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Stumped for ideas...

 
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Holyjoe



Joined: 03 Mar 2003
Location: Away for a cuppa

PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2003 8:32 pm    Post subject: Stumped for ideas... Reply with quote

I'm working in a school with great conditions, great director, (reasonably) OK students so I have no complaints on that front.

The only problem is, all the "foreigner classes" (I'm the only one) are done without any textbooks, coursebooks etc. Basically at my school, my class content for the week is decided on the Monday morning by my director - it is a kind of "project class" idea, so she will decree "today's project is Body Parts/Clothing/Countries"... you get the idea.
I've tried suggesting lesson topics on the Friday of the week before so I could have some time to prepare a class or to at least think of interesting ideas/games to use, but it's never really been accepted.

As you can imagine this poses the problem that I'm unable to do much preparation into the class, and also the material can be decidedly ropey. Last week for instance, my mission was to teach 4 words about Thailand: country name, nationality, language and the capital city. This can be a fun wee exercise for my younger kids, colouring in the flag, looking at maps - they like that and thy enjoy the class.
Obviously however the problem comes with the higher-level kids. With my middle school classes, I used to use the Kids Herald newspaper articles to hold discussion and activity classes which worked pretty well. Since they stopped printing the paper, my director said I was to shift my emphasis onto the project classes with them. I've asked to be able to use textbooks or coursebooks with these classes, but the reply is that that sort of teaching will be done by the Korean teachers, and I'm not supposed to bring in extra supplementary material without prior approval (which isn't given because the project class takes precedence)

So faced with a 1 and a half hour class of 6th grade elementary kids or 1st/2nd grade middle school kids, armed only with 4 words to teach them, does anyone have any interesting suggestions for how to put together a class? Obviously with my higher-ability classes we always have an introductory discussion about what everyone's been doing since our last class, and after 15-20 minutes we progress to the project class. I've to keep any 'free-talking' related to the project topic, but it's incredibly hard to get dialogue surrounding the finer points of Thai history & culture off the ground, let alone sustain it for such a long class. In the past I've played different kinds of word games related to the vocabulary used, but apparently I spent too much time with the games and have to keep them to a minimum!

Does anyone else face a similar situation with their classes, and how do they overcome it? I don't think I'm moaning about this, more that I'm just about out of ideas of how to make a varied and interesting class so that I don't just serve up the same fare week-in week-out to the kids.
Help!
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mokpochica



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Location: Ann Arbor, MI

PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2003 8:49 pm    Post subject: ideas Reply with quote

It sounds like you need some kind of other resources if you don't have a textbook. I also don't teach with a textbook, but I come up with ideas around a 'theme' for every week's lesson plan.

Some web sites that I have found helpful are listed below:
http://www.genkienglish.net/ (great for game ideas)
http://www.bogglesworld.com (good middle school resources and great flashcards, board games)
http://puzzlemaker.school.discovery.com/ (good for making puzzles to practice vocabulary and spelling)
http://www.enchantedlearning.com/label/anatomy.shtml (human anatomy and other things to label)
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/8136/tonguetwisters.html (a tongue twister database)
http://www.epals.com/ (e-mail pen pals site---maybe your kids can write e-mails to their keypals based on the weekly theme?)

When I was teaching without a textbook like you I used to teach a pop song to my kids every week. It was great for pronunciation and a whole bunch of other extension activities (vocabulary study, etc). I gave them a vocabulary quiz and cloze activity quiz every Friday on the song.

In the end it's up to you how you arrange things. Maybe you want to designate one day a puzzle day, one day a song day, one day a worksheet day, one day a game day, etc. all based around the same theme. Maybe you want to mix things up and do entirely different things, mixing and matching every day. Regardless, this kind of teaching requires lots of creativity and time on your part so making things you can re-use and buying some cool games (i.e. picture bingo/ GO Fish, etc.) or good activity resource books might help you out.
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Zyzyfer



Joined: 29 Jan 2003
Location: who, what, where, when, why, how?

PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2003 10:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Is this a new trend going around, the teaching without a textbook thing? I've got access to one, but I keep getting it pounded into my skull by one of the teachers that I should be doing projects or something.

