Saturday, 16 May 2009

More On Teaching

First, regarding the 4th grade, I have to put in that my co-teacher Mrs. Im is brilliant. She has elevated discipline to an art form. When the class is getting loud, she'll say something to the effect of "freeze!" and then make a sound effect like "ba-dum!" to trigger movement again. She'll only allow them to move for a second or two, and repeat this two or three times. It becomes a game, because the students all try and see who can make and hold the most outrageous position while frozen (or in 4-8's case, the boys hold a mock-strangle-each-other pose). If the class is really rowdy, she'll use the freeze time to give instruction for the next activity, because it's the only moment of true silence.

I have reached an interesting crossroads in my lessons. The 4th grade just started a lesson that taught them "Can you help me, please?" and "Sure I can" but they don't learn prepositions like "under, behind, next to, etc" or directions "left, right, straight" until 5th grade. I know this because I just started teaching the 5th grade how to give directions. Ironically, we had to re-teach them "Can you help me, please?" because by then most of the students had forgotten it.

So now you might wonder, what else does the 4th grade learn over the course of that four-class lesson? Well, naturally, they learn "how old are you?" This is a pre-listening exercise the book wanted us to play:

1) Girl: Can you help me?
Man: Sure, I can.

2) Man: How old are you?
Tony: I'm eight

3) Man: How old are you?
Minsu: I'm ten

They are separated by numbers, unrelated in nature, but being strung up next to each other makes them feel like they are part of the same scenario if you're just listening. In the same lesson, this is a "Listen and Repeat" exercise, where the students listen to the dialogue, then repeat it:

1) Tony: Good Morning.
Can you help me?
Mom: Sure, I can.

2) Julie's mom: Wow! You're strong!
How old are you?
Girl: I'm eleven.

3) Teacher: How old are you?
Tony: I'm eight

Again, The can you help me/how old are you are right next to each other. I'm at a loss as to why they are in the same lesson. Luckily, Mrs. Im is open to cutting things out, which she did for these two even before I suggested it. Instead, we planned for counting practice from 1-100. I made a PowerPoint with numbers (and at 20 we started skipping by 10). The students already have been taught numbers, but since the lesson started focusing on asking age, we thought it was important to d a number lesson. At the end, the two of us made a PowerPoint where we showed pictures of people (Mrs. Im provided some famous Koreans) and the students had to guess their ages. If they guessed too high, we would say "lower" and if they guessed low we would say "higher." It was good number practice while also sticking to the required theme of age.


  1. Silly Sara, thinking that lessons have to have some kind of "focus" or "scope." We all know that when these kids get to America, the first thing they need to know when they get off the plane is "Can you help me? How old are you?"

    Anyway, I think this gives people at home a better understanding of just how ridiculous the text here can be. Great post.

  2. So when Ms. Im yells "freeze" the boys in Section 4-8 leap at each others' throats and begin strangling each other? Or have the boys in Section 4-8 been strangling each other throughout the class, only sporadicaly getting loud enough to cause Mrs. Im to intervene? And this is the class in which discipline has been elevated to an art form? Note to self-- don't turn your back on these kids! Seriously, it sounds as if Ms. Im has some creative ideas and knows how to turn things the kids may not naturally want to do (quiet down) into something fun! Love, Dad

  3. Sarah,
    Your writing is facinating! You should write of your experiences there and publish them. I hope you will write back sosmetime. My email is


    Aunt Helen

  4. Wax on
    Wax off
    It'll all make sense someday???

    Oh, and I'm SO using that "freeze" technique at BSF - domo arrigato gozymous!!

    <3 Mom

    PS: Don't forget to teach them that women my age (39) DO NOT want to be asked, "how old are you?"

  5. When I first got here, the one question all the kids wanted to ask was "How old are you?" because it's one of the 3 basic questions they know.

    I told Taebun exactly what you said! He was suprised.

  6. Wow...
    OK, so we played a game like that with my Music in the Community Class; It was so much fun!
    It was a song, though...can't remember all the words.
    Ah...memories :)