On good girls and bad boys

September 9, 2010

We are continuing our cult of personality in class this week.   I gave my students a long list of personality adjectives, and I even translated them into Korean (with help from my most awesome co-teacher) and had them do a worksheet where they decided which traits were good and which traits were bad.  I then gave them a worksheet where they chose the 5 best traits for a friend, a father, a mother, a teacher and a boyfriend.

I always make the students give a presentation after they fill in the worksheets; I do let them work in groups, and I try to get them to use the time to speak English,  but as soon as I’m out of sight, they start speaking in Korean, this happens even in my best classes, so to make sure they speak a little bit of English, I make them stand up and present their worksheets.

I was shocked at how many students said “mean” and “cold-hearted” are good traits for a boyfriend.  I asked, and they all said, ” bad boys, mmmm good” or some variation. As a teacher who both loves her students and is not immune to bad boy charm, I was in a bit of  a pickle. I do understand, but when I think of a bad boy, I don’t think of mean, or cold-hearted.  I think of a guy with a motorcycle and more than one girlfriend. Fun while it lasts, but something you usually outgrow eventually. The problem was explaining this without scandalizing some of my co-teachers ( I have 5 this semester).  1/2 of my co-teachers would be sympathetic, but some … hmm I’m not so sure about.  So I settled on – A bad boy will take you for a ride, and a bad man (cold-hearted and mean) will take everything you have.  I think that is a good explanation.

In my advanced class, I also have them do a dialog using the new vocabulary words. I was not surprised that the students who liked bad boys would come up with this exchange:

A: “I am sad. I got into a fight with my boyfriend”

B: ” It is obviously his fault”

Because if he is a bad boy, his fault is obvious. Obviously.

I was also a bit surprised but not shocked that students in the advanced and high intermediate classes liked a bossy and strict teacher, but students in the low intermediate and beginner classes liked an easy-going teacher.

Sometimes I have way too much fun in my class, but then I’m very easily amused.


An easy going person always smiles.

September 2, 2010

So this is the second week of the semester.  The first week back I thought my students had used all of their summer break forgetting everything I taught them last semester. But this week they were back in the swing of things.

I have one student I quite like, even though she is a bit prickly and stubborn.  She has made it clear, I am not a good teacher. The story:  Last semester we had a speaking test. It really wasn’t a speaking test, more like a test for memorization.  The students were given 5 dialogs to memorize, and were graded on a point system 1-10, with 10  a perfect score.   This is the only test I actually administer.  This student did pretty good on the test. I gave her a 9.  I wanted to give her the 10 she asked for, but she made several mistakes in the beginning.  I let her start over, and she did excellent, hence the 9. I couldn’t give her a 10 because that is the perfect score, and she did have to restart the test.  ( She is one of the lower level students, and although I don’t like grading on a curve, I am a bit more lenient for the lower level students than I am for the upper level students).  Anyway, I digress. She was most unhappy with the result.  She did make a valiant attempt to sway me, but I was unconvinced. I was then informed that I was a very bad teacher. She wouldn’t speak to me for the rest of the semester (she did do all the classwork I asked for).  This semester, she decided to forgive me. Until today.

This week we are discussing personality adjectives.  The worksheet has two parts: The first part is a finish the sentence exercise, and the second part is opposites.  The first one is: Kind is the opposite of__________.  I let her group use “unkind”.  10 minutes later I hear “Teacher, finishee”  I know, I am trying to get them to pronounce the final d, but I think it is a losing battle.  Anyway, I digress. I  thought it was rather quick, especially since the lab (upper level) students took much longer.  Well, they used the rule “un” = not, but I had to break it to them that unstingy, unhonest, unrude, unlazy, and unshy were not real words, and they couldn’t use them.  She was most upset.  I am back to being a bad teacher.  I met her in the halls between classes and she turned her face away from me so hard she almost hit the wall.  I am a bad teacher, I did laugh. She tried really hard to not laugh then decided to be angry with my laughter.  I don’t think she is going to talk to me the rest of the new semester.

I do love the way my students use the language though. Sometimes even though it isn’t “correct” it is still pretty cool.  I usually put them in groups and have them struggle with the words and their meanings, or the sentence structures. I want them to own the language, not just get the right answer.  In English, there is more than one way to express something, and I want them to have that power.

So some of the sentences my students have come up with:

A stingy person has a selfish mind.

A lazy person doesn’t like to wake up in the morning/ doesn’t like to endeavor.

An honest person  speaks only truths and does good things

An impatient person tells everyone to hurry up

An ambitious person only wants passion for work, not to be happy. ( I like this explanation, even if it would never show up in the dictionary)

An arrogant person is not modest

A shy person doesn’t like dangerous things. (maybe not, but it is close enough)

An easy-going person is a cool guy /doesn’t like to be upset.

My favorite opposites are:

Kind is the opposite of bad

Stingy is the opposite of shopping/ helping people.

Honest is the opposite of tricky/ illegal action/ hypocrisy

Rude is the opposite of courtesy/decorum

Lazy is the opposite of industry/liveliness/ diligent


Shy is the opposite of friendly/stately

I know they are using their dictionaries so some of them don’t really understand the nuances of their word choice. I also know “that’s very creative” is high praise in my upper level classes, so I am getting through to some of them.  My goal is to make English something they can use to express themselves, and of course, have fun. Plus it makes me smile when I grade their papers.

the king in Korea

August 17, 2010

As you know, I’ve been using murder, mystery and crime as my theme for my summer English camp.  So far it has been a lot of fun, and I think the students had a good time and learned something as well.  At least I hope so.

One of the things I wanted to do was have some music as part of my class.  My justification was that music is a fun and interesting way to learn vocabulary in use.  The real reason, is it is summer, and the students should be out having fun. Instead they are in a classroom. I think the reason there are so many private academies and  after school programs, and summer and winter camps, is that they want to make sure the kids don’t have enough free time or energy to get into any trouble.  That is my theory.

So anyway, the students are not at the beach, not at the park, not getting in trouble, not just hanging out in the heat.  They are in my class.  To make life a bit more bearable, I’ve been playing mystery themed games, been murdered more times than is healthy, and introduced some good music.  I could have stuck with pop songs, but a) I wanted the mystery theme to extend even to the music section, and b) I wanted to introduce my students to some music they may not have heard before.

I’ve done songs from the musical Chicago, the theme from the Sopranos TV show, and some blues and country music.  I also went into the past and found Elvis Presley’s Jail House Rock.   I thought it would be kind of fun, but I didn’t expect the reaction I got.

Lots of High School girls bopping along, their feet tapping, they were smiling and laughing.  When I looked at them, they got all serious, paying attention to the lyrics, but out of the corner of my eye, I could see them starting to re-bop and they just couldn’t keep their feet still.  It made me happy.  Some of my “experiments” don’t always work. I’ve had some serious class room fail. But it is alway nice when it does work well.

you can read some other of my writings at http://lifeinkorea.kr/

Friday, class fail.

July 24, 2010

I usually like to write about classes that go well. Part of it is my disgusting optimism.  Part of it, I don’t really like to admit when I suck as a teacher.

But. Friday’s summer camp lesson was a total failure.

I have 7 students. 9 students signed up for the camp, but 1 was way out of her league and she un-enrolled.  1 I haven’t seen yet.  I don’t know why she signed up, but since she never came I don’t feel too bad about her not being in class now.

So we have 7 students, and they have been awesome.  They have participated enthusiastically, and when I put up the mistakes on the mistakes were made board, I noticed that some of the more common mistakes were absent.  Yeah, I think they are pretty cool.

So Friday.  I wanted a special super fun awesome class.

I failed.

We started with a minute mystery. When I got to the solution, instead of the Ah, and laughter I usually get, I got Uh? and blank faces. I knew I was off my game.

The theme for the day was BANK ROBBERS!!! – I found a game online that had you plan and execute a bank heist.  So I took a bunch of elements from the game, and made our own heist elements that the students should put together.

To warm them up, I had the song, “Don’t nobody move, this is a heist” by Tony Powers.  I explained heist, but they really didn’t get the song or the video.

So we moved on.

I showed some clips and previews of movies like Heat, Ocean’s twelve, and Point Break.  They hadn’t seen those movies or any of the other movies I mentioned.

I moved on.

I gave them a blue print of the bank, and some characters they could be.  I gave them cards for the equipment they would need.  And put them together to plan their heist.

They didn’t get it.  I tried to help them, and they tried to do it.  But.  It was a failure.

I moved on.

