Thursday, November 26, 2009

English Camps in South Korea - A Guideline for Foreign English Teachers

I decided to do some new writing about topics foreign English teachers in Korea need info about during their first year teaching in Korea, and there is info in this post that some experienced teachers might appreciate too (like book titles that are useful for different types of English camps).

I've also been working on some posts about co-teaching because I'm back in the public school system and co-teaching in Korea lacks an organized and well designed training program for the different levels of schools. I'll try to post those in the coming weeks.

If it's your first time reading this blog please take a look at a series of posts called,

A Guide For New EFL/ESL Foreign English Teachers/Instructors in South Korea - Public Schools, Hogwans, Universities, and Training Center/Institutes

At the beginning of each post I write, 'If any of the following materials are used as a part of an orientation or new foreign teacher training manual I would appreciate being cited as the author (if it's something that I wrote, some materials are from other sources and should be cited appropriately) and or as a source from which the materials were taken from (if it's something I found and arranged and posted on the Net). I've spent a lot of time and energy writing and blogging and would appreciate the citation. Thanks.' Please cite me as the author for my English winter camp post if you use any of the materials too.

Anyways, many new foreign teachers right about now are being asked to prep for winter English camps. Getting explicit instructions on how to do this, and what to be aware of, is often not what happens. Foreign teachers should keep in mind that some Korean English co-teachers have done English camps with a foreign teacher before, but that others have never planned a camp involving a foreign teacher and likely don't know what to tell you to plan, or how to plan it (so it might be a good idea to print out this guideline and give a copy to your co-teacher!). There are a lot of things to consider when planning and designing an English camp in Korea, and I've tried to cover as much as I can here.

1. Pre-Camp Checklist

a) How many students per class?

Camps tend to have 20 students per class, but this number can be higher or lower so make sure you ask.

I think that if the number is higher than 20 you should politely but firmly suggest that the number is too high--especially when you're not likely to have a Korean co-teacher in the room to help with classroom behavior management. All too often if the KET''s (Korean English teacher) away the mice are going to torture you with bad behavior . . . the unfortunate truth about too many (but luckily not all) students in Korea is that once they realize you won't use corporal punishment to enforce the rules they often see time alone with you in a classroom as 'do whatever they want to time' cause they know you won't hit them . . .

This is not true for all foreign teachers. I think personality type, confidence levels, teacher training and experience, and other variables come into play with how students behave when there's no co-teacher but I've also heard too many stories about foreign teachers pretty much giving up and making their camp into watching movies and/or students doing whatever they want while the foreign teacher goes on facebook to chat with friends, play games, or whatever while they complete their class hours but don't do any actual teaching . . . with some planning and preparation an English camp can be a fantastic experience for both the teacher and the students. Often a lack of planning and prep are the REAL source of students bad behavior . . . and also the stress and hair pulling frustration that a teacher experiences. This camp guide, I hope, will help pre-emptively kill a lot of the problems that first time camp teachers experience.

b) Who is screening the levels of students? How are they doing it? c) Will there be mixed grade classes? Or mixed level classes?

This is a vital question to ask because in the past, before I had experience teaching camps, I didn't think it was necessary to micro-manage my co-teacher while the students are being selected, or signing up, for a camp. During my first camp experience in 2005 on Ganghwa Island I was given a class mixed with 1st grade false-beginner students, intermediate students, and advanced students, 2nd grade false-beginner students, intermediate students, and advanced students, and 3rd grade false-beginner students, intermediate students, and advanced students--ALL IN THE SAME CLASS!!! The complete and utter lack of any kind of educational criteria being used to put this class together made it an impossible class to teach--especially for a first time teacher in his first semester of teaching in Korea. Simply put, no teaching or learning principles were used in the formation of the class rather it was more about pleasing parents, the principal, and about getting the most students possible in the foreign teacher's class.

While the example I just used is an extreme case there also milder versions of this that happen. Putting SAME GRADE but radically different language ability students in the SAME class often happens too. For example low level 2nd grade students combined with high level 2nd grade students. This then forces the native teacher to choose which group of students they orient their lesson materials towards. It is possible to teach this kind of class but it generally can only be done by teachers with a lot of training and experience. One solution is to pair up weak and strong students and turn the strong students into teaching-assistants, begin with low level vocabulary and language and then work your way up to higher level content so that the high level students get some learning too . . . but designing lesson plans in this manner is not easy, and teaching it is difficult too. In addition, you also have to consider that Korean language learners will often have social/friendship behaviors that sabotage a teacher's desire to pair weak/strong students together whether it's about an age difference, being separated from their friends in the class, or whatever this can often be a major obstacle that gets in the way of the best teaching strategies.

