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Saturday, 30 April 2016

EFL: Conversation vs. Texts

At my English academy we use a range of standard EFL texts: Let's Go, English Time, Up & Away, Everybody Up . . . and we finish each book in one semester (6 months).  Last year we also added writing texts to most level 3 and above classes, mostly the Write Right series of texts. Therefore most classes have two textbooks to finish in one semester.

Our academy doesn't have a "set" page limit per class/day, but each teacher does have a certain responsibility to keep the pace in order to finish the books within the 6 month time frame.

Lately, however, I have been questioning myself about the focus on textbooks.  I have been assigning more pages for homework vs. covering them in class.

Yesterday, for example, in one class of 4th-5th grade students, I asked them what they were going to do this weekend.  We ended up getting into a nice little discussion, as Children's Day happens next week, and some students will take a break.

In the back of my mind there was this little voice crying, "You need to start the homework check!", yet my main thought was, "This is great!  We are speaking everyday English, and that is what I am here to guide these students into!"

Such a scenario raises the question, "Which is more important, completing the textbook pages (which are important, in order to provide structure, to facilitate homework, and to satisfy parents), or conversing?

Rather than take an either-or position, I would suggest that both are important, yet I have been focusing too much on the completion of the pages and the texts.

As I posted a while ago, our academy has, in the last year or so, introduced "reading circles" in 6th grade and middle school classes.  In brief, the students in these classes read pages in a book/novel for homework, are assigned certain "jobs", and then sit in a circle and talk about the pages that they read.

Starting next week, in selected 4th-5th grade classes, I plan to introduce "speaking circles", in which students will talk about their past weekends (what they did) and future weekends (what they are going to do).

I envision 10-15 minutes at the start of each class being spent on these activities, which is an extension of what currently happens.

The first time or two I will lead the groups, then I will appoint a rotating roster of student leaders (as with the reading circles, which the speaking circles will be trained up for).

This change will, of course, result in some additional modifications, such as assigning more textbook pages for homework, yet, as stated, I have already begun to do that.

I want my students to engage in more natural speaking, about things that they are interested in, and to learn how to participate in day-to-day conversations.

(When I think about this change I am mentally quite playful and fluid, yet when I write about my thoughts I sound like I am back at university . . . maybe I am feeling defensive or that I have something to prove--?  I don't know . . . anyway, I am sorry that I sometimes come across in an oh-so-serious manner.)

Flowers Everywhere!

Friday, 29 April 2016

Trump's Speech Problems

Read this analysis:

North Korea's Nukes

Watch this Time news video about North Korea's nuclear weapons:

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Trump's "America First": A History

Read this news article, or, if nothing else, scroll through the "11 Photos: Trump campaign: 11 outrageous quotes" that it includes:

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Short Documentary: Rodeo kid

Here's a short documentary (17 min.) about a child rodeo star and his supportive parents.

This type of film is sure to set off a lot of controversy, from cruelty to animals, to parents endangering their children, to everything in between:

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Big News in America

Read this article:

Spring Flowers

The weather is getting warmer and the flowers are blooming:

I hope that we have a long spring! (Unlike the last few years.)

Foreign Food Store in Seoul

I like this place in Itaewon a lot.

I have been going there once every 2 months or so for years.  They have fresh hummus and an eclectic mix of foods, but mostly from the Middle East/Asia/America.  Parts of Asia, anyway . . . India, Pakistan, Thailand . . .

The staff have always been pleasant and helpful.  I think their hours are 10am-10pm every day of the year.

In the picture there is some contact information, though I haven't verified that it is current.

(Personally, I do not go to the newer foreign mart across the street.)

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Korea's Industrial Problems: Article

Interesting reading:

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Computer Security Update

I don't know a lot about computer security, but I followed these directions:

Maybe it will be a false alert, but better to be safe, right?

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Samarkand Restaurant in Ansan

Today I went to eat at an Uzbekistan restaurant in Ansan.  It was recommended by my employer, and after I checked it out on the internet I saw that there were numerous other positive reviews.

The owner was very nice in greeting us.  When we arrived the restaurant door was open, yet the place was empty (it was about 11 am, early for most Korean restaurants).  I asked him in English if they were open, and he said they started at 9 am (wow!).

I was eager for some lamb, which I love but don't eat often.  He recommended a lamb and potatoes platter, at $12 one of the most expensive dishes on the menu.  I agreed.

My friend ordered a chicken platter.

We also ordered a tomato salad and a cheese and salami-type plate.

The lamb was excellent, though there wasn't much of it.  It was accompanied with a few quarters of "real" potatoes, and then with (crinkle-cut) fries, and some cucumber and tomato garnish.