At the end of every  class, we are watching “Castle” – I downloaded the show and I’ve been transcribing the dialog for the students, and we go over the vocabulary and then watch a short clip.

This was no problem, but when the short clip was finished I still had 15 minutes of class.  With not much prepared, and a downhearted and bored class.

They wanted to watch 10 more minutes of the show, and usually I wouldn’t just watch tv or movies, but I made an exception for this class.

The last 5 minutes I apologized, and promised a good class on Monday.

They did forgive me.  And I want to make it very clear, these are really hard-working students. Their level is low intermediate, but they are motivated and in general awesome.  Monday through Thursday we had a lot of fun, and they worked hard at all the tasks I’ve given them so far.  They love the game Clue, and they are really good at speaking up in class.  The failure on Friday was all mine.

On the plus side, a friend had her birthday party, and despite getting lost twice to her house,  we had an awesome time playing Apples to Apples.  It cheered me up.

So happy birthday Julia!

What am I supposed to do with this?

June 11, 2010

I want to continue on the how-to-get-ideas theme or series or whatever I’m doing.  I promised a friend that I would write a post on how to adapt an advanced lesson and materials to a basic class.  Another friend said she wished she had a book for that. So do I. Maybe I’ll write one – but not today.  Today I will talk about how to change things around so that you – the beginning teacher, or the experienced teacher that can’t think of one.more.lesson. today.

I decided to use “Instant Lessons 3 advanced” by Deirdre Howard-Williams, Mary Tomalin, Peter Watcyn-Jones and Edward Woods. It is from Penguin English Photocopiables series.  I chose this book because it is on the bookshelf in my school. I am going to adapt Good Manners around the world.  Good manners are alway a good thing, and my students would probably find other countries customs interesting.

I’m going to be paraphrasing and shorting the instructions quite a bit.

The introduction should take 5 minutes:  We are to tell the class an embarrassing story about and tell what it shows us. If we don’t want to tell a story of our own, we can talk about a “friend” who was in Greece and went to a friend’s home around 3 in the afternoon. Imagine his embarrassment when he realized he had gotten his friends out of bed where they were having their siesta.  Then introduce the idea of different customs, habits and ways of life.  Ask if anyone else has and amusing story.

This introduction would not work in my class.  Getting three sentences in a row is a major achievement. Instead of a story, I would get some pictures, probably off the internet, of people greeting each other (bowing, shaking hands, hand on heart, kissing and hugging), and eating (chopsticks, knife and fork, hands) If I had a computer with power point or prezi in my classroom I would put them on that, if I didn’t I would print them out and laminate them or use clear tape to protect them.  With the computer I would show a picture and ask the class what they saw.  Of course I would accept one word answers. If I didn’t have a computer I would put the students in small groups, and have them present the pictures to the class. Of course  I would help them with the language.

The Presentation (10 minutes) has Activity A- a quiz:

1. If you are invited to a British home for dinner at 7:30 p.m. it is polite to arrive…

a) at about 7 p.m. for drinks b) at anytime after 8 p.m. c) at about 7:35 p.m

2. If a Japanese man gives you his business card, you should

a) not read it in front of him and put it in your pocket b) read it carefully and put it on the table in front of you. c) memorized the name then throw the card away

3. When you are introduced to someone from the Middle East, you should..

a) shake hands b) bow formally c) embrace the person warmly

4. If you are invited to a French friend’s home for dinner, you should…

a) take chocolates or a bottle of wine b) take nothing but thank them warmly afterwards c) take a bouquet of red roses or chrysanthemums.

Now my students would not be able to read this quiz. They certainly wouldn’t be able to complete it in 10 minutes.  So what could I do?  Well, Activity B is about Do’s and Don’ts.  I don’t think my students would be able to do Activity B or read the excerpt that they provide.

So instead of doing having each student do a quiz for 10 minutes  or read the paragraph and do the second activity, I would make a worksheet that would have:

Continent                                         Do                                                                                Don’t





I would then give them a word list and go over the word list in class– bow, shake hands, on time, gifts, etc.  Then put them in groups of 4 or 6 and have them fill out the form with the words from the word list.  This should take 20 or 30 minutes.  I always make my students do a presentation, so I would then use the remaining time having the students give a presentation on their findings.

There –  easy peasey.  It just takes using part of the idea, adding something you saw a long time ago (or yesterday) and a little creativity.

Next post is going to be about something fun.