Survival Guide: Books for ELT/EPIK

What’s worked for me/What I brought over here

Korean/English dictionary, Teaching Adolescent Writers, A Grammar Book for…, The First Days of School, When Kids Can’t Read, Korean guidebook (authors below)

All of these books have proven themselves helpful, but some may help you more than others. Per my training as a Secondary English teacher, I brought a few books which I’d studied in college. Whether or not they would work well with English language teaching (ELT), I had no idea. The books simply had good strategies in them. The First Days of School got taken along because it focused on classroom procedures, which apply in any classroom. I took my grammar book from college as well, since I knew questions about English grammar would arise in or outside of class.

I confess to not studying any Korean prior to boarding the plane. I also didn’t study much about Korean culture beyond reading a book about the country’s business culture. You might want to do read some history and learn some words and phrases. I learned as I went along. In retrospect, I should have read more about Korea prior to coming here. Perhaps doing so would have cushioned the culture shock I experienced.

For you, the prospective EPIK teacher
Read these books and take them with you

A Korean/English Dictionary
    • Mine’s by a pocket edition by Berlitz. It’s divided into Korean/English and English/Korean sections. It also includes a guide to pronouncing Hangeul (한글), the Korean alphabet.

(Any) Grammar book
  • Mine is C. Edward Good’s A Grammar Book for You and I…Oops, Me! Not only does Goode explain grammar in plain English, he uses excellent examples. I’ve referred to this book time and again in and out of class. A good grammar book is crucial for your bookshelf here, because Korean teachers and students will ask you about grammar. It can happen at any time. As an EPIK teacher—the Guest English Teacher is the official title—you will be considered the resident grammar expert. Korean teachers will indeed know plenty about grammar, but they will have questions about it and its usage. Please remember that despite what might be said elsewhere, you’re hired as an English teacher and should either know the language, or know how to find information about the language.

Bruce Cumings - Korea’s Place in the Sun
  • I read this book in my 2nd year in-country in 2013, but you’d do well to read (or at least skim) it before coming here, for Cumings neatly summarizes Korea’s history, especially after 1910. The times prior to 1910 tended to blur together for me, but I got into the text after the Joseon Dynasty ended and the Japanese took over. Korea has seen rapid change in the past 100 years. Cumings’ book does a good job of explaining it.
Also: Daniel Tudor - The Impossible Country
  • A newer history of Korea; I've only read excerpts, but it's readable and has a larger focus on pop culture in South Korea. Groove Magazine ran part of Tudor's section on music. It was there that I heard about the great guitarist Shin Joong-hyun.

Oxford Picture Dictionary: English/Korean Edition
  • Another book I bought after arriving. Special thanks to a middle school co-teacher having it on his bookshelf, for I didn’t know of the book until I saw it there. It’s big and useful because it puts language in the context of pictures. I’ve found it helpful for learning the names of things in Korean. One drawback, though: It doesn’t have a pronunciation guide.

Surviving as an EPIK Teacher: Two books
  • English Teacher X's Grammar Slammer and Speaking Activities That Don’t Suck (both available as inexpensive e-books!)
    • Whereas Good’s book explains the how and why of grammar, English Teacher X’s book shows how to teach grammar in class. It’s concisely written and, having done some of the mini-lessons myself, I can say that it’s useful. As for Speaking Activities, the book delivers the goods in spades here. EPIK teachers at any level usually have to teach “conversation,” which is, at best, a nebulous concept. This book comes packed with minimal prep speaking activities to use in class. It’s especially good for last minute classes, but use caution, for the activities are short.
    • Also, though I recommend these books for their practicality, English Teacher X writes in a style which some might find objectionable. His salty tongue and penchant for lowbrow humor will either annoy you or delight you. That said, he is an EL teacher with over a decade of experience in multiple countries, so his material is tried and true.
    • Finally, though I’ve only used these books in middle and high school contexts, the stuff inside could be adapted to elementary teaching. English Teacher X lays down the how, and the following books discuss the how, when, and why.

Longer list of what went into the suitcase:

Kelly Gallagher - Teaching Adolescent Writers
C. Edward Good - A Grammar Book for You and I...Oops, Me! 
Harry Wong - The First Days of School
Kylene Beers - When Kids Can’t Read
Korean guidebook


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