Is this the new trend?
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mokpochica



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Location: Ann Arbor, MI

PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2003 11:22 pm    Post subject: conversational English and textbooks Reply with quote

I think the deal is that foreigners are expected to teach conversational English, so why would we need a textbook? Many Korean teachers think that we will just go in a class and speak to the kids and they will learn English. Of course it takes more than this to develop kids (and adults) conversation skills. Good conversation textbooks go a long way toward helping students develop those skills.

Also, some of my students complained about the textbook they had with the previous teacher and once I saw it was too difficult for them, I gave up on using it. Since it cost 12,000 won or so each book, and they didn't finish using it, they were reluctant to buy another. (That's pretty expensive for kids at my middle school--many of which are here on some kind of scholarship)

I think if you want to use a textbook it is a good idea to find a good one yourself and show it to your director/co-teacher whatever. If the price is cheap, they will probably have kids buy it. If it is pricey, perhaps they will reimburse you for your copy and you can make photocopies for the student. Often I think they just don't know which text to use and kids like the games/activities we plan better than much of the stuff out of the textbooks.
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Holyjoe



Joined: 03 Mar 2003
Location: Away for a cuppa

PostPosted: Mon Mar 24, 2003 2:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the suggestions... the main problem I face is that I don't really have that free a reign in my class as far as introducing some of these new ideas is concerned.
My director is of the belief that they'll benefit greatly from conversation, and my class is essentially meant to be that - a chance to practice their English for themselves rather than the incessant reading and writing they do with the Koreans.
I'm happy with that, though I've always found that the textbooks can provoke conversation a lot easier than I myself can. Kids want to talk about things they're interested in, not what they're told to talk about. The Kids Herald articles were great as it gave various topics or things they could choose to talk about. I also used to use Oxford Storyland Readers storybooks with some classes and again you'd always be able to spur on conversations from different parts of the book.
I'm finding having to stick with the project theme to be extremely difficult. Just 2 weeks ago (prior to White Day) I had a class of 11 6th grade elementary girls. They brought up the topic of White Day, asked me to buy them candy, and we had a thoroughly interesting group conversation related to White Day. The kids enjoyed it and got really into the spirit of things - here they were conversing reasonably fluently in a foreign language on a topic they enjoyed. They just don't get that opportunity with the Korean teachers. But of course, because White Day was unrelated to the project topic we were meant to be dealing with that day, my director was not too happy.

I guess we can't win - damned if we do and damned if we don't.
Just wondering about anyone else's experiences..?
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tomato



Joined: 31 Jan 2003
Location: I get so little foreign language experience, I must be in Koreatown, Los Angeles.

PostPosted: Mon Mar 24, 2003 2:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Zyzyfer wrote:
Is this a new trend going around, the teaching without a textbook thing?


I hope so. As I see it, a teacher without a textbook is like a fish without a bicycle.

I can't vouch for any such trend on the part of English school directors, though. When I first came to Hongsong, my English school director kept razzing me for spending too much time on my own ideas and not enough time on the textbook. In fact, she secretly looked for a teacher to replace me.

But after a while, she decided that I'm right. She rents me out to local kindergartens. All but one of the kindergarten are content with my textbook-less status, including one who wishes I were available for more mornings each week.

One of the kindergarten directors made my English school director order a boxload of textbooks and pay for it out of her own pocket. Now she's complaining that I use my own ideas too much and don't follow the teacher's manual closely enough.

Guess what I'm thinking about doing to her!
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princess



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Location: soul of Asia

PostPosted: Tue Mar 25, 2003 6:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My school may as well have no books because the books we use are terrible. Talk about running out of material befor ethe class is finished. Your IQ should go up teaching in a hagwon because you are always having to pull tricks out of your hat.
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some waygug-in



Joined: 25 Jan 2003

PostPosted: Tue Mar 25, 2003 4:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I seem to have the opposite problem. We have textbooks, some good ones and some awful ones. The biggest problem here is that the director insists that I go through 2 pages a day in the text and 2 pages a day in the workbook. NO review, no supplimentary activities. So the result is that we have students who are using books Far to difficult for them and we are being forced to push them through the books as fast as possible. It's totally ridiculous. The kids really don't understand much of what they are "learning" because the only way I can "push them through the books" is to write the answers on the board and then have the students copy them. I don't know what kind of sick mind would believe that they are actually learning from this. I suppose they are improving their writing skills, but not much else. If I ask them to read or respond to anything, they refuse and I just get a very tense and frustrated class period. Of course I know why, they really don't understand what they are doing, they are only copying. How can they learn anything that way?

