Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Yangyang pt 2: "How We Encourage Our Students To Speak Primarily in English”

"How We Encourage Our Students To Speak Primarily in English”

These are the revised journal notes from EPIK teacher Stephen F. and his co-teacher Ho-jin’s excellent talk. Their presentation from last year’s conference was rock solid and I was glad that they came back for another round.

In class

Teach primarily in English

For those of us who teach alone or with minimal assistance from a co-teacher, this is stating the obvious. You're teaching in English because you have to: it's probably the only language you can use.

I do the majority of my high school classes alone, so this happens by default and it works because the kids know enough English that they'll get 90% of what I say the first time around. If anyone has any trouble, either me or a higher-level student will re-explain whatever it was with easy English words. As is the case below, the students usually can translate things for themselves. 

Middle school's another story. I'll get into it in another blog post, but it's more closer to 60/40 for English to Korean.

Move around!

Certified teachers know this as "proximity control" and everyone else knows the layman's translation: move around. Moving around keeps the students on task because it isn’t as easy for them to talk or go off task if you’re standing next to them. Besides, standing at the front of the class all hour is boring. It gives the students in the back too many opportunities to tune out.

Who are you again? Learn their names

This is easier said than done because I have over 150 students. Some EPIK teachers have over 400. I still know less than 50% of everyone’s names at a year and nearly two months in. Learning that many foreign names borders on impossible. Nonetheless, here are some shortcuts:

Make a seating chart
  • Your co-teacher may already have one. He or she can help you make one as well. Having a chart can also help for clearing up any disputes about who sits where
  • Carry it around when you're teaching. I did this a lot in the States, but I don’t do it as much as I should here.
  • Read the students' names off their worksheets/textbooks.
  • Also, some female students have necklaces with their names written in English. Watch out, though: some have names of boys they like instead of their own names.
  • Do the obvious thing and ask students for their names. Sometimes they will get annoyed that you don't know, but that's fine. Nobody’s perfect.
Get the students involved in the lesson by talking to everyone

It doesn't always have to be in front of the whole class. It could be one on one during work time. Many students who get nervous when speaking in front of a large group because they fear making mistakes do fine one on one or in small groups. Use this to your advantage. I’ve found that in every class, there’s always 2-4 students who will always answer questions and a few students who will talk when prompted. The rest will only speak when they’re not speaking to the entire class. Try to draw more and more of the shy students in by talking to them one on one.

Out of class

Talk to the kids in English

I do this all the time. When passing time (the time between classes) comes, I love wandering around and talking to the students. I'm always saying hi. We talk about anything and everything. With some of the lower level students, we discuss easy topics like the weather, but with others, it's music, movies, or sports. Many of the kids will go out of their way to say hello and have a quick chat. Doing this does three things: it bolsters the students' speaking skills; it shows interest in the students’ school lives; and it gets noticed by the Korean teachers. They like it that I’m fostering a positive school environment, to the point where my principal’s said as much himself.

Talking to the kids in English also means they can't fall back to Korean like they would do with their Korean English teachers. Though my Korean's okay--and the kids know that,  it's best to go for English over Korean because we can talk and I can teach them at the same time. I use easy English to explain most things and use Korean (either from memory or via a fellow teacher) only when necessary. Moreover, the students know more English than they think. They may not know the right word or expression right away, but they'll get it right 9 times out of 10. 

Chat culture

There is no classroom door

No, there isn’t, especially for those of us in Cheorwon-gun.* We see our kids everywhere in town. I’m guaranteed to see at least one student every time I leave my apartment. The same probably happens for the 9 other teachers here, too. We can talk our students at nearly all hours of the day, so opportunities abound for quick conversations. They’re usually simple exchanges of “Hi!” and “Where are you going?” but every bit of conversation helps here. Again, many students will go out of their way to say hello or ask where I’m going.
This represents a great aspect of living here: sharing the same world as the students. I get to know them in school and outside of school because the rural area means we can’t simply escape each other.

  • Cheorwon-gun means the county of our towns of Dongsong, Wasu-ri, and Sincheorwon. 

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