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  • timothyhampson 10:11 am on November 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    A defence of fun. 

    %22Fun,_off_the_job_keeps_him_on_the_Job%22_-_NARA_-_514789I wrote last week about values in the classroom. One of the values conflicts that often comes up is fun vs learning. A common complaint of English teachers in Korea is that they are expected to just have fun in class and don’t do any ‘real’ teaching. “I feel more like a babysitter than a teacher.” complained one of my friends. Obviously fun can lead to more learning. Students need to be engaged to learn things. If they’re bored they won’t pay much attention and won’t learn much. The real issue is when fun is treated as a means in itself rather than a means to the end of learning things. Some teachers might feel pressure to choose fun even when it leads to less learning.

    It’s okay to have these classes where fun is the first priority once in a while. It might even be a good idea. Having these lessons once in a while can make for happier classrooms. Students who have fun less serious classes are more likely to work harder in more serious classes. The fun classes can sometimes be a well valued reward for hard work in other classes.

    The second reason is that it’s important to create a less hierarchical atmosphere in the classroom. Having a class where you play some games can help students feel more confident about talking in other classes. When your students have beaten you at scrabble, they become much less scared of making mistakes in front of you.

    Finally, a lot more learning might be going on than we think when we use these classes. Explaining rules, for example, is a good authentic language use. Playing games often brings up lots of emergent language, either through words someone doesn’t know or though stories people tell each other while playing games.

    These kinds of lessons would lose their efficacy if they were all that ever happened, but as a once a month thing I think they’re a good idea. Fun things that I’ve used in the past were board games like Scrabble or Guess Who. For a special, end of course book, treat for my adult class I’ve taken them for bingsoo a few times and just brought some conversation questions in case conversation dries up. The first priority here isn’t to learn lots but just to have fun, but these classes still seem really valuable experiences and well worth doing. I’d be really interested in hearing from any readers who have suggestions of fun activities to use in class.

  • timothyhampson 3:05 am on November 12, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Who owns our values as ESOL teachers? 


    Values are a funny thing. Two people could have the same set of information and make completely different decisions based on it. Both of these decisions would be right for them because their values are different. Presented with a cake and knowing it would make me chubby in the long term and happy in the short term, I would eat the cake: good call! Someone else might choose to avoid the cake: also a good call!

    Another example. You want to take a Korean class. You find information about two different courses. One of them has a big focus on speaking, the other has a focus on writing. Neither of the courses are a better course. It all depends on what you value.

    It’s all fine and dandy making a decision based on your values when you’re the only stakeholder, but as teachers we have many stakeholders who all potentially value different things.

    You: If you’re a teacher for any length of time it’s probably (hopefully?) because you quite like it. If you like it you probably have some things you value. You might love task based learning, extensive reading, teaching unplugged or whatever. It might be something more simple like wanting to really get to know your students and have conversations or seeing them all get really good test scores.

    Your school: Your boss and coworkers might value the same things as you, they might not. The stereotype is of the school owner who only cares about money. I’m not sure if that’s particularly fair. They probably are committed to keeping students at the school though. They might also have their own beliefs about what a successful class is. Coworkers or coteachers might also have beliefs about what they want your classes to look like.

    Parents: If you don’t teach young learners parents might be less of a consideration. If you do teach young learners you’ll probably have had a parent tell you you’re teaching wrong. Its frustrating sometimes but these parents just want their children to be successful.

    Students: Students are all different. Some of them might be there because they’ve chosen to be but it’s rare for all of them to be that way. Some students value learning English as fast as possible. Some want to learn but also want to really enjoy it and don’t mind taking a bit longer as long as the journey is fun. Some just want to have fun.

    Society: Teachers have an effect on what their students are like. We probably have some societal duty to help students be nice people. We probably have a duty towards fairness too. I’ve heard a few stories of kneading results to make the school look better. This would be teachers choosing their school’s values (or maybe their own I guess) over society’s.

    What you have then is a bit of a mess of values. I want to leave it open for discussion for a bit before writing a part 2 giving my thoughts on this. Steve Brown wrote a really interesting post on if teachers are too nice. The Secret DOS also wrote a post on similar themes that is (like almost everything on The Secret DOS) worth reading. I want to know how you deal with these kind of conflicts in values and what kinds of conflicts arise in your schools.

  • timothyhampson 1:01 pm on November 9, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Halloween   

    Halloween classes 


    I got asked by Mike Griffin to explain this picture of myself on Halloween (fair question, the answer is basically that my boss picked my costume out for me as a joke and I called his bluff). Halloween is, along with Christmas, one of the celebrations my school goes big on. This year we made Halloween candy baskets. I, as the schools only native teacher, was in charge of going through the instructions in front of everyone. After the candy baskets were done there was a chocolate hunt around the school. We finished up with group photos with everyone  in fancy dress. The finished baskets looked something a bit like this:


    It was a fun way to spend Halloween, next year I’m definitely going to do my own costume shopping.  I really enjoy these classes where the only target is for everyone to have fun and wear some silly clothes. What did everyone else do this Halloween?


  • timothyhampson 11:06 am on November 5, 2014 Permalink | Reply

    ‘Who is a good friend?’ 

    This will be a very brief post, it’s just an activity idea. I had this idea in the middle of a class and abandoned everthing I had planned for it. It worked pretty well. The game is stolen from a game show on TV, but I’m not sure of the name.

    The students have to guess how often their partner does certain things, they write down the answers on a sheet. Afterwards they ask their partner for the real answer and see how well they know their friends. Both the classes  who played it asked to play again. Give it a try, it might be a hit.

    Bonus: this is Hank’s opinion of me, he was far too kind. If you want to have a go guessing how often I do things, leave a comment. If someone gets 5/5, I might even rustle up a prize.

    Hank has far too high an opinion about me.

    Hank has far too high an opinion about me.


    • David Harbinson 2:27 pm on November 6, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      I’m gonna say:
      1. Every day
      2. Never
      3. 2-3 times a week
      4. Once a week
      5. Occasionally

      Also, I may be wrong, but you could have gotten the game from the show ‘Friends like These (with Ant and Dec)? – I know they had something similar. I think the activity could definitely be a good ‘get-to-know-you’ activity.

      I’ve done something similar, although pretty much reverse of what you describe. I write up ten pieces of information about myself on the board, and the students have to work together to come up with questions that fit the answers.


      • timothyhampson 6:01 am on November 10, 2014 Permalink | Reply

        3/5 – Not bad! I like that other activity and I might steal it today. How precise are the answers you put up on the board? It sounds adaptable for lots of different kinds of questions and answers.


        • David Harbinson 7:29 am on November 10, 2014 Permalink

          Usually depends on the level of the class/amount of time available. As an example:

          1. 2007 (When did you come to Korea?)
          2. 4 (How many sisters do you have?)
          3. Chicken (What’s your favourite food?)

          Then I might award different points, e.g.

          For correct grammar = 1 point
          For correct question topic = 1 point (this means the question doesn’t need to be exactly the same as I’ve written.)

          If they get the correct grammar and question topic (but not exactly worded as I have it) they will therefore get two points.

          I award a bonus point (so a total of 3) if they get the exact same question as I’ve written down.

          I’ve found that this way students can score quite a few points even if they don’t get the correct question for some of the trickier ones (e.g. number 2 which could be anything).

          By making the questions fairly personal, the students are also learning about you, which I think they like quite a bit.

          It sometimes takes a bit of tweaking and as I mention depends on the class as to how I’d change it. If you try it out, I’d love to hear how it goes and how you adapt it for your class.

          Liked by 1 person

        • timothyhampson 12:31 pm on November 10, 2014 Permalink

          I used it today but it was a little different to how you’ve described. I only checked for a question that makes sense and had good grammar. Afterwards I got them to write down five answers and then switch books and guess each others’ questions. It worked pretty well but I think it might have been more competitive and fun your way.

          You’re right about students being really curious about teachers’ lives. I don’t know if it’s a Korea specific thing or not. (Today, after mentioning I live above a dalkgalbi place I got asked if my mum sold dalkgalbi. It’s my favourite question I’ve been asked in ages).


    • Jeongmin 12:07 am on November 7, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      1. Everyday
      2. Sometimes
      3. Once a week
      4. Everyday
      5. Never(I hope so)


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