The kids hate it, and I do too. I tried to talk the director into giving them books that are more suited to the students levels, but they always come back with, " Well they are in level 5, you can't just put them back into a level 3 book, they'll complain"

aigo!!
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Tancred



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Location: Upon a mountain in unknown Kadath

PostPosted: Tue Mar 25, 2003 6:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i have the same problem...i'm no longer allowed to use the textbook as a crutch which sucks for me, and i suspect the children, if they truly are trying to learn english. But you know...whatever. I think it's funny though when i'm supposed to spend an hour based on the word "Hello" for kindergarten...i mean, how long can one seriously spend exhausting the possibilities of that word.

I find that any kind of competition usually works well...if you start trying to turn whatever lesson into a game things usually run more smoothly...or at least the kids enjoy themselves more, which is really all i hope for anymore.
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tomato



Joined: 31 Jan 2003
Location: I get so little foreign language experience, I must be in Koreatown, Los Angeles.

PostPosted: Wed Mar 26, 2003 1:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello, Some Waygukin!

The situation you're in seems to be culture-wide.
My director had me take her place in teaching a class using Side by Side III, which begins with using simple present and present continuous tenses. None of the students knew either tense, both of which were presented in Side by Side I. In fact, some of the students didn't even understand well enough to know which problem in the book we were on.

Much to my director's wrath, I spent two weeks on those two pages. She ordered me to go on to the next page, but I adamantly refused. She looked for another teacher to replace me, but Hongsong in the Chungnam province isn't exactly a hot spot.

I've taken Japanese classes in four language schools in Korea but I learned absolutely nothing. Why? Because I was so busy trying to keep up that I didn't have time to learn anything.

And I was as frustrated as all get out.
How a student could ever want a teacher to charge madly through a textbook I will never know.
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some waygug-in



Joined: 25 Jan 2003

PostPosted: Wed Mar 26, 2003 3:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

How a student could ever want a teacher to charge madly through a textbook I will never know

It's not the students that want it that way, it's the director or more likely a few parents. Last week I had done my official lesson with a class (that means the book work) and I still had 10 minutes left. So I started playing a game with them. It just so happened that one of the parents glanced into the classroom during that 10 minutes, and of course. "What are you do with this class? Only play game? No teach? Why? "
It's ridiculous. I do try and do less than the director wants per day and then have some fun activities to keep the kids happy. But I know I will always get in hot water for it.
I guess some parents think that more pages per day = good class = their kids are learning.
Too bad it's always those parents who seem to control the way the school here operates.
Anyway, I guess I've ranted enough about it for one day.
Cheers
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Zyzyfer



Joined: 29 Jan 2003
Location: who, what, where, when, why, how?

PostPosted: Wed Mar 26, 2003 4:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Might have to do with shoddy class organization as well. I've got students who speak English well because they lived in America for a while sitting in the same classroom with students who can't even count to 10.
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rapier



Joined: 16 Feb 2003

PostPosted: Wed Mar 26, 2003 9:21 pm    Post subject: for holyjoe Reply with quote

Holyjoe, seems the problem here is that you are not given free reign to teach what you want in the lessons. Last year I had similar problems in that I wasn't provided with any syllabus to teach. But my lessons weren't closely supervised- so I could teach more or less what I wanted. I photcopied worksheets from a variety of different textbooks and relied on a staple diet of about 15 games in rotation. The kids learned more conversation from games than anything else. However after 10 months I had totally run out of ideas and even had the kids playing snap for 40 minutes.
If your boss supervises your lessons so closely, get her more involved. This happened to me at one point, so I invited her in to my lessons. Pretty soon she realised that what she expected me to teach was totally inadequate and she left me alone to do my own thing from then on.
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