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,

No comments: