The first week of classes in Korean universities have now finished and the introductory activities are done. It’s time to get into the serious teaching. But, perhaps you’ve only taught kids before and are new to teaching university students. It really is kind of a different world and adults have very different needs than kids.
Here are a few resources to get you started with lesson planning for your English classes in Korean universities. The tips will also help you out if you teach university students or adults around the world, so keep on reading.
Lesson Planning-No Textbooks
Maybe you’re kind of like me and hate the ESL textbooks. Or, perhaps you haven’t even been given one to teach from for some of your classes and are left to your own devices. If you’re new to teaching, it can be a bit terrifying. But it actually doesn’t need to be. You’ll just need to check out this post with my Top 5 ESL Lesson Planning Sites. Business English, current events, writing, movies and lots of other awesome (and free!) resources to get you going. The power of the Internet will make your classes great!
ESL Lesson Planning Templates
If you’ve never really done a lesson plan before, this is the section you’ll need! Here is a very, very basic ESL lesson plan that is as simple as I could make it. It’s a list of a few questions to ask yourself as you get ready for your classes and it will help you make sure that you’ve covered the basics.
If you’re looking for something a bit more formal and detailed, check out these ESL lesson plan templates that are mostly modelled on the CELTA/DELTA courses. The good news about these ESL lesson plan templates for university students (or other adults) is that they can be adapted to just about anything: grammar, vocabulary, beginners, advanced, etc.
Activities and Games for University Students
When you teach kids, it’s usually pretty easy to keep them entertained. Pull out the Bingo, Uno, or a set of flashcards and away you go. Of course the best teachers do far more than this so that the kids actually learn English, but what I mean is that it’s usually not so difficult to keep them happy.
University students are often a lot more demanding, although in some ways it’s easier than with children because their attention spans are much longer. However, it’s best if you use a wide variety of games and activities in your classes to keep things fresh and interesting and challenge your students as well. It’s better for them as well as you.
Here are some ideas for ESL activities to get you started:
Don’t Forget About those Student Evaluations!
So, you want to get good student evaluations from your university students in Korea, or elsewhere in the world? The most important thing is to actually be a good teacher!
But, keep on reading for more tips to get some seriously high scores and perhaps even keep your job.
Evaluations in Korea Actually Matter
When you teach English in a South Korea university, you’ll see very quickly that student evaluations really do matter. At my current workplace, the bottom 50% of teachers get the cut at the end of the end of their contract and evaluations serve as the sole basis for this.
If there are other factors that universities consider, student evaluations are usually the most important thing, by far. If you score below the mark, there’s nothing your boss can do to save you, no matter how awesome of a drinking buddy you are!
Not to worry, my readers, help is here! I’m going to tell you how to get high student evaluations when teaching in a Korean university. Good news for you: none of them are rocket science. Ready?
Tips for Getting High Student Evaluations in South Korean Universities
1. Be in class before the students arrive. It’s bad news when a teacher arrives late and wastes the first 5 or 10 minutes getting their PPT all set up. Do this before class. This is especially true on the first day. First impressions matter and you likely don’t know the ins and outs of the technology in that specific classroom?
How do you get the screen down? Turn on the computer?
2. Stay after class for a few minutes. Be available if a student needs to talk to you. Don’t rush out quickly, especially if you don’t have another class. The shy students will often wait until most of the other students have left if they need to talk to you about something.
3. Maintain your “game face” at all times and never lose your cool. Yelling is a sure way to do badly when it comes to student evaluations.
4. Be careful about what you say- never say anything offensive to an individual or to Koreans in general. Seriously, in a shame based culture this is a big no-no.
5. Be kind and smile. Koreans like happy, friendly teachers.
Tips and Tricks for Getting Good Evaluations
6. Be fair and have a transparent grading system. Tell students exactly how you’ll calculate their grade so that they don’t have to guess. NEVER play favorites, in fact, this is the fastest way to get low evaluations.
7. Prepare a wide variety of games and activities-make class fun, engaging and interesting!
8. Make students think you are working hard for them. You don’t actually need to, but prepare an impressive PowerPoint every once in a while or a little review handout for them before a test. They’ll appreciate it.
