Beyond Grammar and Rules: Conversing in English

During my first year in the lovely and admirable profession of teaching, I worked abroad at a foreign language institute in South Korea.  This was a great first teaching job in many ways.  The curriculum was very rote, and was taught to the teachers within a two week orientation program.  Since the classes taught were strictly conversation, no writing or grammar, it was pretty easy to learn the program, and fine tune our ears to pick up on pronunciation errors and difficulties.  Once in the classroom, I quickly became comfortable with the “routine” of this curriculum, and started branching out.  It was easy to see that Korea’s education system runs heavy on memorization–vocabulary and grammar rules.  Which means that when it comes to conversation, the only inhibitor is their utter shyness and discomfort or embarrassment of practicing English, especially with a native speaker.  What they really needed was a safe environment in which to stretch their wings, and soon they were off to a great start.  In fact, the Level 1’s (the first in a series of 6 levels, each of which lasted for two months of 1.5 hr daily classes and labs) quickly became my favorites, because of their marked improvement in this time, given the safe classroom environment and good dynamic with their classmates.

One of my favorite activities was the weekend “clubs” we held, which were offered free to students and gave them extra time to practice their English in a more natural setting.  The clubs varied, but all included the basic elements of exploring a new topic, learning related vocabulary, and then engaging in a topic-related discussion.  It was a great way to get to know students because as they answer general questions surrounding the topic, they often tell personal anecdotes or make statements that get them talking about other parts of their lives.

This week I’m going to be sharing a bit about my teaching experience in Korea, and each day also sharing a free resource on TeachersPayTeachers.  This first one is a conversation club, called “3,900 Saturdays” which is based around an article discussing the shortness of life, and the need to make the most of each day.  Click here to download it.

Geo Guru (2)


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