A Taste of Teaching

November 25, 2011

I've wanted to share a bit about what my classes are like and this week's lesson is perfect for that!

First, I'll explain the Korean grades: Elementary school has grades 1-6, middle school has grades 1-3, and high school has 1-3. So, there is the same number of grades as the Canadian system, just expressed in a more confusing way.
Each week I teach 20 classes: 8 of them are 1st grade of high school (Canada'a 10th grade), and 12 of them are 2nd grade (Canada's 11th grade). Each class ranges from 13 to 35 students with a total of just over 500 students.

Native English teachers are paired with a co-teacher at their school who helps with everything related to living and teaching in Korea. In my case, I have one main co-teacher and seven other co-teachers. I don't actually teach with my main co-teacher, and I don't have co-teachers for any of my 1st grade classes, but for my 2nd grade classes I am accompanied by my seven other co-teachers. At the beginning of the semester, my 2nd grade co-teachers attended my lessons but that slowly began to diminish over time (a trend that I support since I am more comfortable flying solo).

I essentially plan one lesson per week, and teach it 20 times with modifications depending on the class/grade.

Some schools have textbooks that the native English teacher is required to teach, but mine doesn't. This means that I have free reign over what I want to teach and how I want to teach it. At the beginning of the semester, my main co-teacher suggested that I choose a theme each week and have the learning focus be on speaking or writing.

This week, I chose "Bucket Lists" as my theme and writing as my focus. Only a handful of my students actually knew what a bucket list is, so I wanted to encourage the other students to figure it out on their own. I began the lesson with an introduction to the idiom "kick the bucket" as it relates to the Bucket List. I followed this with a news story of the American airplane that had to do an emergency landing in the Hudson River. I showed a video of the speech given by a survivor from the event, Ric Elias, who describes what it was like to think that life was over and what he learned from the experience. He challenges the audience to look inward on their lives, and not to postpone anything. From this, students were able to infer that a Bucket List was a list of wishes that a person wants to accomplish before they die. Each student would write their own Bucket List, and I provided them with examples in order to get the ball rolling. For this, I made them stand/sit as a response to whether or not they wanted the particular item on their list. This worked wonders (much to my surprise) since it forced the students to wake up and they actually seemed to enjoy it (especially "I want to see Beast in concert" and "I want to be a millionaire"). As the students wrote their Bucket Lists, I played some background music and I had the chance to have real conversations with many of my students. I collected the Bucket Lists, revised them, and will return them to the students next week for them to add to their English portfolios.
I think the students enjoyed this lesson because it provided a purpose for using English. This piece of writing would be a great addition to their portfolios because it outlines life goals and values.
I personally enjoyed this lesson because I really got to know my students. I really wish that I had done this lesson earlier in the semester, although it might not have had the same result because students hadn't yet warmed up to me. With such a large number of students, it's difficult/impossible to have a real conversation with every student but this was a start!

Some students were really invested in creating their lists and have amazing dreams:

Others, while less inspiring, were at least hilarious:

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