A sad moment, remembered

Due to not having enough rice in the bowl, the chop sticks didn’t stand up straight. So, I propped them up in an A-frame.

My first attempt to light the candle (to burn the letter) failed. I returned 5 minutes later with a cigarette lighter.

Sub-title task, resulted in nothing sub-par

I tried a communicative writing task last week, with some results. The students were given a strip of pictures and, they were asked “write the sub-titles” for the strip. I explained it as a movie that was missing it’s sub-titles. The results, were varied, if not entertaining. But, it did get them speaking, as a way of feeding back on their work, they read aloud their neighbours work. After a week of the same strip (though different classes) the results are consistent at both levels. The more able classes produced good output, with some of it often being funny. While the lower level classes and students produced… lesser works. Okay, I wasn’t expecting a Shakespeare sonnet, but given free writing practice, my students never failed to amuse.

Student tests, teacher down time

Korean students, in general, do too many tests. From my perspective as a ‘non-teacher’ they don’t really learn. Rote learn but they simply have no time to assimilate what they’ve taken in. “Do they really understand what they’ve learnt?” In terms of spoken English I’d have to give a ‘no’. The speaking tests I’ve just had with them were a case in point.The question sheet, which I gave them in advance, was so that they could learn the form. What got in response from the students was a canned answer. Some of the students, but the others didn’t fair any better in terms of understanding the form.

I found that I could get the students to ask each other the test questions. In that instant, it become a communicative test question and not simply a closed question asked by me. I say this because in the past it was just me and a student going through the questions. Even then there would other students in the room, whispering in de-sotto voices the answers. I don’t exactly discourage this for two reasons: The learning doesn’t stop even when I’m testing; and, even student deserves a fighting chance. Can you speak (English)? Can you speak along the lines of the questions? Suffice to say my goal isn’t really to generate grades or marks, which my supervisor would really have me do, but it’s a test of competence. Even when I hand my supervisor the grades, it’s doesn’t really contribute in any major way. The proportion is too small. It’s like adding a grain of sand to a pile of sand. From an activity point of view, speaking tests are easy to administer, giving me lots of spare time to make lesson plans and the like.

Good-bye Autumn, hello Winter

Ever since we moved to the 9th floor of an apartment block, I’ve been taking pictures of the landscape. Sunsets especially. This is one of them, in a series in fact as it turns out taken from late Summer to late Autumn/ early Winter. I would say that it is still only Autumn.

Another sunset, taken a few months earlier.

Looking at the photo I not only see a day that is dying but also an end. The trees are starting to shed their Autumn gowns but also it’s an end to my time in Korea. Since the job is finishing and I’m moving onto China and to better, greener pastures.

Just a night out, camera in hand

Not the moon but taken at  f/3.5, exposure 0.5s, focal length 18mm

I’ve taken shots of the moon before, and even ‘red‘ moons. This time out, I didn’t even take my ‘super zoom‘ lens. Instead I opted for the gear I had in my photo bag. But knowing that the ‘shot’ would be at night I’d brought along my tripod.  The affect of this is to greatly increase the effectiveness of my stock lens. I’d done some reading before hand and I was informed that increasing the f-stop value (closing the aperture) doesn’t make much sense since the situation has lack of light. However, reading what more experienced had done does make my shot taking less of a frustrating experience. I was quite pleased with the initial photos taken outside, but also knowing that Canon RAW files can be processed further on computer, The result is what you see here.

Reducing Teacher talk time. Wait, I’m not a teacher!

Teacher Talk Time CREDIT: Macmillian education

Teacher talk time or TTT for short, is an all important aspect of communicative teaching. The opposite for this is Student talk time or STT, and, since CLT is based on mostly pair work and group work, the teacher/ instructor should by rightly, say his or her piece in as precise manner as possible and then simply let them get on with it.

Once I was aware of this, I made an effort to not only to do just that, but also to create tasks for the students so that they will be talking more. Easier said than done as there are lots of facts in student motivation. Intrinsic and extrinsic factors all play a part.  Skill base is one while, things like their affective filter might be sky-high for lots of other reasons.

I remember when I was reviewing some videos of my classroom teaching (some moments are truely cringe worthy) that some of my classmates at the time noted that I had an excess of ‘discourse markers‘. This trait wasn’t unusual and in the past my female high school students at the time told me that I’d said ‘okay’ over 20 times in one lesson. Thinking back, it’s not a word of confirmation, but a rather wet attempt to get the class to be quiet, which they didn’t. Now days, while negotiating for meaning with a student I would have my fingers over my mouth just to signify to the student they are to speak without interruption from me. It’s just a matter of holding your bottle and letting them just spit out their sentence.

Lessonplans, long forgotten

For some reason or another I have rarely gone over old lesson plans. It does make sense though, since, I’ve taught the same years twice in some schools.

The lesson folder I had uncovered dated back to the 2006-7 time frame. It contained printed material for a lesson, a very loose procedure and that was about it. I comparison, I do still ‘write  up’ the lesson plan up (in a notebook) and this is to clarify what I want to teach and what I need to prepare to teach it. I’d use circle in green pen the resources I’d written down that needed to be prepared. So much more organised than what it was before.

Looking through the book, the lessons were adequate, if you wanted to teach like a KET. But since that time I’d moved on. Even more recently, I’d been taught to focus on communicative teaching/ lessons. The ones where my TTT is minimized and where the STT is maximized. In doing this, I as a teach, maximize the amount of student talk time. That’s what they’re there for, right? Pedagogy aside, following the PPP schema is relatively easy. Once you have the materials in hand, it makes writing lesson plans easier. Looking through the clear-page folder at the lesson plans I’d written back then, I had come to realize that the lesson plans were incomplete. Even if I was teaching vocabulary, I was teaching it properly, as in meaning, form, grammar, and speaking. Thanks, Paul Nation.

But back then, it was an awful lot of talking on my part, and very little in the way of practicing productive skills. I knew that I had to get the students talking, even back then, but I was missing the know-how (theoretical and practical) to do it. How far I’ve come! That extra training does pay off; firstly it was CELTA, and then it was TESOL. Both tough but, useful courses to have done.

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