9. Snack time! A few treats and snacks never hurt anyone, ever. I always bring in a few if we play a game of some kind. Or, a little treat for the entire class around exam time.
10. Dress professionally. Appearance is important in Korea. Look the part of a teacher, you know?
In Korea, it’s often all about student evaluations to determine whether or not you get your 1-2 year contract renewed. The pressure is certainly on! Here’s how you can make your classes awesome and get the students to love you!
All About the Syllabus
Here’s how to write a simple syllabus for a university course in Korea.
How to Teach English: Pay Attention to the Small Stuff!
When you’re teaching English, if you can do the little things right, the end result can be happy students, progress made, smiling faces all around, and ultimately good evaluations at the end. Or you can do all the little things wrong and have a pretty bad semester with non-participating students, frowning faces, and bad evaluations. The small stuff matters.
The Small Stuff to do Right
Be in Class Before Students
Nothing looks less professional than someone who rushes around after the students are already in the class, struggling to get the PPT fired up and all their papers out.
Contrast this to someone who is prepared by the time most of the students are there and is able to personally greet each one as they walk in the door, in a relaxed, zen-like kind of way. Remember serenity now? This will be quite difficult to maintain when you’re all rushed and stressed before class even starts.
Where are you Going? When are you done?
People like to know what’s happening so write up a little schedule for the day on one side of the board, and leave it there for the entire class, or have it as the first slide of your PPT for students to see before class starts. Of course, this assumes that you have a lesson plan (some university teachers in Korea I know do not, disturbingly).
(Speaking or conversation classes, this will be your new go-to site: ESL Speaking. Trust me.
Avoiding dead-time requires some organization but it’s reasonably easy to do. I will never, ever write more than a few words on the board while the students are waiting. I come early and try to write most of the text I’m using for that class before they get there.
This means I usually do the grammar/vocab lesson first or second in my lesson plan. Or, if I do it in the middle, I’ll get the students working on something and then do my writing on the board. Dead-time can be hard to recover from, because your students lose their focus.
Better yet, just use a simple PPT if your classrooms have computer consoles. I use Google Drive for mine.
Don’t Hide Behind the PPT
Teaching is about relationship; it’s not about flashy PPTs. Students just want to make a connection with you and with each other and have a place where they feel safe and welcomed. Never forget this.
Names are Important
If you can’t memorize all the student’s names, get them to use name-tags on their desks. It’s better than saying something like, “Hey…you…what is the answer?” Here’s a post where I talk about using name-tags in my classes.
(A whole book filled with ESL Speaking Games and Activities, guaranteed to make your classes better: 39 No-Prep/Low-Prep ESL Speaking Activities: For Teenagers and Adults).
Try to scan the entire class within a 20 second period of talking, So you’ll make eye contact with each student 3 times in one minute. Most teachers have a dead-spot that they just don’t look at for some reason. For me, it’s usually the first and second rows on the right and so I make a conscious effort to fight against this every class.
Never Put People on the Spot
This is a big no-no in Korea and in many other parts of Asia too. No ones like to feel shame because they didn’t know the answer. To avoid this, I’ll always give the students some pre-practice before I elicit an answer, either by doing some writing in their books, or speaking with their partner or in a small group. Of course, comparing answers with a partner before doing it in front of the whole class is a great strategy to use.
I actually get a surprising amount of comments from the students on my evaluations about how they like my big smile because after all, who doesn’t like a friendly teacher?
Microphones for 20 Students? Why?
A little mini-rant for today. Whenever I go into classrooms that only have 20 or 30 desks filling up the entire space, there is always a microphone that has been put to obvious use in the immediate class before me. Like it’s actually sitting on the podium, turned on and I always wonder why. How you interact with the students is part of the small stuff that matters when teaching.
Don’t the Students Hate it?
Who actually has such a small voice that they can’t project it enough for a class of 20 or 30 people? Does anyone actually just stand at the podium and lecture the entire time and think that that’s what teaching is? Does anyone actually like holding a microphone in their hand for 75 minutes?
