A change of tack, untested and potentially tacky

Currently I’m teaching two streams of students. The new first graders and the second grade students who I had taught last year. Still at high school, I’ve got the ‘problem’ of creating a set of lesson plans for teaching my old first graders; the new second graders. After some thought I’ve decided instead of creating more material (which I think has been exhausted anyway) I’ve decided to use a different teaching style. I’m still leading my students to the context, but I’m also using the lexical approach. Throw chunks of new vocabulary at the students and have them use it. A while ago I had struck upon the idea of using collocations for the students to discover and learn. A number of problems to solve swim out of the murk for this tack to work. How to introduce new lexical items? How do I have the students notice and connect collocates without boring them to death?

The current teaching framework I’m using (PPP) works like a charm. But my friend commented and berated me on teaching a vocabulary lesson as this is something that a KET would do. The reply to that is, that it’s a lesson of two parts. Input of vocabulary in the first hour, the second part is that of production and practice using the new vocabulary. The extra layering that’s needed for young learners is the need to communicate. Easily solved, this equates to putting it in the form of a game. So, this leaves the problem of how do you get the student’s to take notice of collocates?

Snow, snow, oh bother

I don’t consider myself a neophyte driver, but in consideration to the snowy conditions treacherous to drive in. The thought of driving in, and through one foot of snow on the road is enough for me to think about driving again and take a taxi. Let the professional drivers do the work. Ever since I started driving in Korea, I’ve been ever so cautious in doing so. It scares the shit out of me to screw up but my inherent mis-trust of the other drivers based on their driving behaviour is enough to make me an ever cautious, looking twice old-man of a driver. Still it doesn’t help if your ride is a beat-up old Hyundae.

Too much furniture, use the stairs and then walk away

IMG_2285Space, really is the final frontier so, you have to get rid of some furniture. In the case of the recently vacated apartment lived in by my parents-in-law until recently. Getting rid of the mattresses and other bits and bobs without paying the local council surcharge? Easy. Do what the locals do and discretely dump the unwanted mattresses and table into the stairwells that connect the floors. Most of the locals were students that studied at Sunmoon university. Upon moving out, some of them have done what I’ve described and put whole desks and chairs out in the stairwells. Sadly the downside of it all is that it’s a scorched earth policy. Disable the appliance or piece of furniture, rendering it useless.

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In this case, the computer that I had a look at, it was a relic. Examination of the hard disk revealed that it had IDE connectors instead of the more contemporary SATA connections. Not so good since I was in need of a harddisk. The pictures you see in this entry were all taken in one building. Chairs, a low table and mattresses, you could if you wanted to decked out a whole apartment in relative, albeit dusty comfort.

Free seminar, the only cost was sleep

Free webinairs are just great to attend. They allow me to learn in a live format, the newest or the latest issues in ELT and ESL. This particular webinair was essentially bringing taboo issues into the classroom. Named, “Out of the Closet Into the Classroom webinar”, the two hosts/ lecturers , Aaron Wright and Scott Thornbury discussed the issues and pedagogy of introducing subjects like Gay and lesbian, HIV as a topic for conversation in the classroom. They then went onto issues dealing with declaring or at least broaching the subject of informing your students or your employer of your sexuality. Like, WOW. That’s, gutsy. Most ESL teaching environments that I know of are very, very conservative. I can cite the examples being of Asia and the Middle East, though I’m less sure of the Middle East of their potential rejection of the outee.

Sadly given the time difference between New York and South Korea was massive. So much so that I mis-calculated the start time and logged on thinking I was fashionably early. Not so, through bleary eyes I watched the Q&A part of the webinair only slowly getting the gist of the discussion. This subject was definitely not covered by Johnson in his book, Values in English language teaching. To relate part of  what’s in Johnson about marginalisation, this is the social phenomenon concerning Native Speaking English Teachers (NSET) in foreign locations where English is an L2. If NSETs are on the margin or ‘edge’, then gays and lesbian teachers are even more so.

Rhubarb, rhubarb

Test scores and a rock-hard seat.

I’m required to give oral tests to my High school students twice a year. The tests are based on material that I’ve taught in my classes. These are received by my students (approximately 40 per class) with levels of indifference to absolute engagement. In light of keeping the students ‘clued in’, I’ve got to have my lesson plans together. I typically use the PPPP schema with good effect. The recent TESOL course I’d taken at SMU had come to be very useful. So many changes for my teaching, being an ELT means you are constantly learning and changing.

But in looking at the oral tests, I knew I had to plan ahead. With regards to priming the students, this, as I’ve found out, should have been done at the beginning of their year. Give the students a big carrot to chase, with a little bit of stick. Having read When? How? Why? by the Saskatchewan professional development unit, I have in, retrospect, learnt how to test properly. But the overall philosophy to the testing is that do they understand the concept? Are they able to compose an answer or question given that they know the concept of the grammar point. It’s one thing to memorise, but it’s another thing to create your own answer. No conversation in English (or any language) stands on it’s own and can be seen as being entirely unique. As I’ve noticed in going from class to class during testing, the students’ answers get better, as they’ve had a preview from other classmates in other classes about the questions. Their answers become more and more ‘canned’.

That is why I’ve only given them what the type of question they’ll get (Past experiences with Have you ever). I have never told them the precise question, then it becomes a matter of memorisation, which, in my opinion is too much like their education system of verbatim regurgitation. As the title of my blog suggests, it’s just repeated words to give the impression of noise. Rhubarb, rhubarb!

A word about classroom furniture: having sat in their class and their chairs for about 40 minutes, the height of the chairs is too low. These students are about my height and are growing lads. After about 40 minutes, the wooden seat pan had left my seat, numbed and sore. I really don’t know how they do it for an hour.

Healthy aubergine, deep fried in bacon fat

Bacon, tomatoes, aubergine and a fried egg.

A balanced diet isn’t just a pie in each hand. Not that pies are ever common in South Korea. Those I have bought are the size of your palm and, in my opinion over-priced. But in cooking today’s Sunday breakfast, it’s bacon and eggs all the way with some sort of vegetable to balance out the nutritional table. The vegetable is also fried, I mean, lets not get too obsessed with dietary matters. The veggie of choice today was aubergine, or, eggplant. I’ve been hashing out how to cook vegetables in the fry pan without resorting to burning them so that they come out some blackened, shriveled, shadow of it’s former self. Broccoli has to be steamed first and then ‘panned’ so as when you bite it, it won’t have the mouth feel of a moistened tree branch.

Soon-to-be fried aubergine and gut bomb in the making.

Today, I tried frying aubergine in the copious amounts of bacon fat you get when you fry up a rasher of bacon. The result was something that was reasonably browned, soft and a little bit salted. Thought part of the tomato preparation (cherry tomatoes, halved or crushed, sea salt and a table spoon if balsamic vinegar) did impart a mellow sourness to the aubergine. For some reason, balsamic vinegar makes everything good.

Our house, in the middle of our street

Life in a concrete box might be an alternative title. But, for now Madness will have to do.  Literally looking on people are living their lives away from work. A woman undressing, two people eating dinner, someone watching TV.  None of that can be seen in the night shot, where, with a tripod I was literally shooting in the dark. So much for one-liners. But I did spy a taped over window from a time last year when a big storm blew through. The advisory was to tape up your windows, a cyclonic Armageddon is neigh!  No such luck. No broken windows, no fallen trees, just a lot of leaves on the ground. Life goes on in the concrete box.

I couldn’t resist using the segment the Madness played on The Young ones, it’s a classic bit of Brit comedy.


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