Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Lesson Plan: Korean Folktales

Teaching second grade--high school juniors--at Young-il is a challenge, at least in English. In part, this is because of streaming--most high-ability students go into the science stream, and do not take my class. Some of them want to become lawyers or whatnot, and go into the liberal arts stream. And there are also high-ability students who are too lazy to work as hard as the science/math curriculum requires them. Of course, they're too lazy to work as hard as I require them, too.

I don't get all bent out of shape trying to "reach out to" these guys, but I want to interest them at least enough that they don't become a management problem that distracts me from teaching the ones that want to learn. This week's lesson started out poorly, but has gotten better. Quite good, even.

After a starter which aims at distinguishing myths, legends and fables, I show them the logo from a famous restaurant chain: Nolboo, who is actually a character in one of the best-known Korean folk tales, with the caption, Who is this man? I blogged about this story here and the restaurant here. (I listed more Korean folktale resources in this blog post.)

In my powerpoint, I show them the beginning of a sentence for them to complete, like "Nolboo and Heungboo were brothers ..." and "When Heungboo cut open the gourd ..." I repeat this process with the story of Tangun, the mythical founder of Chosun, the first kingdom of Korea. I blogged this story, too--click here; Tangun is the child of Hwan-ung, the Prince of Heaven who descended from the clouds, and a bear who was transformed into a human woman by eating garlic and wormwood and living in a cave.

While Nolboo and Heungboo is a legend, possibly more or less true, the treasure and monsters that come out of their respective gourds merely an embellishment (perhaps signifying good or bad crop yields), Tangun unmistakeably strays into the territory of myth--or so you'd think ...

What makes the story especially fun is that the North Korean government, "[t]hanks to the correct policy of the Workers’ Party of Korea for preserving our nation’s cultural relics," has actually discovered Tangun's bones and burial site, and erected a monument on the spot.

After we work our way through that one, the story I mean, the second half of class is time to play "running dictation" with the fable of The Ungrateful Tiger. I stole this from Dave Deubelbeis's EFL Classroom (scroll all the way down), modified for my situation. For instance, I broke the story into two parts, so that it doesn't seem dauntingly long. Also, my students are massive cheaters, so we had to move the text sheets out into the hallway, a few feet from each of the two doors. This is so the co-teacher or I can stand outside and make sure they're not copying the text by hand or taking pictures with their cell cams ...

A lesson like this can be modified for any age, since practically all Korean students learn these tales from an early age--they are on familiar ground here, which gives them a little more confidence, a much-needed commodity in the English-learning biz here.

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