more last night, and it was quite icy when I walked home.  There was a couple walking 15 feet in front of me, and the man got tapped on his leg by a turning car that slid into him.  Fortunately I don't think he was hurt, but everyone was surprised because it happened with no warning.

Today and tomorrow is supposed to be quite cold, so it will continue to me messy outside for a while, though I don't think more snow is in the forecast.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

SuperBowl Ad Preview

Check out some SuperBowl Ads:  (I really like Kia's "Babies" one . . . watch full screen)

You can also see more SuperBowl ads here:

or just get off your lazy ass and find them on your own.

The point is, yes, you can watch them ahead of the game:)

Steamed Veggies

They may not look like much, but when combined with some tofu, spicy (just a tad) dried anchovies, and perhaps some mustard and soy sauce, these microwaved veggies are truly delicious.

Just chop the veggies up, put them in a glass or ceramic bowl with 1/2 cup of water, slap some plastic wrap on top (and punch a few holes in it), and nuke for 3+ minutes.  (In my microwave, for a large bowl of veggies, it takes as long as 9-10 minutes.)

And check out this article:

New Glasses

I got new glasses today.  Not the most stylish, but then I don't care as I hardly ever wear glasses outside my apartment.  I much prefer contact lenses.

Anyway, I took a walk down to the large eyeglass shop that is near my workplace and got an eye test (free--part of the service; takes less than 5 minutes with modern equipment).

Then I chose the frames and waited ten minutes for the lenses to be polished and put into the frames.

I tried having a conversation in English with the male optician who helped me, and it was partly successful.

Finally I got my glasses (plus some free trial contact lenses and a free eyeglass case).

total cost = $89

Cool beans:)

Friday, 1 February 2013

South Korea's Naro Rocket Launch

As most of you know by now, this week South Korea succeeded in putting a satellite into orbit via a rocket launched from the Korean peninsula.

What an achievement!  I have been encouraging my English academy students (elementary and middle school) to be patriotic about it, as it is truly a great achievement.

Probably about 3/4 of my students immediately knew what I was talking about when I raised the subject this week.

Yeah South Korea!  This was the third attempt, and, perhaps in opposition to news reports, had nothing to do with the timing of North Korea's recent rocket launch.

Unfortunately, North Korea may not feel that way.

However, for now the emphasis is on the achievement of the Korean engineers and scientists who have made such a success possible.