"Learn to speak their language and they will speak yours."
Once you’re teaching English in Korea there will be times when you will ask your students questions and receive nothing but blank stares. Don’t worry, there are ways that I’ve found to keep students engaged. While some teachers may prefer to have a quieter class, I find it physically and mentally draining. It’s not an easy task to motivate students who are already worn out from school, music lessons, and math academy before they arrive at ChungDahm, so don’t get down on yourself. Instead, read through some of the advice below that will give you ideas on how you can tailor your lessons to be more learner-centered.
Step one to encouraging students to participate more is to create a class atmosphere where the children feel comfortable enough to share their ideas and ask questions. My time teaching in Korea has taught me, the best way to do this is by making the kids laugh. If you don’t already have a sense of humor, go out to your nearest Family Mart and pick one up because you’ll need it! If you can get laughs, at least you will gain their trust. I often act goofy and I’m not afraid of making a fool out of myself in class, this helps the students recognize their classroom as a safe place where they can make mistakes. By putting yourself out there, you set an example and become a role model for your students.
Instead of simply reading from the book, I try to make the lesson relevant to the students’ values and interests. This next piece of advice includes information collected from student surveys. I try my best to build my students’ interest in the subject by being familiar with their own interests.
The top 3 most popular music students listen to:
The number one thing students want:
- Smart phone (they love Apple products)
Favorite TV show:
- Running Man - a show where members take part in missions to win a race
When teaching English, I like to use these topics when explaining “chunks” or giving examples of how to use different transition words and it really sparks class discussion. You must learn to speak their language in order for them to speak yours. In other words, relate to them. I try to make my lessons as applicable as possible so that it is easier for my students to engage and practice speaking.
Lastly, I praise my students for even the smallest things they do. Complimenting and commending them for their effort will fortify your own efforts of trying to get them motivated and actively participating. I will sometimes pull a student aside after class and tell them what a good job they did today. I do this to reinforce their good behavior. In conclusion, being a role model for your students, showing interest in what they are interested in, and praising them for their work will put you on your way to having a great term. If all else fails, playing rock, paper, scissors is a fool proof way of getting their attention. It remains unknown why students love this game so much. Good luck!
Yuna Lee is a current instructor at Chung Dahm Learning. Yuna was born and raised in the D.C. metropolitan area and graduated from the University of Mary Washington. She has traveled to many different places including Honduras, Ecuador, and Nepal. However with her father being Korean, she wanted to learn more about her heritage, so she set off to Seoul, Korea to do some soul-searching. Now, she is loving the freedom and independence of her post-college life. Teaching at Chung Dahm has been such a rewarding experience. Follow her blog to read up on the interesting things she has to share!