Probably the easiest method for a Korean English co-teacher to create class lists by learner ability, i.e. a class with all advanced students, is by looking at student English test scores. Unfortunately, it is very difficult for many Korean English co-teachers to actually do a proper language learner ability assessment (whether it's for reasons of time and number of students, or a matter of the KETs language ability and teacher training). It's also hard for many native English teachers to assess learner levels especially when they're new to the EFL/ESL teaching job. Simply put, try to get student test scores involved in how they are assigned to English camp classes so there is at least some degree of educational reasoning being used in which student goes into which class. Otherwise you're in for some really hard teaching experiences.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Click on the link below to read more at Kimchi Icecream: The Second Serving . . . . I've moved over to and will be blogging there from now on.

English Camps in South Korea - A Guideline for Foreign English Teachers

I hope it helps new foreign teachers and make sure to check out the book list as it has titles that can be used for speaking/conversation camps, writing camps, listening (if you're asked to focus on that), reading, culture, games and activities, and the list goes on . . . I organized the book titles by type of camp so if you're hunting for a good book to use for your camp you may find what you're looking for in the list.

Good luck,

Sunday, November 15, 2009

2009 Seoul Lantern Festival — Saturday night pictures . . .

Julianne and I returned to the 2009 Seoul Lantern Festival on its final night this past Saturday . . .

It was pretty cold and windy outside, and there were thousands of people there . . .

I was using my Canon D400, a Sigma 10-22mm lens, and my Speedlite 580EXII flash . . . I think I got some pretty nice shots.

I guess some things I might mention about the festival are . . . I was shocked to see a pretty significant safety patrol/police presence along the stream’s icy water. At one point a police officer began yelling across the stream at a father with a baby in his arms for stepping down onto rocks next to the stream to get his picture taken–I was VERY IMPRESSED to see a police officer doing something about a high risk behavior because during the five years I’ve been in Korea I have NEVER seen a police officer do anything remotely like this.

A friend of mine commented on how she liked that about 50-60% of the people were trying to be respectful about not bashing into each other, and especially if you were taking a picture. All too often in Korea the higher social rank person (or someone who “thinks” they’re a higher social rank, or often is just walking around in a ‘bubble’ oblivious to others not in their social circle) pretends not to see you and just ‘walks through you’ or rams into you/bumps you/shoulders you aside as they walk by regardless of what you’re doing at the time. The crowd that was out at the festival was less push and more respectful than is, unfortunately, the norm at festivals with large crowds (at least in my own personal experience).

Another thing that shocked me was that there was a LINE UP at the stairs next to the small waterfalls head of the stream concert stage area–I was really surprised by this, and the fact that no one was trying to bud in line or pretend not to see the 100-200 people long line up. WOW is all I have to say about that too–apparently there are some major cultural changes going on somehow in terms of street festival etiquette or something . . .

Click on the link below to see pictures and read more at Kimchi Icecream: The Second Serving . . . . I've moved over to and will be blogging there from now on.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

2009 Seoul Lantern Festival at Cheonggye Stream, Seoul, South Korea

Julianne and I headed to Cheonggye Stream to check out the 2009 Seoul Lantern Festival . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Click on the link below to see pictures and read more at Kimchi Icecream: The Second Serving . . . . I've moved over to and will be blogging there from now on.

Monday, November 9, 2009

H1N1 ‘Clinic’ is really a tent outside the International Foreign Clinic and ER at Seoul National University Hospital . . . wow.

About 3 days after visiting the ER of a hospital in Seoul (see this link for the story), and getting Tamiflu along with several other medicines, Julianne began to feel worse not better. We headed back to the hospital last Wednesday morning after she called me at school to say she needed my help.

Arriving at the hospital we headed to the International Foreigner Clinic. As we walked through the main entrance of the hospital I couldn’t help thinking ‘oh my god, there are so many people coming and going from the hospital, and many of them are elderly, why is there no temperature check and sterile mask check point at the main entrance?’ In the main waiting area just inside the entrance I immediately asked a nurse who was wearing her mask around her neck for two masks for Julianne and I to put on. While Julianne was not tested for H1N1 during our last visit (not sure why), we were pretty sure that she had it. We wanted to be responsible and put on masks so that she wouldn’t infect any people inside the hospital . . . I have to be a bit sarcastic here and say that I guess this must be a foreign concept . . . sigh.