Most importantly, do students actually LIKE listening to a voice that is microphone projected, with a low-quality sound system and crappy microphone? Seriously, I occasionally make use of the speakers for a few minutes to watch a short video or do a little listening thing and they annoy me during that short time, such that I even refuse to use them for more than 4 or 5 minutes each class.
Learn more about Teaching English to Beginners
What About the Big Stuff?
Of course, put plenty of time into considering the big stuff before your course starts. Curriculum design, evaluation, textbook selection, etc. But once the course starts? It’s all about the small stuff, so do it well and make your life in the classroom as awesome as possible.
How to Teach English: Not so difficult after all!
So you Want to Teach English the Awesome Way? Here’s How!
So you want to know how to teach English, the awesome way? I have some good news for you. It’s really not that difficult and actually, teaching English isn’t like rocket-science. While some people may tell you that you need all these qualifications or whatever, in reality, someone with a wee amount of training and a high-school diploma could probably do the job I do easily enough.
Sure, they might struggle with some of the more advanced grammar explanations or academic writing classes, but most foreigners in Korea just teach “conversation” which truly is the easiest thing you could ever possibly teach.
Anyway, if you want to know how to teach English, I’ll tell you how to do it the awesome way in a few simple steps.
Chill Out, Part 1
Chill out and don’t take that crap home with you! There’s never an English teaching emergency where someone will need something before you see them in the next class. So, teach your classes and then just forget about it until you go into work the next day.
Chill out, Part 2
Chill out and don’t waste your time lesson planning. Of course, you really need to plan lessons. But like, once you do a certain minimum amount of it, it’s not going to make your classes any more awesome. See this post where I talk about how the law of diminishing returns proves conclusively that I’m not a terrible person for only spending an average amount of time on lesson planning.
Have a Life Outside of Work
Teaching English isn’t exactly rewarding most days. Students make the same mistakes over, and over, and over again and often seem like they’re not really making that much progress. If you teach very small classes, it’s different but I sometimes teach 40 at a time, so individual gains are impossible to see.
This is my reality and not something I let get me down. What I’m saying is that if you put all your self-worth into helping your students improve their English skills, you might be really disappointed when you don’t see that progress. It’s best to have a life outside of work where you can focus your time and energy. A hobby of some kind!
Never Play Favourites
This is especially important if you give out grades to your students. It’s kind of the worst thing you could ever possibly do. Treat everyone the same no matter what and always be compassionate, but fair.
Mix It Up
Use a wide variety of activities in your classes. It makes things interesting for the students if they don’t know what to expect every single minute and it’s also useful when learning a new language. It pushes your students to use their brains and the language in a new way.
More Tips for Teaching English to Adults
Check out a a few basic tips for teaching English, based on my experience teaching English to university students in Korea. These tips also work for teachers around the world with any age or level so keep on reading.
My goal is that you will be able to make your classes even more awesome than they currently are. Happy students, happy teacher? What could be better?
The good news is that a few simple things will help you achieve that.
What’s your Target Language
The key to having a great ESL lesson is to have a goal. This goal usually involves target language, either some vocabulary, grammar point, or both. Or, perhaps you want to work on listening, reading, or writing skills. Whatever the case, make sure it’s clear in your head what this aim is, and also let your students know too!
If you’re focusing on grammar, or vocab, write the target language on the board or have it up on the PPT. This can help your students see what’s going on and know what they need to focus on. I think they appreciate having a quick reference to refer to throughout the class. It’s easy to forget things that are only mentioned once or twice.
In general, it’s always a good idea to give students two ways to pick up the language-written and spoken, unless you’re specifically working on listening practice.
By this I mean students should have things written out for them, and you should also say it out loud a few times. Even better if you can get them saying, or writing it!
What’s Going On During your ESL Lesson?
Always provide a simple agenda of what you’re covering in class that day. People like to know where they’re going and have the big picture in their heads. Students like to see the progress that they’re making because it makes them feel good!
Sometimes I’ll write it on the board. Other times, I’ll have a PPT slide and just hit the highlights of what we’re going to do at the beginning of class.
Teaching English to Adults: Big Picture First
Always teach the big picture first before getting bogged down in all the details.
I play a lot of board games and one of my big pet peeves is when someone starts with the little stuff instead of telling you what the ultimate goal of the game is. Or, they start telling you the most minor of details instead of just telling you the few basic things you need to actually know how to play.
Teaching is the same! Go big first. Then, hit the exceptions and random little things your students will need to know. Even better, let them discover the exceptions by themselves during some practice time. They often will be able to.
In my experience, the smaller details are often best worked out by the students when doing practice. You really don’t need to explain every single little thing to them in a presentation–this method is way too teacher-centred.
Pause Often During ESL Classes
I had one Korean teacher who would never give me time to think and would just cut in with the answer when I just about to say it.
Since that terrible experience, I now wait patiently for responses, even if it takes a few seconds. Be patient! Nobody is that worried about a little bit of dead time, or silence. Trust me. If someone is taking a second language class, the gears are turning in their heads, all the time trying to figure stuff out. A little break that’s filled with nothing is sometimes a welcome respite from all the input that’s coming at them.
Students usually can respond to a question with at least a word or two, but it often doesn’t happen instantly, especially for lower-level students. Give time for this to happen.
Review is Always Necessary for ESL Students
I never used to do much review, assuming the students would do it on their own except that this most often isn’t the case. Learning a language is all about repetition, so help your students out by doing lots of review during class time.
It’s far better to know a few things well than to know a million things not really at all. This was a philosophy I picked up after a few years of teaching, and I could really see the difference it made for my students.
Student Centered Classrooms: All the Rage These Days
These days, all the current language acquisition research advocates student-centered classrooms. This is for good reason! Teacher-centered classrooms, beyond the very, very basic level of learning a language, or for extremely young learners have largely proven to be ineffective at creating students who can actually communicate in a meaningful way. Sure, you can possibly cram grammar and vocab into students but in terms of them taking this knowledge and using it in a real-way, teacher-centered classrooms just don’t work.
Of course, it’s sometimes not easy when all the students speak the same language, but it is indeed possible.
Teacher Centered Classrooms: One Disturbing Example
A few months ago, I was teaching across the hall from one of my colleagues and could overhear his/her class and it was teacher-centered to the extreme. To the extreme! I can’t really emphasize this enough. Like this person basically was “on-stage” shouting out vocab words for 20 minutes out of the 50 minute class. There were only 1 second breaks in between the words, so maybe the students were repeating them? I have no idea because I couldn’t actually hear the students, at all.
Student Learning? Likely Not
It was bizarre and I couldn’t quite believe that this was actually happening in a university classroom. What did the students actually walk away with at the end of that class My guess is probably absolutely nothing except perhaps a headache after being shouted out for so long.
Here are a few tips to help make your classroom more student-centered:
It’s all about partners, or groups of 3, 4, or 5. Beyond that is often too big to be effective because not everyone will be able to participate. I like to make groups randomly instead of allowing the students to choose because it keeps them on their toes, you know?
And don’t even think about having a prolonged class discussion if you have more than 8 or 10 student in your class. There just isn’t enough student talking time in this scenario. Students often want this, but don’t give it to them because in the end, it’s not what they really need.
2. Set-up an activity (give them a task) and step back
Supervise and give gentle correction or feedback, but don’t interfere if the groups is doing a good job on their task. If they’re heading down the wrong path, use a firmer hand but once you do this, step away again and give them a chance to do it on their own.
3. Lecture, if you must, but only in 3-5 minute intervals
Students will not pay attention for anything beyond that, especially in a second language. I prefer not to lecture at all but will often give students a worksheet of some kind to get them to discover the grammar or vocabulary on their own. After the lecture or guided discovery, use some activities to get students to practice what they’re just heard or figured out. It’s best if they do this working together or doing it alone and then comparing answers with a partner.
4. Think of your job as more of a “coach” than a traditional “teacher”
You’re guiding students to correct language use, not uploading it into their brain. If you learn something for yourself, you’re going to remember it for a long time. If you hear something, it’s not going to stick with you for more than a few minutes. We should be all about helping our students learn English for the long-term.
