I had my first week (3 days due to Chuseok) of teaching this week. I think the year’ll go fairly smoothly. Essentially, I teach two grades (1 and 2) of middle school and there’s a total of 15 classes (7 classes of grade 1 and 6 of grade 2. Or it might be the other way around…). So every week, I’ll be seeing 15 different classes once. My purpose in these classes, from what I understand, is to initiate the Korean children to a native speaker speaking English.
The material they use to teach English is a Korean/English text book with 14-ish lessons for each level. There’s also an activity book, but they use that in the other classes. When I took Spanish in high-school we used a book called Ver, I think. Worked really well. In fact, I can still remember a few lines from it. It really left an impression on me. So I have no problem with the material we use. The problem with these Korean books is that the content is very sparse. Apparently I should only cover 2 pages per class (45 minutes). I understand that these lessons introduce new words and I should give definitions, but the students have 3 English classes every week and some go to private institutes (hagwon) to learn more after class. This not only creates an unbalanced teaching environment, but it also causes heavy disparity in their abilities. I learned today that some of these kids can’t even read English letters. I’m not blaming the teachers, they’re trying their best, but teaching 30 to 40 kids a new language with a completely different grammatical structure can’t be easy. So basically, teaching so everyone can get something out of their time in class is tough.
What I’ve done this week is read the two pages of dialogue with the co-teacher and then, since there’s still like 15 minutes left to the class, I rock out the hangman. The class is separated into 6 groups of about 8 students, so each group gets to guess a letter etc. The only difference is that when they figure out the word, they need to give me a grammatically correct sentence to win. It seems to work pretty well. Today there was a little race between two groups to give me a sentence with the word “mountain”, or maybe it was “window”. I figured I’d bring up the difficulty even more(and give me some help at understand what letter they guess) by asking them to give me a word that starts with the letter they want to guess, but that was too difficult. We got stuck at the second guess with the letter O (they used “ocean” after another group helped them) I think that’s too bad, because it seems like a good way to exercise their vocabularies and their pronunciation of words they’d otherwise rarely use.
Anyway, that’s what I did this week. I’ve been told that I need to be more involved in the teaching, so next week I’m going to take my time reading the dialogues, get them to repeat a few times, do boy/girl recitals, etc. Then after I’m going to whip out some word-search for 10 minutes and then they’ll need to write 4 sentences per group of 8 using at least one word from the search. I wish I could give the winning group a reward or something, but I’ve only got 170 Canadian pins. They’d be all gone after a week.
Oh, and today during the typical Q&A that happens each time I get a new class (usual questions are: how tall are you, do you like Korean food, what are your hobbies), I got asked my blood type. When I said I had no idea, everyone including my co-teacher was shocked. The question totally caught me off guard. At first I thought the little girl was a vampire or something and i got a bit antsy, then I wondered if knowing your blood type is common knowledge because of Korea’s state of war. After a bit of wikipedia action, and help from Lorne, I learned that some Asian cultures believe that your blood type dictates your personality, sort of like your astrological sign. But I got my medical check back today (It was positive. Well, except for the AIDS test) and I discovered I’m o+. So there you have it.