Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Winter English Camp in South Korea: Camp #2, Day 1 -- My Teaching Nightmare Becomes Reality: Zombie Student Attack!!!

Yesterday was day 1 of my second two week English winter camp. Unlike the previous two week camp that wrapped up last Friday, where there were blue skies every day, yesterday morning was gloomy and overcast.

I wondered if there was any kind of portentous meaning in the gray skies and tried to shake it off as I walked into my office. I turned on my computer, printed out a few things, and then made photocopies of stuff I needed for day.

To give you an idea of what I was copying (especially if you've never done a camp in Korea) here is a list of what I prepared.

1. Classroom English Rules

2. Camp Schedule with dates and times.

3. A handout from the book "Ugly Koreans, Ugly Americans" about asking personal questions and taboos in introductions situations.

4. A writing assessment sheet with 3 simple questions. I wanted the guys to spend 5 minutes per question, and write a minimum of five sentences or more per question, so I could see what their writing skills were like (one of the two major goals of the camp is to learn how to write a paragraph in English).

After organizing all the stuff I needed for my first day of camp and the two fifty minute periods I would be teaching I headed to the first grader (Koreans use elementary school grade language for high school grade names, don't ask why--I don't know) building where my classroom was.

I usually head to my classroom during a camp at least one hour early to prep the room and check that all the teaching technology is in working order. I turn on the touch screen TV (I'd rather they had a power point projector and big screen, but oh well), and turn on the computer and check that both are working. I also check that there's an Internet connection. All of these things in the past have for one reason or another not been working and if I don't check with at least an hour to try and fix whatever problems might be happening I risk having to come up with teaching alternatives really really fast (it's happened in the past, and it's NOT fun). OH, I also do these checks EVERY DAY--you can't rely on the fact that something was working yesterday cause it might not be today.

I open the curtains to let in whatever natural light there is outside (unlike last week, not much) because I think it impacts student mood and energy levels. If the only light in the room is artificial I think energy levels are lower.

I then check to see if the heat is on. During the past two weeks of my first camp the heat had already been on, and I didn't have to worry about walking the 100 feet or so back to the main building on the high school campus to the administration office to ask for it to be turned on. Yesterday, however, I had to do so.

Having opened the curtains and gotten the heat turned on I then turned to prepping my white boards. Depending on what I'm teaching, and whether I'll do the materials more than once in a year, I usually make a power point file so that I don't have to write things out while teaching. For the camp, though, I didn't have a power point made up of all the things I'd be putting on the white boards so I spent a few minutes writing it up. Oh, and I cleaned the white boards. It's nicer for me to write on a clean white board, and I think nicer for the guys to be able to read off of too.

Looking at the above picture I forgot to mention my two ice breaking activities. The first involves the use of balloons and speaking. The second is getting the students to make 'self-introduction posters.' Last semester my school gave me a small budget to purchase color pencils and I had grabbed those for the guys to use in the making of their posters. Not only do I have to do an ice breaker with the incoming freshmen who have never been in the high school before, but I also believe there's a need for the guys to participate in an ice breaker with each other because they come from different middle schools all over the place.

I've written out a description of the balloon ice breaking activity that I use in my post called, English Camps in South Korea – A Guideline for Foreign English Teachers, so if you're curious you can check it out there. As for the self-introduction posters . . . this is what I do.

I brainstorm a list of topics with the guys. Usually name, age, hobbies, favorites, dreams/wishes, and family are the topics that come up. I do not teach them new language because I believe this is an activity where it's better for them to be using language they already know. I can then see how fast and easily they produce language they've learned, and how accurately they produce it too. It takes pressure off of them to learn, and gives them time to adjust to the new environment, and of course me, the 'alien' English teacher. While some students have a natural creative ability many students in Korea lack experience as language learners doing creative activities because there is a general antipathy on the part of Korean teachers, and surprisingly many students too, towards anything that they deem not to be learning tasks that are directly related to mastering test content. As a result of this Korean students often have a really hard time beginning creative projects/tasks and completing them in what foreign teachers would consider a 'normal' period of time, so it's a good idea to have a model of the self-introduction poster up on the white board, or even a hard copy that you've made yourself. I like to change the colors of the words or letters, the size of the letters, the directions and angles of what I'm writing, and integrate pictures into the poster too. Once the guys saw what I wanted they got down to it and did a great job.

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

Winter English Camp in South Korea: Camp #2, Day 1 -- My Teaching Nightmare Becomes Reality: Zombie Student Attack!!!


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