I was disappointed with the fries . . . if I want those I will buy them frozen (which they probably were originally) or satisfy that craving at a fast food joint. (Maybe they are kept on hand for foreigners--?)

Speaking of fast food, that is what the chicken platter seemed to be.  I was not at all impressed with it, especially since I wanted to try Uzbek food.

If I had known that tomatoes and cucumber would be served on the platters, I would not have ordered the tomato salad, since that is all it was.

The cheese and salami were ok--nothing special.

I will go back to the restaurant, but I will certainly not order the same food.  Next time perhaps a meat pastry and the plov.  I want more lamb.

Have a look at the menu here:

The area that the restaurant is in has numerous other ethnic eateries: Chinese, Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese, etc.  Indeed, when walking around there it almost feels like you have left Korea. It is a mixed foreign enclave.

To get there, take the train to Ansan (안산) station.  Go out exit 1.  Cross the street via the underground passage, and take the left-hand stairs.  Walk up the market street (you'll see fruit and vegetable vendors) 1 block.  Turn left when you see the park on the right ahead of you (with that funky sculpture).

Don't eat the $12 crinkle-cut fries.

The World against Trump?

Read this BBC news article:

Friday, 15 April 2016

Do You Like Ketchup?

If so, try this Australian variety.  It is lightly spicy (as opposed to the sugary Heinz stuff) with a nice aftertaste.  Of course, that's just my opinion, but I have been wanting to try a different kind of ketchup for a long time and spotted this bottle in E-mart;  I am glad I bought it:

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Video: The Great Marble Race

Watch it (5 minutes):

How creative!

Teaching in Korea: Frustrations with Students

One of the things that I like about teaching at a private English academy in South Korea is that the students are, for the most part, good.

They are nice, they do their homework, and they understand the importance of learning English.

(However, since the students go to multiple academies (math, piano, Korean, etc.), and therefore have so little free time, and so much homework, most of them would bump me off of the list in a second if they had a vote--which they don't . . . it's all up to the moms.  One 4th grade girl told me in class that she didn't want to study English that day--it was a day off from work and school for voting--and I understood entirely.)

One frustration that teachers at my academy have--and is likely shared by many other teachers in Korea--is students' failure listen to instructions:

I will say something like, "With your partner, read page 22 two times."

Immediately there are the questions:

"Teacher, page 22?

"Teacher, read 2 times?"

A long time ago, I learned to write the assignment on the whiteboard:

     NB LG SB 22 R2X (translated: Notebook Let's Go Student Book page 22 Read page 22  two times).

Students know this code because teachers use it every class for writing homework.

But it doesn't really make a difference.

"Teacher. Let's Go book?"  "Read 2 times?"

I can say, "Look at the whiteboard please," yet I will invariably get the same questions.

Sometimes I respond, "John, please tell Mary what to do." (Many students have English names.)

Understandably, these are non-native speakers working with English-language directions.

(I wish that I could understand Korean directions.)

Yet there seems to be a habit-formed response, as one of my Korean co-teachers told me, that may be derived from the students' public schools.

Oh well.

Our students are well-behaved, and the majority do their homework.

So, if repetitive questions are one thing I have to deal with then I will.

But I can still whine.

Cheese anyone?

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Global Travel Benefits

Here is a good article from the National Geographic website about the benefits of global travel:

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

A New Social Documentary

I haven't seen it yet, but this documentary ("The Divide") sounds very interesting (if a bit depressing):

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Amazing Rocket Science

Congratulations to SpaceX:

A Pictoral Evolution of the Lotte Sanbon Building

Lotte Building in Sanbon

Though it is not finished yet, the new Lotte department store in Sanbon  (very close to the subway station) should be opening soon.

It is called Lotte Fitin; there are a few details about another such store at these links:

though whether the Sanbon Fitin will be the same (the outside certainly isn't) is just a guess.

Here are a variety of photos of the exterior:

In the 4th pic, check out the guy finishing up the lettering . . . not a job I would want!

Flowers in the Spring

It is overcast today, but the flowers are still pretty:

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Movie Trailer

As I am currently reading the Roald Dahl book "Matilda" with a middle school class, I am interested in this upcoming movie . . . here is the trailer for "The BFG" (Big Friendly Giant), one of his other books:

Short Film

This short film is for adults, as it contains violence, bad language, and references to drug use.

7 minutes:

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Parking School

Check out this night time parking:

The unfortunate thing is that the driver may even get away with it, since parking enforcement is loose where I live, especially at night.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Article: Korean TV Drama

Have a read:

Discrimination: U.S. Women's Soccer Team

Read this article: