Monday, 15 June 2009

My Open Class

Last Wednesday was my grand debut to the teachers of Andong. I opened a 6th grade class up to about 25 other English teachers (and some from my school that wanted to watch), as a part of the TEE program ("Teaching English in English"). We had a banner and everything! Scott, Katie, and our other foreign friend Jin were there with their co-teachers among the spectators, so I did have a supportive cheering section.

The lesson was "What will you do this summer?" with an emphasis on the world "will" to express future planning. I actually wasn't worried about it at first. I love to teach these kids, and I always have a million ideas for making changes. Taebun suggested that we dismiss the book and completely revise the lesson, just keeping the same objectives.

The real worry came when Taebun showed up with a complete set of new materials that I suddenly had to fit in and keep track of for the lesson: puppets to use in demonstrations of speech, magnetic white boards for the students, 5 picture cards, and around 9 word cards and magnetic word cut-outs to make sentences with. All of these things were to have a specific order of placement. On top of these, and the fact that I'd only taught in my new English room a few times so far, I had to think up a game that would use more materials.

It's funny, I felt so over encumbered by so many new things, that I couldn't keep my head straight. They were great new resources, but to use all of them for the first time during an open class made me worry that my students would be struck clueless by sudden over stimulation. Taebun and I rehearsed the entire class about 4 times, so by then I felt a little more comfortable. That and I taped my scripts and direction cues to the back of my puppets' heads.

This is what we came up with, and how it panned out:

1. Warm-up/Greeting. Taebun asked the weather/day/date (on this he surprised me by turning to me and asking "is it right?" and I laughed and said "actually I don't know"...a good strong first words for all of the teachers. I did get some satisfaction though when he accidentally wrote "2008." We're a good team.)

2. Storytelling. Taebun and I put on a small puppet performance about "Mike" and his English teacher "Sara" discussing the upcoming summer vacation (to prep for the lesson theme). Although Sara said she would study Korean, Mike ran off when she asked if he would study English.

3. Statement of Objective. This was written down in briefly in Korean, so I'm not sure what it said. It was meant to help along those who might tune out because their English is low, so they need to know what it is they are meant to pay attention to in a completely English lesson.

I think the best part was when Taebun grabbed the magnetic sentence for the lesson title and read it aloud: "I will visit my uncle in London." I did my best not to giggle, but it didn't take long for him to realize that it was supposed to be the sentence that read "What will you do this summer?"

4. Look and Speak/ Listen and Repeat. We finally hit our stride after the few hiccups, and put on our second puppet performance with "Jinho" and "Peter" with the more direct summer planning dialogue. I questioned the class about what they heard, and we did it again. We then did a few repeat-after-me phrases for practice: "What will you do this summer?" "I will go hiking" "I will visit my grandmother"

5. Reading. Taebun asked me "What will you do this summer?" and I showed a picture card with a boy camping to the class, had them guess it, then had them guess each word in the sentence "[I] [will] [go] [camping]" and stuck it on the board.

6. Magnet board activity. Each group (tables of 4-5) had a magnetic white board and an envelope full of magnetic words. Taebun showed the students a picture card for a summer plan, stuck it to the board, and had them race to find the right words for the sentence. They had to hold it up and shout it out. They were "I will go swimming," "I will play soccer," "I will study English," and "I will visit my uncle in London." Taebun was very clever in his preparation on this one for the words, because he through in tricks like "visiting" and "playing." Many students got it pretty fast, but we did make sure all the groups had it before moving on.

7. KABOOM! I found a similar game for vocabulary review online awhile back, and decided to fit it for this lesson. I prepared cans (1 for each table) with sentences in it with about 12 different summer plans ("I will go to academy," "I will play the piano," etc). Mixed into the can were also papers that read "KABOOM!!!". I think I had it worked out to be 36 sentences and 10 Kabooms per can. I spoke, and we demonstrated (two times for clarity) that one at a time, each student would take a paper, read it, then hold on to it. If they pulled out a "Kaboom" everyone would have to shout it, and that person would have to put all of their papers back in the can. The first student to have 6 papers was the winner. It was great, because the more papers every student had the greater the chance it was of pulling out a Kaboom. Many groups started chanting "Kaboom! Kaboom!" when a person who was close to winner had their turn come up. Awesome.

8. Review. A Listen/Repeat exercise reviewing the sentences stuck to the board. Also a brief demonstration in substitution: "play soccer" can become "play tennis, " "study English" can be "study math," etc.

9. Short test. We passed out test papers for review of basics. First I said few sentences and they had to mark the right picture, and second they were shown pictures and had to choose the right sentence. After collecting them, we said thank you and goodbye, and sent our students home.

There was a TEE meeting afterward with all the teachers to discuss the class, but it was all in Korean so I'm not 100% sure exactly how it went. They did point at Taebun who stood up to speak after about 10 minutes, then pointed to me and said "Sara?" I looked at Taebun who said "say something," so I laughed and asked "what did you say?" It maybe seemed obvious to them, but I couldn't tell if they wanted me to explain my ideas for the lesson, gratitude for everyone being there, how I felt the lesson went, or if I like ponies (I do.). At the end, they did open it up to the foreigners who generated some English discussion about our teaching experiences.

The biggest thing I took away from the open class was that my students actually can understand a whole class run in English. We even finished 10 minutes ahead of schedule because they picked it up so fast. Usually I'm faced with students with discipline or listening issues, who fight us and demand "Korean!" as they tune out when I speak and find themselves not understanding the game until someone says something to them in Korean. This time, the students were great listeners because they were surrounded by so many strangers watching them. Even the most obstinate students were like angels speaking English as a beautiful and natural chorus, and the more shy among them spoke up. A frightful sight to behold, indeed, because I didn't know how to act with such a well behaved assembly. It was an eye opener for me. Now, if only every class could be an open class.


  1. It is particularly wonderful to see the photos of you while you are teaching! Love, Dad

  2. Teaching is an art and you are a true artist. Your contemplation about each lesson confirms you're a dedicated teacher. Your experiencde proves to me that kids are the same everywhere, most great with a few stinkers thrown in.

  3. Your open class was a lot of fun! Of did confirm for me that these kids are JERKS! Because they are monsters when it's just you, but surround them with strangers and they're suddenly the perfect students.

    I think the Korean school system should hire a crew of observers for each class.

  4. What scott said is true of any group of kids! What I've found with Zoo School (the thing I'm teachign at the zoo) the kids are super good when out in teh zoo, but when in the class room they are level 80 Hellions.

  5. Sara I love the pictures of you teaching. You seem to really be enjoying what you're doing. I'm so happy for you! I hope you continue to do great things while you're there. Love you and miss you!!!