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Saturday, 27 February 2016

The Diary Set Up

At my English academy all students--except for beginners (phonics) and middle school students--keep a diary and submit one entry per week.

For the first two years they are trained in diary writing by their Korean teacher.

(Note: all students spend one 50 minute period with a Korean teacher and one 50 minute period with a foreign teacher.)

Then we switch off, and for the next 2 years the students submit their diaries to their foreign teacher.

Teachers read the diaries and correct errors (usually in 3 sentences), and we encourage students to write longer entries, to use more adjectives, etc.  By the time the students are in 6th grade they can usually write close to 1 page about something interesting that they did over the weekend.

I like to read diaries because--despite the added work load--I get an insight into students' lives that I normally would not have.

Students generally do not like diary writing because, to them, it is simply another homework item that they would rather do without.

Yesterday, Friday, my Korean co-teacher for a class told me that I could assign diary writing for next week (meaning it is time to change delivery to the foreign teacher).  Since I enjoy the class and am interested in reading their diaries, I said, "Ok, I will tell them today."

Then she said, "I told them it was my present, no diary homework."

I groaned and made a joke, because I knew what was going to happen.

So I had class with the students.

Then it was time for me to write their homework on the whiteboard.

I wrote the first 3 items of homework, and, of course, when I got to the 4th and last item--diary--they were surprised.


One student blurted, "Diary?  The other teacher said 'Present! No diary!' "

He was kind of gasping.

For about one hour they thought they would not have diary homework.

I felt sorry for them. so I gave a short motivational speech about the importance of diary writing, though I am not sure it was fully accepted.

We'll see what happens next week . . .

Short Film

"The Shadow Campaign // Sun Dog"

(5:35 minutes)

Nice photography, set in the Argentinian mountains, of a skier and his dog.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016


Kumquats: I love them.

I remember when I was a little kid in Florida that my grandfather had a small kumquat tree (more like a bush) in his yard.  Thinking they were like little oranges, we would try to peel them.  Ha!

No.  Just wash them and plop the little fruit whole into your mouth.

What a nice sour rush of vitamin C!

(There usually are a few seeds.)

They don't seem to be available that often here in Korea, but I spotted this package tonight at E-mart (grocery store) and grabbed it:

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Soup Time

The last two winters I cooked soup almost every week.

This winter has been different.  It wasn't until two weeks ago that I felt the desire to cook some soup, and then, as always, there is a re-learning curve.

I don't use recipes, but rather remember (or try to) what worked well before.

Today is the third week for soup-making, and I think I have gotten back into the groove (though I have yet to taste the finished product).

When I do make soup, I usually go all out and use two big pots to make two different kinds: chicken soup and salmon soup.

I throw all of the veggies I like into the pots.

I eat some, refrigerate some, freeze some.

I'm a lazy cook.


Chicken Soup

balsamic vinegar
stone-ground mustard
black pepper
dried parsley
dried rosemary
salt (small amount)
mushrooms (2 kinds)
chicken breasts
sweet potato
cherry tomatoes
dried zucchini

Salmon Soup

Same, except substitute salmon fillets for chicken and tarragon for rosemary.
I use fewer veggies and more tomatoes + carrots.
No dried zucchini.

It's not cheap to make these soups, but they taste good and are very healthy!

Monday, 8 February 2016

Market Pictures

The Geumjeong (Gunpo-si) market is situated in a covered maze between buildings.  Today is a holiday, so it was not busy; I was a bit surprised that it was open, yet it is hard for some shops with perishable food to shut down.

See if you can spot the chicken feet, a popular item in Korea (served covered in a spicy sauce):

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Short Films Reposted

After posting that last film link--which is a new one for me--I thought that it is time to repost some older favorite films, especially since this is the lunar new year in Asia, and some teachers might have more free time to watch films.

So, here we go (with my best ratings guesstimates; preview the films and check out summaries/reviews if in doubt; note: no horror or nudity on this site ever):

Mature (offensive dialogue; not for kids)

"The Gunfighter":

Adult (potentially scary for kids)

"9" (10 min.):

"Room 8" (6 min.):

"Record/Play" (11 min.):

Mixed (Some young kids might be scared, though it's mostly animation)

"Johnny Express" (5 1/2 min.):

"Sheep in the Island 1 (9 min.)":

"Sheep in the Island 2" (10 min.):

'The Black Hole" (3 min.):

"Lifted" (5 min.):


"Dum Spiro" (6 min.):

"Marry Me" (7 min.):

"Rabbit and Deer" (16 min.):

"Bottle" (5 1/2 min.):

"Gopher Broke" (4 min.):

"Oktopodi" (2.5 min.):

"Presto" (5 min.):


At 25 minutes this film, "Tuba Atlantic", doesn't fall into the usual 'short film' category.  Its themes--an elderly Norwegian man waiting to die, his estrangement from a brother, and his hatred of seagulls--are not really appropriate for kids (+ bad language).  It's good, not great . . . different from the usual Hollywood fare . . .give it a watch:

Warning: subtitles in English

Classroom Guessing Game

In classes from about 3rd grade up I sometimes do a guessing game that the students enjoy very much; what they don't realize is that they are practicing a number of important English language skills in the process.

I introduce the activity, saying that they are going to do a guessing game, and each student has to think of one animal and then write 3 hints about that animal.

"For example," I say, "My animal lives in the ocean, my animal can't swim, and my animal is delicious."

I write on the whiteboard: 'I think your animal is a ____________ .'

Students raise their hands, and I choose one.


"Make a sentence please."

"I think your animal is a clam!"

"That's a good guess, but it is not correct.

I choose another student.

"I think your animal is a crab!"

"That's right!"

Then I give them a half sheet of paper, and they think and write for a few minutes, sometimes using a dictionary for help.

Then, one-by-one, they stand up in front of the class and present. Usually the process takes one of my classes (7-10 students) about 15 minutes; I reduce the time by starting the guessing as soon as one student has finished his/her hints; the others can participate while they continue to write.

Other categories are food, sports, countries (for more advanced kids), etc.

Occasional problems arise, such as when we were doing the food category in one class last week, and a girl said:

     1. My food is not an animal.

     2. My food can't fly.

     3. I like my food.

I did not tell her that those were the worst 3 hints in the history of this game, but I did ask her to sit back down and think of 3 better hints.  (She did.)

Sometimes there are kids who know about scarab beetles or geckos, and the other students will never be able to guess the answer, so be prepared to limit the time per student and say, "Wow, John, great hints, but we don't know the answer--please tell us."

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Sydney, Australia: News Article about Its Decline

Have a read:

Saturday Lunch

Here's a plate pic from a sushi buffet restaurant:

Good food, though it should be at $17 per person . . .

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Short Animation

A short film to watch (10 minutes):

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Last Letter First Letter

Sometimes when my classes finish a few minutes early, and the students are lining up at the door, I have them do the "last letter first letter"game.

I say, for example, "The category is food, and my food is banana."

So the next person has to name a food that starts with "a".

Or, I say, "The category is animals, and my animal is cat."

So the next person has to name an animal that starts with the letter "t".

Those are perhaps the two easiest categories for elementary students.

Sometimes for middle school students I do verbs or adjectives.

Today, however, with an elementary school class, I wanted to do something different, so I said,
"The category is countries, and my country is Australia."

They were lined up at the door, but had a wall map to look at.

The third grade students didn't know it, but almost every country that begins in "a" also ends in "a".

"Australia", "America", "Algeria", "Argentina" . . . we were most of the way through the line of students before I suggested "Afganistan".

The next student--after consulting the map--said "Nigeria".

I knew what was going to happen, yet it was still quite interesting to watch their amused reactions.