"The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page." - Saint Augustine

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Teaching Reflections: October 4th-15th

All the scarecrows the children designed and created outside of my school.
The 20 minute walk home from school is always enjoyable when I walk and talk with my students. This is one of my 3rd graders, Minnie, and she was walking to her piano lesson.

The past 2 weeks I taught “Instructions”, “About Me” and “Happy Birthday” to my 1st through 6th graders. I stay on topics longer than I originally thought because I only see most of my classes one day a week.  I have 9 different classes that I teach each week and within those 9 classes I have two 1st grade classes, two 5th and two 6th grade classes (one high class and one low class). 

I started out teaching basic instructions since I wanted to make sure that all of my children could understand basic commands like “sit down”, “stand up”, “be quiet”, “listen to me”, and “raise your hand”.  I also taught motions to go along with each instruction. I used a variety of activities and games but found my children were most interested in Simon Says, Fruit Bowl and Run and Tap.

-During Simon Says I would start out being Simon and then eventually let the children take turns being Simon. I noticed how the younger classes didn’t grasp the game as quickly as the older students did. With my 2nd grade class we just played the game without the Simon Says part added so someone would say an instruction and the children would do that instruction. I typically explain games or activities in the simplest way possible and then always give a demonstation. I hear “ahhhh” and “I get it!” more often during demonstrations than I do when explaining directions, rules, or steps. Simon Says was an excellent way for them to continue using English and work on their listening skills. I reminded the children to use only English during the game and was amazed how much English can be used during a game of Simon Says. When a student would make a mistake and do an action when I didn’t say “Simon Says” a student or two would say something such as, “He said ‘listen to me’ and he did motion. No ‘Simon Says’”. This was an excellent way for them to use the English that they had to explain something to me while also incorporating new vocabulary. I see the value in teaching vocabulary off of powerpoint of some other venue but then find it essential to play a game or have an activity where the students can use the vocabulary or sentences that they just learned. It is especially helpful if they have opportunities to engage in natural conversations since this is more useful and similar to what they will need to do in order to be successful English speakers. A native English speaker on the street isn’t going to ask them to recite vocabulary, but will most likely engage them in a conversation; similar to what is going on in my classrooms.

6th grade boys showing "be quiet" during Simon Says.

-I played Fruit Bowl with my 5th and 6th grade classes and they absolutely loved this game. I assigned an instruction to each student and then put all the chairs in a circle (one less chair than the number of total students). One student starts in the middle of the circle and then calls out a command. All the children who had that command would stand up and switch seats with someone that had that same command. There would always be a student left without a chair and that was the next student to stand in the middle and say the next instruction. This game was fairly similar to Simon Says but didn’t involve the motions that I taught the students that went along with the instructions.

-Run and Tap was the game that I used with my 1st-4th grade classes. Run and Tap involved me saying an instruction and two children racing to tap my hand and say/show the instruction that I told them. The younger grades loved racing to tap my hand and enjoy the competition aspect of the game. My co teacher has told me that a lot of Korean children enjoy competition and I definitely see this more in the Korean children than I do in American children.
2nd graders playing "Run and Tap".

Happy Birthday
I spent some time talking about Birthdays since it was my co teacher, Eunhye’s 25th Birthday. Activities included:

-Birthday card: I started out making a birthday card with my classes and we voted on the card color, what to write, and what pictures we wanted to draw. Every child got to sign or write their name as well and this activity in itself lead to so many important lessons. The process of voting over card colors, and making sure that everyone’s ideas were included and giving the children the opportunity to practice writing their name in the card was just what many of my 1st and 2nd graders needed. This served as an assessment for me to see which students knew how to spell their name and also which students knew their letters as I would tell them which letters to write down.

-Ball toss: We played a ball toss game where students would say, “My birthday is (month) (date)” and then throw the ball to another student and ask, “When’s your birthday?”

Passing the ball to find out classmates' birthdays.

-Happy Birthday Song: We sang the Happy Birthday song. I got the music from the Korean website, Naver. Though it’s entirely in Korean I know how to get to the music section on Junior Naver and then navigate through a list of songs. I’m finding this website to be very helpful although there is no pause button on the songs. All of my older grades already knew this song but enjoyed singing it and learning the “How old are you?” part at the end of the song. None of the children were familiar with this part.

-Birthday Items List: With two of my older grades we generated a list of materials, items, activities, and words associated with birthdays. The lists involved: happy birthday, cake, gift, fun, sing, and candles. I didn’t have enough time to really get into this and made note to talk about this again when I teach holidays.