After hearing me ask for masks, and saying “H1N1″ to the nurse she put on her mask immediately with a very alarmed face.

Julianne and I then headed over to the main desk that has the international clinic sign above it but we were directed to go to the right of the desk and down a hallway about 15 feet to the actual clinic itself. Apparently there are no English speaking medical staff or clerks posted to the desk in the main lobby where the giant sign is but rather you’ll only find them in the clinic itself.

Arriving at the small office we waited while the secretary (nurse?) kept answering the phone . . . and waited, and waited . . . and then she finally stopped to talk to us.

The nurse (I’m guessing) began asking us why were visiting (apparently failing to notice that BOTH of us were wearing masks) and after hearing “fever” and “Swine Flu” she paused and reached behind her to pick up a N95 mask . . . lol, lucky for her that Julianne already had her mask on, eh? I don’t know how quickly someone can be infected from talking to a person with the H1N1 virus but if you aren’t wearing your mask and the sick person isn’t wearing a mask I would have to hazard a guess that the odds do increase at least a little that you’re going to be infected . . . sigh.

The nurse asked Julianne for her alien registration card, national health insurance card, and we also gave her the hospital info card. After typing in some info, and asking Julianne some questions, the nurse took Julianne’s temperature. It was a little high, and probably would have been higher if Julianne had not already been taking anti-flu meds. The nurse wrote this info down on a form, and then told us someone would come and take us to the “H1N1 Clinic.”

After waiting about 2 minutes a guy in his late 20s or early 30s showed up to escort us. He was wearing a mask–wow–and we began walking to wherever the “clinic” was located. I asked Julianne if she wanted to get a wheelchair but she said no, she’d walk. I was worried, though, because we didn’t know how far away this “clinic” was and Julianne was VERY weak, and needed to walk very slowly.

Walking outside, I asked the escort if he spoke English and got a quick head shake ‘no.’ We slowly walked across the parking lot, and had to pause while trying to cross a through way because traffic wouldn’t stop for us (why stop for sick people when driving through a hospital? Yes, this pissed me off!).

I asked the escort how much farther away the clinic was because I had the sinking feeling that it could be several hundred meters away . . . he pointed at a place that looked like it was about 50 meters from where we were, so the total distance was about 150 meters from the hospital entrance–this being a great location for sick people to walk when they need to see a doctor, of course–NOT!

Telling myself to calm down, and that things could be worse Julianne and I walk past construction vehicles roaring around, and BEEP BEEP BEEPING as they move materials to see a collection of 4 white tents . . . needless to say we were rather shocked.

Julianne began saying “There’s no way I’m giving blood in there!” and I tried to reassure her that they wouldn’t ask her to do that in an open air tent with construction being done a few feet away from its entrance . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Click on the link below to see pictures and read more at Kimchi Icecream: The Second Serving . . . . I've moved over to and will be blogging there from now on.

H1N1 ‘Clinic’ is really a tent outside the International Foreign Clinic and ER at Seoul National University Hospital — Nothing says quality care like a screeching bleep sound from construction vehicles outside the tent flap…sigh!


H1N1 and visiting a South Korean Hospital — Do NOT pick your nose and then hand out sterile masks!

Almost two weeks ago Julianne became very ill with flu-like symptoms. But she didn’t have a fever so we thought, perhaps wrongly (apparently a fever is NOT mandatory to have H1N1), that she probably didn’t have H1N1. A couple days later she was really sick and having some trouble breathing so we headed to the hospital.

The first contact people in the ER are two clerks behind a counter, and one to two security guards who monitor incoming patients and people. Considering the hype over H1N1 I was surprised that there wasn’t a person at the door taking everyone’s temperature as they entered the area. Instead, the security guards hand out masks to incoming people . . . but didn’t seem to be giving them to 100% of the people entering the ER area. (Also, inside the ER area I only saw about 60-70% of people wearing their masks, some incorrectly, and no one seemed to be asking the people not wearing masks to put them on.)

Since the security guards act as first contact people (after the two clerks) in the entrance of the ER they had sterile masks. Some of them wore them correctly, while others wore them around their neck with the nose and mouth uncovered . . .

Considering the fact that a security guard comes into contact with EVERY PERSON entering the ER I was rather disgusted with the guards not wearing their masks. If they did have H1N1 they could be infecting patients and visitors to the ER . . .

Anyways, more on this after I continue the story . . .

Julianne gave her alien registration card, national health insurance booklet, and hospital info card to the two clerks at the desk who then waved us through to the ER doors where the security guards pass out masks. We were handed masks and then walked through to the open treatment area (open as in there are no private rooms or wall dividers between each area and everyone sees everything that is taking place while you talk to your doctor–there are curtains but they are rarely pulled around the patient).

Before seeing a doctor Julianne was seated in the hallway where a nurse with excellent English asked her some preliminary questions. But when she tried to call up Julianne’s registration file on her computer we found out that the clerk at the front desk had failed to sign Julianne into the hospital as a patient–uhm, hello patient in-take procedures? I wonder why he didn’t enter her into the system . . . the nurse looked puzzled and did what should have been done earlier.

It was around this point that another nurse walked up and asked me to sign the ‘friend/family responsibility for patient form’ that you must sign if you’re the person coming in with a patient. It says things like: take care of personal belongings, be with the patient at all times, and other things along those lines.

Anyways, Julianne was having a hard time breathing and when the nurse found this out she hooked her up to a heart rate and blood pressure monitor . . . . . . .

Click on the link below to see pictures and read more at Kimchi Icecream: The Second Serving . . . . I've moved over to and will be blogging there from now on.

H1N1 and visiting a South Korean Hospital — Do NOT pick your nose and then hand out sterile masks!


Saturday, November 7, 2009

EFL Teaching and Curriculum Design in Korea – Tried to make a 2 month syllabus and in the first week it’s already been destroyed…

About a week ago I sat down to plan out the lessons I would do over the course of November and December at the boys high school where I teach. I looked over all the lessons I’ve designed and chose my ‘Greatest Hits’ . . .

I also sat down with my co-teacher and went over all the dates on which I’d have no classes due to tests, field trips, and any other of the myriad reasons that classes get canceled. I thought that my semi-long term planning would not be screwed up and that I’d anticipated everything I could that might effect my lesson planning . . . boy was I wrong.

But the Halloween lesson was sabotaged by the H1N1/Swine Flu situation in Korea. On the last Wednesday of October, around 11am, I found out that ALL first grade classes would be sent home Wednesday afternoon and that they wouldn’t be returning until Monday of the next week . . . . . . . . . .

Click on the link below to read more at Kimchi Icecream: The Second Serving . . . . I've moved over to and will be blogging there from now on.

EFL Teaching and Curriculum Design in Korea – Tried to make a 2 month syllabus and in the first week it’s already been destroyed…


It’s class time . . . and yep, no students (again).

This past Wednesday morning I go to my classroom to set up for my introduction lesson a few minutes early. This is the first week for me teaching the second grade high school boys classes (I’d been teaching the senior grades in a Suneung (“Korean SATs”) listening prep class for September and October).

I turn on the computer, the touch-screen TV, and set up my power point presentation that I use in my introduction lesson. I put on some Hip Hop music (to wake up the guys as they walk in), and write a few things on the white board like “Classroom Rules” and the 10 Xs system (I erase one X each time a rule is broken, all 10 get erased and there’s a consequence for the whole class) that I use for classroom behavior management.

I finish setting up, check my watch, and have a minute or so to wait before the boys should begin arriving . . .

No early arrivals . . . okay. Usually at least a few guys show up early to get first pick of where they want to sit, check out the alien teacher–err, foreign English teacher, and chill out while waiting for the class to begin.

The class bell goes off, and I’m standing in the doorway. I see another young Korean English teacher, and he asks me, “Are you teaching now?” I respond, “Yes, but I have no students” and begin laughing.

He seems astounded by this, and I tell him that it’s a pretty common experience for native English teachers that an entire class just doesn’t show up, and nobody tells you anything about why . . . sometimes this happens for legitimate reasons and other times it’s just plain poor communication and a lack of professional courtesy to make sure the native English teacher is informed about a schedule change, cancellation, or whatever the case may be.

I wait two more minutes, and then decide I’m going to do something I rarely do anymore . . . . . . . . . .

Click on the link below to read more at Kimchi Icecream: The Second Serving . . . . I've moved over to and will be blogging there from now on.