Okay, so you’ve got yourself a shiny new teaching job at a Korean uni. It’s now getting to crunch time. What do you actually do in your classes?
Keep on reading to find out what’s the deal with lesson planning when you work in a Korean university. Don’t worry. It’s not as difficult as you might think.
University ESL Lesson Plans: What do you Actually do in Class?
One of the common questions that I get from Hagwon and public school teachers in South Korea is what I actually do in my university classes. In hagwons, it’s rare to have the same students for more than an hour at a time and 40-45 minutes is more common, a couple of times a week.
With this length of time, it’s pretty easy to keep just about anyone entertained. In public schools, the class lengths are about the same and the Korean co-teacher usually does the bulk of the heavy lifting with the foreign teacher just being the “assistant.”
How to Plan for a 4-Hour Class with University ESL Lesson Plans
My university classes in Korea range from 1.5 hour to 4 hours with the same group of students. 4 hour classes can be quite difficult to plan for since they’re so long so I’ll use that as my example. Here’s how I would I use the time (if I was given no materials that I had to teach) and had reasonably high-level students.
Choose a Topic First
I’d pick a topic such as “Youth unemployment in Korea,” “Microfinance” or “Renewable Energy.” I choose stuff that I’m actually interested in and then I adapt and make easier for as low level as high-beginners. Things like movies, hobbies, food and pets are TOTALLY overdone and I refuse to use topics like these unless forced to (if I’m given a textbook with them in it, or have extremely low-level students-but I generally try to avoid teaching absolute beginners because I find it pretty demoralizing).
Hour 1: introduction to the topic
This usually involves some general warm-up questions, key vocabulary, sample conversation, or something like “describe the picture” for lower level students.
Hour 2: Reading or listening
If you find articles from Breaking News English, you can do the listening first with some sort of “big-picture” questions. I’d usually listen twice, with the first time just being simple true/false or matching or something and then the second time, I’d increase the level of difficulty and use some short answer questions. I’ll always get the students to compare with their partner before eliciting answers from the class.
Then, I’d get the students to read the same thing that they just listened to but they’d have to answer some serious “critical thinking” or advanced level “reading comprehension” questions where the answers require processing the information in a deep kind of way, or the answers are very subtle and require some “reading between the lines.”
Hour 3: Discussion
The students would have to discuss in small groups of 3-4 people and then we’d talk together as a class. I give them questions based on the topic for that day.
Hour 4: Activity
For example, when I talked about microfinance, I showed a couple videos from Kiva and showed the students my own portfolio of who I lent money to.
It might be a debate of some kind. For example, on the topic of Youth Unemployment, it could be, “Who has the final responsibility for solving this problem: youth, the government, parents, industry or universities?”
It could be a survey activity. For advanced students, they’d have to make their own survey question or two, ask their classmates, process the information and then report back to the class their results. For lower levels, I give them the questions already prepared.
Or, I might do some writing activity of some kind where the students have to share their opinion on the topic. But, I will quite rarely do this and my activities are generally slanted towards speaking.
Do you Have an Example of University ESL Lesson Plans?
If you want to see this kind of ESL lesson plan in action, here’s the goods! It’s a lesson plan dealing with youth unemployment in South Korea and it’s suitable for a 3-4 hour class.
Youth Unemployment in Korea Lesson Plan
Here’s a 4 hour ESL lesson plan on the topic of Youth Unemployment. Of course, if you don’t teach in South Korea, you probably shouldn’t use this lesson plan for your classes!
That said, the principles are the same, so just choose a topic more relevant to your students. Ideally, you could choose a similar reading or listening passage about youth unemployment in your own country and then much of the world would be done for you.
Here are steps I followed for this advanced ESL lesson:
Warm-up riddles + Setting the Context
Lots of students come late so I do some riddles for 5-10 minutes while people stream in. This was the only thing that was not related to the main theme of the lesson. And of course, it’s a good idea in general to start with an ESL warmer of some kind.
Then I have the students talk with a partner and then the whole class together about some general questions related to hopes for the future in terms of jobs, etc. Basically, I want to set the context and get my students thinking about what’s coming up.
I had the students read the passage quickly (less than a minute, CELTA style) and then asnwer some true/false questions. Then, they compared their answers with a partner and then whole class. Here’s the article and questions that I use for this lesson plan.
This time, the students read slowly and have to answer some difficult comprehension questions. After that, they talk with a partner or small group at first and then quickly together as an entire class. This part often leads to some pretty interesting discussions so in a class this long, feel free to let the students take it where it might go.
Youth Unemployment Video-first time
What is the program about from this video? My students have to talk with a partner and then we discuss the video with the whole class.
Would this program work in Korea? Talk with partner and then with whole class.
Show the website and talk about what they do, watch their short video, etc. Choose someone to “lend” money to. I then talk about why I love to use Kiva.
Groups of 4 students brainstorm ways to reduce youth unemployment in Korea. Each person choose their favorite and prepare a 2 minute speech about why it’s the best solution. Give speech to group and other 3 members must ask a difficult question each. One person from each group can share their solution with the class.
Follow Up for the Topic
If there’s still time at the end, I’ll have an emergency activity or two. It usually involves writing a paragraph about something related to the topic.
What do you do in your ESL/EFL Classes?
If you teach at a university in Korea, please let us know what you do in your classes? Do you have any go-to university ESL lesson plans that you’d like to share with us? Leave a comment below and let us know. We’d love to hear from you.
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