About Me
The topic of about me is a topic that could be taught for months since there is so much that can be involved as this can be such a broad topic. Activities included:

-About me: each child drew a picture of themselves and then wrote sentences about themselves. Drawing the picture provided time for me to talk to the students about the different body parts, hair color, skin color, etc. Children were able to present their pictures and share their information to the class once finished.
For my 1st and 2nd graders they wrote: 
My name is _____. 
I am ______ years old. 
I am in the _______ grade. 

The 3rd and 4th grade wrote these sentences plus: 
My birthday is _______. 
I am ___________ centimeters tall. 

5th and 6th grade added: 
My favorite food (singer, hobby, season) is ________. 
When I grow up I want to be a ___________.

Helping Alex with his "About me" picture and sentences.

-Name BINGO: The song lyrics are “there was a girl (boy) that I knew and ________ was her (his) name-o _ _ _ _ _ (spell the child’s name). _ _ _ _ _. _ _ _ _ _ and ___________ was her (his) name-o. This game was a great way to help the children learn how to spell their own name. It also helped serve as a tool to help me work on breaking down letters and the sounds that they make as I asked the class how to spell each child’s name before I wrote it on the board to sing the song.

-Hot sentence: This game I created is similar to hot potato since the children are passing a ball around until the music stops. When the music stops they came up to the front and read a sentence and filled in the blank with information about themselves. These sentences served as a review of the information from the about me picture and sentences.

Sam picking a sentence to read aloud to the class.

Teachable Moments
-Second graders always come running up to me at the start of class and point out all the different objects in my basket such as books, crayons, water, chapstick, pens, pencils, etc. and say the name in English and Korean. It’s great to see them so interested in English!

-Arriving to school everyday is very enjoyable as the children are always screaming out my name and I read them the English on their clothing. I like to ask them how they’re doing and take time to talk to them one on one or in smaller groups. These simple interactions with an native English speaker give them positive experiences with English that hopefully will make them want to continue learning.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Come on and let me know...should I stay or should I go?

A picture with some of my 5th graders.

I feel like that song by the Clash is like the soundtrack to my life. Right now I'm in a position where I need to decide whether I want to come home in late December (like I had planned) or whether I'd want to extend my contract and stay for a year (my contract would end July 31st 2011).

Once I started teaching here in Korea I really thought about what I wanted to do here and what I felt my purpose was/how would I want to feel when I returned back to the states. I don't want to just teach my children English content, but to create a love for learning, confidence in themselves and the mindset of "I can do anything!" So many kids lack all of these things (especially in English class) and are very nervous speaking English. I think about my purpose here and I know I want to have these children not fear English, to enjoy English and to want to continue learning English long after I leave. After two and a half months I can already see great things happening and I know that if I chose to leave in December I would feel fulfilled, that I made a difference, and would value this experience for the rest of my life.

I consider staying because I enjoy teaching in Korea and all the life experiences that come along with this. I think about coming home because ultimately I want to teach back in the states and continue on with my education. I'm afraid that if I stay here in Korea that I may jeopardize my chances of finding a job back in Michigan for the fall since I would be coming home a little late (I know a lot of districts don't hire until August anyways). I feel like finding a job for the fall would be easier if I came home in January and subbed/got my name out there, made as many connections as possible, researched many districts, polished my resume/portfolio, etc. My dad and previous cooperating teacher from student teaching tell me that this isn’t the only time in my life to do this as there are opportunities over the summer to travel and teach and some teachers even take time off from teaching to teach abroad. Maybe I’d even like a job with the DOD where I’m overseas teaching American children. There are so many possibilities and sometimes I feel with me being so unsure that maybe I should stick to my original plan and I can always reevaluate once I’m home. But then there's the part of me that knows pretty well that once I'm back home with the people I love in the country that I love that it will be a lot harder to go off again- especially on my own!

I have a lot to think about, but thankfully don't need to make a decision until early November. I'm sure that will come a lot sooner than I expect though...

A fall view out the English classroom window. In the distance you can see the tombs where people are buried. Interestingly, people are buried above ground here instead of underground. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Chuseok Break Day 3-Insadong

Day 3

Our last day of our vacation was spent in Insadong. My favorite part of Seoul as of now! Even though we just had our massages it was a little uncomfortable to walk around with our backpacks and all of our bags! That’s one of the downsides to traveling with just a backpack…I never come back with just a backpack! At one time Insadong was the largest market for antiques and artwork in Korea. We enjoyed shopping around and seeing all the antiques, artists with their artwork on the streets, art museums, and galleries. We ended up at Ssamziegel which was a four story shopping complex with a lot of modern stores that had a lot of personality. I could have spent an entire day shopping there! After Ssamziegel we stopped by some more street shops and found a scarf store that had scarves for 4,000 won ($4)...jackpot! We all agreed that we wished we had more time in Insadong. We also wish we could have checked out Jungro Tower, but we’ll save that for next time!