5. Challenge students
Give your students tasks that are big and not so easy. Encourage them that they can do it if they feel a bit hesitant. Put them in groups so that the stronger students can help the weaker ones. Support them and give help when necessary. Pre-teach some necessary things before the task so they have something to grasp onto. Praise them when they genuinely meet the challenge and do a good job.
Top 5 tips to get ready for next semester teaching in a Korean university
Ready? Let’s get to the things you need to do to get ready for your next semester. If you’re a newbie, these will be gold. Been around the block a few times? You may even pick up a tip or two. And, please leave a comment below and add your own thoughts.
#1: Plan ahead
There’s nothing more terrible than frantically trying to pull something together an hour before class. Trust me, I’ve been there and it’s not a happy place for your mental health. I always try to stay 2-3 weeks ahead for my lesson planning instead of waiting for crunch time before anything gets done.
My favourite way to do this is to head to my favourite coffee shop (Coffee Farm in Hadan-Dong, Busan!) for a serious session. I bring my textbooks and laptop and then just get to it. I’m far more motivated in a nice place like this to do 4-5 hours of lesson planning that in my office or at home.
2-3 of these sessions during the break will get me weeks ahead. This makes my life during the semester way less busy compared to many of my co-workers.
#2: Murphy’s Law: Things don’t work
You know it always happens: Monday morning at 8:00 am before the semester starts, there’s a line-up of 5 people trying to use the photocopier to copy their syllabus and of course it breaks.
Be organized and hit it a few days before, just in case, especially if you have an old piece of junk like at my university. It’s surprisingly sleepy say a week before the semester. Plus, the department secretary will be far less busy and able to assist you with whatever you need at that time. If you need their help though, send them a quick text to make sure they’ll be in the office because they get vacation time too.
#3: Simple is Best, for Everything
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel and simple is almost always better. Of course, put a bit of effort and creative energy into your lessons, but it really is okay to use a page or two out of the textbook, or to use something like 39 ESL Warm-Ups: For Teenagers and Adults. People have gone before you and done all the hard work, so why not take advantage of it?
#4: Recycle Teaching Materials
Similar to not reinventing the wheel, hopefully you’ve been saving your lessons somewhere in a place like Dropbox or Google Drive (read the post for why I love Google Drive). There are always plenty of generic “conversation” classes here in Korea where you are free to use anything you want. It’s much easier to reuse an old lesson than to pull something new out of your hat.
Plus, I often teach the same English textbook semester to semester. I’ll use the exact same lessons, but just think back to what didn’t work and adapt it a little bit. This takes 5-10 minutes, instead of an hour or two. Consider yourself fortunate if this is your situation as well!
#5: Work Space
Make sure that you have a happy place where you can get work done so you can put some focused effort into stuff. For me, it’s usually not at home. If I want to be productive, it’s far better for me to go into my office, which I’m lucky enough to share with only 2 people who are rarely (if ever) there.
When we are there together, people just do their own thing and while friendly, we don’t carry on a running conversation, thankfully. If you have chatty office mates, you may want to realize that it’s not the place to do serious work.
But some people at other universities share an office with 10+ people and of course, serious work is impossible in that kind of environment. So ,those people could maybe find a quiet coffee shop near their house, a public library or set-up a space at home to do serious work like lesson planning and grading. Whatever works for you. Just be sure to find that space where you can focus.
University Jobs in Korea
Don’t have a university job in Korea, but want one? You probably do. 5 months of paid vacation, light on the teaching hours. It’s kind of the ultimate job for English teachers.
However, competition to get the job is fierce. Get the leg up on the competition with tips from the book about how to apply, what to do at the interview, and finally, how to keep the job once you get it.
The book is available in both digital and print formats. The digital copy can be read on any device by downloading the free kindle reading app. Yes, it really is that easy to improve your changes of getting a coveted uni job.
Where can I find It?
You can check out the book here, but only if you want to get yourself a leg up on the competition for university jobs in South Korea:
How to Get a University Job in South Korea on Amazon.
What are the Basic Requirements to Get a University Job in Korea? Find out Here!
Have your Say about Teaching English to University Students
Any tips for teaching ESL or EFL to university students? Any activities or games that you like to use? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.
Also be sure to give this article a share on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. It’ll help other busy teachers, like yourself find this useful resource.