Freshman English in South Korea: Sometimes Grim
In general, teaching freshman English classes in South Korea can come with some great students and some really terrible ones. The really terrible ones have very little motivation, and are often quite low level with some literally not being able to say their name and major. They sometimes are unwilling to do even the most basic of homework, will skip the most classes they possibly can without getting an “F” and attempt to cheat their way through tests. And at the end of the semester, they can sometimes expect to get an A. It’s a bit ridiculous.
Lesson Planning for Beginner ESL Students
How do these low, level unmotivated students affect my lesson planning? In a lot of ways.
Forget the Lecture
I know that I can’t lecture because there simply isn’t the attention span to make that possible. The minute I start is the minute that heads start nodding and eyes start closing. So I make it interactive. Like they actually have to stand up and walk around talking to people. Or do a little presentation thing in front of the class, where if they don’t at least try, they will look terrible. Or I play a game where if they don’t participate their group as a whole will suffer the consequences. It seems to keep the class moving along at a pace that’s not tedious, clock-watching drudgery for me or them.
Practice with your Partner First
I try not to put people on the spot. I almost never pick someone out of the audience to answer a question, unless they’ve first had the opportunity to practice it with a partner. Then, if I do pick them and they have no answer, it’s their own fault for looking bad in front of their peers, not mine.
Forget Discussion Time
I realize that big group discussions, or even discussions with groups of 4-5 students just aren’t possible for most classes so I don’t try. It’s always met with awkward silence or speaking Korean. Partners work much better, or groups of 3.
I will always do an example for each conversation question or game that I do. ALWAYS. Beginner students can not be trusted to understand and carry out my instructions, no matter how simply I explain something. It’s not their fault, it’s my own for not doing an example.
All is Not Lost!
Am I making teaching in a Korean university sound really terrible? It’s not! In fact, the students I teach these days are some of the sweetest, hardest working ones I’ve ever met and are a joy to teach. Even in freshman English classes, you’ll have some excellent majors like nursing, fashion, airline services, robotics, tourism or international trade where the students are actually better than the English majors in many cases!
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