Day 3-Insadong on PhotoPeach

Chuseok Break Day 2-Everland

Day 2

Thursday morning we took off nice and early to make our way to Everland. We had to wait around for over an hour for our bus though because at first we were on the wrong side of the road and then we didn’t make it on the next bus since there were so many people trying to get on the bus for Everland. Sadly, there was only standing room when we finally got on one of the next buses and we were packed like sardines! Debbie and I were less than 3 feet from the windshield of the bus and then the driver packed more people on. The hour bus ride to Everland only cost 1,800 Won ($1.80)! Public transportation in Korea is so cheap and prevalent! If you know me well you know that I’m obsessed with Disney World/Land and it’s honestly one of my favorite vacation spots!

We finally got to Everland and I can't explain how excited I was! The park is very animated, decorated, and magical –just like Disney is back in the states. The rides reminded me a little more of Cedar Point and I’m not a big Cedar Point fan. We actually didn’t even go on many rides because we were so engulfed in the atmosphere and all the things to check out. The entire park was decorated with Halloween/Fall d├ęcor and there was a gorgeous rose garden and fountain area. We ended the night with a delicious dinner in the Holland Village area of the park (where there was lots of beer, chicken, wine, and varieties of food), watching the Midnight Magic parade, and a quick walk through a haunted house. On our way back to the hotel we stopped for an hour long 40,00 Won ($40) massage at this massage place that we had checked out the night before. We didn’t get there until a little bit after midnight and felt kind of bad for getting massages so late at night (though they say they are open till 1am!) We changed into these orange outfits that made me feel like I was a prisoner in an orange jumpsuit. We started out with some tea and our feet in these buckets with warm water. The massage itself was rougher than massages back at the states and at a few points I was really uncomfortable. Right when I got up from my massage I wondered how I'd make the ten minute walk back to our hotel since my calves were so tight and sore! We made it back to the Metro Hotel and passed out pretty quickly as we anticipated our next day of our vacation.

Day 2-Everland Theme Park on PhotoPeach

Chuseok Break Day 1- Myeongdong and Dongdaemun Market

Day 1

The Korean holiday Chuseok (like our American Thanksgiving) is celebrated from September 21-23 and I was lucky enough to have the entire week off from school! On Tuesday Eunhye (my co teacher) and I ran some errands around Cheongdo and she showed me the special tables, back board and sacrifice plates, bowls, etc. People put pictures of their ancestors on the back board and give gifts. The whole front of the grocery store was full of gifts and other foods that could be used during this time. The sacrifice dishes were really expensive. A small wooden bowl costs about 14,000 Won which is like $14 U.S.D. I was really surprised at how expensive these items were!

Katie came over and stayed the night at my apartment and Wednesday morning we were on the train headed for Seoul by 7am. We stopped in Gumi on our way up to the city and Debbie was sitting in the train car in front of us. When we got to Seoul we meandered our way through some markets to find somewhere to eat lunch. It was kind of strange being out in the city on such a big Korean holiday. There were not many Koreans out and about and we saw lots of foreigners! During Chuseok most people are traveling back to their hometowns to be with family so big cities like Seoul, Daegu, Busan, etc. are not as populated as they are on any other given day. We spent the day shopping in the Myeongdong area and then earched around for a hotel and even stopped at the expensive/famous Royal Hotel. Though this was a little too pricy for us the man working at the front desk gave us a map and showed us some hotels in the area that we could stay at. We ended up at the Metro Hotel which is definitely nicer and more expensive than the Love Motels (about $30-$50 a night, but once you divide that by 2 or 3 people it’s really cheap!) that most scholars stay at when they are traveling around Korea. Our hotel was 80,000 Won for each of us for 2 nights. It was a little more expensive than we planned, but hey it was Chuseok vacation and why not! Our hotel had a great free breakfast in the morning, internet in the lobby, and a nice big room with a great view of the city out the window.

We spent Wednesday night at Dongdaemun Market. We had read up on the Dongdaemun Night Market which has lots of shops and malls all lining this gorgeous river and fountain area. However, since it was Chuseok everything was dead and there was not much shopping to do. Instead, we walked around down by the river and enjoyed the scenery while taking pictures.

Day 1- Myeongdong & Dongdaemun Market on PhotoPeach